Boatbuilding FAQs

Can I really build a boat?

I have always told my kids the following:  "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you are probably right."
There are plenty of people in the world that will tell you that you can't build a boat.  That is clearly not true although we will be the first to admit that there are some interesting challenges along the way.  For example:  Almost nothing in a boat is "straight".  That is what most of us love about boats.

What is Spiling and Scribing?

Spiling is an old boatbuilding term meaning: to fit a plank. It has been 'stolen' or perhaps borrowed from the days of plank over frame construction.
Fitting planks is required in cold-mold boatbuilding for two reasons:
  1. To ensure tight joints
  2. Adjust the angle of the planks on the boat

To Ensure Tight Joints

As you bend flat pieces of plywood around a surface that forms a compound curve, the edges of those piece are also forced into subtle curves. When it is time to apply the next piece, it won't fit tight along the entire length.  Scribing and then cutting along the scribed line will ensure a tight fit.

Adjusting the Angle

If you were to measure around the boat at the chine, and then do so at the sheer, you would find that the 'circumference' at the sheer is, of course, much longer.  Therefore, if you are going to keep the plank angle constant, relative to the frames, you have to create wedge shaped planks.  This isn't necessary on every plank, although you could if you would like.  Just, every so often, create an adjustment plank.
Click here for suggested additional reading.

What is "Hot Coating"?


Hotcoating is a slang term that means to coat a surface with epoxy resin with no fiberglass.  This is done to ensure that all wood is fully encapsulated and protected.

The underside of the deck of a small boat, for example, if often hot-coated.

Why do I have to use epoxy for cold-mold boatbuilding?

It is important for the resin to have similar characteristics of elasticity and strength as the core material. In the case of cold-mold construction, the core is typically marine plywood. Epoxy fits the bill nicely.
Less expensive polyester resins cannot be used as they will delaminate.  As tempting as it is due to cost...
"Just Forget About It"

Can I make my boat unsinkable?

The simple answer is yes.

You "simply" add enough two-part polyurethane foam to displace the weight of water about equal to the weight of the boat. Why 'about'?

The boat itself displaces a significant amount of water. We can help you determine the proper amount of foam.

For doing some simple calculations, consider that seawater weighs approximately 64 lbs. per cubic foot.

Installing foam flotation is not without risk.  There are many, many, stories of  boat repair shops removing great quantities of waterlogged foam.  Be very careful in your foam selection.  Do your homework.

Which is better, an aluminum or plastic fuel tank?


As long as it is properly constructed and installed, either work fine. This is another one of those topics where experts will line up on both sides of the question. Additionally, we have had about an equal number of customers state that:

  • I will never have an aluminum tank in my boat!
  • I will never have a plastic tank in my boat!

What it seems to depend on most is whether you personally have ever had a bad experience with one material or the other. The question is almost moot however when you get into big boats with big fuel tanks. In those situations, it is highly unlikely that you will find a plastic tank that will work. Typically, to get the substantial weight of a large tank full of fuel in the right place in the boat, it needs to be specifically designed for that boat.

Do I have to use Douglas Fir for the laminated structures?


Douglas fir is the wood of choice for the laminated structures in a cold-mold boat. It has excellent properties of:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Light weight

Certainly other woods of similar properties can be used. One of our builders is very successfully using cypress.

Make sure that any wood you use has been properly dried to its equalibrium level. You can Google™ to determine a wood's moisture equalibrium. We bring this up because cypress, for example, is often not sufficiently dried.

About how long will it take to build an ENVIBOAT?


Hmmm. Although we get that question frequently, we have never figured out how to answer it. Other than: "It depends." Depends on what? Well, here goes.

  • How big is the boat?
  • What is your prior experience?
  • What level of "fit and finish" are you trying to achieve?
  • Do you have help?
  • Are you buying any FasBuild™ options?
  • What type of time commitments can you make?

Even a small boat is a significant project but one that rewards you at every milestone with incredible satisfaction. Talk to any our our current builders!

What is the difference between marine plywood species?


There are three species of marine plywood that we commonly supply with our products. We typically supply Meranti or Douglas Fir for primary structural components and Okoumé for areas where flexibility is desired.

Our kits typically combine species in order to maximize value.  In other words, we use the right wood for the job and that typically works out well from a cost standpoint.

Comparative Properties

Wood Strength Weight Flexibility Cost
Douglas Fir High High Low Low
Meranti High High Low Medium
Okoumé Medium Low High High

Additional Thoughts

Okoumé, as stated above, is more flexible than Meranti. Obviously, flexibility is very important when bending plywood to form the hull sides. The smaller the boat, the tighter the curve and the more important flexibility is as a characteristic. However, we have had customers successfully build our 17 with only Meranti. Our 16 and 17 Redfish Flats boats have even tighter curves though and we would be hesitant to recommend building those with Meranti.  When thinking about the weight savings using Okoumé to form the sides of the boat, consider that a cold-molded boat is already considerably lighter than a similar boat constructed of solid fiberglass.

What tools do I need to build a boat?


Let's start by emphasizing that there are tools you MUST have and tools that are nice to have. This is true for power tools and hand tools alike.

We will continue to develop these lists to provide you with a good understanding of the tools required.

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