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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Contemplating a dory build?

Costs
If you shop carefully and are buying good but not premium materials, you'll spend $3,500. Premium materials will take you up to the $5k-6k range. You can spend a lot more on premium plywood, more glass/epoxy, premium paint, and boat jewelry.

For a 16'-9" stitch and glue GC dory from Andy Hutchinson's plans:
$400 Plans
$700 plywood
$600 Epoxy & Fillers
$600 glass
$600 latches
$200 gunnels
$100 bronze bolts
$100 paint
$300 misc

A ply on frame ("traditional") boat would be similar. $2,000-5,000
You won't buy near as much epoxy or glass, but will buy Port Orford Cedar or other premium straight-grained rib wood.


I built that little Black Eagle boat for a little over $1,000 in materials. She was a prototype, so I used $30/sheet AC plywood from the box store*, surplus fiberglass, epoxy in bulk, and good ol' Rustoleum paint. Being smaller, she also had half the materials and fewer latches and hinges. I don't think you could build a big boat for less than $2k even going cheap-cheap.

*I sort of wish I had built her from doug fir marine plywood. Would have cost $100 more on the boat at 2019 prices...BUT it was the peak of the 'Rona and I didn't have quality fir marine ply available to me at the time. She was a sanity build, so my sanity and building her through the winter of 2020-2021 was worth more than using the right plywood.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
What is the advantage of using bronze bolts over stainless or brass?
Bronze is pretty. It's also really strong, especially manganese bronze which is stronger than Grade 2 mild steel hardware. Silicon bronze is strong enough...similar to stainless. Bronze is a copper/tin alloy.

Brass is not all that strong. Looks pretty, but it's weak. It or SS are your only option, though, for smaller padeyes. Brass is a copper/zinc alloy.

Stainless is plenty strong enough.
If you don't want shiny or patina gold hardware, by all means go stainless.

Galvanized is also a traditional drift boat hardware finish...good for "working"/budget boats.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
What type of hull material?

Both wood construction methods have pros and cons. Between ply on frame and S&G, both have their devotees, and they're both right. No matter what, boats need care and maintenance, and you need to take care of them....and either will last decades with some TLC and you will probably not be the final owner of either boat. I'm a S&G guy, but I'll honestly tell you: aluminum or foam core arguably have the lowest maintenance of all!

Stitch and Glue
I built wooden sea kayaks a LONG time ago, so was quickly drawn to S&G as it was a method I was most familiar with. I have no regrets for my decision. With my prior experience, I had my boat done in 7 months (9 months elapsed, but skipped May/June during peak runoff to go kayaking/rafting). I'm guessing I had 400-500 hours into her. It was a very rewarding experience, and I plan to build more. Give Andy Hutchinson a call, he's a great resource to chat with if you're considering building from his plans.

S&G boats really should not let moisture into the wood if everything is covered with fiberglass...because the moisture CAN NOT get back out...which means rot is likely if it does. They should be more resistant to minor damage, but you need to grind glass to let the moisture out of moderate damage before repairing. If you store them out of the sun and rain (which you should), you shouldn't have to paint them but every 5-7 years or more.


Plywood on frame (traditional "ribbed") boats
I also very much respect and appreciate the soul of a ply-on-frame dory, and plan to build at least one. They are a quicker build. Guessing 70-80% the time of a S&G boat.

Ply on frame boats will allow moisture into the wood. They also allow the wood to breathe and let the moisture out of the wood. You should annually treat all exposed wood surfaces with "boat soup" which is a various mixture of linseed oil, pine tar, turpentine, and varnish. It slows the rate at which water can get into the wood, retards microbes from building up (rot) and also breathe to allow water vapor out. But paint doesn't breathe, so you have to let the back side breathe or wait a really long time for water to get out of painted surfaces. You're probably looking at paint touchup every 3-5 years.


Foam
Foam have almost twice the material cost to build (labor is similar to wood S&G). Some older foams were prone to waterlogging, but modern foams are good--as is plascore.
Foamcore boats are otherwise built the same way as stitch and glue wood boats.

Aluminum
Aluminum is cold on cold water and hot on a hot day.
Aluminum will wrinkle, and you can't really ever get a wrinkled aluminum boat perfectly straight again. Wood or foam, you can get back to straight.


Repairs
Major damage is going to take a couple weeks or months with either type. So...will you want to do traditional repairs or fiberglass repairs??! Or aluminum repairs once every other decade?
We can debate this one day around a campfire, but I don't think there's really a right or wrong decision to be made (talking to you, @MNichols !)


I'm definitely not going to tell someone to go S&G just because I want them to agree with me. Get the one that speaks to you and enjoy her. :)

Having kayaked for 24 years and rafted 17, I can tell you there's no comparison to rafts in the way a dory moves on the river. I will say unabashedly that dories are way more fun than rafts. They're like giant kayaks that you can stand up on and sleep on and haul 8 cases of beverages.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Time?
I had 400-ish hours into my big GC boat the Great Falls.
You'll spend 250+ hours building a traditional ply on frame/rib boat.

I was moving FAST and efficiently on my little 10.5' Black Eagle build, tracked my time, and had 158 hours in over 3.5 months.
You'd be hard pressed to build super fast on a first build. There will be some head-scratching time. Slow down, enjoy the process. It's a long sequence of small steps.


Don't think you can buy a hull and deck it yourself to save time. Hatches and decks are easily 80% of your time spent. I had only 15 hours in the hull of Black Eagle and another 15 hours in gunnels and hardware. The middle 130 hours was all hatches and decks.


And the hull simply takes up space. Sure you build the frames/decks into the boat, but you don't have to....
BUT you can pre-build your hatches and frames in a smaller workspace before you build the hull...then with a hull completed, trim your frames to fit, fit the side decks, glue it all in place, add paint and hardware and go boating!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Want to comment on the only time to build one is winter time and working in garage that is not heated can be an issue, how do you get around that, short life epoxy?
Good insight--who wants to be stuck building a boat when it's boating season? This is also the reason my big boat didn't get completed in early Summer 2019 and instead got launched Labor weekend 2019. In hindsight, I wish I had her for my Main Salmon trip in June 2019...but then again, if my hindsight were perfect, I'd have built the boat quicker in the first place and wouldn't have had to pause in May-June-July. haha.


And GREAT question!!

Tents are your friend. You can use a small 110V heater and heat only the area you've glued/clamped for that day instead of trying to heat the entire cold garage.
this little heater needs fresh (cool) air in the back, but will get the tented workspace up to 90-100°F and probably costs me a buck a day in electricity.

For the hull you need to either do the outer/inner glassing during spring/fall or heat the entire workspace.The good news is you're only talking ~3-5 days for each. Say your electric bill to heat that space costs $5-$10/day. $30-$100 is nothing in the scheme of a boat build....but trying to keep that space warm continuously for 4-5 cold months could be prohibitively expensive.

Hood Wood Shipping box Floor Flooring


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Wood Floor Flooring Gas Composite material
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Where do I get materials?

Plywood
You should use a quality marine plywood. Some swear by tropical hardwood boatbuilding plywoods--like okoume, meranti, and sapele. Meranti is the least expensive of the three, and the heaviest. Sapele is similarly heavy and has beautiful grain, and is most expensive. Okoume is the lightest and bends the easiest, but also the weakest; it's mid-cost between meranti and sapele. If you bend this plywood to the breaking point, it snaps suddenly.

Douglas fir has spring and summer grain (or early and late) and the spring wood grows fast and is soft, while the summer grain is very hard. Don't plan to sand fir plywood much or you'll get a lot of unevenness. Fir is stronger than the tropical hardwoods, and generally the least expensive. It's not the prettiest (unless you like its aesthetic) and it also "checks" when subject to repeated wet/dry cycles. I do not recommend it for a ply on frame boat because you'll have a constant job of keeping it dry and painted...and I absolutely recommend it for a stitch and glue boat where both faces are protected by fiberglass...it does make a tough boat. You can bend and bend and beat on fir and it generally springs back. It's super resilient. Fir is also lighter than meranti.

Wood will make up ~70% of the weight of your boat so this is an important decision if weight is a consideration.

Plywood Thickness
For a large boat, a 1/2" thick floor is common, 1/4" side panels, and 1/4" or 3/8" decks and bulkheads.

I used 3/8" for bulkheads on the big Great Falls boat and probably added an unnecessary 20 lbs. The bulkheads could easily have been 1/4". For decks, 3/8" is a comfortable thickness, especially if they'll be used as a dance floor. One could also use 1/4" for the decks but you'll want to glass the inside or provide plenty of framing/bracing which negates some of the weight savings. I made cedarstrip bulkheads on the little Black Eagle boat and probably saved 10 important pounds. The bulkheads do provide some stiffness, but really just serve to keep water out.

The floor on a larger boat should be 3/8" or 1/2". 3/8" for a lightweight boat that won't see a lot of rocks. 1/2" for a workhorse boat or if rocks are likely in your future. I bent mine out of 1/2" fir marine ply and it was STIFF. In hindsight, I'd laminate a floor out of two layers of 1/4"...it will bend easier and also provide one additional ply (2x 3-ply 1/4" vs 5-ply 1/2") which is more strength with little added weight. The little Black Eagle boat has a 1/4" floor...glassed inside and out. I run it light and am careful with it.

Many lumber distributors can get BS 1088 Aquatek meranti, BS6566 Hydrotek meranti, and douglas fir marine plywood. Check your locally owned lumberyard and ask what their distributor can get...or plan on a trip to the coast to a specialty boatbuilding lumber supplier.

In NW MT I was able to get:
1/4" BS 1088 Aquatek and 1/4" Roseburg doug fir marine ply were both $50/sheet in late 2018. They doubled last year and haven't yet come back down
3/8" and 1/2" roseburg doug fir ply were each about $70/sheet then.
1/4" AC ply from the box store was $31/sheet in early 2021; doubled this summer; back around $35.

...to be continued.
 

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Contemplating a dory build?

Costs
If you shop carefully and are buying good but not premium materials, you'll spend $3,500. Premium materials will take you up to the $5k-6k range. You can spend a lot more on premium plywood, more glass/epoxy, premium paint, and boat jewelry.

For a 16'-9" stitch and glue GC dory from Andy Hutchinson's plans:
$400 Plans
$700 plywood
$600 Epoxy & Fillers
$600 glass
$600 latches
$200 gunnels
$100 bronze bolts
$100 paint
$300 misc

A ply on frame ("traditional") boat would be similar. $2,000-5,000
You won't buy near as much epoxy or glass, but will buy Port Orford Cedar or other premium straight-grained rib wood.


I built that little Black Eagle boat for a little over $1,000 in materials. She was a prototype, so I used $30/sheet AC plywood from the box store*, surplus fiberglass, epoxy in bulk, and good ol' Rustoleum paint. Being smaller, she also had half the materials and fewer latches and hinges. I don't think you could build a big boat for less than $2k even going cheap-cheap.

*I sort of wish I had built her from doug fir marine plywood. Would have cost $100 more on the boat at 2019 prices...BUT it was the peak of the 'Rona and I didn't have quality fir marine ply available to me at the time. She was a sanity build, so my sanity and building her through the winter of 2020-2021 was worth more than using the right plywood.
Thank you for this breakdown!
 

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Don't think you can buy a hull and deck it yourself to save time. Hatches and decks are easily 80% of your time spent. I had only 15 hours in the hull of Black Eagle and another 15 hours in gunnels and hardware. The middle 130 hours was all hatches and decks.


I was really close to doing this^^. MT4Runner gave me a call and some great advice, a lot of what is posted in this thread. I'm planning to start building in the spring when I can work outside (and after ski season in over) I'll spend days off boating and after work hours building!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
This is great! I’ve never built a dory, but I built a Boulder Boat Works Highside when they were available as kits. Sold it several years later, and have regretted it. I’d love to build a ”whitewater” dory!
really appreciate the info!
Thank you!
Sweet! Any pics of your drifter build thread?
I LOVE having sealed hatches and decks. It's so great for packing up each morning and I love sleeping on my boat.


Thank you for this write up. As a woodworker and a River Runner, I have plans to build wooden boats, I just need more garage space first….
Thanks!
That's a difficult consideration. You need garage space both for construction and for storage. Wooden boats are best stored out of the weather...so a lean-to/carport at a minimum. But if you have that, you can also build in it. And as I've noted, you can do the hatches/decks indoors in a smaller space. I'm thinking I should do a writeup on that process. I did most (but not all) of my Black Eagle fore and aft decks off the boat.

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MT, I’ve seen this done before, but I’m certain I’ve never seen it done this well before.
Great service and addition! Should be a Dory page sticky.
You've built both a S&G and a framed boat, J...you should link your blog!
Anything to add that I've missed?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Wood

Traditional framed boats were built with whatever was available...but their modern heritage was western Oregon where old growth Douglas Fir and Port Orford Cedar were available. Port Orford Cedar is prized for its strength, weight, and rot resistance...but it's in short supply. It was used during WWII as a dielectric in diesel-electric submarine batteries and is still a popular wood for weather-resistant decking lumber. And with the recent lumber spikes, cedar has really gone up.

Ribs
While Port Orford Cedar may be the very "best", adding a 1,500 mile roadtrip to buy it makes it not all that feasible or sustainable.
"Traditional" boatbuilding was really done with what was available locally. If you're in the southeast, use Southern Yellow Pine. Up north, go for a local pine or fir or larch.

You DO want straight-grained wood. Having woodgrain cross the entire member of a rib or an oar means you have a very very weak spot. Strain and cracks follow the grain. Tight knots in an otherwise straight-grained board are better than perfectly clear wood with grain that crosses the board on a close diagonal. 3/4" wood is a bit light for a full-sized boat. If you can find 1" (5/4) lumber that would be great. If you can only find straight-grained wood in 2x6's...consider planing them down for weight.

Gunnels
Again, while Ash is prized for its strength and flexibility, it will one day soon be in short supply due to the invasive Emerald Ash borer. If you can get it, get it. If not, consider douglas fir, white oak, or mahogany gunwales. Straight wood and steam-bent make beautiful gunnels, but it's as easy and as strong to laminate gunnels out of several 1/4" thick strips. You could also use a softer wood on the inside (western red cedar, doug fir, pine, etc) and a harder wood on the outside/inside faces like ash, oak, or mahogany. Be creative.

Again, wood is your heaviest boat component, so choose wisely.
 

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Find a local cabinet/furniture maker who might be willing to order materials on their wholesale accounts. They'll likely also help you make sure you are getting the right materials. I'd certainly help someone if they asked. Hardware can be sourced this way, as well. We have far more resources for hardware, especially quality hardware, than any local hardware store.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Find a local cabinet/furniture maker who might be willing to order materials on their wholesale accounts. They'll likely also help you make sure you are getting the right materials. I'd certainly help someone if they asked. Hardware can be sourced this way, as well. We have far more resources for hardware, especially quality hardware, than any local hardware store.
Stainless hinges took a huge run in the past couple years.

I got my Southco C5 latches from an RV Surplus store on eBay for ~$8/ea. A box of 50 ran me $300 inc shipping. More than I needed at the time, but they retail for $30-35 so I got a couple dozen more than I needed at the time…for free!
 

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Stainless hinges took a huge run in the past couple years.

I got my Southco C5 latches from an RV Surplus store on eBay for ~$8/ea. A box of 50 ran me $300 inc shipping. More than I needed at the time, but they retail for $30-35 so I got a couple dozen more than I needed at the time…for free!

That's a screaming deal! I have a Southco account and buy them direct. I think I still paid around $18/ea.
 
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