Hey Woodenboat People, 

I'm playing with creating CNC files for a driftboat. I've designed and built a few boats in the past, including a smallish grand canyon dory that I posted on here about, but all have been manually lofted, designed, built, etc. I recently got access to a CNC machine and my sister and her husband want to build a slightly smaller boat than the one I designed earlier. Hence, time to figure out how to make the design / files. 

I probably won't post a ton on here, but if anyone wants to follow along, has advice, or questions, feel free to reach out. You can find step by step posts at: http://design.ben-hayes.com/category/boat-design

And a few pictures to lure you in: 

Curve analysis:

the draft hull with decks and bulkheads. I'll change the design qui...

First swing at unrolling all of the surfaces and extruding them to ...

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Very cool Ben!

Nice! You going to build in wood? Aluminum? Plascore?

Solid work.  Excited to see your progress.


A timely post! CAD CAM has been around for over twenty years.  I don't know of any manufacturing company that doesn't use it to develope and manufacture their products.  Today theses programs are very user friendly and are easily available to anyone.

Recently,  I  purchased a set of plans for a 16 foot drift boat.  The plans must be twenty years old!  They are poorly demensioned  line drawings and charts with angles and lengths etc. This information is required to be accurately manually drawn out to get full part sizes. Doable yes,  guessing game yes,  updating  to modern CAD files a two day job! 

I loaded just the hull stuctural patrs in CAD  made changes to correct demensions CAD didn't accept. I made demensioned 3D drawings in 3 views and I'm far more comfortable than I was when I started. I sent a copy of the orginals to the Smithsonian!  

Ben you're definitely on the right track.  Today CAD drawings are universal. To deal with anything less would seem unacceptable. 

Hi Ted- yes, it’s so nice to be able to tweak designs in Cad, and to do curvature analysis! What program were you using?

I’ve also started selling kits and patterns and did invest in a CNC router. There is a lot more info on www.timberboat.works (at least when it hasn’t been hacked).

Good morning,

I use Fusion 360. I have a fair amount of experience with CAD/CAM and CNC manufacturing and, I have access to a design engineer who really knows it. FYI.  I owned a small "custom" cabinet company and had Thermwood CNC machine which was a mainstay of the business. Been retired for sometime now!

Ben, I believe your website may not be secure? I got on once but now can't? There appears to be another boat building company with the same name?  Didn't want to have issues so I've stayed clear of all of it.

Please understand I spent very limited time on your site and have no knowledge of your goals and objectives.  My comments are very much off the wall.

First my experience in boat building is very very limited. (One set of plans and 1/4 boat built.)   However I did spend time on the net looking for boat plans and couldn't find anyone offering CAD.  Last, I don't know how big the wood boat building business is or its potential. 

So here goes..........My thoughts

Cutting flat square parts on a CNC router is extremely accurate but so is a good table saw. The capability of a CNC machine is going to be very underutilized doing this type of machining. Kits containing CNC parts of this type wouldn't be a selling point to me.

Parts with lots of angles, curves, requiring multiple jigs and fixtures will have high scrap, and low repeatability. Most of all lots of man hours. This is CNC territory. This is where CAD/CAM and CNC machining shine. It's the name of the game. Its very marketable and can be very profitable. 

So if it were me I'd have a 5 axis machine with multiple tool holders. I'd use the CNC capabilities to machine parts, like ribs and frames (which took me forever to do.  Ha! Ha!) which are critical to making everything else fall in place. I'd also design boats containing unique proprietary features that can't be readily duplicated in a home shop. A "signature boat" like Boston Whaler.

Sorry for carrying on!




Which CAD program did you use?

Dave please see my response to Ben Hayes above

Happy Holidays,



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