View Full Version : Anybody want an 11' skiff for $10,500?

Bob Cleek
11-05-2002, 09:36 PM
Could it have been a misprint? Anybody else catch that little ad in the latest WB. They are selling an 11' sailing dinghy they had somebody build for one of their stitch-n'-gloo articles, apparently. WB says they will "let it go" for what it cost them to build it... $10,500. I'd sure like to know if they get any takers. At those rates, I'd think about quitting my day job!

11-05-2002, 09:42 PM
I agree it seems high, but the boat ain't no stitch and glue slouch. It's a flat-out gorgeous Riverside dinghy built by a seasoned pro (batten-seam construction, I believe--no plywood or epoxy to be found).

Bob Cleek
11-05-2002, 09:48 PM
Yeh, I figured it probably wasn't a googe job and I was too lazy to look up the article about building it. Even so, like you say, it's a hell of a lot of money for an 11' bucket. Think about it. You set up a little shop. Once you get your jigs and patterns all set up, supplies all in stock, if you put your mind to it and worked steady, you ought to be able to turn one out at least every month. That's somewhere around $130K a year... a living at least. LOL

11-05-2002, 10:19 PM
My buddy Whammy builds some spectacular custom lapstrake sailing dinghies that go for around CDN $1000 per foot, so ten G isn't too outrageous. However, with all due respect to our sponsors and Mr. Dow, I think that this particular boat is a bit overpriced at US$10,500. Possibly the cachet of being on the cover of WB has some monetary value....

On Vacation
11-05-2002, 10:25 PM
You may laugh but small boats built with quality and style are not cheap boats. End of rant.

[ 11-05-2002, 10:26 PM: Message edited by: Oyster ]

11-06-2002, 06:19 AM
And it's used. Been sailed twice.

Old Bob on the Beach

Pete Dorr
11-06-2002, 10:38 AM
A complete Beetle Cat is $18,000 / 12' = $1500 a foot so I don't think the price is too far off base for the riverside.


Ken Hall
11-06-2002, 10:41 AM
Haven 12 1/2s fetch a pretty penny too....

11-06-2002, 03:34 PM
Ken--I love your signature! ROTFALMAO!!!

And hey--at least the Beetle Cat includes a trailer.

[ 11-06-2002, 03:36 PM: Message edited by: Kermit ]

Wild Wassa
11-06-2002, 03:45 PM
I wont spoil your thoughts on expensive dinghies, but their prices are fractional compaired to a performance racing dinghy. That's why we are restoring our performance dinghys to brand new.

Otherwise we might as well not bother, and the kids would end up in plastics.


ps, A 49er raced alongside me (for a fraction of a second, maybe a bit longer) a few weeks ago, with kevlar sails and a transparent spinnaker. I can only imagine what the set cost. A top 505 is more than a year's salery for some and they are only epoxy. They are not all Mirrors. How much could you spend on an 18fter? Parts of a million?

[ 11-06-2002, 04:08 PM: Message edited by: Wild Wassa ]

Bruce Hooke
11-06-2002, 05:55 PM
When comparing with something like a Beetle Cat you really should compare based on displacement or on the cube of the length...

11-06-2002, 06:48 PM
Hull form has a lot to do with it, too.

Ian G Wright
11-07-2002, 06:15 AM
A well made clinker centerplate dinghy(rivets and roves) 14ft long, lugs'l rigged, made to order, 15000, without trailer.
On the other hand,,,,,,,,,
John Parker(RIP) who built Patience for me told me that to earn a little 'overtime' the yard foreman and him built clinker tenders, 7ft to 14 ft, after hours and Sat afternoons. they averaged 3 (THREE) boats a week! Cost? 2 per foot in 1949.


11-07-2002, 08:11 AM
NEW..thats what big prices are all about...Lets see ..checking the used boat ads...I have a choice between a $10,000 dink, 6 months old, and a 1972, 36 foot, Viking sportfisherman, excellent survey (wood hull and all solid thru glass cabin/decks..sorry men) with twin new 350 Chevys for $8000..(not kidding here)..oh my,..what should I do? :confused:

11-07-2002, 11:42 AM
Given the choice I'd say buy the dink. You'll use it more, spend less time maintaining her, won't have to deal with (2!) engines, have cheaper (if any) moorage. Seems the use of a boat is inversely proportionate to her length around here anyway. Grab a cold one and go for a sail.

11-07-2002, 05:02 PM
I'm finding $10,500 for an 11' sailing dingy awfully hard to wrap my mind around :eek: . I know where you can find fully restored to show condition antique and classic Chris~Crafts, Lyman's, Penn Yan's etc. w/ trailer for the same or less money. No brainer to me. :cool:

11-07-2002, 05:43 PM
Another no-brainer is why I shouldn't use my shop after I retire to build a few wee boats a year.

I understand the liability involved in building and selling a new boat looms large, but that no liability goes with a used boat. Attorneys, insert comment here.

So can I build, launch, use a couple of times, and sell as used? Hmmmmmm. :rolleyes:

11-07-2002, 05:44 PM
Oh Boy.... :rolleyes: .......and a 4 foot dink is twice as much fun as an 8 foot dink?

[ 11-07-2002, 05:56 PM: Message edited by: Norske3 ]

Wild Wassa
11-07-2002, 06:00 PM
Personally I'd go for a boat that I could afford, in the long term, 'twas not too taxing on the brain this answer.


ps, The guys I work for have a 1/25th share in a big boat, we get access to her for 2 weeks each year. This is the perfect option for them. The boat is moored at Pittwater (300k's away) in Sydney and has a fulltime Master. In case you want to see a small photo, on our home page in the ACT/water activities.http://www.act.scouts.asn.au/ACTScouts/Sites/water/

[ 11-08-2002, 04:59 PM: Message edited by: Wild Wassa ]

Tar Devil
11-07-2002, 06:02 PM
Have you checked out Robb White's prices for his little rowboats? And some guy down here in SC gets about $30,000 for his canoes... some of which never hit the water. They just go on display in private offices.



11-07-2002, 06:40 PM
So for two thousand less, buy the Viking..... and not being able to afford to run it... then move out of your $1400/month apartment on to your 36 foot home..let it sit at the marina dock(yacht clubs are a lot cheaper) and with the balance remaining of $2000 buy a nice dink and tie it up to the Viking...always there for a quikie sail. :D

Vikings idea of wood hull and ALL GLASS/THRU.. topsides from the shear up is a grand idea...little opportunity for rot with this combo...I wonder if anyone else built their boats this way.

[ 11-07-2002, 06:53 PM: Message edited by: Norske3 ]

11-09-2002, 04:02 AM
New Thistle excluding sails with a snot hull is $15,000 in Portland, Oregon.

Guy in Gig Harbor, WA makes boats with a goo or goo 'n kevlar hull. $5,100 for a 16' "New England Dory" and $3,600 for a 12' "Point Defiance". Both are sloop rigged and prices include main and jib sails. Those are 'goo only' hulls - kevlar adds a substantial kick to the price: $750 to $950 extra. Minimal wood trim. His 2002/2003 building schedule is full up to next summer sometime.

At the other end of the scale, a local respected boat builder quoted me a guesstimate of about $10,000 for a 16' S&G with no rig. Of course, his rate is $50/hr.

Kermit, you might just be able to make some $ from it. I saw a guy at the CWB 4th of July festival that was getting into the business out of his home shop in an Eastside suburb. Had a 12 or 14' boat with a bright deck for (IIRC) about $5,000 that failed my 3' test (gaps in deck joins and screw ups in his attempts at doing some inlay - not that I could do anything like that, but it didn't seem up to a product standard). I bet you could do better!

11-11-2002, 10:45 AM
and here's another reason i hardly waste my time checking the forum any more...
i could, easily, after setting up the molds and jigs, build a riverside dinghy in a month, finished and ready to deliver to the customer. if i charged $10,500/per, let's see...
- i'd have to subtract $1,500-$2,000 for materials, depending on customer desires in wood and finish
- work seven days a week, 10 hours a day, because anyone who thinks there's fewer than 280 hours in a boat like this is nuts
- pay all the associated overhead costs, i.e. electricity, shop rent or mortgage, tool repair and replacement costs, insurance, advertising so you can sell one a month - let's say that all totals 10% of the finished cost of the boat
-if you want to do anything in the wooden boat line other than spend all day long, every day building riverside dinghies, you'll have labor costs for hiring help, but we'll leave that aside for now
my calculations show that you'd net, per boat, $26/hour on an hourly basis. granted that works out to a whopping, in my opinion, $90,000/year, but that's based on a 70 hour work week, every week of the year. If you wanted to work a more normal 40 hour week, and sell fewer than 12 boats a year (if you could sell any at all), and maybe have some time off to spend with your family and friends, then you'd work more like 50 weeks a year at 40 hours per - then you're down to $52,000 a year. if you now want to figure in what it might cost for help around the shop, since doing everything single-handed takes a lot more time, so you earn less either way, i pay my assistant $12/hour and he works around 30 hours a week, so $360 x 50 weeks is $18,000.
now my earnings are down around $34,000 if I can actually sell the seven or so riverside dinghies i'd need to make that much, which isn't likely, so i'd have to spend a certain amount of time driving around, hustling up work, writing estimates, looking at jobs that might or might not bring in any money, not to mention dealing with customers, writing and mailing bills, etc., none of which is really billable when you're a small boatbuilder scrambling around to make a buck.
so, say you make $30,000 a year, a bit above the poverty level for a family of four. you'd better hope the little woman doesn't mind working her ass off, too, if you want things like a half-way decent car, a house, nice (but not extravagant) things for the kids, xmas presents for the relatives, a little bit to put aside for the retirement which you will probably never be able to participate in at your rate of savings, etc..
frankly, to hear a bunch of uninformed blowhards, who claim to have some sort of feeling for wooden boats, bitch about the price of a luxury item , which is what any kind of boat is, unless you're a friggin' fisherman, just makes me want to puke.

[ 11-11-2002, 10:49 AM: Message edited by: rickprose ]

Alan D. Hyde
11-11-2002, 11:09 AM
Well said, Rick.

Almost no one's getting rich building wooden boats.

And, as in many other areas, when it comes to quality of work, most of the time we get what we pay for.


John Bell
11-11-2002, 11:32 AM
Robb White is my hero. He doesn't even have to market his boats, really. He decides how many he's going to build, and accepts bids for the building slot and the boat goes to the highest bidder. He wrote recently that he wasn't really looking for any new customers, thank you very much!

As the $10.5K Riverside, it's actually pretty reasonable considering it's a custom one-off. Compare it to a new Laser or a Capri 14.2, each costing $4-6K new. The difference in the cost is due the the effeciency of mass production coupled with the lower cost of a less skilled labor force needed to build them. And compared to something like a Bayliner runabout, the Laser and Capri are very low production boats. The price of the new Bayliner (~$13-18K for a 16'er) reflects their even greater efficiency of producing and purchasing in volume.

Cars are another good example of this priciple. Do you think you could buy a new minivan for $20K if they only made a few thousand a year instead of 350,00?

One could probably develop a system to build something like the Riverside more effeciently, but there isn't enough of a market to justify it. As much as Cleek would like to build a dozen boats like this a year, unless he's really persuasive at marketing them there isn't going to be a demand for half that many.

If you want something unique, you had better be prepared to pay for it. While I'd wouldn't pay $10K for dink right now, someone else wealthier than I wouldn't think anything about it. I mean, there are people who impulse-buy $10K big screen flat panel plasma TV's, why not spend it on a floating work of art? If I had the $$, I know what I'd do!

[ 11-11-2002, 11:46 AM: Message edited by: John Bell ]

Garrett Lowell
11-11-2002, 11:33 AM

The biggest expenses you left out: insurance, benefits, and taxes.
Still, if I had the wallet, I'd buy that Riverside.

11-11-2002, 11:44 AM
I guess it depends on the cost of living at the location you are at. Come a bit north and I'll direct you to several builders who will build that boat to that quality at that price ... in Canadian dollars (65% of USD). And the builder will show up for work in a new 4WD from his new house - no struggling poverty case here.

gunnar I am
11-11-2002, 12:23 PM
Originally posted by Aletta:
Given the choice I'd say buy the dink. You'll use it more, spend less time maintaining her, won't have to deal with (2!) engines, have cheaper (if any) moorage. Seems the use of a boat is inversely proportionate to her length around here anyway. Grab a cold one and go for a sail.I'm with you on that. I launch faster than you could get the battle cruiser out.If you like spending your time working on a boat, do it.If you like being on the water think about your choices.I have "dreams" and then I have "dreams".The difference is one,I want to make happen. The other is to forever be,just that.

Ian G Wright
11-11-2002, 01:46 PM
Originally posted by rickprose:
to hear a bunch of uninformed blowhards, who claim to have some sort of feeling for wooden boats, bitch about the price of a luxury item , which is what any kind of boat is, unless you're a friggin' fisherman, just makes me want to puke.
period...You have a point,,,,,,,,,
Then again there are the lifestyle boat builders who wear the smock and beard, hand roll their smokes and charge as much for time spent in the thinking chair as for time on the job. Or is it ok to charge out at full yard rate for the work done by a trainee on minimum wage?
Lots of folk can do a good job. Many fewer can do a good job at speed. And therein is the difference between a tradesman and a wanabee.


11-11-2002, 02:09 PM
Rick, I see your point, and many others on this thread ...

I'm not going to lose sleep over a $10,000 dink. Sure, they're nice, but I personally don't care. I guess I wouldn't be the market they're after!

For $10,500, I'd just get my boat re-painted and buy a Whaler to dink around in ... ;)

In the same vein, I cannot fathom anyone paying $95,000 for a 28' Sea Ray OPEN bow runabout ... what a waste ... I could buy a helluva a yacht for $95,000.


Scott Rosen
11-11-2002, 03:14 PM
The old JP Morgan saying comes to mind: "If you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it."

I can appreciate Rick's anger. There's nothing wrong with the Popular Mechanics school of boat building, which most of you folks follow. But a yacht, and a properly built Riverside Dinghy is a yacht, is in a different league.

The value of craftsmanship has been destroyed by the inflated dollar, cheap overseas labor, mass production, etc. I even get free electronic gizmos in the mail, unsolicited, as part of someone's advertising campaign. Imagine that. Some poor slob in a Chinese sweat shop is producing clocks and radios so cheaply that some companies can buy hundreds of thousands just to give away for free. 20 years ago, I would have had to pay real money for those gizmos. Those folks have helped to destroy your dollar and put craftsmen on the endangered species list.

Some of you already think of boats in the same terms as those Chinese giveaways. Lots of boats for sale today are no better in quality than the Chinese giveaways.

Those of you who have built boats or have repaired traditionally built wooden boats really should know better.

Some years ago, when my inflatable dinghy bit the dust, I priced some new hard dinghies. First I looked at Dyers. Over $3,000 for a small grp Dyer. There was no craftsmanship, the detail work was poor and it was very heavy. I then talked to some wooden boat builders and learned that a well made plank on frame dinghy could cost up to $20,000. A Haven 12.5 is a lot more than $20,000. I decided to build my own, a 9.5 foot Nutshell Pram. I figure it probably cost me over $1,000 for materials, tools, sails, oars, etc. It was my first from-scratch building project and it took a very long time. If I charged $20/hour for my labor, it probably would have cost $10,000 or more.

In 1965, Fred Driver of Miami, Florida imported a number of 30 foot all teak motorsailors from Hong Kong. The design was by Wirth Munroe. They came fully equipped, sails, Perkins diesel, anchor, rigging, cusions, the works. The hulls were copper riveted on Yacal frames, the best quality materials and the best oriental craftsmanship. I own one today.

Price: $12,000.

It seemed like a lot of money at the time.

It's not that the cost of boats has gone up. The value of your precious dollar has gone down.

[ 11-11-2002, 03:17 PM: Message edited by: Scott Rosen ]

Chris Coose
11-11-2002, 04:57 PM
I've got a luxury problem related to this.
When I got Victoria, a 7.5' Old Town Skiff was trown in on the deal. This is one of those canvas covered jobs that looks like an old canoe on the inside. When freshened up she is a real prize.
So much so, that I became a little squirrley about leaving her on the mooring on day trips. Upon returning I'd have my heart in my throat, looking over the mooring field to see that she was still there. The skiff is car topped all summer which presents further apprehension.

I got a dump pram a couple of years ago and she tows well. The problem is that the Old Town now sits in the cellar. (No! I'm not about to give her to a good home). I have 19th century Spurling skiff which will be restored in the next year or two and I'm faced with the same trouble. I'd like the kids to have them.
These little ones are becoming showpieces, unless of course you can afford the insurance. Like I say, luxury problems.

On the subject.
If what we honor here are truely works of art, then the artists should be paid top dollar. I hope the benefactors continue to appriciate and fork out the dough. Otherwise, us trickle down guys will be looking over classic snot.

11-13-2002, 09:38 PM
Cleekster/Rick & others

This is a really an interesting and relevent post. It actually highlights some broader issues. On the surface $10500 seems like a lot for a 12' dink. I'am sure thats what it cost to build but is it worth it ? In this case someone will buy it with the cachet of being featured on the cover of WB mag etc. but from a wider commercial perspective its only worth what the market will pay.

In our part of the world its $20000 local dollars and there is no way it would sell for that. You would be struggling to get half. If a shop in the US needs a minimum of $25 /hr it would be the same here in local dolls. In other words a US$3 coffee costs $3 Australian.
The material would however be similar to US cost, so the price would most probably work out to be $12000/$15000 AUD. Commercially viable ? No chance !

Even if there are punters with the money it doesn't necessarily mean they have either the taste or inclination in most cases to even think about an item such as this. Yes, they ooh & aah at Wooden Boat shows but do not as a rule commission too many projects of this kind. Go to a big time Boat Shows and it will be Aluminium runabouts and various appallingly gross and tasteless (to me at least) snot boats. They sell by the bucket load. Even the rare woodie on display is generally a prototype plug.

It seems to me that there is barely a viable commercial wooden dink business in the western world. If you can't find a market in the whole of North America for 12 honestly priced Riversides per year what chance do the rest of us have. Sure, some one could point out the exception, but as a general rule its pretty true. Yes, you have a small market for bespoke Havens, Beetlecats etc and then it moves pretty quickly to the big end of town for the products built by Covey Island and the New England yards. We have a few here like Duck Flat, Wooden Boatshop etc. but I'am not aware of any boatbuilder is this country building wooden dinks in series production. Happy to be proved wrong.

Why is it so ? Cost of labour, particularly in the US. The incredibly successful US economy over the past decade has over valued your dollar and by comparison everything from everywhere else is relatively cheap. So you are locked into technology driven manufacturing which pretty well excludes this type of product from being viable. Socially of course, snot is seen as convenient and disposable, thanks to the petrochemical industry lobby (a myth - getting rid of the snot in the future hardly bears thinking about - if an enviromental levy was built into the price it could make it interesting), whereas wood is seen as a long term problem. Visitors to this site and WB mag readers know different but try telling that to the rest of the world.

This sites sponsor has done a great job in re-igniting the torch, but lets not fool ourselves; this is a very, very small world. When you go to sell your lovingly hand-built dink you will be lucky to recover your material costs, so enjoy the process and outcome. We are involved in an emotional engagement with somthing that is special to us at least, not a commercial enterprise.

So what we have here is an encapsulation of hopeless romantics, national economies out of whack, big business not paying their dues, undervaluing of skill, the Macdonalds convenience syndrome and a triumph of money over taste ! Did I overlook something ? The imminent collapse of western civilization ?


11-13-2002, 09:40 PM
Collapse of Western civilization?..the way the world is so interconnected and ...now China raising its economic dragon head and licking its lips for something to devour..... no, more likely a complete world-wide economic melt down... :(

Scott Rosen
11-14-2002, 09:30 AM
The Lion roars. Good thoughts. I'd like to think that there are more than a few people who would rather spend their luxury dollars on hand craftsmanship instead of diamond trinkets, BMW's and expensive vacations.

I guess what I'm saying is that good craftsmanship has become a luxury item.

11-14-2002, 10:10 AM
So what is the value of the US dollar today compared to the fifties?...for what costs a $1.00 today you could buy for .30 cents then I do believe......if this means anything....My Father always had work...my Mother never had to work..my Father bought and payed off the house and bought a new car every five years...had a healthy savings account...no credit debt....Today both work and up to an avg. of ten thousand in credit debt and never get got up....

Scott Rosen
11-14-2002, 11:00 AM

I think a dollar today is equivalent to .10 in the fifties.

James R
11-14-2002, 01:57 PM
We've had a similar discussion at http://media5.hypernet.com/cgi-bin/UBB/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=1&t=005353&p=. Today you would need to spend $7.15 to purchase $1.00 worth of goods at 1950's prices. IOW about 13.9 cents in 1950 is equivalent to $1.00 today.

Rickprose makes a very valid point above. I once had a very frustrating argument with one of my profs (I was a business major, he was a history prof). He claimed that Second Cup, a coffee chain here in Canada, gouged the consumer by charging $1.60 for a cup of coffee that only cost them 14 cents. I simply couldn't get it through his thick skull that the $0.14 was only the cost of goods sold and that he had to take into account wages, payroll taxes, rent, electricity, water, insurance, etc. We must've argued for at least 15 minutes. He also didn't look too pleased when I said that Marx came across as manic-depressive and that the primary reason for the popularity of The Communist Manifesto was that it was written as a series of sound bites so it was easy for simpletons to grab onto specific ideas. :D

[ 11-14-2002, 04:15 PM: Message edited by: James R ]

11-14-2002, 06:26 PM
Originally posted by Lion:
Jeez, I dunno why it posted twice. My thumb size is normal. Must be an international conspiracy.
LionFeel free to go back and delete one of them ;)

John Gearing
11-14-2002, 07:27 PM
Rick Prose knows whereof he speaks. He's a pro. Building and repairing boats is his business. In the "good old days", the guys at Herreshoff's and Lawley's, skilled though they were, had a relatively low standard of living, I'll bet. I doubt whether many of them outside of the foremen owned their own houses, or a car, or even thought that they might send their kids to college. Retirement? That was when you were too old and sick to keep working. Remember that the guy who owned Trumpy used to rage that his boatbuilders would quit and take jobs building houses? The reason was that they could make more money building houses than they could yachts, even though the folks buying the yachts were all millionaires. I think what Rick is saying is that no one would choose to live like that today--or a least very few would.

And to put a modern spin on this....in the 90's I had a few conversations with the guys at McClave, Philbrick, & Giblin. This is the outfit that specializes in museum-quality Herreshoff restorations. So you know that a) they do the job right, and b) they charge appropriately. And would you be surprised to hear that the last time I spoke with P & G, they mentioned that despite all their years of experience and success, their projects were still sporadic enough that it was really their wives' jobs that brought in the steady income? True fact.

I think this is what the late John Gardner was talking about when he said that the golden age of boatbuilding was dead and that it would be amateurs that saved the craft. And I think that is why sometimes Bob C (and sometimes I join him) rails against the stitch and googe clan, because if you believe what Gardner is saying, then we ought to spend at least as much time promoting and encouraging the development of traditional boatbuilding skills as we do more modern methods.

Do any of you recall the article WB ran a few years ago about an old fellow in CT called Earle Brockway? Earle built very simple, plain boats. He used plywood. He built them outdoors on the lawn in front of his house, year-round. Rain, snow, whatever. He could build a boat in a day, and did nearly every day. I am not sure he ever took a day off. His boats were functional to the point of looking crude, yet they found a ready market as tenders, workboats, and fishing skiffs. And yet....and yet....Earle would suddenly turn around and show you an incredibly beautiful model boat built in the traditional way and gently place it in your hands. Oh yes, he built that model as well. And he would tell you that just as he built that beautiful model, he would love to build that actual boat, say, a sweet whitehall. That is what he used to build, what he learned to build, but no one would buy them anymore at a price that would keep him alive. So he had to put his dreams aside and build what he could sell. Nearly broke my heart to read the words, and to see the photo of him standing in the snow in sneakers and an old shirt building a skiff with a few old hand tools and circular saw. No fancy shop. Well, at least he got to build the models.

Something to think about.

11-14-2002, 08:28 PM
John Gearing and Lion-

You are both on the money- it is getting more and more difficult to find some one-anyone- who is willing to pay a craftsman a semi livable wage to build them a wooden boat.-I know first hand-there are still a few people who appreciate quality and handwork but they are getting fewer and farther between. It is getting harder every day to sell a handbuilt hull for the price of the materials alone, but when you have to live and compete against a glass or aluminum hull, motor and trailer combination ( with low financing) for the same price as your finely fit hull it is depressing. And in order to make it you have to be willing to wade through the smorgasboard of CG and other regulations, comply with em, keep up on the changes and carry a heavy liability insurance policy to protect yourself ( as well as all the myriad of local state and federal taxes that need to be satisfied-Ive got better than 4 years of higher education and still need an accountant to do mine).
Better to keep it as a hobby you all who are still not " pros"

[ 11-14-2002, 08:36 PM: Message edited by: Dutchrub ]

Billy Bones
11-15-2002, 07:50 AM
Well...I think the price is justified. We tend to think of our work as something anyone can do with a few trips to Home Depot and some rug burn on the credit card. In fact, that is the major threat to my business. People think woodworking is something that anyone can do. Despite my years and breadth of experience, I still have to justify my price to people who will happily and unquestioningly pay half again as much to the shadetree mechanic to fix their car improperly several times. Go figure.

BUT...In response to Rickprose's argument I say that I could build a riverside dinghy in less, considerably less, than 280 hours to the above standard, and I'm not a pro boatbuilder. Further, if you were to build 6 of them, you would make patterns and jigs and reduce the construction time to perhaps 30% of what it would take to build one. Boats are like chairs. One chair from my shop may cost $1500, but 6 cost $4000. Economy of scale.

Rickprose, I'm familiar with your work and it speaks for itself. But as a professional woodworking craftsman I can say that just based on your above argument, you have the business acumen of a piece of pressure-treated plywood. It's a real testament to the respect we have for you here that you can call us all names and not be thoroughly excoriated for it.

On Vacation
11-15-2002, 08:09 AM
Rick, right on the money to the last penny, hours, wimmins thoughts and customer base. I will print your reply out and put it on the refrigerator for someone close to the bar here for required reading. I maybe redeemed after all. smile.gif

11-15-2002, 08:42 AM
Yeah I'm with Rick on this one. A reason (aside from not making any money) I stopped building furniture is that very few saw the skill and craft and experience. The ones who did were almost always rich, and obnoxious in their own way. Seems the crafts-person is usually sucking hind tit.

Bruce Taylor
11-15-2002, 08:51 AM
I say that I could build a riverside dinghy in less, considerably less, than 280 hours to the above standard Faired, finished and fully fitted out? W/ spars, weighted cb, rudder, hardware, floorboards, and a pretty little pennant at the peak of the sail? No plywood, now...all bent frames and battened seams, lower planks steamed at the hood ends? You're good, alright.

Billy Bones
11-15-2002, 12:12 PM
Faired, finished and fully fitted out? W/ spars, weighted cb, rudder, hardware, floorboards, and a pretty little pennant at the peak of the sail? No plywood, now...all bent frames and battened seams, lower planks steamed at the hood ends? You're good, alright. After a moment's horror and a quick check of the back issue: Yeah, I think so. But the riverside has sawn frames, tho, not bent. And I don't include sailmaking in my estimate as you intimate--I couldn't do that. But it's my job to make beautiful wood things efficiently. I built the pooduck skiff all up to a pretty high standard in 125 hrs, so I don't think it is unreasonable to expect a riverside to take 200-250 hours with good planning. (That's billable hours, mind you. No fair counting paint-drying time!)

Bruce Taylor
11-15-2002, 12:43 PM
Sawn frames, eh? I coulda sworn...well, O.K., then. Sawn frames, and Todd makes the sails. But some of those planks will need some steam. And you've got a fair bit of spiling to do -- slow work, that. And, if I remember rightly (I don't have the article at hand) a bulkhead or two? Breasthook, of course...all easily done, but the clock is ticking. Lots of little stuff...rubrails, thwarts, oarlocks...


I just had a look at the articles. Two-part keel...that'll save time. And you have no moulds, apart from the frames themselves -- a big saving, there. You'll have some lofting to do, though, and seams to pay. The caulking looks straightforward, but there are more planks than I remembered and each one has to be hung the hard way, spiled and styled...

I dunno...you certainly banged out Pooduck without any wasted moves. And you're obviously the kind of guy who keeps track of his hours, and of course you're used to meeting estimates to make a living. It's just hard for me to dismiss Rick's considerable experience with this particular kind of construction.

[ 11-15-2002, 01:36 PM: Message edited by: Bruce Taylor ]

Billy Bones
11-15-2002, 03:23 PM
Yes, Bruce, I understand what you mean. And I also have alot more room than Rickprose and alot bigger machinery up my sleeve (at least since my visit there a few years ago) which helps to tip the scale further in my favor. But ultimately what I mean is whatever the time first one takes, even say 300hrs, the rest will follow quicker. Much quicker, if I guess right. In a nutshell the picture is not as bleak as he suggests. Crank in a few dozen extra hours in the first one to make patterns on 1/4" cab. plywood 'seconds' from the lumber yard from the fitted pieces and you should be really flying by #'s 4,5 and 6. Who knows, maybe you could eat out a time or two!

The trick is selling that many boats. It is one thing to make chairs. I always make double the order of chairs my customer wants, and the rest are usually sold before they're finished. But with chairs, the efficient use of materials also increases dramatically with the number of chairs, to the point where the materials are often free for the last half of the run. Not so with boats, granted. Thus the second batch of chairs are pure profit. I always try to avoid making just one of something. I have a stack of pooduck stem and frame bits just waiting for a chance! (I didn't count making them in my 125 hours, BTW.)

Bruce Taylor
11-15-2002, 04:09 PM
Well, I'm convinced.

I like your approach to custom building -- make extra copies of whatever you're working on & sell them on spec.

The most impressive feat of small-scale production I've seen was a batch of 30 baroque guitars by Lawrence K. Brown. He documented this production run in an article called "Cranking out Baroque Guitars" in an old issue of American Lutherie.

Now, these are absurdly ornate instruments, featuring wedding-cake rosettes, striped ebony & holly binding & headstock inlay, and enough fancy purfling to make your eyes hurt...something like this:


That's not one of his, but it gives you the idea. For the bindings and rosettes, Brown glued up stacks of carefully shaped sticks and then sawed off guitar-shaped slices and inlaid disks.

In the article he gave some memorable advice to aspiring professionals:

"Patience will kill you deader than a possum on an interstate. Never substitute patience for skill. Nobody cares if you are striking a picturesque pose, playing craftsman with a chisel. If your methodology is not good and fast, you either need to get your luthier chops up to snuff or do an end run around the problem and invent different methods."

That is in keeping with the thinking of the original makers of these instruments, who built them fast and sold them cheap, using a handful of simple tools.

At the end of the day, says, Brown, "It was a hell of a lot of work and time, and I didn't get rich..." But I notice he's still in business.

[ 11-15-2002, 04:19 PM: Message edited by: Bruce Taylor ]

11-15-2002, 04:57 PM
Bruce and Billy bring up most interesting points. And it makes me wonder what sort of woodworking to do next. I've been itching for awhile.

How did ya'll get started, what was your intended direction, how has it changed?

I'd like to make things that don't require a bunch of machining. For some reason, even though I've never done it, green wood chair making strikes my fancy. I've watched a friend. A shave horse, a froe, a mallet, a drawknife, a spokeshave, a drill, a saw and a chisel, a pile of green ash or hickory or oak.

Though I've only seen this manner of building used in traditional furniture, it seems quite open to anything involving spindle and mortise and tenon. Always keeping in mind the beauty of the form, which makes the lightest, strongest construction possible with the materials and the tools at hand. A ladder back side chair, mountain style, can't weigh more than fifteen pounds.

[ 11-15-2002, 05:28 PM: Message edited by: ishmael ]

John Gearing
11-15-2002, 05:57 PM
Try making Adirondack-style twig furniture, Ish. Doesn't take much in the way of machining, allows for creativity, and is much in demand by those folks with camps/cottages these days I'm told.

11-15-2002, 06:24 PM
Rick- I misssed your earlier post. You are right. And theres always some one somewhere that can make a product faster and cheaper , but what happens to the quality? On the other hand - the quality of a piece of work is more often than not proportional to its price in the minds of ill-informed charlatans.

11-15-2002, 08:11 PM
I have a two and a half man shop in Maine, and as the 36 foot sportfisherman We're building approaches 450,000 (oh my God, did I say 450,000?) I wonder where all the profit is. I've been at this boatbuilding gig for a while now, and I can tell you , It ain"t a good way to get rich. Twenty years ago I'd have been happy to build this boat for less than a third of the current cost. But alas I've got to eat, and I really enjoy living indoors. A 36 foot Hinckley picnic has a base price of close to 500,000 ,and weighs around 10,000 lbs. Our boat weighs in at over 15,000 lbs and the (gulp) 450,000 includes all the bells and whistles. So I guess it"s a bargain. But I'll be willing to knock our labor rate down from 30 per hr to 10 just as soon as the jeep people will sell me a new Wrangler for $8,000 instead of the $13,000 I had to pay for a used one. Oh for the good old days. Bud McIntoch built the 30 ft Mickey Finn for $800. around 60 years ago, and last I knew she was going strong.

11-15-2002, 08:19 PM
Old joke. How do you make a million building boats? Start with two million.

Bruce Taylor
11-15-2002, 09:06 PM
It's true that twig furniture sells. Most of what I've seen has been pretty flimsy and badly designed, but I've seen some stunningly inventive, rock-solid rustic furniture made of black locust--the work of one Bill Sworoff, in Maryland. These are extremely original and functional works of art. There would be some satisfaction in doing what Bill does. Long walks in the woods to gather branches...staring at oddly-shaped crooks to see what they resemble, & how they might be used. Finishing is minimal (a sealer over the bark), and special tenoning tools are readily available from Lee Valley.

I've never tried greenwood chairmaking, but I've been to a Windsor chairmaker's studio and was quite delighted with the reedy delicacy of his spindles, and the serene environment in which he works. I saw no power tools on the premises (even his lathe is treadle-powered)...he works sitting down in a pile of shavings and creates these wonderfully attenuated forms, each one like a bird's skeleton. A fine place to plant your rump.

11-17-2002, 11:08 PM
Seems to me, that there is something seriously wrong with our system of values in this country/world right now... When honest hard working craftsmen, be it boat builders, cabinet makers, or whatever... Need to justify their fee to a public that will spend tens of thousands of dollars on a TV with out thinking twice, there is a problem. with out marketing and ad agencies to promote an ethic of craftsmanship (which seems to be in the same catagory as magic and dragons these days) we as craftsmen are considered to be both "wonderful" and archaic.... When a large portion of society purchases a boat, or a dining table, they have no concept of what goes into building it. It's sort of like the old question of where electricity comes from...(the outlet on the wall of course!)
I recently finished a large TV cabinet for an enlightened couple, who were more than willing to pay the honest fee i charged them for the piece. When another prospective client came to my shop and said they'd like something similar and what did it cost..... They nearly fell over. They were putting a $5,000.00 TV in this thing... but the thought of spending that for a "box" nearly killed them.... I guess the idea that their grandkids would be able to use the "box" while the TV would be landfill never really sank in.....

Phil Young
11-21-2002, 11:35 PM
Don't tell me Cleek's got one of those big plasma screen TV's. Just don't do that.

Bob Cleek
11-22-2002, 10:03 PM
Well, I'm chuckling to myself here. I KNEW this post would come around in this direction. Rick is absolutely right, of course. I thought I'd get somebody's goat with my opening shot. It took a little while to heat up, but she took off like a shot once she got going! LOL

No question, everything costs more and takes more time to do than most anybody thinks. Now, take freeing folks from inconvenient spouses, which is what I do for a living because boat work doesn't pay enough to feed a family. You wouldn't think you'd have to pay a guy $300 an hour to keep the child support and alimony within limits that would permit you to keep your boat even after the house and the car and the retirement savings were all gone, but it do...

11-22-2002, 10:20 PM
That's only because lawyers are blood sucking leeches... If lawyers were really nice guys they'd do it all for free..... ;)

Bob Cleek
11-24-2002, 07:42 PM
Okay, tell you what... I'll do your wife's divorce for free just to show you what a nice guy I am!

Scott Rosen
11-24-2002, 09:07 PM
Don't clean him out completely Bob. Leave him with about $1,500 so he can afford to go through bankruptcy when you're all done with him. LOL

11-24-2002, 11:15 PM
If he leaves me with $1,500 that'd be fantastic! That's about $1,000 more than I have right now!

11-25-2002, 09:27 AM
It has been my experience that most people in the trades and professions get paid for what they know, not what they do. My favourite anecdote (utterly fictional) to illustrate the principle is as follows:

A fellow owns a paper-making factory. He purchases a wonderful new paper-making machine that makes miles of high-quality paper per day, keeps three shifts of three staff per shift working, and cost millions to install. About six months after in was installed, the new machine breaks down. The factory owner calls the machine manufacturer and irately points out that every minute the machine is not working he is losing hundreds of dollars in wages and lost production, and that he wants a repair technician on site RIGHT NOW!!

A half hour later, the repair tech arrives and asks to speak to the workers and foreman. With the boss looking on, he asks the assembled staff for detailed information about the conditions in the plant just before the machine stopped working. After a few minutes of gathering data on temperature, smells, noises, etc., the tech announces, "I know what the problem is!"

He removes a 1/2" wrench from his toolbox, approaches the machine, and proceeds to turn a single bolt on the machine a quarter-turn. "Switch it on now," he instructs the foreman. The machine springs to life and settles in to a comfortable purr of synchronized gears and belts.

"This is wonderful!" exclaims the boss, rubbing his hands in glee. "We're back in business, the boys are working, and I'm making money again! Write up your bill and I'll pay it immediately."

The repair tech writes a few lines on an invoice form and hand it to the boss. The boss reads it, his eyes bug out and his jaw drops, and he splutters and spits and finally blurts out, "A THOUSAND DOLLARS!!! You expect me to pay a thousand dollars for some guy to turn a single bolt a quarter turn?!!! You had damn well better give me a detailed itemization of this bill to justify this highway robbery!"

The tech takes back the invoice and write a few more lines, then hands it back to the boss who reads the following:

"To turn 1/2" bolt one quarter turn.... $10.00
To know which bolt to turn to save you thousands of dollars in lost production and wages ... $990.00"

11-29-2002, 01:24 AM
Ricks math doesnt work out. He detected it and started throwing things in to 'clean it up' and make it look bad. First it was one man 70 hours a week building boats. Then he threw in hiring help (in this one man operation), then sails. Then throws in "if you could sell any at all". Then the number of boats drop to seven. Then driving around, billing customers... yada yada.

First the whole trick to business is finding a market. Implicit in shock at a $10,500 dingy is the acceptance that there is a market there.

Your math doesnt work, as you apparently own a business id think you'd know that? I happen to have worked for myself for the last five years or so. "Billing, driving around, hustling business" is the cost of working for yourself. Sure if daddy set you up with a trust fund to buy an off the shelf business you can think that way. Most small business owners though, dont. They have an idea, find a market, try it, find themselves doing a LOT of things 'extra'.. and love it.

If we assume a highly skilled boatbuilder/carpenter in the right region with access to the right materials and market.. all of which are by the way basic requirements of any type of business, labor,talent,materials,market...
He builds his first boat custom. Then his second.
Five or six later he has it down better. He builds them faster. A LOT of his work will be minor adaptations of very basic designs. IE he's building the same boat over and over with minor modifications. And most importantly if you go into business thinking "im going to do this and only this" your not going to be in for long. As a secondary line any boatbuilder of any type will happily mass produce a design that is popular. You build ten customs that are works of art. You start getting requests for one of them. You mass produce four. Much quicker and cheaper to produce. Higher profit margin. After a while you DO hire help. Unskilled labor to do the tedious work that doesnt require a lot of skill. You hire it cheap. I dont know where he lives or who he's hiring or if he's talking canadian dollars but $12 for totally unskilled labor in a parttime job working in a fun environment for a nice individual is an insanely high wage. Try $8 Tops here. Probably less.

If your work is really beautiful, really good you get work lined up. "Slots". You have a demand. You can meet the supply with a profit. You have a business.

Your work isnt high enough quality to attract buyers your business fails.
Your too 'snooty' and only want to produce what you want to produce your business fails.
You insist on including things like sitting in a chair pondering boatworking in your 'working hours' your out of business.
Your insulted that god forbid you have to fill out taxes four times a year, you have to file incorporation papers, you have to TALK to people, you have to call vendors and buy supplies.. your out of business.

If someones thinking about it.. build a boat. Try to sell it. If it works, and you sell the boat for a profit, enjoy your work (more important than you know), learn and think you can cut the time or improve the product.. build another one.. try it again...if it works you have your dream job. If it doesnt you got to build a really cool boat or two.

Sorry but your condescending attitude annoys me rick. I imagine your a really nice guy whos probably an incredible boatwright but sir there are probably people on this forum with a lot more business acumen than either of us. There are probably people with better woodworking skills. Im sure there are people smarter and wiser than us. If you want to critique something do it kindly and honestly and with good will.. and without the ego. If youd really done a rational critique instead of an emotional kneejerk id bet you could show your probably right at least from one perspective. But trust me, whateve we think we are capable of there are people out there can do it faster,cheaper,better.

Old greek saying "Hubris!"
Response "Ate"