John Welsford's website

John Welsford's design page

A few of John's designs:

Golden Bay/Setnet






From the Drawing Board
(occasional ramblings of a Small Craft Designer)

by JohnWelsford

I am building a boat!

Several actually, the Huffboat ( my experimental gig) is gradually creeping toward her launching as I spend an hour here and there on her, my Wife's plywood touring kayak awaits another session on the drawing board before I can build the next stage, and I've got to finish fixing up her old one for Son Brendan, finish fixing up the Optimist sailing Dink that will start him off with our local yacht club this season and I have to build a new rudder for the old Hartley 16 cabin yacht that I will escape in for the occasional cruise in this summer.

Apart from all that, I'm building a boat!

People come to visit and look around, "Haven't you started yet?"

Have I started yet? Of course I have!

"Well then, lets have a look"

No boat to look at? "well then? You said you'd started!"

Lets explain.

Building a "big" boat has been a dream for about 25 years. Small things like children, mortgages and so on kept getting in the way, but the dream lived on. Progress toward the dream becoming realty was not always fast, in fact a lot of the time it was glacial, but it never stopped. A few minutes work with a hand plane was a practice for the big boat. A new screwdriver, one of the tools that I would need "for the big boat" a few dollars paid off the mortgage, "one day I'll be able to afford to build -----------". On such small things, a dream can stay alive.

A few years back, we found ourselves in a position to buy a property with a few acres, and I managed to have some slack in the budget to build a workshop. We could afford 12 meters x 7.2 with a 3 meter stud height ( 40 x 23 x 10 ft), if I built it myself. We bought the property and I built a small stable for my Wife and Daughter who are very keen on horses, did a few other jobs then pitched into building the workshop. Before it was properly finished I was building small boats in there, and as we'd bitten off a pretty big loan from the bank to buy the place it was close to three years, two small boats and a several major repair jobs to other peoples boats before I had the doors on and the electrical wiring installed.

I managed though during those years to obtain a big bandsaw, a table saw with both rise and fall and tilt, a surfacing planer (jointer) a spindle moulder ( shaper), a wood lathe, a drill press and and and you get the picture. To give you an idea, to build one boat takes the same amount of machinery as it takes to run a boatyard so I now have , a boatyard. Not even in miniature, this boat is to be 44ft long and 15 tons so I have to have all of the basics that a professional would need.

I started a couple of weeks ago to build a dry store (sawmillspeak for a roofed space with walls that allow air circulation) for the 8 cubic meters of high grade boatbuilding timber that I've collected, from memory that converts to about 3500 board feet, quite a pile. Some of it needs to air dry, some of it just needs to be kept dry and some of it is making it hard to walk around my main workshop. So I need more space, cement floor, pole frame, all causing more expense and taking up time. I have it framed up, all the roof structure precut and the guys who supplied the main workshop roof have my order and payment for the roof for the extension which is 10 meters by 5 ( 35ft x 16ft about). They are coming in two weeks to put it on so guess what I am doing on Saturday

(and Sunday and evenings).

I overhauled most of my old power tools, some 30 years old. New bearings, new brushes, trued up the commutators and so on, I had just about completed the task when some troglodyte forced the door of the workshop and took a wheelbarrow full of my tools away. I really miss my Makita palm sander, a veteran of about 15 boats and I don't know how many repair jobs. My wheelbarrow too! #^&%$^^&!!!!!!

So I started collecting all over again, buying some new, some "specials" some bought through a customer reward program that I pursue, some second hand. I'll write a road test on some of them for you when I have done some mileage with them but in the meantime it was another distraction.

Inside, after the work on and in the workshop, in between family, a full time job, a design business, writing columns for several magazines and going to school evenings, I was studying the specific requirements for "our boat". Drawing sketches, layouts, lines, and installations, doing and redoing calculations, drawing and redrawing the shape, and working out things like engine torque and fuel consumption characteristics, prop sizes, solar cell and wind generator charge rates, inverter and battery details and wiring diagrams as well as bunk sizes, how far my Wife could be expected to reach over the navigation table when the boat is rolling and how to fit all of the amenities of home into a much smaller space with odd shaped walls.

There are shelves stacked with bargains, 4000 2in x 10g countersunk stainless steel square drive screws for less than 20% of the usual price, bolts, 20 litres of resorcinol glue, a big old Sestrel compass, deck fittings, two shots of 3/8 short link chain, rope, wire, plywood and so on.

I found a motor, languishing in the long grass at the back of a second hand agricultural machinery place, drove for 6 hours to pick it up, ( it took 7 hours on the way home, it is close to a ton in weight) and have since singlehandedly reloaded it onto a trailer ( not a fun day!) and driven another 300 km each way to "diesel hospital" where Mr. Gardner will be marinised and overhauled.

So to date, the project has been running for quite a few years, there has been about a year and a half's salary before tax spent and that doesn't include the cost of moving house to where we would have the sheer space required to build this thing. There are rolls of plans, a big poster on the wall, the lawn cannot be seen for stacks of wood covered in tarpaulins, the big new cream and green workshop building has a skeleton growing on one side and my collection of machinery and tools would set up a fair sized commercial cabinetmaker in business.

Even though there isn't a boat to see yet, I think I have started.

John Welsford Small Craft Design.