Boat Building Sources of Information:

This info web site for anyone interested in boatbuilding by the individual craftsman, from designers and beginners to experienced. It's a guide to boat building information, most of it not online. Listed here you will find books and simple reviews on boat building.

Gifts for Boaters:

The Simplest and Traditional Boat Building Methods include Plywood Methods.

Books describing particular types of traditional boats, include Surveys and Safety books.

The Sailmaker's Apprentice. Books describing the whole sailmaking process. A Guide for the Self-Reliant Sailor.

Books describing the Restoration and Painting boat process

Other skills used in boatbuilding: Oars and Engines, Lofting amd Rigging.

Boat building Methods, New and non-traditional.

Books: Plans for small Boats


Books describing How to build a canoe, Methods and styles. Canoe or Pirogue.

Sailing Canoe Sources of Information, Building Methods and Museums.

Boat building Methods, Skiffs and Schooners

Boat building Books

Books about boat building

Listed here are books about boat building, for all kinds of methods. To get started in wood, see "Wooden Boat Building methods," by Peter Spectre, a good introductory overview for beginners; in WoodenBoat May/June 1995 ed.

Many books have reduced scale plans as illustrations, but they are not intended to build from. Such plans are not instructions for building, especially for a beginner. However some of these books do have complete building plans. The books by John Gardner are one notable examples. If you can buy full size plans, they are worth the price for the detail and accuracy they provide.

Many of these bboks are out of print. Use the second-hand book dealers or inter-library loan to find them.

The Simplest Boat Building Methods

The Sharpie Book, Reuel Parker, 179 pages. 1994.


The sharpie is a flat-bottomed sail boat of narrow form and sharp bow. They are very easy to build for the size of boat you get, and they sail fast. They can sail in very shallow water, and beach easily. Even large sharpies can come in through surf. On the other hand they can capize, which can be a serious problem in large sharpies in heavy weather. They slap into a chop. Where used properly the sharpie is a fine boat for the money.
Sharpies can be built over 30 feet, and used for cruising.

The space inside is of course much less than in a heavy keel cruiser, but
the low cost and extreme shallow draft make them appealing. This book is one of the top new boatbuilding books. It has history and discussions of significant designs, detailed boatbuilding and outfitting instructions, offsets for 15 sharpies, and suggested supplies. Anyone planning on building a hard-chine plywood boat would benefit from reading this book, even if they do not plan on building a sharpie. Even a bit on how to sail and cruise. And he writes very well.


"None of the vessels presented in this book is intended for museum-quality
historical replicas - they are intended to produce practical, economical, and beautiful sharpies for amateur builders to build, sail, and enjoy. ...


Frameless construction, modern adhesives, deck screws, and plywood made
construction of sharpies, including v-bottomed Nonpareil models, about as easy as boatbuilding is ever likely to get."

Boatbuilding with Plywood, Glen L. Witt, 3rd. ed. 312 pages. Plywood on frame, a good sound technique in use now over 50 years. Slightly more demanding than the various no-lofting methods, such as stitch and glue. Scarfs and covering wood with fiberglass are topics well covered. Has good up-to-date advice on everything from wood selection to paint. This is the most detailed treatment of plywood on frames. $28 (2001) GLEN-L, 9152 Rosecrans Avenue, Bellflower CA 90707, 562-630-6258

The new Stitch and Glue Manual, Jacques Mertens. described below

Building the Six-hour canoe, Richard Butz, 64 pages. A one-man "pirogue." Book gives detailed instructions. Really takes about about 30 hours, or more. One builder says: "actually 8 months start to finish in my case." There is a shorter WoodenBoat article on the same subject, August 1995, adequate for many. "The 6-Hour Canoe is light and small enough for me to get on and off the top of my little pickup and to carry a ways without collapsing, perfect for impromptu solo puttering about." Maximum capacity is near250 lbs

Slightly larger boats for those thinking of building simple wood "canoes" are Phil Bolger's "Pirogue", Applegate "Zydeco", Marc Pettingill's "Sweet Dream", and the "Caddo Lake Bateau," all listed elsewhere in this list.

Building the Weekend Skiff. R. Butz. 80 p. 15' rowing skiff "adapable for sail or outboard" from Tiller Pub. 1 800 6TILLER

Classic Traditional Methods and Boat-building

Building Small Boats. Greg Rossel. WoodenBoat, 1999, 278 p.

Traditional plank on frame and lapstrake construction. "This book is destined to become *the* text of plan-on-frame and lapstrake construction." "the ideal book for the construction of boats under 25 feet." With tools, shops, wood, paints, glues, lofting, half-models, and spars as well.

Good Skiffs: How They're Designed and Built. Karl Stambaugh. Devereux Books, PO Box 503 Marblehead MA 01945. 256 pages.

The basics of good flat-bottom design; study plans and reviews of 17 skiffs; complete instructions and plans for a 9 foot stitch and glue skiff. a guide to plywoods. "Flat bottom skiffs are fine instructors. They can teach rowing, sailing, maintenance, and mechanics- especially when fitted with decrepit outboard motors. Skiffs should be made available to every young boatman... This book offers the best single collection of flat bottom skiff information in town. ... Good skiffs belongs at the core of a basic boating library." - Mike O'Brien

Building Heidi (was Traditional Boatbuilding Made Easy: A 12-Foot Skiff for Oar and Sail.) by Rich Kolin, WoodenBoat, 1996. 96p. A " perfect boat for those who are new to traditional wooden construction." Solid planking, bronze boat nails, etc.

Building Catherine A 14 foot pulling boat in the Whitehall Tradition Rich Kolin. 112 pages, 2000. Also carries a lug sail.

Building Classic Small Craft, John Gardner, 320 pages, 250 illus. 1977.

The first of four books by John Gardner, now classics on wooden small craft and their construction. Complete building instructions for some boats. Gardner and his writings had a very siginificant role in promoting the wood boat revival. "The boats discussed in this book are not especially simple or easy to build, but, to the contrary, require careful and precise workmanship and some familiarity with tools and materials, none of which is beyond the reach of reasonable diligence on the part of the serious amateur." 11' utility punt 10' L.F. Herreshoff cedar lap pram "the best model for a small tender" 9'5" x 4'7" plywood pram 14' x 5' sailing flattie 14' Chamberlain dory skiff to row (could sail, too) 18' Quincy skiff, easy, inexpensive, for recreational rowing. 14'9" Lowell dory skiff; stable, for small outboard or rowing (sort of a nice classic boat, easy and cheap 14' semi-dory for rowing, sail, or small outboard; cd; kick-up rudder; 90 sq ft. sail. beam about 4'10" 12' car-top semi-dory for oars, small motor, or sail 12' and 15' banks dories 16' Swampscott dory "a really handsome model" "rows and handles easier than the banks model" 75 sq ft sprit rig; cb. 19' Chaisson-Chamberlain surf dory 18' Chamberlain gunning dory 21' Beachcomber Alpha dory - sail 18' and 20' 2-masted sharpie. 5'4" beam. "As a daysailer for a family with young children there could be no better boat. She would also be a great boat for the home builder because of her extreme simplicity." 14' peapod for rowing; lapstrake; lots of detailed building information 12' x 4' carvel sailboat discussion of the Saint Lawrence River skiff 16' Rangely boat several wherries The Origin of the Whitehall (22 pages) 17' and 14' whitehall construction 16' Sea Bright skiff 14' x 5 sneakbox Appendices: rabbetting stems; lining plank; lapstrake planking; spiling; riveting. see also: clinker p. 27; lapstrake and carvel p. 135; sprit rig p. 93.

More Building Classic Small Craft: How to build 23 Traditional Boats, John Gardner, 256 pages.

"complete plans for everything from canoes, prams, duckboats, Boston power dories, Seabright skiffs, peapods" companion volume to preceding book. 190 illus. $25. Complete building instructions for some boats. Herreshoff rowboat (really nice) 17' pulling boat, 3'8" beam modified McInnis Bateau 12'8" by 46" hunt and fishing boat Merrymeeting Bay Duckboat 15' 15' utility flattie skiff two 8' prams four canoes: Arkansaw traveler 17'; 13' English canoe of 1883; Douglas cruising canoe; Ruston Indian girl a classic Downeast workboat 16' outboard 12' Lawley tender 10' Lawton tender Sea Bright skiff 18'4" by 5'8" Matinicus peapod 15' by 4'6" two garveys 20' and 22'5" clamming skiff 15'8" by 5'8" a real work boat 16 foot Swampscott dory [a fine sailer] Mower dory 18' by 5' 18' Swampscott dory boatbuilders' planes

The Dory Book, John Gardner, 1987, 275 pages, 153 illus.

Section 1: History of the Dory. Section 2: How to Build a Dory. Section 3: discussions and plans of 23 boats. Superbly illustrated by Sam Manning. Dories are some of the easiest-built traditional seaworthy boats. The boats shown here - batteaus, Bank dories, St. Pierre power dories, Chaisson yacht tenders, Swampscott and Beachcomber/Alpha sail craft, dory skiffs, and half dories modified for power, provide traditonal, attractive, seaworthy, sturdy, comparatively simple and inexpensive boats of good performance, for rowing, sail, or outboard use. Anyone desiring to build a fine craft for any of these uses is well advised to look here and consider these boats.

Classic Small Craft You Can Build, John Gardner. Mystic Seaport, 1993. 195 pages, 122 illus.

16 boats: 13' 9" sharpie skiff in plywood;

good youth project with complete building instructions;

for rowing only. 18' plywood river bateau;

similar contruction to the skiff. 14' skiff to sail and row. "sailing this skiff will require some agility on the part of the person using it."

plywood and epoxy. COMPLETE instructions discussion chapter: "Balancing the rig of a small sailboat."

13' 4" Maine Reach boat - a big heavy lapstrake fishing boat. no instruct. 14'3" x 4'2" North Haven peapod, with adequate info for advanced builders. 16' rowing peapod. ditto. 12' Chaisson dory tender.

A semi-dory that makes a fine tender. Lapstrake. "this is not a boat for a complete novice to tackle as his first building project."

12'6" Chaisson dory. 17'6" Chaisson work surf dory 13'6" Amesbury skiff. "In my opinion these Amesbury skiffs were the best small rowboats ever built for everyday use around the waterfront, and nothing that has occured since has caused me to alter this judgement." Work boats, old and new: 15' Mulcahy clam skiff, circa 1935.

A working row boat, with suggested alterations to add sail. basic building info. lapstrake. 18'3" Gaspe flat - rescontructing a forgotten fishing boat type. 22' Yankee skiff - full construction details.

Oyster boat from the 1800s. 16' heavy sharpie work skiff - a new simple plywood design, used to net menhaden. A stable boat for real work. 18' power dory - complete details 20' heavy duty new outboard oyster skiff.

Can carry up to 2000 pounds in safety. Some builders have enlarged this to 22 and 26 feet, making really big safe work & cargo boats. Lots of building information.

Wooden Boats to Build and Use. John Gardner. Mystic Seaport. 1996.

261 p. 16 chapters, each on a particular kind of craft: light rowing racing gig of 1820, several flat-bottom and v-bottom fishing boats of modern design and material, and the archtypal Maine lobster boat the 32' Jonesport launch. Chapters on making and using half models, and on taking off lines, and general boat building tips.

Boatbuilding Manual, 4th edition, Robert Steward, 372 pages, 260 illus. 1993

Emphasis on wood but includes all other standard methods. Regarded as one of the best boatbuilding guides; a great text and reference. Also recommends: fasteners, hardware, sources of supply guide, recommends products and services, reading list. In print since 1950! New edition is up to date. "if you are a boatbuilder, you should have a copy" "the core of any serious boat-building library" "The best building manual for wooden boats there is - clear concise but inclusive, and written so the inexperienced boatbuilder can use it" - John Gardner

Boatbuilding, Howard Chapelle, 624 pages, 250 illus. Traditional plank-on-frame wood construction in detail. In print for 60 years. lofting.

How to Build a Wooden Boat, David C. "Bud" McIntosh, 264 pages, circa 1985.

"Every step in plank-on-frame construction in the traditional and time-tested manner." Famous for clarity and fine illustrations. lofting.

Skiffs and Schooners, Pete Culler

Not really a book on how to build boats, but an excellent book about designing & building boats. Anyone building traditional wood boats should read this, and will be glad they did. "simplicity, economy and ease of use, laced with a workboat heritage" "a mine of practical information on the hows and whys of traditional boat design and construction." Culler plans are available, as listed in the plans list.

How to Build the Maine Lobsterboat. and reprinted as: Boatbuilding Down East: How to Build a Wooden Boat, by Royal Lowell "the practical book on lobster boat construction with some of the best boat building drawings...useful for carvel construction in general." Includes a 36 foot lobsterboat, a 32 foot sport cruiser and a 26 sport fisherman.

Details of Classic Boat Construction - The Hull. Larry Pardey. WW Norton 518 p. "...*the* book on traditional wooden yacht construction to be published in over five decades." [says "The Boatman," Sept 1996] Only carvel construction and is largely about the 30-foot Lyle Hess "Taliesin." "lessons and tricks for even the most experienced" caulking, frame bevels, cast bronze floors and knees, scantling rules, and on and on.

Phil Bolger, Herb Payson, and "Instant Boats"

Phil Bolger is a talented designer in all kinds of boats. He is best know for innovative designs which are comparatively easy to build in plywood. Herb Payson is a builder who has long promoted "instant boats" made of plywood. Phil Bolger seems to have a cult following in some ways partly detached from the rest of the boat building world (or comprising all of the boat building world, depending on your point of view). Both men have authored numerous books and boat plans.

Books by Phil Bolger:

Boats with an Open Mind: Seventy-Five Unconventional Designs and Concepts, Philip C. Bolger, 1994. 420 p. Includes a keel plywood craft based on the renowned Herreshoff 12 1/2 Several boats can be made from this book.

Small Boats, International Marine 1973 (Bolger's first collection of innovative designs, including the Thomaston Galley.)

The Folding Schooner and Other Adventures in Boat Design, International Marine 1976 (Introduces the first generation of "Instant Boats", including the Elegant Punt, Black Skimmer, and the 31' Folding Schooner. Plus other non-instant boats, totalling over 30 in all.) (The above two books have been reprinted in one volume called, I believe, Bolger's Boats)

Different Boats, International Marine 1980 (31 more Bolger boats)

Thirty-Odd Boats, International marine, 1982, 285 p.

103 Sailing Rigs (formerly "100 Small Boat Rigs")

Books by Herb Payson:

Build the New Instant Boats, Harold Payson 147 pages, 92 photos, 33 plans.

Anyone can make one of these and use it the same season. Plywood and epoxy. Instructions and plans for a 8' sailing pram, 15' power boat, 16' double-end sharpie, and others. Full-sized plans available from the author. "Anyone with a positive attitude and a smattering of intelligence mixed with a little common sense can build one of these boats."

Instant Boats, Harold Payson, 136 pages, 60 illus. Includes 8' punt, 12' kayak, 12' Teal(sail/row), 15' skiff, 21' sloop, and the 31' folding schooner; plywood construction. Complete plans for Teal but not for the others.

Go Build Your Own Boat, Harold 'Dynamite' Payson, 128 pages. 180 illus. Van Nostrand 1983. An overview of boat building. Includes complete instructions for building a rowing dory. The first part is a good sound introduction to traditional carvel construction; the second part is building with simple plywood methods, a technique now linked to Payson's name. Includes complete instructions for building a rowing dory, a carvel lobster boat, and a galley(?).

How to Build the Gloucester Light Dory. Harold Payson. WoodenBoat 32 p. A dory in plywood; a popular tender and harbor boat.

Build the Instant Catboat. Harold Payson. 42 pages. Derived by Bolger from the Beetle Cat. A good, stable, sailboat for one or two sailors. Fairly easy construction using "tack and tape" techniques. plywood. Materials cost about $1000 in 1985. 12' Said to sail nicely, like a larger boat.

Building Seaworthy Boats

Not instant; not lightweight; and not too complex

These designs all have plank (wood, plywood, or metal) over straight frames which is an easier method than carvel planking, and one suitable for home builders making a fairly large boat. The hulls are not gorgeous curves but they can be attractive and strong.

Buehler's Backyard Boatbuilding, George Buehler.

Big strong simple cruisers. see description below. Mostly about wood or plywood; can use steel. "Buehler designs big broad-sholdered heavy-displacement power and sail auxilliaries for off-shore cruising. He has an anarchic, post-hippy approach that is fresh and lively. Buehler not only knows what he's talking about, he's by far the most quotable author in the boatbuilding genre.": "Building a boat is simple. Believe it or not, the hardest part is juust to stop talking and actually start. From that small step, all you need do is fasten one piece to the next and eventually you'll finish. You just have to keep plugging away at it."

Boatbuilding in Your Own Backyard, S. S. Rabl, 223 pages. 1947. revised 1958. Cornell Maritime Press. Still in print. About the 1947 edition: Basic sound boatbuilding using v- or arc- bottoms. Plank or plywood over frames. Traditional looks.

These boats are not from the Fine Woodworking school of boat building, nor from the quick-and-easy school. Sound sensible seaworthy boats of good looks and comparatively low cost and easy construction.

The book contains all the basics for building, including woods, tools, lofting, framing, planking, interior and cabins, rigs, details, and lots of good tricks. Does not tell you step by step how to do everything; the reader is expected to have some intelligence, on the Popular Mechanics level. Written for the man "whose yachting attire is the dungarees he wore in the engine room of the Big Mo when she steamed into Tokyo Bay." Includes basic plans for several good boats. This is a place to starting building without fussing over the details or yearning for the latest gadget. The power boats now look very dated, like something from the props department of a Buck Rogers 1935 space adventure (they were "modern" in their day, so they are now ridiculous, whereas a traditional William Atkin power launch from 1930 still looks very fine). But the sailboats are entirely traditional, with gaff or Bermuda rigs, and look just as good today as they did when first designed over 50 years ago. My comments are based on the 1947 edition.

If you adopt Rabl as a guide you might well pick up George Buehler's book as an up-to-date source of similar information, for the latest on materials and stuff. I recommend these designs from the 1947 edition: 14' flattie skiff sailboat;

"Sunny" a 15'6" x 5' sloop (but the Snipe is similar and probably better); and a larger 18' ballasted fin keel sloop; "Titmouse" 15'6" x 6', 150 sq. ft. gaff rig with jib. Nice character boat; could be a reasonable way to make a boat like a Herreshoff 12 1/2 without great bother. Has a cabin roof if you want a tiny cruiser. Later edition has a round-hulled Titmouse. "Picaroon" 18' x 7'6", also gaff, heavy wood keel (no ballast). 13.5' LWL Strongly built micro cruiser;

Rabl recounts several that survived real storms including one hurricane, and a crossing of the Caribbean. "Mocking Bird Jr." 22' x 7'6" double-end gaff ketch. Nice looking. cement keel ballast "Polaris" 24' x 8', draft 4', 300 sq. ft. sails. cement keel ballast Rigs shown for bugeye, ketch, cutter, schooner - all of which make good pocket cruisers. AND, for the yo-heave-ho gang, and the Hornblower - Jack Aubrey fans, there is a detailed hermaphrodite brig! Not many boat plans today show foretops and topgallant braces. Ok you square rig fans here's a real chance to put to sea in your own square-rigger.

Practical Small Boat designs. John Atkin. Int'l Marine 1983. 175 p. i.l.l. Understanding boat lines study plans for 28 boats (he sells the plans, too), including New Sister - 24' flat bottom gaff sloop with cabin; nice rig Erika (the enlarged Dicky) 14'9" by 4'2" sailboat Nina 11'4" sail, oar, and power trainer beam 4'7" Florence Oakland 22'5" v bottom schooner, gaff, big cockpit 20' LWL; 7'8" beam; 1500# lead ballast; some daysailer! Valgerda a lovely looking 18'7" Norwegian sailboat James Samuel a 20' daysailing catboat big enough for 8 adults! Conklin a 15'6" pulling boat James Samuel Junior 17' by 7'1" beam! catboat

How to build wooden boats with 16 small boat designs. Edwin Monk. 1934. 96 pages. An inexpensive way to get some good plans. Dover

Lapstrake or clinker-built

Below is every book written on traditional (nailed or riveted) lapstrake (clinker) building in solid wood. This technique is pretty demanding, though a careful worker could succeed here the first time.


There certainly were a lot of fine small craft built this way in Europe and the US, until aluminum and plastic came along.


Building Small Boats. Greg Rossel. WoodenBoat, 1999, 288 p.
"This book is destined to become *the* text of plan-on-frame and lapstrake
construction." With tools, shops, wood, paints, glues, lofting, half-models, and spars as well as the construction.

Clinker BoatBuilding, John Leather, 216 pages. Pure traditional UK approach. Building instructions. No "plans" for particular boats - traditional clinker boats
aren't built with plans - but lots of details. A handbook to refer to when building. In eight printing. You can build a boat from this if you have the proper wood and tools and patience and ability.

Clenched Lap or Clinker, Eric McKee, London: National Maritime Museum,
1972. Excellent - superb piece of writing - and long out of print.
Very detailed discussion of this technique, but not building instructions, in the sense of wood selection, dimensions, tricks, etc. Kind of the stand back and get the philosophy angle rather than "how to."

Simon Watts:
three books (in ring binders) with builders manual and full size plans:
Building the 11 1/2 foot Norwegian Sailing Pram ("novice")
Building the Sea Urchin a 10 foot Nova Scotia Rowing Skiff ("intermediate")
"an ideal tender"
Building the Petaluma a 19.5 foot rowing shell ("advanced")
All are of solid wood lapstrake with copper fasteners. Each $65.00.
Order from The Maritime Store, listed below under book suppliers.

Lapstrake Boatbuilding, Walter J. Simmons, 3rd ed., 133 pages (US approach)
building instructions.

Lapstrake Boatbuilding Vol. 2, Walter J. Simmons, (US)
(See also his "Building the 9' 7" Maine Skiff," 1980)

Building the Herreshoff Dinghy, Barry Thomas, 11 1/2 feet long. 50 pages with plans. from Mystic Seaport. John Gardner's books describe lapstrake building in several places.

Glued Lapstrake Plywood


The new alternate to solid wood clenched together with copper rivets. Should use best quality marine plywood.

Clinker Plywood Boat Building Manual
by Iain Oughtred
(replacing The Lapstrake Plywood Builders Manual)
180 pp. Review in Wooden Boat #150.
from Iain Oughtred, The Piers
Finhorn, Moray, Scotland IV36 3YF

How to Build Glued Lapstrake Wooden Boats
John Brooks and Ruth Ann Hill
240 pages. 2000. The other new and up to date book on the suject.

How to Build the Shellback Dinghy. Eric Dow. WoodenBoat. 64 pages.
glued lapstrake plywood; 11'2" x 4'5"; lug sail; also available as a kit from WoodenBoat.

Building the Nutshell Pram. Maynard Bray. WoodenBoat Pubs. 32 pages.
The famous little 8 or 10 foot pram; good for one sailor. kits available.

Ultralight Boatbuilding, Tom Hill, 134 pages
Intermediate difficulty sailing skiff and canoe as examples; list of other skiff and canoe plans. There's a video of this, too. See Hill under electronic links access for more info.

Used materials: Wikipedia, part of the "Great Encouragement to Boatwrights" available on www.home.earthlink.net and contributors.