Building Wood Boats

There Is No Mystery To Boatbuilding


The unusual curves and shapes of a boat tend to intimidate the novice, but once you take a little time to study a well-drawn and complete set of wood boat plans you begin to see the logic of the assembly and as you get involved in the actual set-up and construction of a wooden boat you soon learn that the seemingly complicated shapes are readily accomplished using very basic tools and the natural bending qualities of wood.

The first boat I built was a sailing skiff similar in design to Footloose. I had few tools and no woodworking experience but I had grown up on a saltwater estuary in Oregon and was determined to create a vessel that would allow me to explore that wonderful playground. The result was a respectable little boat that rowed and sailed well, but more importantly the project gave me the knowledge and confidence to try my hand at

more challenging designs. I learned that a few hand tools can do a lot of work. I also learned that this kind of woodworking is more art than science and much of it is accomplished by cut-and-fit, a little at a time, till things match up. And I got a wonderful feeling of accomplishment from creating from a pile of lumber, some nails and glue, a useful and attractive boat that provided many years of pleasure.


Why Build With Wood?

Besides wood’s obvious structural properties of light weight and strength, it has many other qualities that make it the ideal material for building boats: The natural bending characteristics of wood automatically work to create boats of pleasing and efficient form. Wood is both durable and resilient, making for craft that, if properly maintained, can last a lifetime. Wooden boatbuilding requires only very simple tools and much of the joinery can be accomplished with hand tools, which add a special element of satisfaction to any project.

Thousands of boats of every possible description have been designed to take advantage of the properties of wood. Wood is both readily available and relatively inexpensive and suitable lumber for boatbuilding can be found in virtually every part of the world. Wood is pleasant and easy to work with and is both beautiful and pleasing to the senses.


Easy-to-follow Plans

All of the boat plans from Jordan Wood Boats were developed and drawn with the non-professional or first-time boatbuilder in mind. The plans for each boat are easy to follow and require no lofting. They include large-scale construction drawings for all assemblies and full-size patterns where appropriate. To clarify the building process, comprehensive construction notes describing all components are number-keyed to the corresponding assemblies in all the drawings. Also included for each boat are diagrams for a simple, inexpensive building jig that allows the boat to be securely set up and assembled without fear of something going adrift, as is often the case with jigless construction.


Design Philosophy

In all of my designs I try to incorporate the best qualities of traditional boats that have stood the test of time. I like to employ hull forms that have proven to be the most efficient for their purpose, keeping in mind that the “old salts” who used these boats had only oar, paddle, sail or low-powered machinery for propulsion. Their boats simply had to be of efficient design; a concept that makes good sense, even today. This philosophy is integrated into all of my boat building plans.


Construction Methods

My boats are designed to be built by traditional or “semi-traditional” methods. By semi-traditional I mean they may employ modern materials such as marine plywood but they are assembled using transverse frames and/or longitudinal structural members; a system that has proven over many years to result in boats of superior strength and durability.

I do not use the stitch-and-glue method of boatbuilding because of several factors that are inherent in this type of construction: Stitch-and-glue requires the use of large quantities of epoxy which is very messy, toxic and expensive and in some applications saves little, if any, time or weight. When no building jig is used it is extremely hard to keep the various hull parts in perfect alignment and the result is often a boat with humps and twists where there should be only fair, sea-kindly lines.

But the main reason I disapprove of some of the “high-tech” construction methods is that I do not like the kind of joinery they encourage. After all, building a wooden boat is one of the few endeavors left these days that challenge both hand and mind. A little time and work is required to learn the simple joinery techniques of traditional wooden boatbuilding, but the satisfaction to be gained is enormous and both the trade and the product are deserving of the effort.