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Old 04-08-2010, 11:37   #1
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Stitch and Glue Boatbuilding

Hello all. I'm looking at building a boat using the stitch and glue method. I've got a roughly 3 year deadline. I'm looking to build a 24' coastal cruiser customized to my specs. I just had a few questions before I got started.

My understanding is that the wood in a stitch-and-glue construction is well sealed with fiberglass and epoxy. How does this compare to a fiberglass/plastic hull in terms of maintenence (sp?) and durability? A traditional wood hull?

I guess what I'm asking is what are the special issues associated with boats constructed in this fashion? What should I especially look out for a few years down the line?

And yes, I'm building the boat because I love working with wood and fully intend it to be a one-off customized for myself.

Thank you for any help or insights you guys can provide.

Star Journey
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Old 04-08-2010, 11:53   #2
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I ordered working blueprints, video and construction manual from Devlin Boats for a dingy I have yet to construct. I you haven't visited their site, it's really worth a look, and answered all my questions. Neat designs too.
http://www.devlinboat.com/
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Old 04-08-2010, 12:09   #3
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That looks like a bunch of fun. Ive build two aircraft in a similar way, one was a KR2.

The wiring together could take a while but a good staple gun would speed things up.
Have you thought of using bendy ply?
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Old 04-08-2010, 12:13   #4
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Quote:
How does this compare to a fiberglass/plastic hull in terms of maintenance (sp?) and durability? A traditional wood hull?
It isn't easy to compare. Commercial fiberglass hulls are molded to a precise shape and include structural components. With stitch and glue you are using wood panels held in a precise shape then faired with fiberglass. You could end up with the same idea but it substitutes large amounts of hand work for the mold process used by professionals that want to make many boats. The stitching is just a temporary arrangement until you cover and finish the panels and has no structural value.

The biggest difference is going to come with how you ballast the keel (or don't). Molded keel boats have the keel attached externally to the hull.

How they compare is dependent on how well they were designed, made, finished and less what method was used to make them. For do it yourselfthink stitch and glue is perhaps your best option unless you want to weld metal. You do need to work from professional plans and compute all the structural and weight distribution factors. You really need the skills of a naval architect to start making variations else it just won't set right in the water let alone handle to weather or even float.

After you look into various plan options adding up all the materials will soon surprise you. The hull takes a lot of work and costs little compared to the gear and rigging you will later attach. The gear costs alone could scare you away. You could easily spend a whole lot of money and have been better off with a used boat that you then customize. Being good with wood could then leave you to refinish and improve the interior of the boat that sails well already but it looks like a custom boat.

I'm trying to say is if you have to ask then it is likely this isn't something you should do if the real goal is to coastal sail. If the goal is to sail inexpensive then I would not look to building your own boat. Should you like the idea of building more than the idea of sailing then it might be for you indeed. I would not expect you to gain the knowledge required here to build a boat without professional plans. There are sources for boat plans in this size range that at least would assure that if you built it properly it would be a nice boat. They come with instructions just like a model ship building kits do. You still need to learn all the construction techniques. It would give you a bill of materials already computed and allow you to compute costs.
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Old 04-08-2010, 12:32   #5
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Paul has nailed it down pretty well.
If you want to sail then buy a boat (its a buyer's market)
If you want to build then your choice is a good one but you'll be spending lots more time and money and not be sailing soon.
Another alternative is to buy a project fiberglass boat very cheaply. One that has been gutted due to rot or other internal problems. You'll be able to practice all your carpentry skills and have a ton of building to do. Get a fiberglass boat with a good hull that has all the parts and pieces for sailing at a bargain price and you'll be sailing much quicker with less expense than starting from scratch.
Whichever way you choose, good luck with your project.
kind regards,
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Old 04-08-2010, 12:41   #6
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Quote:
My understanding is that the wood in a stitch-and-glue construction is well sealed with fiberglass and epoxy. How does this compare to a fiberglass/plastic hull in terms of maintenence (sp?) and durability? A traditional wood hull?
As with any other material, it depends on (a) how well engineered the design is, and (b) how much care is taken in assembling it.
A well designed, well built stitch and glue hull should fall somewhere between cored fibreglass and solid fibreglass on the "maintenance required" scale. As Paul points out, though, it's the quality of the design and construction, more than the method, that will determine the answer to your question. If you work from a good set of plans by a designer who knows the technique, and are meticulous in your execution of the build, a stitch-and-glue boat can last for many decades. If you haphazardly slap it together from badly engineered drawings using cheap resin, the boat's life might be less than five years.
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I guess what I'm asking is what are the special issues associated with boats constructed in this fashion? What should I especially look out for a few years down the line?
Common problems: Cheap plywood that delaminates with water exposure. Cheap resin that doesn't adhere properly to the wood. Inadequately sealed interior surfaces leading to water saturation in the plywood, and eventually rot. Failure to seal properly around penetrations (again, leads to water intrusion and damage, just like in a cored fibreglass deck). Hard spots created by too-small fillets and inadequate bulkhead tabbing. (Have I missed any?)
None of these issues will pose much of a problem if the boat is well built to start with.
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And yes, I'm building the boat because I love working with wood and fully intend it to be a one-off customized for myself.
More power to you! Again, take note of Paul's advice regarding costs. Plywood, epoxy and glass represent only a small portion of the final cost, and you need to at least try to budget realistically.
If you have the skills (or the time and motivation to acquire them), going full-custom with a design of your own is possible. It's not easy, though, and for many people it'll be frustrating and not very rewarding- so much time spent poring over textbooks full of arcane mathematics, doing calculations for idea after idea that end up not working out quite right. Finding a stock plan from a trusted designer, and consulting with said designer about your proposed modifications, may be a less risky, more rewarding route.
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Old 04-08-2010, 13:13   #7
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pretty boats!

Wow.. .those are some beautiful boats! I can see why you'd be interested in making them!

Post some pictures if you do end up making them.

But yeah, I second the above advice... find what you really want to do... make the boat or coastal cruise.

And, I know this is probably non-kosher, but I might get a nice MIG/TIG welder... purist woodworking is nice, but few things beat the power of properly arc-welded steel... the most important of which will be the keel attachment

Don't want to end up like: Welder could go to jail for keel failure
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Old 04-08-2010, 13:28   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Star Journey View Post
My understanding is that the wood in a stitch-and-glue construction is well sealed with fiberglass and epoxy. How does this compare to a fiberglass/plastic hull in terms of maintenence (sp?) and durability? A traditional wood hull?
I am presuming this is plywood..........if not ignore the following

I would say that with regular (and good) maintanence on a par with fibreglass, or at least cored fibreglass on durability.However with poor (or zero!) maintanence on a par with traditional wood, even if for different reasons.

For Maintanence in terms work and money wise probably on a par with fibreglass, or at least close (presuming she is not covered in 20 acres of varnish work ) - but will require a much more diligent approach to inspection and fixing minor knocks. You really don't want water / damp in the plywood / under the skin.........but looking at things is easy maintanence

But not the sort of boat you want to park in a field for 3 years with no TLC.......but the good news is that you will be starting off with a good example


Quote:
I guess what I'm asking is what are the special issues associated with boats constructed in this fashion? What should I especially look out for a few years down the line?
resale.

not everything in life is meant to be measured in Dollars & Cents. But resale value will be attrocious. yours might be a good one, but who will be able to tell / wants a DIY plywood boat? Google is your freind on this one. go in by all means, but with your eyes wide open

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And yes, I'm building the boat because I love working with wood and fully intend it to be a one-off customized for myself.
As good a reason as any Am mulling over a smaller plywood Wharram Catamaran myself - just not sure which country to build / keep her in. or when that is likely to be. if ever
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Old 04-08-2010, 15:58   #9
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The VG26 from Bateau.com claims to be offshore capable. I can only hope Jacques Mertens has engineered his S&G boats well 'cause I want mine to last longer than 5 years.

Sometimes building a boat isn't so much about the destination as it is the journey.

Couldn't you find an old sailboat with a decent rig and part it out for a lot of the kit you'd need to build a boat like that?
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Old 05-08-2010, 11:04   #10
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Thanks for all the advice guys! Here's the specs I'm looking for. Trailerable, capable of sailing from florida to the Bahamas, 100% singlehanded, absolute minimal electronics/electrical use, 19-24 feet LOA, able to sleep two VERY friendly people over a weekend, possible livaboard for one person with spartan tastes.....

This will be a pure coastal cruiser. I have no interest in circumnavigating, as I've already done it once in the Navy . The longest passage I ever see myself making is a trip to the Bahamas.

Minimal electronics. Just enough to power a small gps and boat's lights. I'll have a small single burner propane stove for cooking and such.

It will be my "fallback" just in case..... I don't require much to be happy in life, I certainly am not interested in acquiring a bunch to junk that will only be auctioned when I die lol. Pretty much just a place to sleep, cook and get away from it all.

If I can find a used boat in good condition for a decent price that meets those requirements, then I'll certainly snap it up. Otherwise I'm gonna build.

I'll be retired in three years, whereupon I have every intention of dropping off the face of the map .

Thanks again for the help, y'all

Star Journey
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Old 05-08-2010, 12:21   #11
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If I can find a used boat in good condition for a decent price that meets those requirements, then I'll certainly snap it up.
You certainly should be able to snatch one up. Small boats are commonly sold in local newspapers. A little refit and in a month you could have a sail able boat at a fraction of the cost. Boats up to 25 ft can be had easily.

The trick with going to the Bahamas is crossing the Gulf Stream. A trailer able boat isn't going to handle any type of weather other than perfect. The strong current may find you stuck in the stream headed north. Outboard engines in this case could be deadly in a following sea. Fuel range is clearly a factor as well. You get limits with any choice but not being in a hurry or on a schedule solves all of this too. We it me I would check your trailer towing ability and go for the largest boat you can safely tow.
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