ETIENNE MULLER'S BOAT BUILDING
- Pros and cons of various wooden building methods -
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Building your own is a very good way to get a brand new quality custom boat (for not too much money) that draws a lot attention. Especially the plywood boats which come in at between 250 and 400 euro for materials depending on the design and construction method. The single chine and tortured ply boats can also be extremely light weight. I can carry two down the beach (by the cockpit coaming, one in each hand) without breaking a sweat.
Different methods of construction are more or less suitable for - different hull shapes -woodworking skill levels - available time - accessibility to materials - cost involved - additional benches and equipment needed - etc.
I have built tortured plywood and chined plywood kayaks, as well as cedar strip boats.
Tortured ply boats were very popular round hulled DIY projects going back fifty or sixty years to the heyday of the real amateur builder when people were still designing their own and going out in anything that would float and sometimes didn’t. Some designs evolved to be quite nice sea boats, especially for coastal day pottering and playing in the waves. Tens of thousands must have been constructed through the decades in the UK alone. CLCboats seem to have dropped theirs from their database. What a shame, one of these boats can be built in the best materials for perhaps two to three hundred euro. They are also very light and can be put together very quickly on nothing more than a dining room table with the most basic tools and knowhow. Great projects for dads and kids to undertake together. I still use tortured ply boats I built thirty years ago.
Hard chined ply boats: These days mostly stitch and glue: One of my favorite sea boats for day paddling is a http://clcboats.com/boats/westriver.php West River 18 which is easy to build and a nice boat to paddle. The WR18 has a V with a double chine and is a little more complex and time consuming than a single chined boat such as the Chesapeake http://clcboats.com/boats/chesapeake.php or the Arctic Hawk http://clcboats.com/boats/arctichawk.php The hull panels are cut to specified shape and stitched together with coper wire. The floppy result pops into shape when the bulkheads are inserted and suddenly it looks like a boat. Single chine boats can be very light weight as they do not need to be sheathed in glass. Multi chine hulls need glassing along more joints and it is easier to just glass the entire hull = (more weight). This building method requires no strong-back or special bench or tools. There is very little waste and set up time is minimal. In Ireland costs run to about 350 to 450 euro for such boats using the best materials.
Hybrids: Plywood hulls and stripped decks, can also be an ideal option if you want to speed up the process a little of a strip build, avoid the need for long strong-backs, not break your heart every time you scrape over a rock, and still want to look down along a beautiful stripped deck. Hybrids do not require a rigid strong-back. The plywood hull serves this purpose when doing the deck. http://clcboats.com/boats/shearwaterhybrid.php for an example.
Strip Planking: In my view there is no more beautiful object in the world (apart from my wife, who made me say that) than a carefully put together strip sea-kayak. Strip planking allows for compound curves and virtually any shape can be achieved with a little effort. Before you take on a a stripper though you need to have a dedicated space in which to build it (it will take longer than you expect) and away from living space (epoxy vapors are toxic). Once the project has been started you cannot easily move it around as with other methods. Materials are more expensive but not prohibitively so. My cedar boats cost perhaps around 700 euros to build, and materials in Ireland are expensive and hard to get. (When one considers that a carbon paddle can cost up to 300 euro and more, that is not too bad). Unless you want to rip your own planks as I do you will not need any tools that are more than very basic (other than an absolutely indispensable decent orbital sander). Setup is somewhat more time consuming than with the other methods, and absolutely crucial to the final result. Get the strong-back level and stations perfectly aligned and spaced and the job is bound to succeed. In my experience a strip boat will come in about 10 lbs heavier than an unsheathed single chine ply boat. Glass is heavy and epoxy is even heavier. Every litre adds another kilo. It is also expensive. More is not necessarily stronger. Be very stingy with it. Expect your first boat to weigh about 55 to 60 lbs. Until you realize how strong these boats are you will be tempted to overbuild.
I have used CLCboats.com for examples of what is out there because they have a bit of everything. There are loads of designers to choose from out there besides.
Some links to kayak plans and designs
http://www.redfishkayak.com - nice custom seats