View Full Version : Carvel, on the Cheap
09-04-2005, 03:12 PM
Its been said that a carvel boat is still the cheapest, quickest method for a one off boat.
Hypothetically speaking, what methods and materials would be quickest and cheapest in building an under 30 foot cruising sailboat of carvel construction?
What woods? Is recycled lumber suitable for what components in the hull?
What type of frames?
What type of fastenings?
What keel material?
What inboard auxiliary powerplant?
What has been compromised by doing this on the cheap?
09-04-2005, 04:11 PM
The sale price if you ever want to sell it.
09-04-2005, 04:27 PM
like most things here, my guess is that this will turn into a circular conversation, but i question whomever it was who said carvel construction is the quickest and cheapest. from the getgo, you'd need way more in the infrastructure of the building setup than if you build a lapstrake hull, as the framing happens before planking-therefore you need lots of molds and lots of ribbands. a lapstrake hull is the opposite-therefore you might be able to omit a few molds-depending on your eye- and your planking becomes the form for bending frames. second, there is the small matter of backing out planking to meet the frames, a fun, sometimes frustrating, always time consuming step in getting out a carvel plank. a cruising boat, even well under 30' is still a lot of boat. i'd say lapstrake,glued lapstrake, batten seam, or a plywood dory hull would be a short list of quicker and cheaper construction types. if i were building a hull on the uber cheap and quick, i'd want to make sure every piece i cut was eventually a part of the hull. my two cents...
09-04-2005, 04:55 PM
Old used pallets and skids...
nails, ya might haveta spring for new
old string for caulking....
roof cement to keep out the water...
dont need no paint
Look here for a ready to truckaway project...
http ://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=4572016622&rd=1&sspagename=STRK%3AMEWA%3AIT&rd=1 (http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=4572016622&rd=1&sspagename=STRK%3AMEWA%3AIT&rd=1)
What has been compromised by doing this on the cheap? Your sanity...
[ 09-04-2005, 05:02 PM: Message edited by: Gary E ]
09-04-2005, 06:51 PM
i have been out in my shop thining about my previous post, and i have decided i was too hasty with a response. i would opt for cheap/quick if need be for a small pond skiff or a punt, but if you mean to build even an 18'-20' sailboat, cheap and quick are unhealthy project parameters. i don't care who it is on this forum, we've all learned at least once that hard way that slow and steady wins the race. save up your money, try to make as many mistakes in pencil instead of white cedar, and built the right boat at the right time.
09-04-2005, 07:09 PM
I should have put in a few more assumptions, such as the boat should not be considered disposable, etc. Cheap also should be considered relative to other boatbuilding methods, not to be considered in a negative way meaning poorly built. I would also assume a workboat type design and aesthetic should be chosen and employed.
Regarding whoever says that carvel is the cheapest and quickest, no less luminaries to wooden boat enthusiasts than Joel White and Phil Bolger amongst others.
[ 09-04-2005, 07:11 PM: Message edited by: Paul Pless ]
09-04-2005, 07:18 PM
Originally posted by Paul Pless:
...Cheap also should be considered relative to other boatbuilding methods, not to be considered in a negative way meaning poorly built. I would also assume a workboat type design and aesthetic should be chosen and employed.
Look at the various Sharpies, Garveys and other crossplanked, solid-wood craft. Not strictly carvel, but they fit your parameters, and simple design doesn't mean low quality or short life.
What makes carvel among the least expensive over the life of the boat are repair costs. Damaged carvel planks are replaced much faster than lapstrake and its glued variations, and sometimes faster than patching the various laminated designs.
09-04-2005, 07:25 PM
To answer my own questions as much as I can, I am not a boatbuilder so I really don't know.
1. What wood? Most assume something available locally, but is this really the cheapest. I have heartpine and sinker cypress available locally, but it ain't cheap is something else out there even somewhat commercially available foe planking stock. I assume I would use live or white oak for the keel and frames.
2. I assume bent frames are cheaper, quicker, and less wast than sawn or laminated.
3. Fastenings, this is where I am at a loss. Fastenings ain't cheap no matter what you use and they seem to have a great deal of impact on the longevity and the ability to repair or reconstruct a hull. I assume rivets may be the best compromise here, but galvanized nails are probable the cheapest.
4. Assuming that one collects his own recycled lead and pours it hisself lead beats iron, if contracted out then iron beats lead - right.
5. What finish? man I have no idea here.
6. What inboard? man I have no idea here.
7. What compromise? I suspect that not much regarding the ultimate marketable selling price. Come on guys we've all seen high quality, yachts built of expensive woods bronze fastenings with incredible pedigrees sell for pitifully low amounts of money.
Lets get some specific answers rolling, maybe this topic could be a usefull one besides satisfying my hypothetical conjecture.
09-04-2005, 08:11 PM
And if there was a good cheap way to do something,it would have been done here.If nothing else,the costlier stuff is sure alot more satisfying to work with.Especially if in the cheap realm of things one uses hand tools over the exotic power tools.My cheapest act on my boat was using D-fir marine exterior ply under glass on the sheer deck of my boat over the BS1088 I used on the rest of the hull.Did I ever eat it when it came fairing time.Will never happen again if I have to grow the plywood myself.I just dont see how cheap or cheaper fits in on building a wooden boat.Cheaper construction method may just translate into more maintenence.I would think all the methods and the materials even out over the broader spectrum of things.Cheapest construction would be by far the dugout canoe.
[ 09-04-2005, 08:19 PM: Message edited by: pipefitter ]
09-04-2005, 08:38 PM
Buehler's "Backyard Boatbuilding." Not everyone's cup of tea, and I question some of his decisions, but he's gotten more people out doing it, from a pile of lumber, than anyone else there ever was.
Ya don't need "boatlumber", ya don't need fancy stainless fittings, ya don't need fancy anything, just a native sense of scrounging and a desire to understand what works.
You won't build any gold-cuppers out of it, and thirty years down the road someone will curse your mother's soul. But they do that with the best of the best.
He's an entertaining read.
09-04-2005, 09:04 PM
and thirty years down the road someone will curse your mother's soul. But they do that with the best of the best.
ain't that the truth
09-04-2005, 09:09 PM
The traditional boatbuilding methods have evolved over hundreds of years because they are the best balance of economy and suitability for the purpose intended. Only a fool reinvents the wheel.
09-04-2005, 11:15 PM
Paul, you'll hafta' Google it, but I think the boat's name was Hina and the guy was Bill something or the other, in Mother Earth News magazine a few years ago and the article was entitled " a $300 sailboat " or something like that.
Anyway, this "earth muffin" type and his wife built a 20 "something" foot dory-styled live-aboard cruising boat for " under $300 " and spent a number of months living in it, and they sailed it over 500 miles around the Great Lakes.
I remember the article 'cause he showed exactly how he built it, exactly what materials were needed,how really easy it was to build, and exactly what to do to build one.
He included very detailed drawings to explain every step of the building process and how to save money doing it.
Sorry I can't remember more, but you should be able to find it if you search Mother Earth news; might be just the thing you're looking for.
09-05-2005, 08:06 AM
As an example. I could saw the white pine off this land and use it for anything but framing in a carvel boat. It would cost me the cost of getting a portable bandsaw in here.
I've got a bunch of galvanized boat nails, would buy some more. I'd go out to the local sawyers and find some oak for framing. It might not be to the standards of the great boatyards, but it would suffice.
I could also hunt up the best materials possible, mahogany, white oak, cedar, bronze. What do you want to build Paul?
09-05-2005, 08:32 AM
We disagree Mike. If I build a sharpie with boat nails and locally sawn lumber, at least I built a boat, and hopefully travel in it.
Good boatnails are quite good, pine on oak, BTW. I'm not sure you can even get them anymore, probably not, but they'll outlast the owner's children, most likely.
It's an interesting discussion. Don't get your dander up.
09-05-2005, 09:47 AM
What do you want to build Paul? Oh hell I don't know, too many cool boats that is one of my problems.
Probably one of Atkin's Eric types, maybe a Garden Seal, definately something double ended, I've always dreamed of sailing a Tancook Whaler - but I don't know how practical one of those could be.
I've got this lull at work right now. My lab is running at 100% capacity and will be for the next 14 - 20 months; the projects are not requiring me to be here much thoough and I am bored as hell. Nice problem to have, huh? I should also mention that my employees probably don't want me around if I don't have anything to do ;) and I am personally used to putting in around 2500 hours a year in my office.
I've got decent access to lumber, including reclaimed lumber, its all heavy stuff though - pine, white and live oak, and cypress. Other than the wood there is nothing traditional marine available in central Alabama. The biggest limiting factor maybe that noone is available nearby to come to my barn and offer advice when needed. I do have shop space, and my maintenance bldg certainly has all the tools I could ever utilize. I even have help available from employees if I really need it.
Maybe I used a poor choice of words (cheap), but it does seem as though carvel really is the least expensive and quickest way to go, look at similar boats- at least in displacement constructed in plywood (supposedly the fastest and easiest way to go). Could one of those Ted Brewer Dories be built as quickly in a one man shop as a small Eric. I always try to remember that the hull is less than half the work to be completed.
I don't know that I really would build a boat using the cheapest materials, even though I think I prefer the workboat aesthetic to the yacht finish, but it is hard for me to justify putting the most expensive materials into a project that will not return but a small portion of its investment . Like I said before, we've all seen boats with approximately $50,000.00 in materials sell for less than the materials replacement cost. That is a concern.
Thanks for the replies thus far,
[ 09-05-2005, 07:46 PM: Message edited by: Paul Pless ]
09-05-2005, 09:50 AM
If a person can't still apply good building standards and practices, it does make the boat cheap and not worth the effort I couldn't agree more. It would be a waste of effort and materials, not to mention emotion to build a disposable boat. That's why I asked the question, how cheap can one go and what are the compromises.
09-05-2005, 10:33 AM
I feel your pain. Obviously, word choice is interpreted many ways here regarding "cheap" but if you wade through the posts while wearing a suit of very thick skin, you will find the feedback is speckled with positive and useful information.
I'd like to hear about your sources for cypress, myself.
Good luck and go for it...
09-05-2005, 10:52 AM
thanks for the encouraging words, check your pm
09-06-2005, 07:42 AM
"...Anyway, this "earth muffin" type and his wife built a 20 "something" foot dory-styled live-aboard cruising boat for " under $300 " and spent a number of months living in it, and they sailed it over 500 miles around the Great Lakes..."
09-06-2005, 12:45 PM
good building standards and practices,[/QB]I think it's worth noting that on the right boat, white oak and white pine and galvanized boat nails ARE good boatbuilding practice, assuming you trust the experience of countless down east boat builders and fishermen who worked from sharpies, skiffs and various flattie types built exactly that way. It makes a boat that's cheap (sorry, inexpensive), easy to build, and simple to repair. Cedar is wonderful, cypress is wonderful (although heavy). But so is D Fir and white pine - in the right boat.
It's just my opinion, but I think if a boat is well conceived, a pleasure to build and uses local materials wisely, it's automatically a pretty good boat.
I have no problem with the idea that such a boat might not last for generations of time. We don't expect most of our other possessions to last that long, but we often invest much more in them.
09-06-2005, 04:23 PM
Originally posted by ishmael:
Good boatnails are quite good, pine on oak, BTW. I'm not sure you can even get them anymore, probably not, but they'll outlast the owner's children, most likely.It all depends.
First thing is to define/refine your requirements and the problem statement: For starter's, what's the boat's design life?
Galvanised boat nails are good for 20-40 years, which might well be good enough for your purposes.
But the problem is that when any steel fastener corrodes, the rust expands, damaging the wood.
Also, boats fastened with steel fasteners are susceptible to "iron sickness" (aka "nail sickness".
As the steel fasteners corrode, the ferrous oxides resulting from the corrosion (aka "rust") react with chemical compounds in the wood surrounding the fastener, effectively oxidizing the wood. The net result is that the wood surrounding the fastener becomes a dark black-brown-red and quite brittle/soft.
There's no real good way to fix iron-sick wood, except the old-fashioned way: replacing it.
Which is why the next owner of the boat, 40 years on will be cursing you and yours for having scrimp ed on fasteners when you build the boat.
One more thing regarding a nailed boat. There's not good way to replace an old boatnail. You can't get to the head with a nail puller, for starters (assuming the head hasn't corroded away :D ), since the head lies below the surface of the plank (since the nails are usually countersunk and plugged). Even if you can the rusty steel nails is unlikely to come out since it probably went in all cattywampus. And since it's been wasted away to a mere shadow of its former self, becoming quite brittle in the process, it's likely to break. When that happens, there's usually not enough metal left so you could drill it out, but quite enough left to ensure that the drill bit will be sent off course by the remnants of the nail.
When we refastened PIRATE, we sectioned the old frames w/a circular saw and split the pieces out with chisel and mallet, leaving the nails in the hull planking. Fairly frequently, we found ails that never entered the frames: they had skidded off the white oak frames and clenched over into the hull planking. We cut the nails flush with the inside of the hull and drove them out with a hammer and punch. Riveting in reverse, if yoo would.
I'd say galvanized fasteners, especially boat nails are a false economy, especially considering the value of your labor, unless you intend your boat to be disposable.
That's why workboats tended to be nail-fastened: cheap and fast for a boat designed for a short, hard life.
09-06-2005, 07:14 PM
Dear Norm and Nicholas,
Thankyou both very, very much. This is the exact type of reasoned response that I was hopeing that this topic would generate. Well informed and generally correct responses by both of you. I thankyou again.
So, to avoid the problems with ferrous fasteners - even galvanized fasteners is the next step up in price copper rivets, or is it using bronze boat nails? Or is the cost difference so little at this point that one says screw it and goes all the way to a bronze screw? I tried to price compare these at the Jamestown Distributers site, but I don't what size screw replaces what size nail or what size rivet.
[ 09-06-2005, 07:25 PM: Message edited by: Paul Pless ]
09-06-2005, 11:15 PM
... Duh, been covered already...
[ 09-06-2005, 11:30 PM: Message edited by: John Bell ]
09-07-2005, 09:04 AM
I think it's worth noting that on the right boat, white oak and white pine and galvanized boat nails ARE good boatbuilding practice, assuming you trust the experience of countless down east boat builders and fishermen who worked from sharpies, skiffs and various flattie types built exactly that way.
Thanks, you summed it up.
Of course, non-ferrous is better, from a lot of perspectives. It depends on the boat's intent. Are you building a boat to use, or building for the ages? Both? Nowadays, with the resurgence in the last thirty years, we look at boats that were intended to last twenty years and puzzle at what were fine decisions at the time.
I like copper rivets, myself. Though they're the most work of all.
[ 09-07-2005, 09:36 AM: Message edited by: ishmael ]
09-07-2005, 09:32 AM
Yeah, you've hit upon one of the most contentious subjects in this forum, so don't be surprised by naysayers smile.gif
It's not that bronze fasteners are expensive.. they aren't that expensive anymore. It is that if you use bronze, ALL fittings have to be (or should be) bronze and ballast has to be lead. So that drives up cost incrementally. And if you use top quality fasteners...you can see where this logic goes.
However, if this is your first boatbuilding project, I am guessing you will sell her within 10 years. Any boat fastened with galvanized screws (dont use oak for framing tho) will last 40 years so thats not bad. Especially if you use good, hot dipped galvanized fasteners and squirt some polysulfide into the holes before you drive em (per J. Trefethan).
Also, since this is your first real boatbuilding project, if you use less expensive materials, you will curse less when you screw up your 10th plank. :)
Avoiding oak for framing avoids (well, significantly slows) the problem of Oxalic acid helping corrode galvanized fasteners, and getting 'nail rot' in your frames. Just use some other reasonable wood for framing like D. Fir or Select Yellow Pine (tight grained).
Lots of people use select white pine for planking. Iwalani, a 43 foot 40k lb gaff cutter, was built by a Boatbuilder using nothing but white pine for planking and he circumnavigated her with no plank problems whatsoever.
There's no reason you can't build an excellent quality boat with common wood and galvanized fasteners. Just make sure the wood is select quality ( for the planking at least) and the fasteners are well dipped by a reputable place. If the framing wood doesn't bend well, then laminate the frames in place (its stronger than bent frames anwyay), or build a straight framed single chine boat.
It's like the difference between a Shaker pine chair and a Louis XVI chair. You can sit in both of em, and they are both comfortable.. but one of them will sell for higher money due to materials and artisanship differences.
Thad Van Gilder
09-07-2005, 09:35 AM
with planking cedar going for 1.20 a board foot, and oak for 90 cents, it's hard to go wrong with a cedar on oak boat.
09-07-2005, 09:46 AM
Originally posted by joejapan:
Anyway, this "earth muffin" type and his wife built a 20 "something" foot dory-styled live-aboard cruising boat for " under $300 " and spent a number of months living in it, and they sailed it over 500 miles around the Great Lakes.
A few years back, the History or Discovery channel or sumpin had a show about a couple who made basically a live aboard barge and they travelled across the sea. They used everything from recycled 2 litre pop bottles to cinder blocks and scrap car parts to build this thing and outfitted it with provisions for a trans atlantic journey. They barely made it but it was enough to get 'em on tv in documentary form.
Of course in every neighborhood theres a trash collector who doesn't work fer the city so to speak. I just wish the one in my hood would float away as gracefully!
09-07-2005, 10:48 AM
Even if the steel dipped nails last for 100 years,what about all those ugly rust stains you see bleeding from boats that have them?Alot of the galvanized gets damaged on the head of the nail when driven.
09-07-2005, 01:11 PM
I posted earlier in defense of traditional materials such as w pine and galv boat nails, mostly because I believe that the old ways were by and large good ways, when your intent is the same as theirs was. However, I also believe that if the old-timers were building skiffs today they would likely do the same thinking now as they did then and balance out cost, complexity and longevity. That's why today they are mostly fishing from steel boats.
Ishmael said "we look at boats that were intended to last twenty years and puzzle at what were fine decisions at the time.". Not me. I figure that if was built to do twenty years service and it did twenty years service, then it was a successful boat. It doesn't (or shouldn't) owe anybody anything at that point.
As for my own choices, I chose galvanized screws for replacing the garboards on my 45-yr old cutter (strip w. cedar on oak), mostly because all the boat's other fastenings are galvanizeed. But if I go ahead and build the 16 foot sharpie I'm contemplating, it'll be bronze screw and nail fastened throughout, because when you do the math, the difference in cost is peanuts and there are no corrosion issues at all.
09-07-2005, 03:07 PM
Thats true Norm, and I agree with you there, but if you use bronze fasteners, doesn't that mean you have to use lead ballast? Thats where the costs can get up there. And now, you're using lead ballast.. why aren't you using mahagony for planking??... and on and on.
I guess if I was strip planking I wouldn't be worried about it though, considering I'd be encapsulating the fasteners by and large.
09-07-2005, 05:23 PM
TimothyB - Although I understand the issue, my only comment on the bronze fastening - iron keel problem is to say that I'd think that properly installed bronze fastenings and iron keel bolts would probably live happily together for a long long time, especially in a small boat with little or no electronics on board. It would likely take twenty or more years for anything dangerous to happen. For a small, easily built boat, that would be okay with me. So again, it's a matter of whether (as someone above said ) you're building for now or for the ages.
Fortunately, the sharpie I'm looking at building has no ballast other than a few sandbags, so I don't have to worry whether I'm right or not. ;)
But to get back to Paul's original question, I suppose this is relevent to the "what's compromised?" part. All boatbuilding is a compromise of course, but I'd say that all compromises are healthy if they don't sacrifice things you care about. Such as safety, good looks, performance, initial cost, maintenance cost, simplicity, seaworthiness, ease-of-build, environmental impact, longevity, re-sale etc. - and we each get to put them in the order of our choosing.
In the end I'm just saying that I'd weight things differently for the 16 ft sharpie daysailer and for the Alden Malabar Jr cruiser I also have the plans for and spend much time drooling over. One would take weeks to build and small $, the other is years and big $.
[ 09-07-2005, 05:26 PM: Message edited by: outofthenorm ]
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