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4 Vital Pieces of Advice for Novice Boat Builders

By Morten Olesen 2012, All Rights Reserved

As a Master Boat Builder who has practiced this trade for decades, I can tell you there are certain questions that get asked frequently, especially by novices. I've compiled 4 questions below; the answers to which offer vital information every boat builder needs to know.

1. What are the 3 most common boatbuilding mistakes newbies make?

The first is lofting errors. A mistake occurs when you set out the wrong dimensions or misread them. Just like with any construction project, you must constantly double-check yourself. It's far too easy to get off track right from the start if you don't pay careful attention when lofting.

The second mistake is cutting errors. After adjusting the lines you've drawn, you sometimes end up having more than one. Only one is the right line to cut, however, so if you choose the wrong line, you could easily make a mistake that would cause you to start over again. Always make sure you mark the right line clearly so you won't use the wrong one. Draw an arrow to the correct line, mark it with a star or with something else that lets you know which is the line you should cut.

The third mistake comes with assembly errors. Sometimes, especially with first projects, you get the frames mixed up or the side and bottom panels turned upside down. Check everything twice and also step back to visually examine your work.

2. What if my new stitch-and-glue boat leaks?

That's not likely to happen since all seams are glued with fiberglass tape. The tape will act like the hull of a normal fiberglass boat and prevent water from leaking through. But if for some reason your new boat does leak, pull it out of the water and locate the leak. Dry everything off very well then add an extra layer of fiberglass tape over the leak. It should be as good as new!

3. Should I paint or varnish my new boat?

Let's face it: For beginners the best thing to do is paint your new boat. This is simply because painting is a much more foolproof method of sealing the wood. In addition, you will be able to hide small mistakes that occurred during the building process by simply filling them in and sanding them smooth before you paint.

However, if you have some woodworking skills and can't imagine your new boat without stain/varnish, don't hold yourself back. Go for it!

4. What's the most important tool I need to build my boat?

A good handsaw is the number one tool that makes boatbuilding much easier. When used correctly you can do a lot of accurate and beautiful work with it. I have experienced a lot of time as a boat builder where my favorite handsaw was practically the only tool in my toolbox.

I strongly recommend a handsaw that is between 20 (500 mm) and 22 (560 mm) long and has 6-8 points per inch.

Now that you have a bit more knowledge under your belt, go build yourself a fabulous boat!

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Morten Olesen, Naval Architect/Owner - Hyldvej 1A - DK-4540 Farevejle - Denmark

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