Home Plywood Boat Building - Stitch and Glue or Ply on Frame?

By Martin Reid

If you have come to the decision that you are going to build your own boat, then there are several things you will need to determine before going ahead.

First you will have to decide which one of the two most modern techniques are you going to use. There is the most up to date technique of the stitch and glue, or there is the old fashioned ply on frame.

They both have good and bad points about them . When done properly they both produce excellent results. So how do you make the choice? This will be determined on how experienced and skilled you are. Along with how much time and patience you have, and finally what appeals to you more. Here are a few hints that might help you with your decision making.

The Plywood on Frame Method: This utilizes ribs, which are wooden frames. Most often they are straight but in some of the older versions, they tried to implement the curves which led to many complications. You will use a construction jig and actually the hull of the boat is built upside down. Then this is how it goes from there.

The ribs have notched slots where you attach the longitudinal frames. The keelson runs down center ribs. The vertical timber is attached called the stem. The sheer clamps are the frame running along the upper edges of the hull. Two more pieces are added to make the transition from the hull bottom to the hull side. This creates a joint called the chine, and the frame member is the chine log. The joints may be glued, screwed or bolted. Utilizing adhesives such as epoxy helps make excellent bonded joints.

Finally... Cutting the planking a little bigger, it's glued, screwed or nail into place. Trim the edges and apply a couple of layers of fiberglass. Or saturate in epoxy if you prefer.

Stitch and Glue Boats: The hull is made from exact cut panels. There may be bulk heads but no framing. Use panel drawings or finished shapes these are laid out on the plywood planking then cut out.

It's important that exact shape and symmetry are adhered to. Then you proceed to drill small hole in adjacent panel close to the edge and thread the holes with copper wire or nylon tie-wraps. This is the stitching. Putty the joints with silica then tape joint with fiberglass tape. Flip the hull and make similar joints on the outer hull. Fiberglass the hull if you want.

Both methods produce great results. Now that you know how it is done which way do you want to do it? Do you like working with wood? If the answer is yes then it's the ply and frame method for you.

The stitch and glue is messier. You need to work with lots of epoxy so if you don't mind that then maybe this is the best for you. There is a lot of clean up involved with this method, and you must be sure to wear a respirator for both methods for safety purposes.

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