Frequently Asked Questions

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How long does it take to build a plywood boat from your kit?

That depends……………

…on the size of the boat.  Obviously, a small boat can be completed far more quickly than a large one.  A simple stitch and tape canoe can be completed, including a couple of coats of paint or varnish inside a week if sufficient time is spent.  One customer built the 21ft Cape Henry in ten months on top of running his own business – and made a beautiful job of it.  However, these are extremes.

More realistically, that canoe would take a month to do a really nice job, and the Cape Henry usually takes 3-4 years. The first Oughtred Guillemot kit we sold took eight years to complete.  The answer is in your skill level and the commitment.  Families also need time, unless they can be willingly involved in the build.

What tools do I need?

For most boats, the tools held in an average DIY toolbox will be sufficient, with the odd loan from a friend or hire of more sophisticated power tools. If you are building a large boat, it is worth buying some of these tools.  If there are two that I  strongly recommend, they are a good sized band saw and a orbital sander.

What glues do i need and where can I get them?

Epoxy resin is the main answer.  Use marine epoxies rather than “any old brand”.  Prices vary, and buying from internet providers is almost always cheaper than buying from a chandlery (as is anything!).  Epoxy hardener can cause sensitisation, and can be become extremely unpleasant.  Always use nitrile gloves to handle it, and when sanding epoxy surfaces, use dust masks – preferably ones with a replaceable filter.

With the right fillers, epoxies can fill gaps and form fillets to hold parts at the correct angles; e.g. bulkheads and frames to planking. With clinker ply construction, thickened epoxy fills small gaps giving a bond of incredible strength.

Read the Safety Sheets provided with the epoxy – they are provided for a reason.

Marine Polyurethane (PU) adhesives can also be used where tight joints have been created.  They are very good for laminating, but cannot be used for gap filling.  Excess PU froths with no strength, which makes it easy to clean up after the glue has set.  Always use gloves as it will leave your hands black for several days!

You can also use cascamite which is a urea/formaldehyde.  This is very effective, but has fallen out of fashion.

What advice can you offer during the build?

We are on the end of a phone line, or will respond by email when you are planning a build, or part way through. With kits such as Dix and Vivier, we cut th edesigns, but do not have the detailed knowledge of the kits and you may be able to get a quicker answer by referring to the boat designer for help.

What's the costs on top of the kit cost?

Another “How long is a piece of string?” question. There are a huge number of variables in this. If you are using expensive timber such as oak, it will be a lot more expensive than Douglas Fir, likewise stainless steel fittings are much cheaper than bronze or gunmetal.

One thing you should not skimp on is the paint system. It is called a System for a reason as the marine paint manufacturers invest heavily in creating paints that will last for a long time. Using household products will result in a much shorter life for your boat and require far more maintenance.  Choose a brand, and follow their instructions as closely as you can.

We have a very rough rule of thumb that a sailing boat will end up costing about four times the cost of the kit (including sails), and a motor or rowing boat will cost about double the cost of the kit.  These numbers go out of the window when you are building anything with a cabin.

Do I need any experience?

You have to start somewhere.  We often have people with no building experience but lots of boating experience wanting to build small cruisers.  In a case like this, we recommend building the tender first to make sure that the builder enjoys the process and that building a large vessel does not become a chore.

If you have a practical turn of mind, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to build a boat.  The main qualification is patience and the ability to think through your next move.  Also valuable is the ability to ask advice when you have a problem!

A small note on advice from other builders.  There are plenty of wrong ways to build a boat, and there is usually more than one way to build it correctly, so if you get different words of advice from people who have been through the process, it is because they recommend what worked for them.

There is a huge amount of advice available on the web, and many people willing to give it.

How long does it take to receive a kit after order?

For most kits that we have previously cut, the kit will be despatched within two weeks of us receiving payment.  If we are developing a new kit for you, we will discuss the timings before taking your order.  If the kit is very large, it may take a bit more time to complete, and now and again, we do take a break for a week or two so that may delay delivery.

What paints and varnishes do i need?

We strongly recommend not skimping on paints and varnishes.  Buy marine products, and apply them as per the manufacturers instructions. They invest heavily in the formulation of the paints, so they will keep a good finish for many years with minimal maintenance.

What space is needed to build a boat?

Ideally you would want to have a good space around the boat while you are working on it.  Being realistic, few of us have barns at the back of the house, so the garage is the usual place to buold a boat, and some of the pictures we receive from builders would give the ‘elf & safety police apoplexy.

At the very, very minimum you need a foot all around the hull, and preferably a lot more.  When building the initial hull structure you need to be able to avoid any movement until it has been securely glued.  You will also nee dworking space for cutting parts to fit.  One solution is that when the hull is turned, it can be on rollers so that it can be worked on outside.

Some builders also buy or hire marquees for the duration.  If you do, make sure thay are well secured for when thiose storms happen!