Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.
The Yeadonator is, of course, exceptional - in oh so many ways! <G> Plus... he had the resources available thru the CWB to rely on. Such a network of people with traditional skills and knowledge makes a huge difference.
I'm not suggesting that a first-time builder CAN'T build a traditionally constructed small boat... or even a large boat. I'm saying that - for most folks facing their first build - plywood and epoxy is a lot less daunting than the arcane set of skills and terms involved in traditional building. Add in the fact that most of the designs for trad build are predicated upon the notion that the builders will be professionals who don't need a lot of specific direction (and are therefore much more 'rudimentary'). Many of the the folks who are designing ply/epoxy boats, OTOH, are renowned for the completeness of their plan - starting with designers like Glen L Witt, and continuing forward to the boatbuilding treatises that come from Ian Oughtred and Michael Storer.
"It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)
This discussion would be more informative if we re-phrased the question to eliminate the "cheap" connotation.
If you want to build a good boat for the least cost, and you already know what you mean by "good boat", where can you truly and safely save money on the total project?
My answer would be this:
1) Never compromise on basic strength, integrity or safety. Build and equip the boat to match the waters and your expected use.
2) On whatever choices you make for materials, fastenings, glue, scantlings, gear, etc, plan and build in a 100% safety factor.
3) Know that, in general, the cheaper you go, the shorter its life. So, match the basic material choices to the desired longevity of the boat.
4) Leave out anything that doesn't contribute to 1)
5) Do proper shake-down trials before you take anyone else's life on board.
Conclusion: assuming that you are clear on how and where you will use the boat, the only place to save serious money is on the extras you don't need. You get to figure out what's extra and what isn't. Stereo, refrigeration, winches, dodgers, and matching hats are probably extras. Good wood, generous fastenings, reliable pumps and an anchor with rode are probably not.
Last edited by outofthenorm; 06-12-2012 at 11:28 AM.
A common rule of thumb is a 4x8 foot sheet of 1/4" fir plywood weighs 25 pounds. The same amount of dried white cedar weighs 18.4 pounds, less than three quarters the weight of the plywood. http://www.csgnetwork.com/lumberweight.html Certainly, moisture content and other factors will cause the weights to vary some, but now you know what I meant.
BTW, the size ("tonnage"), not the weight, of larger traditional boats is often described in "tons." (A "tun" was a particular size barrel. The number of "tuns" a ship could carry was her "tonnage.") This is not a measure of the boat's weight, but rather her cargo volume, calculated by one of several formulae. Calculating the size of cargo in a ship according to the volume is referred to as tonnage calculation. Tonnage refers to the unit of ship's volume while Ton is the unit of weight.Tonnage measurements range from Gross Register Tonnage (GRT), Net Register Tonnage (NRT), Gross Tonnage, Net Tonnage to Thames Measurement Tonnage. Gross Register Tonnage is the total volume of vessel excluding the unused spaces while Net Register Tonnage is the total cargo a vessel can carry.
There are a number of formulae for calculating "tonnage." Gross Tonnage is explained as the volume of ship's entire enclosed spaces to the exterior of hull whereas Net Tonnage calculates only all the cargo spaces of the ship, exclusive of machinery areas, living quarters, the bridge and so on. Last of all, the Thames measurement tonnage, devised by the Thames Yacht Club and used for smaller vessels, is a formula based on calculating the vessel's length and beam. Gross Register Tonnage and Net Register Tonnage were replaced by Gross and Net Tonnage respectively in 1994 according to the Tonnage Measurement convention of 1969 which succeeded to bring out a universal tonnage measurement system. Since 1982 all ships are characteristically measured by IMO Convention.
USCG measurement rules for vessel documentation require that documented vessels be at least "5 Tons Net." This is a volume measurement. Most displacement hulls 25' in length or more will calculate out to "5 Tons Net." The weight of a boat, on the other hand, is its displacement.
Last edited by Bob Cleek; 06-12-2012 at 03:07 PM.
I have made a couple of plywood skiffs from mostly lumberyard materials, mainly because I was just messing around. But then, they've been used on inland lakes and rivers. I'm not sure if I've ever been so far from shore that I couldn't swim if the occasion arose, even without PFD (which I always keep in the boat.) Never felt insecure about being on the water in something built inexpensively. The oldest is 19 years and is still in fine shape, although it could use a new paint and varnish job.
Thousands of workboats offer adequate evidence that boats don't have to be gold-plated to last a respectable time and provide safe service if used in accordance with their design limits.
Inexpensive does not necessarily mean unsuitable.
Life is full of choices. I choose that my next boat will be built mostly of the best materials, but I see nothing inherently wrong with messing about with inexpensive materials so long as you don't try to do something beyond the capability of the design and materials chosen.
I don't want there to be any misunderstandings, so:
1) Traditional lapstrake is awesome!
2) Big Food is super-mega-awesome!
3) Rowan was built glued lap instead of trad. lap for reasons unrelated to points one and two.
I agree with Bob Cleek an awful lot. I think my own development as a boatbuilder and as a sailor was hindered quite a bit by how much time and energy I spent going down the blind alley of Instant Boats and square plywood boxes before I realized that the marketing buzz proclaiming their virtues was just ad copy. Very simplified boats still have a valuable place as a beginner's learning process, but you gotta know when to quit playing Tic-Tac-Toe sometime. I no longer have any desire at all to build or own or use ultra-simplistic boats.
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Here's an article by Bob Smalser (gorgeously illustrated, as usual) that is very relevant to our discussion. He takes apart and restores a boat he built and explains the things he did right and the things he did wrong when building it and how long things he used lasted. Another great one by Bob!
The fact is, I really didn't know about glued lap, or anything about boat building for that matter, and I just figured everybody built traditional lapstrake boats their first time out. I have since learned differently. But I'm glad I went for an extremely complex open boat build - and that I basically had to design and integrate my a sail rig and foils as there were no plans available to me for the Matinicus Peapod. I'm awful stubborn like that. I enjoy solving riddles.
There really aren't many compromises as far as use, but more in the realm of care. I think if Rowan got loose overnight from the beach, then ground for a few hours against a log, then her ply planking would be in better shape than Big Food's cedar planking. Both would need repair, though. I had something similar happen a few summers back to Big Food, and I proceeded to sail her all scarred up for three more days before pulling her out of the water and starting repairs.
I've also seen open boats like mine survive collisions with large sailboats, and thus overall structural toughness is not a concern for me. I think it would be more of a concern for Rowan's monocoque structure, however. This paragraph alone is worth a comparison test, though James probably wouldn't allow Rowan to get plowed by a Catalina 32 for research purposes. We could always ask, though.
Also, since glued lap ply boats are inherently lighter, you can go a bit bigger and still expect reasonable rowing performance. There's that. If I built 15' Big Food out to the size of the 19'8 Rowan, she'd be 900 lbs+. And that'd be like rowing a train. But a larger boat like Rowan would allow me to get up, stretch my legs, and more importantly, bring Clyde the dog. (There's just not room for that in Big Food.)
I would say that if I build a second, larger sail & oar boat, I'd probably go with stitch-and-glue plywood lap. I really don't have the time I had when I built Big Food, soI'd probably go with a CNC kit for the hull, then fit her out myself with the rig and inboard layout that I want. If I hadn't already built a traditional boat, then I'd probably still feel like I had something to prove as an amateur builder. (Odd that this would be important to me.)
Take a look at "how far will plywood bend?" in "building".... I rest my case. I hope the guy doesn't give up on boatbuilding!
I can't find a pic. of the completed boat but you should be able to get the idea. Sometimes cheap makes sense. This 17' garvey was built using Home Depot BC Pine plywood, red oak for framing and chines, hot dipped galvanized fastenings, and polyester resin and 1 1/2 oz. matt glass. Total cost to build in '99, under $500.00. I helped a friend build it after work. He used it for 10 years and then donated it. It was still in good shape when donated. He used it for clamming and fishing. He had no interest in a museum piece, he just wanted to get out to the clams. I'd say he got his monies worth.
The "how far will plywood bend?" thread demonstrates the advisability of choosing materials appropriate to the design, and vice versa. Nothing more, IMO.
I’m sure first-time builders using traditional materials have made rookie mistakes, too.
First I would like to say that I think there is a place for quick and dirty boat building, but you should be aware of the limitations. I have spent my life working on the water. One thing I have learned is that paint, gellcoat and inaccessible void spaces hide a multitude of sins.
In the spirit of the the thread I need a taller mast that will probably not be used more than one or two seasons, three at the most. Two 16' 2"-4"s would give me a suitable blank. To keep the weight down I thought I might rout out two large grooves starting and ending a foot from either end on the inside faces. Then glue up and shape into a tapered octagon. Good Idea or bad.
Okay let me have it, but please not both barrels. Kill me on the first shot.
Turn those blanks into a birdsmouth spar. It might actually be easier. Clint Chase has a nice explanation.
I've broken two masts in my dory skiff, and lemme tell ya, having to build a new one is the LEAST of your problems! Nobody was injured even though someone was sitting right next to it both times, and no damage to the boat other than a broken stick, but it easily could have been otherwise. Outside of hitting a low bridge, masts usually break under extreme conditions, which means danger to yourself, crew and the boat.
In other words, small boat masts are NOT the place to experiment and/or see just how cheap you can build something. My current mast is two nice DF 16' 2x4s epoxied together and then planed to shape -- works just fine. No holes at all in the mast, as I'm using a mast band on the top to hold the 4 blocks for jib, mainsail, topping lift and flag halyards, the sail is attached using robands, and boom has a gaff jaw.
My understanding is that you should either go for a solid mast or birdsmouth, the latter being significantly stronger and lighter than solid wood. 'Nuff said?
As for cheap construction, I've got several friends who are convinced that they know more / better than generations of boatbuilders, fishermen, NA's, and designers. I've posted photos of some of their boats here, which even their closest buddies refer to as "floating coffins", and gotten the predictable reactions. Part of the fun is watching them hit the same wall over and over and over and over again -- a rather cruel sense of humor is required to go boating with them. Then you have to watch them get angry when they can't keep up with the rest of the boats, can't sail to windward, have all sorts of material failures, etc. I'm still trying to learn to enjoy the experience and ignore their angst, as that is (apparently) all part of being friends and going boating with them.
Personally I'll recommend against going there, but if ya gotta go there, go alone, OK?
Last edited by Thorne; 08-15-2012 at 03:12 PM.
"The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.
Sean, I third the notion to build yerself a birdsmouth spar. It's a very good technique.
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That Haitian boat was not cheap/ inexpensive for them.
It IS a mankiller. Butts on the frames , even large grown frames, are no longer done in Carriacou.
To the OP best to go elsewhere for the cheap and dirty stuff. This place is a bit stuffy about certain things, a cheap section would be bogged down in chants of deathtrap and yer wasting yer time sonny. On the other hand you can get fantastic answers about the proper and traditional way of doing things here. I enjoy reading about pretty classic boats but build cheap quick stuff to amuse myself. Some of the sages also spoke to quick and dirty, but again talking about it round here doesn't float.
Ego vitam meam inpensius
Frayed Knot Arts: Fancywork and Rope Jewelry
Here's another boat by the same builder, aka "The Floating Coffin" -
The following year he put two of the plastic-sewer-pipe amas on it that you see in the canoe-thingie above, and they finally allowed him to sail (somewhat) to windward.
Last edited by Thorne; 08-15-2012 at 10:57 PM.
"The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.
I respect that builder. 1. He has actually BUILT AT LEAST ONE BOAT. 2. He's not on a boat forum sneering at someone else.
Last edited by davebrown; 08-15-2012 at 11:50 PM.
Flame suit on! Visor down!
Read George Buhlers book, Back Yard Boat Building.
When I wrote this I was thinking about 12 to 17 foot skiffs, not big (20+ feet long).
Good stuff here, much of it applies to me! As to post 73, where do I get a shirt and hat like those Steve? I'd think flat black would cover those small imperfections that might occur with a first timmer....
That garvey is about what I have in mind, a little longer and higher freeboard.
How far does ply bend? How about in layers of 1/8 or 1/4, what about scarfing and filling and using stringers to beef up the area?
Will it be safe ? Water and boating kill people every day .
I had a dear friend . He was a bit of a outsider. He picked up scrap wood where ever he could find it . He lashed it all together with some rope . On a fine summer day he set out on the big lake . No one ever saw him again . Nor his raft
I would definitely go cheap on fastenings. I think alternatives to silicon bronze would perform well.
I would definitely consider using cheap paint (oil based enamel), rather than expensive 2-part paints.
I would not like to use Douglas Fir instead on Merranti or Okume. I hate the nasty, splintering Douglas Fir. However there are threads discussing Stauter Built boats that are maybe 40 or 50 years old built with Douglas Fir.
I would (and do) use cheap, locally available, Southern Yellow Pine rather than precious mahogany and white oak.
Going with cheap materials also has the potential benefit of not having to get parts thru mail-order with long wait periods and high shipping costs.
Last edited by Bluegill; 08-20-2012 at 09:12 PM.
There is something I do not understand here.
Why people talk about "cheap" and then go straight for over-priced store bought materials like plywood and sawn timber. I wonder why people have became so afraid of wood. Every time when I have a customer who wants an old log house repaired I have to spend several hours explaining over and over again that logs come from the forest and can be shaped in all three dimensions to fit perfectly into the old wall. There is a general mindset that if timber does not come sawn and planed from a big store something is wrong. Over and over again I am told that old elaborate window sashes are impossible to repair because one cannot buy factory-planed wood with the right profiles. When I reply that I do such repairs now and then people usually do not believe me until I have shown them a few pictures. Why!!!!!!
If I was to build a boat from cheap materials I would talk to a woodland owner and select the trees I need and pay for them in cash. Bring the logs to a saw mill and have them sawn for keel and planking and gunwales and ceiling. Dig up tree stumps for sawn frames and thwart knees and breast hooks and cut them roughly to size by chain saw and broad axe. Split small slow grown trees in half for bent frames. Plane the wood on my own planer/thicknesser. Weld up my own hardware. Use old cotton cloth soaked in pine tar to make the lands watertight.
The only store bought materials I would need for the hull of a 24 foot sail and oar peapod would be some boat nails and some stainless steel stock and a can each of linseed oil and pine tar. If money is very tight I could theoretically even make the pine tar in a simple home built kiln. Such a boat would last between 20 and 80 years depending on luck and maintainance and be as strong and seaworhy as a high cost build.
The only mayor problem I can see is getting the hull shape right. That is the only part of a boat that is not ordinary woodwork and requires the skills of a trained craftsman with a good sence of three dimensional shapes. I lack that ability and training.
I think "fast and easy" building would be a better term for what those "cheap builders" aim for. "Fast and easy" boats are okay for sheltered waters as far as I am concerned but let's keep the two things apart. Just my personal oppinion......running and hiding......
Amateur living on the western coast of Finland
If you want a cheap boat then build a sharpie, what boat is simpler than that? If you want low cost materials then find a sawmill and have your wood cut custom. I have had custom planking cut for as low as 50 cents a board foot. The least expensive fasteners are ring nails but if you want to repair it sometime then use screws. Oil paint is the least expensive paint for first cost put the colours are not as flashy as the yacht stuff. I am going through a stack of boat plans now trying to meet my needs and carvel planking is cheaper than epoxy. Stainless is cheaper than bronze. It looks like I will have an all pine or pine and cedar boat. The real trick is the engine. For some reason a mass produced engine with a pickup truck hanging on it is cheaper than the same block with a marine gear.
Anybody know where I can get a Sabb 22 hp or 30 hp with prop and shaft for a good price?
What constitutes "cheap" materials very much depends on where you are located. Many areas do not have a local sawmill with inexpensive green or PAD lumber.
but i calculated that plywood would cost me (I forgot the excact figure), some thing like € 1000 more than crossplanked larch wich came to € 550 for the wood only, add to that € 250 worth of epoxy.
I build the frame out of €270 worth of larch.
Then Is said to myself "What the heck I will use Picea Abies", I think it is called Norwegian Spruce I believe. The whole hull planking will cost me €150 euros if I have to buy all the wood new, as it is I already scavanged a nice bit of used wood for free, but let's stick with the €150 add to that € 350 for epoxy = € 400, (I will need more epoxy because I am going to build 4 criss cross layers off 6mm thick and 35 mm wide planks)
I will have a 24 mm thick hull with epoxy coating inside and out and the thin 6 mm layers are all glued together.
Since I am a first time "carpenter" and boat builder I have bought € 286 worth of tools add €729 for materials (wood epoxy, fasteners)
So up until now I have spent €1016 on the build.
I add to that another € 500 for deck, pilot house and paint.
Brings me to a total of € 1516 building costs. That is cheap IMHO very cheap, but does that mean I have "cheap boat"?
And as an unrelated side note, I really loved the whole expierience it was a great challenge and now I get the satisfaction seing the project coming together.
Don't worry I'm happy
It's an old thread, but then I'm reading everything...
It seems to me that there's two schools in the 'traditional' camps.
One who says ' plywood boats are cheap 'orrible things' and the next sentence they say ' plywood and epoxy costs more than traditional planking'
the second lot, say ply us more expensive, but if you want to be out on the water in weeks, not years, use ply'
i like the second lot
To me it seems like some, jusft some, are like owners or builders of vintage cars, hand crafted marvels who look down on those new dangled modern cars, built without chassis or coach work,
but the vintage car needs constant fretting, they have to walk to the front to start it, then run to catch and trim the throttle, to change gear, they depress the clutch, pull it out of gear, release clutch, depress clutch, and slide into the next gear. The engine leaks ... Oil, water and fumes, so they wear googles, hats and scarves across their faces, in summer they are Hot in it, winter they are cold, etc etc etc
The modern car.. Well it starts on a button, runs all day everyday with no attention, it can be freezing inside in the summer, and warm in winter, and gear changes can be done at the touch ofa button...
Perhaps ply and glue is just evolution, because surely if we have to have traditional, to be 'real' ... We should all be carving out dugout canoes!
Just my opinion, and observation.
Gary, I'm on back order, Mr Ledger said so
The crux of the argument is whether you can live with yourself having made such a compromise as building a quick and dirty little* boat. The answer for some is yes, and for others NO!!!!!!. As Bolger said about the folding Schooner, "They are not meant for people who take themselves very seriously, which can be taken as a claim or an admission according to temperament." Pride, aesthetics and priorities. We all have a different set.
*Not same as building a crappy big boat. There is no point in spending more than you can afford to lose.