the all-seeingeye Building a Dinghy: Part 1
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Launch Day Completion

It's official, I'm now one of those insane people who builds boats in the garage. OK, the first one's a small boat. A rowboat really. But these things are known to take on a life of their own. Pretty soon you're building a replica of the Graf Spee in your driveway. The next project, scheduled for completion in 2005, is a 28' sharpie.

(July 4, 2003: Work has begun on Pangur Ban, a 28' Sharpie)

The design is "Apple Pie" by Chuck Merrell-who has some nice things to say about the project. You can find the plans-and a lot of other neat stuff at Duckworks Magazine.

First-the answer to "The Question". I've been carrying around a copy of WoodenBoat featuring Commodore Munroe's Egret since 1984. I've sailed other hull shapes, and looked at a lot of plans-even a few used boats in that time. But I kept coming back to that design. I'll have to build it myself-and it looks like I've just about got the resources now. But before sliding down that slippery slope, I thought I'd see what kind of surprises were in store for me, and whether or not I might actually be up to this sort of task. If a rowboat makes me crazy, I should probably take up knitting instead.

This is my first-ever boatbuilding project, though not my first experience with epoxy and plywood construction. I've done a couple of darkroom sinks this way in the distant past. The challenge for me is the shape. The last few years has been spent on a quest for ever more perfect rectangles (barn carpentry); practice and more power tools the result. There is just one rectangle in this thing.

My Skeptical Spouse (S.S.) has voiced the suspicion that this project is just an excuse to add a Porter-Cable 6" Variable Speed Random-Orbit Sander to the large pile of stuff already occupying my two-bay workshop. (the same workshop the S.S. insists on calling a two-car garage) Maybe she's right. But the sanders I already had were either underpowered for the task of sanding epoxy, or were designed for flat surfaces. Put a 60-grit disk on the Porter-Cable and it's a grinder. Put a pad on it-it's a polisher, and everything in between. (and I now know why one builder named his immaculately finished boat "60 Grit")

(here is a list of the tools needed to build Apple Pie)

Update: The S.S. and I went to an Outdoor Expo. Kayaks have always appealed to her. Seeing the progress on this project (and the price tags on an epoxy/carbon fiber sea kayak) I suspect my next task will be a pair of kayaks.


The first step; buy or build a pair of sawhorses (250K PDF). Laying out the main hull parts and cutting them took just a couple of hours.

Epoxy fillets added to inside of joints. There's the one rectangle in the whole boat.

The dinghy is constructed using the stitch and tape method. In my case the pieces are stitched together with electrical ties. They are much easier to use single-handed, and unlike wires, they can later be trimmed flush with the outside of the boat with a chisel rather than being ground off.

The flotation compartment under the front seat will be filled with foamboard. The short blocks are to give some bite to the screws which will be used to hold the bottom runners.


Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Launch Day Completion