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How to Build a Wooden Boat

by David C. "Bud" McIntosh


How to Build a Wooden Boat (published in 1987) contains, in a single volume, everything you need to know to construct a carvel-planked cruising boat from a set of plans, a stack of lumber, and determination. In unusually clear and concise prose and illustrations, the book reveals the mysteries of the process like no other. Members who wish to order a hard copy of this book may do so here. We will be releasing a few chapters each month until this book is complete.


When I was very young, I built for myself the best boat in all the world. It was a fat dory, designed to fit a secondhand sail, and not very impressive to other eyes. What matter? It was a brave thing and, to me, beautiful-and I have never since lost my vision of the Best Boat in the World-always just a bit beyond the present one, and always there to strive toward. Maybe this background will help explain the chapters that follow. I hope they convey some of the feeling of joy I have had from a lifetime of boatbuilding. I hope they may encourage you to gather a few ancient tools and natural materials and build for yourself the best boat in all the world-a thing of perfect beauty, which will guard and preserve you wherever you want to go on the vast ocean seas. The voyaging may be mostly in the imagination, and this, the best boat in the world, may seem less than that to other people. That really doesn’t matter. It will be your own, born of study, toil, and sacrifice; and you’ll get from it a continuing emotional experience almost unique in this modern world.

Critics may well point out the narrow scope of this book: what amounts to one builder’s techniques (and prejudices?) applied to one very special (shall we say, limited?) type of boat. You won’t find here complete discussion of your favorite hard-chined skipjack or lapstrake surf­boat or sawn-frame schooner or featherlight canoe-any one of which, I’ll grant, may be the best boat in the world. You can buy a book that treats all of these, and more, too, in one volume-a book written by a yacht designer of great skill and experience, who knows all about he parts of the finished boat; but that designer doesn’t know (or perhaps can’t be bothered to tell you) the basic techniques, the inch-by-inch marking, cutting, and fastening that get all of these parts together in the proper order.

Here, if you will pardon me, is where I come in. I am opinionated, lazy, plodding, timid about trying anything new, and I have built about 500 deadweight tons of sailing yachts largely with my own hands, and perhaps half of them to my own designs. And over the past 50 years I have tried, earnestly and constantly, to borrow, steal, invent, or develop by trial and error the best and easiest way for me to perform each of the several different operations involved in the building of a wooden boat.

I apologize to all the old pros, who have their own different and very satisfactory ways to do the same things. I say only that these tech­niques have worked for me and that if you will stay with me patiently, I think I can, in the following pages, explain to you how I set up, frame, plank, and deck such a boat, with maybe a centerboard trunk and a rudder thrown .in. MERRYWING, the boat shown in most of our illustrations, poses almost all the problems you are likely to meet up with, whatever you build, and I hope I can convince you that there’s no great mystery to boatbuilding after all.

I’m sure that the boat of your dreams is the best and most beautiful boat in the world. If you don’t go ahead and build it, you will miss one of the most exciting and satisfying experiences left to us today. You’d better get going!

Bud McIntosh

Preface & Table of Contents


I had heard about Bud McIntosh for years before I met him. Among the cognoscenti in the field of traditional wooden boats, his name was uttered with a special kind...
Chapter One

Laying Down

Our title would at first glance appear to suggest a confusion of bad grammar and bad taste. In truth it is an old, proper, and excellent def­inition of the first...
Chapter Two

The Making of Molds

Following the lofting process, you’ll no doubt be anxious to set tools to wood and begin to shape your dream. Heaven knows you’ve antici­pated it long enough! Well, the making...
Chapter Three

The Ballast Keel

One of the most fascinating and heartwarming things about the boatbuilding business is the universally friendly helpfulness of the many visitors we have. They are not, for the most part,...
Chapter Eight

Floor Timbers

The glossary will say something like this: “Floor timber-an athwartships member, usually of wood, used to tie the heels of the frames to the keel.” This definition comes close to...
Chapter Eleven

A Smooth and Fair Hull

This will be a short chapter for me, and a long two weeks for you. You are going to plank the transom, bung the fastenings, smooth the hull, caulk, smooth...
Chapter Twelve


You have, I’m sure, lost that innocence which would direct your eyes Heavenward (toward the underside of the overhead, that is) at the mention of the word “ceiling.” You know...
Chapter Thirteen

Deck Framing

It’s a great day indeed when you remove the molds. But don’t be in too great a hurry; a few things need doing before you break them loose.  I assume...
Chapter Fourteen

Laying the Deck

Sometimes I think that life must have been much simpler in days of yore-Life, of course, meaning Boatbuilding, which includes deck­laying, which was (and still is) the most impor­tant problem...
Chapter Fifteen

Building the House

So you have the deck on, with two openings in it. The big one is to be covered with a structure (labeled, variously, trunk cabin, coach roof, deckhouse) that will...
Chapter Seventeen

Fitting Bulkheads

You won’t believe it, but you’ll have to go through this bulkhead-fitting routine exactly 11 times as often as you now think likely; there­fore, you’d better learn how to do...

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