How to

How to Build a Cedar Strip Boat  Using Compumarine’s Technique

Some people may feel intimidated by the idea of building a boat  themselves, from scratch.  Putting a boat together using the cedar strip/epoxy  method of construction is a very easy and enjoyable project for the home  workshop. Perhaps a quick and simple description of the building process, tools  used and costs involved will stimulate enough interest to overcome any feelings  of inadequacy or intimidation.

Skills & Tools Required

Only very simple techniques are necessary to build the  Compumarine Small Craft Designs as follows: Building a strip plank boat out of  cedar strips, epoxy and fiberglass cloth is basically a 6 step process:

Step 1 Build a simple strongback to support the molds. Use 2×4 and 2×6 lumber.  Accurately measure and cut the wood with any type of saw you have available,  then nail the pieces together per the drawing that is provided in the  construction manual.

Step 2

Use the full-size patterns provided with the plans to layout the  cut lines on plywood or particle board for the station molds. Use a hand held  jigsaw to cut out the eleven station molds, the stem and transom pieces. Set up  the finished molds and stem and stern pieces on the strongback per the  description illustrated in the construction manual.

Step 3

Make or buy the 1/4″ by 3/4″ strips you will use to build the  boat. If you make your own strips you will need a table saw, band saw or radial  arm saw to rip the cedar strips from 1″ x 4″ straight grain, clear cedar boards.  Although rectangular strips will work, it is highly recommended to bead and cove  the edges of the strips using a router. If you prefer you may purchase finished  bead & cove strips from a number of different sources listed on the Materials and Supplies page.

Step 4

Bend the strips in place around the molds (no steaming  necessary). Edge glue them together and attach them temporarily to the edge of  each mold. There are two different methods of gluing and attaching the strips.  You may use the hot glue gun method for edge gluing and attach the strips with  small nails or you may my preferred method.  Edge glue the strips using carpenters  glue and attach the strips using c-clamps or spring clamps. Both of these  methods are fully described and illustrated in the construction manual.   Although many boats have been built using the hot glue technique I personally  prefer the carpenter’s glue and clamps method since cleaning the excess glue off  the finished hull is much easier.

Step 5

After all the strips are in place pull all the nails and or  staples and clean any excess glue off the hull. Sand the outside of the hull  smooth and fair, apply two coats of epoxy to completely seal the bare wood then  apply 6 ounce fiberglass cloth (finishes as clear and transparent as window  glass) to the hull using epoxy. Install the outside gunwales. Lift the hull from  the molds then clean, sand and fiberglass the inside of the hull. Install the  inner gunwales.

Step 6

Make and install the thwarts, skeg and other small parts,  install the hardware, give the boat three coats of a good quality spar varnish  and you are done. As you can see there are no difficult wood-working techniques  (such as complicated joints, spiling of planks or steam bending) involved at  all. The entire process is clearly described and photographically illustrated in  the comprehensive, construction manual supplied with the plans set.

Costs to Build

Although the process for building these small strip plank boats  is very simple, it does take time, since everything has to be done by hand. It  will take approximately 200 hours for an amateur with no woodworking experience  to complete one of these boats. It will be a fun and highly rewarding experience  however, and will be 200 hours well spent. Material costs will run from $500 to  $800 depending on whether you make or purchase your strips and the type and  quality of materials you use for the external parts. However, to purchase one of  these Small Craft already completed, or to have one custom built for you, the  price would be $5000 or more. Have some fun, spend a little for materials  and build your own quality small craft. It will be a work of art you can be  proud to use and will draw an appreciative crowd anywhere you take it.

21 thoughts on “How to

  1. I am interested in purchasing plans for the powered dinghy, however I don’t see any mention as to where one would buy the cedar to make it with. Also where would I be able to purchase the hardware? I need to estimate the materials cost before I buy the plans. Thanks.

  2. Hello John, Several years ago I recevied my plans for the Fisherman but could not build it at the time due to illness
    I am going to start now, and have read over the well written Construction Manual. On the bottom of page 20 for the transom it reads glue together 1″X4″ cedar. For larger than 3hp make 2 of these epoxied together to get a transom 1″ thick. My cedar lumber is 1″ so my transom would be 2″ thick. My outboard is 6hp. Is one layer ok?
    Thank you for your attention. Cheers, Leo

    1. Hello Leo…Glad to hear that you are getting started. I would still use two layers for your transom. Enjoy your boat building project…John

      1. I had the same question. 2 layers of 1″ cedar (3/4″ tk) would be 1.5″ thick. I am gluing them up so the grain will be vertical on the inside and horizontal on the outside. I surmise that this would be the strongest, ??

  3. John, I was finally prepared to start building my first cedar strip boat per the plans I purchased from you 2 years ago but now the availability of clear western red cedar has made it very difficult to get. Lowes, Home Depot, Capital Lumber in Phoenix and even the Cedar Council has informed me that purchasing 1x4x16 s4s clear western red cedar is going to be a special order and then add the shipping……….wow!!! $1,200.00+!!!
    Do you have any suggestions?
    Thanks, Rick

    1. Yes. Use Redwood to build your boat. Redwood is just as pretty as Western Red Cedar and is very easy to use. Redwood is just a little bit heavier than Western Red Cedar. The cost is considerably less for Redwood…John

  4. John
    when the hull is finished, roughly what proportion of the weight will be cedar and what proportion fibreglass?
    Thanks for your help

    1. I can’t tell you the answer to that question but I would guess the fiberglass is about 10% of the total weight…John

  5. Please advise the quantity of cedar (3/4 X1/4) needed to complete the smallest dinghy.

    I have some cedar and wash to determine if I have enough.

    Thank you.

    1. Hello David…The smallest dinghy is the Yacht Tender. To build the Yacht Tender and if you cut you own strips you will need to boards 1x4x10 and 8 boards 1x4x9. Rip the boards into 3/4 by 1/4 strips. You will get about 10 strips per board.

  6. Can you tell me how many and what length 1/4 x 3/4 bead and cove strips I would need to construct the 15 foot power dinghy.

    1. Hello John…You will need 20 strips that are 16′ long for the first few inches on the sheer and then 100 15′ strips for the rest of the hull…John

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