General Boatbuilding Questions
February 26, 2011
Paul in general, lofting, patterns, recommended reading, stock plans

What is included in a set of stock plans?

The number of sheets in a set of plans varies, but each includes lines plan, a table of offsets, a construction plan with a section, scantlings and usually a suggested building set-up. Sailboats will have a sail plan, and all designs will have layout plans. Clinker designs have notes about lining out planking, and some also have a fastener schedule. See lining out described in clinker construction techniques.

Full size patterns are not included in these designs for a couple of reasons. First, they are impractical in all but the smallest and simplest designs. In addition, the process of lofting is valuable in itself. It provides a useful introduction to any building project, making clear some of the essential concepts you will be using to work in three dimensions. It is also the source of additional information the builder often requires in order to solve problems that arise later in the construction.

You say the plans provide the information you need to build a boat, but don't necessarily tell you how. What books would you recommend that tell you how?

For reference material I recommend Robert Steward's Boatbuilding Manual as a good basic text with excellent sections on lofting and setting up. You will find there is no one book that covers it all, most have a particular slant towards one type of construction method or another.

For traditional plank on frame construction, Bud McIntosh's How to Build a Wooden Boat is a great resource.

For glued hulls The Gougeon Brothers on Boat Construction is the bible as far as use of epoxy is concerned.

For clinker work, which to me is the best way of building small dinghies and certainly the most fun, John Leather's Clinker Boatbuilding is pretty good and Walt Simmons has a book or two that gives the North American take on that method.

I would also suggest a subscription to WoodenBoat magazine is essential for serious students of the subject - always lots of good stuff in there. WoodenBoat also publishes one or two How-to books on the construction of some of Joel White's small plywood designs. You might find those useful.

Article originally appeared on Gartside Boats (
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