On Boat Building

On Boat Building

Building Small Boats

Greg Rössel is a master boat builder, writer and teacher, and in this book he conveys his profound knowledge of traditional boatbuilding with clarity and enthusiasm.  Simply the best introduction to practical aspects of wooden boat building available. I am not sure if the average person would be able to build a boat based on this book, but they would certainly feel that it was possible!

How to Build a Wooden Boat

Like Rössel’s book, this work provides a comprehensive introduction to traditional boat building, but is more idiosyncratic and employs an amusing, wry humor throughout.  I have never met David McIntosh, but from this book I imagine that he is a wonderful old salt, whose passion for traditional boat building is only outstripped by his knowledge and experience.

Boatbuilding: A Complete Handbook of Wooden Boat Construction

This dense volume is THE classic reference for traditional wooden boat building.  It is wide ranging in its coverage of types of building processes and vessels. The book is dense, erudite, and scholarly; to my mind it is not as practical as the Rössel’s or McIntosh’s books but as a supplement or an advanced text it is essential.  Chapelle is a naval architect and he really excels when he puts the breadth of historical knowledge on display, which is particularly evident in his other works such as The History of American Sailing Ships and American Small Sailing Craft.


Lofting is the process of drawing lines of a boat full-size, to get the shapes and patterns needed for building. One starts with a couple of simple two dimensional drawings, and ends up with a set of full size patterns from that defines the shape of the hull.  It is a miraculous process to behold, and appears to be almost mystical to the uninitiated, not to mention confusing and frustrating to those bold enough to try it the first time.  Ideally lofting is learned directly from a master boatwright who explains each aspect of the process and patiently leads the student through the process, but for those without access to a master boatwright, this book is the next best thing! 

The Gaff Rig Handbook: History, Design, Techniques, Developments

A Gaff Rig is often the sailing rig of choice of traditional wooden boats. For many it is untoward to dress a wooden boat in a modern (Marconi) rig, tantamount to wearing a mini-skirt to church.  This book provides a wealth of information about the design, construction and use the gaff rig. It covers history and practice and is richly illustrated.  Besides the specific information it imparts about the rig, this book is a moving expression of the deep knowledge and understanding that goes into every aspect of the design and construction of a sail boat.  Even a Marconi die-hard will appreciate and learn from this book.

How to Build the Haven Twelve & a Half Footer

Since the 1970’s, Maynard Bray has been a central figure in movement to preserve and disseminate the knowledge and traditions of wooden boat construction.  He has tremendous insight and a wonderful passion for wooden boats.  In this volume, he gives one of the most thorough and intelligible accounts of how to build a wooden boat: a practical day sailer designed by Joel White, based on Herreshoff’s 12 ½ foot timeless classic.

A Kid's Book on Boatbuilding

A perfect gift for a young person that is into boating, sailing, or building. This could also be a great book for a child fixated on social networking and computer games, as it will give them a view to a different universe of possibilities.  It is clear and entertaining, and perhaps most importantly, it does a good job of communicating the sense of wonder and adventure that comes from building boats and sailing.