Boat building

Boat building

Boat building, one of the oldest branches of engineering, is concerned with constructing the hulls of boats and, for sailboats, the masts, spars and rigging.


* Bow - the front and generally sharp end of the hull. It is designed to reduce the resistance of the hull cutting through water and should be tall enough to prevent water from easily washing over the top of the hull.
* Bulkhead - the internal walls of the hull
* Chines - are long, longitudinal strips on hydroplaning hulls that deflect downwards the spray that is produced by the hull when it travels at speed in the water. The term also refers to distinct changes in angle of the hull sections, where the bottom blends into the sides of a flat bottomed skiff, for instance. A hull may have 2 or more chines to allow an approximation of a round bottomed shape with flat panels. It also refers to the longitudinal members inside the hull which support the edges of these panels.
* Deck - the top surface of the hull keeps water and weather out of the hull and allows the crew to stand safely and operate the boat more easily. It stiffens an enclosed hull.
* Gunwale - The upper longitudinal structural member of the hull.
* Keel - the main central member along the length of the bottom of the boat. It is an important part of the boat's structure which also has a strong influence on its turning performance and, in sailing boats, resists the sideways pressure of the wind
* Keelson - an internal beam fixed to the top of the keel to strengthen the joint of the upper members of the boat to the keel
* Rudder - a steering device at the rear of the hull created by a turnable blade on a vertical axis
* Sheer - the generally curved shape of the top of the hull. The sheer is traditionally lowest amidships to maximize freeboard at the ends of the hull. Sheers can be reverse, higher in the middle, to maximize space inside or straight or a combination of shapes.
* - a continuation of the keel upwards at the front of the hull
* Stern - the back of the boat
* Strake - a strip of material running longitudinally along the vessel's side, bilge or bottom
* Transom - a wide, flat, sometimes vertical board at the rear of the hull, which, on small power boats, is often designed to carry an outboard motor. Transoms increase width and also buoyancy at the stern.

Construction materials and methods

* Wood - The traditional boat building material that was and is still used for hull and spar construction. It is buoyant, cheap, widely available and easily worked. As such, it is a popular material for amateur builders, especially for small boats (of eg 6 meter length; such as dinghies and sharpies). It is not particularly abrasion resistant and it can deteriorate if fresh water or marine organisms are allowed to penetrate the wood. Rot resistant woods such as cedar and oak are generally selected for wooden boat construction (to construct the hull). Usually, the wood is covered by a covering (eg epoxy), but then the boat is generally regarded as a "composite" ship. Epoxy covering is usually done by the structural polymer (SP)-method, but the older WESTdn-method is sometimes also still being used. [ [ West system] ] [Zeilen van beginner tot gevorderde by Karel Heijnen] New tropical woods as mahogany, okoumé and iroko are also used to create the ship's hull. However, with these new woodspecies, extra attention needs to be taken to ensure that the wood is indeed FSC-certified. [ [ FSC certification] ] [ [ Boat building lumber] ] Teak is usually used to create the deck. Finally, Keruing, azobe, merbau and again oak are used for the beams. [Zeilen:Van beginner tot gevorderde by Karel Heijnen] Glue, screws and/or nails are used to join the wooden components. Some types of wood construction include:
** Carvel, in which a smooth hull is formed by wooden planks attached to a frame. The planks may be curved in cross section like barrel staves. Carvel planks are generally caulked with oakum or cotton that is driven into the seams between the planks and covered with some waterproof substance. It takes its name from an archaic ship type and is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean.
** Another method of building wooden boats is lapstrake, a technique originally identified with the Vikings in which wooden planks are fixed to each other with a slight overlap that is beveled for a tight fit. The planks may be mechanically connected to each other with copper rivets, bent over iron nails, screws or with adhesives. Often, steam bent wooden frames are fitted inside the hull. This technique is known as clinker in Britain and also as clench built.
**Strip planking is yet another type of wooden boat construction. [ [ Strip Planking] ] It is a is a glued construction method which is very popular with amateur boatbuilders as it is quick, avoids complex temporary jig work and does not require shaping of the planks. [ [ Planking Methods Comparison] ]
** Another method is called sheet plywood boat building and uses sheets of plywood panels fixed to a frame. Plywood may be laminated into a round hull or used in single sheets. These hulls generally have one or more chines and the method is called Ply on Frame construction [ [ Ply on Frame construction] ] . A subdivision of the sheet plywood boat building method is known as the stitch-and-glue method [ [ Stitch and glue subdivision of sheet plywood method] ] , where pre-shaped panels of plywood are edge glued and reinforced with fibreglass without the use of a frame. [ [ Benefits of stitch and glue] ] Metal or plastic wires pull curved flat panels into three dimensional curved shapes. These hulls generally have one or more chines. Plywood panels of good quality are often designated "WBP" (which stands for water- and boiled-proof). Both types of plywood construction are very popular with amateur builders, and many dinghies such as the Vaurien (Ply on Frame construction) and FJ's, FD's and Kolibri's (stitch-and-glue method) have been build from it. [ [ European Dinghies build by amateur builders] ] [ [ Vaurien amateur building] ]
**Cold-Molding is a composite method of wooden boatbuilding that uses many different layers of thin wood, called veneers, oriented in all different directions, resulting in a strong monoque structure, similar to a fibreglass hull. Usually composed of a base layer of strip planking followed then by multiple veneers, cold-molding is becoming popular in very large, wooden superyachts.

* Steel (and before that iron) - Either used in sheet or alternatively, plate [ [ Welding, hot-riveting or drilling of plates] ] for all-metal hulls or for isolated structural members. It is strong, but heavy (despite the fact that the thickness of the hull can be smaller). It is generally about 30% more heavy than aluminum and somewhat more heavy than polyester. The material rusts unless protected from water (this is usually done by means of a covering of paint). Modern steel components are welded or bolted together. As the welding can be done very easily (with common welding equipment), and as the material is very cheap, it is a popular material with amateur builders. Also, amateur builders which are not yet well established in building steel ships may opt for DIY construction kits. If steel is used, a zink layer is often applied to coat the entire hull. It is applied after sandblasting (which is required to have a cleaned surface) and before painting. The painting is usually done with lead paint (Pb3O4). Optionally, the covering with the zinc layer may be left out, but it is generally not recommended. Zinc anodes also need to be placed on the ships hull. Until the mid 1900s, steel sheets were riveted together.

* Aluminium - either used in sheet for all-metal hulls or for isolated structural members. Many sailing spars are made of aluminium. The material requires special manufacturing techniques, construction tools and construction skills. It is the lightest material for building boats (being 15-20% lighter than polyester and 30% lighter than steel). As it is very expensive however, it is only used for ships above 9 meter length, and it is thus usually not used by amateur builders. While it is easy to cut, aluminium is difficult to weld, and also requires heat treatments such as precipitation strengthening for most applications. Corrosion is a concern with aluminium, particularly below the waterline.

* Fiberglass (Glass-reinforced plastic or GRP) - Typically used for production boats because of its ability to reuse a female mold as the foundation for the shape of the boat. The resulting structure is strong in tension but often needs to be either laid up with many heavy layers of resin-saturated fiberglass or reinforced with wood or foam in order to provide stiffness. GRP hulls are largely free of corrosion though not normally fireproof. These can be solid fiberglass or of the sandwich (cored) type, in which a core of balsa, foam or similar material is applied after the outer layer of fiberglass is laid to the mold, but before the inner skin is laid. This is similar to the next type, composite, but is not usually classified as composite, since the core material in this case does not provide much additional strength. It does, however, increase stiffness, which means that less resin and fiberglass cloth can be used in order to save weight. Most fiberglass boats are currently made in an open mold, with fiberglass and resin applied by hand (hand-lay-up method). Some are now constructed by vacuum infusion where the fibers are laid out and resin is pulled into the mold by atmospheric pressure. This can produce stronger parts with more glass and less resin, but takes special materials and more technical knowledge.

* Composite - Originally "composite" referred to a timber carvel skin fastened to iron frame and deck beams. This allowed sheet copper antifouling to be employed without the risk of galvanic corrosion of the hull fabric. It was employed for fast cargo vessels so that they were not slowed by marine fouling. While GRP, wood, and even concrete hulls are technically made of composite materials, the term "composite" is often used for plastics reinforced with fibers other than (or in addition to) glass. Cold-molded refers to a type of building one-off hulls using thin strips of wood applied to a series of forms at 45-degree angles to the centerline. This method is often called double-diagonal because a minimum of two layers is recommended, each occurring at opposing 45-degree angles. "Cold-molding" is now a relatively archaic term because the contrasting "hot-molded" method of building boats, which used ovens to heat and cure the resin, has not been widely used since World War II. Now almost all curing is done at room temperature. Other composite types include sheathed-strip, which uses (usually) a single layer of strips laid up parallel to the sheer line. The composite materials in question are then applied to the mold in the form of a thermosetting plastic (usually epoxy, polyester, or vinylester) and some kind of fiber cloth (fiberglass, kevlar, dynel, carbon fiber, etc), hence the finished hull is a "composite" of fiber and resin. These methods often give strength-to-weight ratios approaching that of aluminum, while requiring less specialized tools and skills.

* Steel-reinforced cement (ferrocement) - Strong and long lasting. First developed in the mid 19th Century in France. Used for building warships during the war. Extensively refined in New Zealand shipyards in the 1950s and the material became popular among amateur builders of cruising sailboats in the 1970s and 1980s, because the material cost was cheap although the labour time element was high. The weight of a finished ferrocement boat is comparable to that of a traditionally built wooden boat. As such they are often built for slower, more comfortable sea passages. Hulls built properly of ferrocement are more labor-intensive than steel or fiberglass, so there are few examples of commercial shipyards using this material. The inability to mass produce boats in ferrocement has led there to there being few examples around. Many ferrocement boats built in back yards have a rough, lumpy look, which has helped to give the material a poor reputation. The ferrocement method is easy to do, but it is also easy to do wrong. This has led to some disastrous 'home-built' boats. Properly designed, built and plastered ferrocement boats have smooth hulls with fine lines, and therefore are often mistaken for wooden or fiberglass boats. See also concrete ship, concrete canoe.

Hull types

To build a boat, the type of used hull is of vital importance as eg going to see requires a hull which is more stable than a hull used for sailing rivers (which can be more flat/round). Some types include:

* Smooth curve hull - As its name implies, the hulls of these vessels are rounded and don't usually have any chines or corners.
* Chined and hard chined hulls These are hulls made up of flat panels (commonly made of plywood, or more traditionally with planking) which meet at a sharp angle known as the chine. Chined hulls range from simple flat-bottomed boats where the side and bottom are two distinct pieces (such as banks dories, sharpies and skiffs) to multichine boats. Multichine hulls allow a round hull shape to be approximated.
* Displacement hulls - These are hulls which have a shape which does not promote planing. They travel through the water at a limited rate which is defined by the waterline length. They are often heavier than planing types, though not always.
* Planing hulls - These are hulls with a shape that allows the boat to rise higher and higher out of the water as the speed increases. They are sometimes flat-bottomed, sometimes V-bottomed and sometimes round-bilged. The most common form is to have at least one chine to allow for stability when cornering and for a supportive surface on which to ride while planing. Planing hulls allow higher speeds to be achieved, and are not limited by the waterline length the way displacement hulls are. They do require more energy to achieve these speeds.


ee also

* Center for Wooden Boats
* Spaulding Wooden Boat Center
* Stephens Bros. Boat Builders
* Future Boat Developments
* Jean-Jacques Herbulot
* E.G van de stadt
* Lofting
* Marine propulsion
* Messabout
* Outboard motor
* Propeller
* Sail
* Sailboat design and manufacturing
* Sail-plan
* Ship building
* Slipway
* Sterndrive
* Stitch and glue

External links

* [ WoodenBoat Publications] Major publisher of construction plans and techniques for traditional boat building methods.
* [] A site for the home boat builder with a global reach, for amateur boat builders from around the world.
* [ Another useful website for boat builders]

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