By Jeff Spira –
All over the internet, there are “free” boat plans made available for the downloading.
Most of these are quite old designs, many simply scanned from magazines no longer in print whose copyrights have run out and are now in the public domain. While suitable boats can be made from these plans, there are some things you should be aware of before investing a lot of time and money in trying to build a boat from these.
The first consideration should be materials. Back in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, lumber was of higher quality than it is today. Most of the logging was from wild trees that had been alive for up to hundreds of years. The mills could be more careful about which logs were turned into construction lumber and which were chopped into paper pulp. This is no longer the case; modern lumber production
comes from farmed trees grown specifically for lumber. The trees are planted and fed the proper nutrients to get them to grow as fast as possible. When they are large enough, sometimes as little as a dozen years old, they are clear cut harvested and replaced with new seedlings, as any
farmed crop. The lumber is then kiln dried and sent off to sell for construction. Finding materials to build traditional type wooden boats is difficult and expensive.
In the past 20 years, the advent to new adhesives has also greatly changes boat building. Where once, natural water based glues the standard for construction, new polymers like epoxy and polyurethane have allowed boats to be bonded together instead of screwed and bolted. No longer are expensive and difficult to install fasteners needed to build boats. Modern pneumatic guns and cordless drill/drivers have made fastening simple and combined with the modern adhesives, these joints are far superior to the older methods. The joints, however, have to be designed for adhesives. The older bolted joints aren’t correct for these methods.
Finally, with the relatively low cost of epoxy and fiberglass, thinner, lower quality planking materials are easily used to build rugged and tightly sealed hulls. Modern synthetically glued plywood is amply strong for most boat planking when covered with a layer or two of fiberglass and epoxy. In addition hardwood plywood made in Asia and Eastern Europe is now available inexpensively all over the US, Canada, Europe and Australia, that is excellent for boatbuilding.
Modern home built hull designs take into account the modern materials, fasteners, adhesives and sealers making today’s homebuilt wooden boat plans far faster, easier and less expensive than the “free” plans designed 50 or more years ago (and many not so free older plans still being sold by boat plans suppliers.) These new hulls are also more rugged, and more reliable, as most are computer designed instead of traditional t-square, triangle and slide-rule created. Like cars, airplanes and computers, there is substantial modern development that makes the older designs quaint and historically interesting, but not really suitable for today’s methods.
About Jeff Spira
Jeff Spira is a naval architect, marine engineer, writer and historian offering custom design easy to build boat plans at the Spira International website at: Spira International, Inc. Learn about boat building including stitch and glue, download a free PDF ebook with illustrations, download a free boat plan, or watch Jeff’s boat building video as featured on YouTube. Jeff also maintaining a Boatbuilding Tips and Tricks Blog at Boatbuilding Tips and Tricks.
This article originally appeared at http://www.spirainternational.com