Stitch and glue - Very popular method for homebuilding, suitable even for larger cabin boats. It allows you to skip building a complex mold or strongback. You make the side panels of the boat, stitch them together with wire, then reinforce the corners with epoxy fillets and fiberglass. Lightweight and strong.
Skin-on-frame - Far and away the most lightweight construction method, and is supposed to be stronger than you’d expect. Seems great for canoes, kayaks, rowboats, possibly a small sailboat. Looks cool too. It uses either steam-bent ribs or a series of frames running athwart-ship, holding longitudinal stringers to form a skeleton. Then a nylon skin is stretched over it and sealed with epoxy.
Strip building - Classic method for showroom-level wooden canoes, also sometimes used with a frame for sailboats. Capable of elaborate smooth curves. Many narrow strips of wood (typically cedar) are affixed to the frames. These days people fiberglass over that and then pull the frames out, making this method pretty lightweight.
Clinker, lapstrake - Classic “wooden boat” look with overhanging laps. A bit heavier and more complex to build than other methods. Some modern techniques help with that, such as “glued lapstrake” or “lap stitch”, which both allow you to remove the frames afterwards. This method is supposed to be more woodworking and less fiberglass/resin work.
- Wooden Boat Forum - Has tons of info and many knowledgeable people.
- Instant Boats - Book by “Dynamite Payson”, focused on a quick-and-dirty type of stitch and glue boatbuilding. Includes some plans for boats designed by Phil Bolger.
- Devlin’s Boatbuilding - Detailed book on stitch and glue construction. It’s more towards a professional level of quality than is Instant Boats.
- Small Boats Monthly - Magazine with great in-depth articles on boats. You need to open in a private browser if you don’t want to buy a subscription.
Designs I Like
- Fisher Prospector 15 - I build the stitch-and-glue version of this one.
- Ruth - Skin-on-frame rowing wherry. Or possibly one of the Geodesic Airlite boats
- Whisp - Narrow ultralight that can sail, row, or take a trolling motor.
- Phoenix III - Beautiful little boat. Small, light beachcruiser designed by Ross Lillistone. I also like the First Mate, a stitch-and-glue variant. Almost as pretty, easier to build.
- Goat Island Skiff - I don’t really like the aesthetic, but it looks like a dead simple build, and it’s supposed to sail really nicely.
- Saturday Night Special - Simple racing boat that’s meant to be a quick build.
- Bolger Gypsy - Cool design. plans are available in one of Dynamite Payson’s books.
- Light Melonseed - A skin on frame take on the classic melonseed. I’m tempted by this as a quick build sailboat I could throw on the roof of my car.
More involved sailboats
- Welsford Navigator - Floating work of art. Supposed to be fairly capable offshore.
- Core Sound - Meant for races like the Everglades Challenge. Fast, comes in a few sizes.
- SCAMP - Tiniest boat capable of handling rough seas. Has a cult following. There’s a bigger variant called Fafnir.
- ROG (River Of Grass) microcruiser - Designed for the everglades challenge. Advanced, practical design, though looks very modern.
- Ross Lillistone - Has only a handful of designs, but they’re beautiful, sleek, lightweight open boats. I’ve heard his plans are well-thought-out and comprehensive.
- John Welsford - Has a lot of designs that run the gamut, including many that are sturdy, seaworthy, and classic looking.
- Phil Bolger - Influential designer from decades ago. His work partner Dynamite Payson included several of his boats in his books.
- Dave Gentry - Designs skin-on-frame stuff that’s less classic and more quick-and-easy, though some are pretty too.
- Duckworks has everything - plans (some of the above designers distribute through duckworks), raw materials, kits, hardware
- Geodesic Airlite designs classic looking skin on frame boats
There are a few “raid-style” regattas where people do multi-day expedition races in small, often homemade boats. The Everglades Challenge is a race from Tampa Bay to Key Largo. There’s also a “Texas 200” that seems fun.
There’s a one-design class of sailboat called the Puddle Duck Racer. They do races and things - looks child-oriented. It’s gotta be the easiest, fastest way to build a boat. You can do it with cheap hardware store wood, and it’d be a waste to use anything nicer (the bottom of the hull is a bent 4x8 sheet of plywood). Everything above the waterline is free-form, and people often make elaborate variations. All plans are free.
YouTube has a ton of videos of people building boats (like this SCAMP), but my favorite is this project to rebuild a 110 year old sailboat. It’s far more ambitious of a project than I’d ever want to take on, but I find it fascinating. The same guy previously rebuilt an elegant little Scandinavian folk boat called Lorema, and that I could see myself do.