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Notes from the IABBS
(excerpts from the magazine)
by Jim Betts 

Tips For The Amateur Builder

As I have said before, it is not our goat to teach you how to build boats except through timely and new methods and techniques. All of the basics are contained in several books that have served the amateur builder for many years. But some general tips are in order, especially if this is your first effort. 

1. The essential book is Boatbuilding With Plywood, by Glen L. Witt, the owner of Glen-L Marine Designs. This is 312 pages, hardcover. It is $27.95 postpaid and you may order by phone with a credit card. Call (562) 630-6258. (This is in California.) See also their web site I assure you that this will be the best money you will ever spend on your boatbuilding efforts. Glen-L's Design Book is another $9.95 and shows some 240 designs from 7 to 55 feet. Then you may also want their book How to Epoxy Manual, which is another $2. Books are sent postage paid. Their plans, by the way, include boats built in wood, fiberglass, aluminum and steel. You will also get a free copy of their boatbuilding supplies catalog.

2. Review as many plans as possible for the type of boat you want. (Study plans will do at the early stage.) Similar boats may be more or less complicated to build. 

3. Build a model. This need not include every little detail, but should give you a good idea of how the real boat goes together. If the plans or study plans are too big or too small, take them to a copy shop or blueprinter and have them copied in a suitable size. Some designs (smaller boats) may be built in poster paper, but balsawood is usually the best.

4. If this is your first project, build a dinghy first. (Or a dog house, or similar small structure.) If you later build a larger boat, you may well need the dinghy anyway. 

5. Study the plans. Try to "walk through" the building process. Make sure you understand how it all goes together.

6. If the plans do not include a materials list, make one. You can then price out the materials costs and determine how much of each ingredient you will need.

7. Try to find someone in your area who has built a boat and see if they will help you. (Ask around the boat yards.) If you feel that you need help, try a classified ad in the local newspaper. Remember, two people can build a boat much faster and better than one.

8, Check local lumber yards to see if they have what you will need. Try to buy most of what you will need at the start. When you arrive at a price, ask for a discount of 20~. (Maybe settle for 10%.) Tell them you are going into the boatbuilding business and that this may lead to a larger order in the future.

9.1f you will need big-ticket items (engines, etc.) print a letterhead that proclaims you a commercial Boatbuilder. It will help if you have a USCG builder's prefix. (This is a three letter ID code. Call your local CG station for the forms to get this. There is no charge.) This Will enable you to buy equipment directly from the manufacturer, or at least get a better price from their distributor. You can usually get a 40% or so discount.

10. When possible, stay away from retail boat stores. Many water-area hardware stores carry the same or similar items at better prices. And do shop the discount catalogs. (West Marine PO Box 50070, Watsonville CA 95077 has about the best selection at the best prices. Get their catalog. You may call them toll-free at (800)262-8464.)

11 Depending on the size of the boat, plan your time. In general, do not undertake a project that will take more than a year to complete. Over time, your needs and wants may change. And you may have to change your residence, lose your job, get divorced and such and there is nothing harder to move than a half-built boat!

12. When it comes time to turn the hull over (depending on the size of the boat) forget all those elaborate hoists and such and contact your local school and offer a donation to the football team uniform fund if a few strong guys come and help you. (This may also be the time to put the boat on a trailer.)

13. When it comes time to sell your boat - and that time will come - call it Custom-built,) not amateur-built

14. If you build a boat out of junk material you will have a junk boat. Sorry materials at the start will haunt you forever and probably give you an unsafe boat. Don't save money and risk your life! Avoid materials that are "just as good." 

15. And do consider this: You can often find a used boat - or what's left of one - that comes close to what you want. If the hull is sound (fiberglass is the best choice here), you may be able to build your dream boat by using this as a base. Such a hull may be cheaper than the materials required to built from scratch. If in doubt about such a boat, have it surveyed by someone who knows about such things, in buying a used boat, always offer half of the asking price! You'll be surprised how often this works.