View Full Version : Build your own Boat?

01-05-2007, 09:50 AM
Hi All,

I'm just curious as to how many people out there have considered building their own boat, and if you have,

What size of boat you ave considered
What material you have considered (eg. alloy, timber/glass, full glass etc)
What has kept you from starting the process.


01-05-2007, 10:54 AM
have not done it personally, but have 'helped" in some way on a 55 foot steel trawler, did a lot of work on a 14 foot ally punt, and also a bit of help on two big ally centre console and a bigger (23 foot) cabin model.

01-05-2007, 10:59 AM
one thing you need to remember is that it will take you 10 times longer than you thought, and it will cost 10 times more than your budget and you MAY end up with a sub standard boat, (depending on your skills and tools!) OH and it will almost cost you your marriage, and maybe your neighbors if you do it your back yard, all your grinding and banging will drive them nuts, it is also a fair outlay for specialist tools if you do not already posess them for the material you chose to use. Fibre glass is by far the easiest if you have a mould (which will be a miracle), steel is cheapest (usually) Aluminium is kind of best for home handy man build, and timber is good for "real" boats, but is slow and time consuming.

01-05-2007, 12:57 PM
one thing you need to remember is that it will take you 10 times longer than you thought, and it will cost 10 times more than your budget and you MAY end up with a sub standard boat, (depending on your skills and tools!) .

I don't agree with everything you've said here. My own experience of homebuilding is different.

Yes it will definitely take longer than you might think. Not 10 time though. It is pretty quick to build a hull. The time is in the finishing/fitting out, and depending on the level of finish you aim for, and the amount of gear you put in.

Budget wise, 10 times is an exageration, unless of course you don't know how to add up numbers. Most of the boats here would be less than 7m or so. They contain an outboard which is probably the most expensive bit, and is well known. The cost of the hull is a little harder, but can be worked out from a set of plans. All equipment is pretty easy to price as is trailers etc. Add a bunch for miscellaneous stuff/consumables (don't under estimate here) and you have a number.

The final standard is dependant on the builder. We've all seen examples of boats that would put pro's to shame.

The easiest material to build from would be stitch and glue plywood/glass. Anybody with basic skills could do it.

My own experience: I'm not a boatbuilder by trade (I don't have a trade of any kind) yet built a 25ft boat in grp/foam sandwich. It definitely took longer than initially anticipated. (We did lots of curvy stuff which needed moulds) but the cost when complete was about bang on our budget. Incidently, this was well below the retail cost to have something similar.

Whether or not your marriage will hold up is something that I can't quite tell you....

Besides, there is a magic feeling of being on the water in a boat put together by yourself.

01-05-2007, 01:16 PM
OH sorry for the 10 times statement, I was only making a point and in fact have no idea if the time or costs are/were 10 times, you took me a but too literal I guess, just trying to get the idea across that to build a boat is something you do not take lightly and expect it to be done quick or cheap!

01-05-2007, 01:44 PM
Don't worry about it.

I'm not suggesting that anyone should strap a few sheets of ply together with a bit of epoxy and head out to sea expecting to come back. I'm saying that with the right plan/design, just about anybody with basic skills could do a good job with a successfull outcome.


01-05-2007, 01:56 PM
there is also the 'kit" path if you want an Aluminium boat, quite a few are available in various designs and are computer contolled cut to fit exactly together, that would take a lot of the tricky bits out of the equation as well, but it still requires a bit of alloy welding skills to take on a job like that, I have seen a few done from kits and the come out really good, there is a guy around my area that makes one and fits it out and uses it, but has it foe sale, then he does another one, in the end he will make enough to get his (and last) one for free.

01-05-2007, 02:05 PM
Computer cut kits are done in alloy, ply, and even balsa sandwich. Pretty much any sheet material can be cut like that.

All it does is increase the initial accuracy, and saves you from manual cutting and lofting.

01-05-2007, 02:21 PM
This goes way back,,,, late 60s-early 70s, Does anyone remember the Ferro-cement craze that took hold back then.?
Iwas about 14-15 and started off-siding for my older brother's mate ( he was a builder) and together we built a 48 ft "Hartley Tahitian " ketch.
It took 2 years and about half way through it we were commissioned to build a 38 ft launch for a rich bloke up Samford way.
Then just as we were getting to the fit out stage a couple of coppers who had seen our work asked if we would do a couple of 38ft hulls for them . Kev said no he wanted to finish his boat but convinced them to hire me as a labourer as i knew the system well by then.
Well the first boat turned out great but the hull out at Samford ran into problems with water supply.
You needed to cure the concrete with a flow of water over it so it did not develop micro-cracks. The owner had assured us he could pump from his creek but his water supply failed .
The two coppers decided that I was just a kid and the advise i gave them on how to make a good frame was too slow, so they cut every corner in the book ,I don't think those boats ever made it to the water , and if they did I pity the poor bastard who put his faith in them. I reacon the first wave that hit them would have shattered them open like glass bottle, they were that poorly constructed.
I quit after about three weeks as I could not work that way.
My mate Kev asked me to help him sail his yacht around the world just before it was to be launched, I was 17. I was STOKED, you beauty, I just had to convince the oldies !!!!.
The day before it was to be launched a spark from a welder fell through the open hatch and went down into the bilge where paint fumes ignited , the boat exploded and burnt to the ground in 20 minutes.
There was a similiar hull at Manly too just before the Birds Eye factory, it was there for twenty years+, I don't think it ever got finished.
Yeah Id love too build a boat !!! but it takes a shit load of work to pull it off and do a good job.
Sorry for the rant it not exactly what you are after I know .
You just struck a nostalgia chord for me.


01-05-2007, 02:52 PM
yeah I don't know how many home builders get part way through and then just loose interest or go broke or whatever, but the hulls just sort of "rot" away in the yard, there is a big yacht being built near me (about 70 feet long I guess) and the guy started it about 20 years ago, it is just about beyond repair now from rust damage. but there is a lot of quality boats built by "back yarders" and still in service today.

01-05-2007, 03:48 PM
It depends how you value your time.

If you put a price on your time that is higher than the boat builder will be paid to do then it makes no sense at all.
If your time is worth less than the boat builders wage then do it yourself remembering that they will be more efficient than the novice.

01-05-2007, 04:18 PM
The thing that has stopped me from attempting such a project, is the enormity of it and the lack of any significant price saving.

I have looked at this option a few times over the years, however, have decided that the only real saving in the project is the boat builders labour and mark up cost, as the cost of all the alloy, paint job, motor, accessories etc will be the same price, if not dearer than the builder will pay for them.

Out of that saving, I would have to allow for the purchase of a fairly expensive welder, plus a few other tools that I would require. You would also need suitable workshop space for the project.

Also, if anything goes wrong, you are on your own. There would be nothing worse than welding yourself a lump of expensive scrap alloy. At least if the builder mucks it up, he will have to fix it.

Doesn't mean that I won't consider the option again in the future though, as the pleasure out of starting and finishing such a project would far outweigh the saving, whether it was big or small.

Look forward to hearing from anyone that has successfully started and finished something like this.

01-05-2007, 04:50 PM
Hats off to people who manage to complete a huge project like a yacht. I got boat building out of my system early - built a glass kayak in a shed at boarding school. Finish wasn't too bad, but "more is better" doesn't apply to glass and resin in that application, especially if you need to hoist it onto your shoulder to get to the water.

At the end of the day it was pretty satisfying, but realistically I could have bought a reasonable second hand craft for the same money and it would have been better for my purpose. I suspect the same would apply even today.



01-05-2007, 05:12 PM
I am of a differing opinion than some, I think the total cost to produce a boat all factors condidered by any business that has the ability (big enough) to negotiate the price of materials with supplyers, the out the door cost to them is less than 1/3 the dealer sticker value (bare hull) would be.

The cost to make an outboard was in vacinity of less than 20% sale price 10 years ago, I would consider this to be less today expressed as a %.

If a person can get the materials for a fair price but nothing like the manufacturers get it for, building any boat yourself will will be less half the cost of new, if paying full retail then somewhere near 1/2 to 2/3 new when all and sundry is added up.


cheers fnq

01-05-2007, 06:13 PM
I built my last ski boat and came out 10,ooo dollars in front when i sold it after using it for 2 years,i borrowed the moulds and we had the hull and deck laid up in 2 days,this was a 20 foot ski boat,and by memory materials were only around 3000 dollars and that was using two different colours in jell coat.It was a very satisfying feeling and you know its done right,but if i had to start fresh and make a plug and mould first i would have never done it,ive been there before and its a long expensive process,would be allright if you were going to knock up a few though.

02-05-2007, 07:58 AM
FNQ would be right on the money, as far as my experience goes.

We built a 25 ft boat (racing yacht). It cost us about 30-40% of what we would have to pay if we had it professionally done. This not counting our own labour of course.

One thing that really surprised me was the amount of "bargains" that turned up during the build process. Certain parts that we knew would be difficult/expensive to get done suddenly became available as word of mouth got around and people became aware of what we were doing. At one instance, I was able to source some materials that were far cheaper than what the big companies were paying wholesale simply because it had been sitting around on the shelf for a while. I was sold it at that price with the understanding that I do not advertise to anybody what I bought, or what I paid for it as it could come back to bite them.

As far as I see it, most people have a budget when they consider a boat. Building yourself allows you to obtain a larger more capable boat than the market will allow you. You just need to find the right design.


02-05-2007, 03:38 PM
I first built my boat 1990-94 in my spare time launched it 94. Due to illness it was out of the water 2000 to 2005. I have just finished remodelling it into a sports model and it was relaunched a month or so ago.It is made Of composite construction (ply, foam, fibreglass, and epoxy). based on a flat bottom halfpoint design it has served well. The best thing about this type of construction is that it is simple to modify

Attached picturss show it as itwas launched in 94 with cabin and as it is now

Length 4.3m Beam 1.6m

02-05-2007, 05:07 PM
has anyone built with alloy? I had a look at some of the websites advertising kits and they say the welding itself is quite simple.you think so?

02-05-2007, 08:37 PM
huiti , yes they are right ,it is pretty simple to weld ,they just want to sell the kits by building up your confidence ,it takes a four year apprenticeship to become a sheetmetal worker / boilermaker & i have interveiwed quite a over the years & the proof is always in the weld test ,i would not be going in any boat that a lot of these guys have welded .for the inexperienced I would suggest if you were going to build a boat in ally i would at least start by doing a tafe starter course in welding followed by getting a heap of offsuts&start practicing.give it a go

02-05-2007, 09:34 PM
I built an 18 1/2 foot half cabin cruiser with my father some years ago. It took 12 months to build working only on the weekends. It was a fabulous boat but I cant remember the design. My favorite materials for boat building are wood and steel. I am hoping to find the cash to build a 19 foot Bartender or if possible cash wise, a 22 footer. Timber is a wonderful material to build a boat with. It is certainly very strong and has that "real genuine boat" appeal. Wood is also very easy to work with and modern plywood is one of the strongest materials ever made. The glues in use today make working in timber a walk in the park so to speak. I have made boats (5 of) with fiber glass but prefer to use plywood. Marine grade ply need not be the first choice of plywood as most of the exterier structual plywood is equally as good but it does not have the super finished veneer to present to the critical eye. When it is covered in woven glass cloth it doesn't matter what the surface looks like. Dry rot can be fully controlled and eradicated from all wooden boats and you are often hard pressed to tell if a boat is made from glass or wood.


11-05-2007, 04:26 PM
There are previous threads on this. I have built two aluminium kit boats - 6.1m and 5.8m. If you don't count your labour, cost savings are pretty good - $10-15k on a 6m boat. Most home handymen can do the job - it does pay to do a mig welding course, but aluminium is not much harder to weld than steel, and it is pretty difficult to stuff up one of the kit boats.

Have a look around for threads about 3/4 months ago.

The satisfaction of building and fishing out of your own boat more than outweighs the risk of stuffing things up (imo.)

Dave Morgan

11-05-2007, 07:31 PM
I have built two - both composite construction (marine ply sandwich with epoxy). The first is a 6 metre centre console that had a construction cost of $5500. Piccy attached. Then of course you have to add the 2nd hand motor and 2nd hand trailer and jeez you can add another $3000 to the total cost. She has a draft of 5" and quite often I just float over the banks down at the pin.

The second was a 16ft square back canoe that I use on the electric motor only dams and it came in $550. I use a minn kota 55 for it. I get along at 10km an hour on the dams.

The results - both are really good boats, very dry, and a HUGE sense of satisfaction and pleasure at having built them myself. The biggest pro of all is that you only buy the materials as you need them. When you are finished, the boat is paid for. My tools - an electric drill, a circular saw, a mouse sander, a belt sander and lots of very cheap paint brushes, plastic measuring cups and tongue depressers :D

Our groups motto : those that can -build, those that cant - buy.

I have to build a sailing boat for the missus next, and our designer has just released plans for a 26' foam sandwich lobster boat either I/O or diesel which I am thinking of building as the "real" boat. The centre console was a test boat, just to see if I could do it.

The cons - it takes 30 minutes to get out of the ramp because I'm always being asked about the boat :) I just love it.

12-05-2007, 08:29 AM
Here's a 6.7m sportfish in ply/glass being built in a backyard garage. My design.