Woodies 2.0  

I have been building drift boats with glue-laminated gunwales for more than a decade. I like it. I think it's the best way to make gunwales. It is cheaper and stiffer than any other method, which is close to a synonym for better. I mold those gunwales in place, over Visqueen inside or outside a partially finished hull. You can make glue-lam gunwales arbitrarily thick and arbitrarily tall, with cheap materials and all without steam bending.  

  Traditional Woodies  
Traditional woodies, regardless size are made with 1/2, 5/8 or 3/4" plywood bottoms and 1/4" or 3/8" plywood sides, typically glued and also nailed or screwed to wooden, U-shaped inner frames. A bent and angled chine strip along the inside bottom edge of the hull provides a common gluing and screwing structure for joining bottom panels to side panels. 

Chine strips are seldom wider than 3/4" thick and are often planed down to 5/8" thick in order to make them easier to bend without steaming. Chine strips are an obvious candidate for glue-lamination too. A glue-laminated chine strip could be 2" inches thick and 3" tall, providing substantially stronger support for fastening bottom panels to side panels. 

In an earlier post here on the forum I described building (traditional) wooden boats with no glue, using mechanical fasteners and strong-bonding marine silicone caulk instead, which bonds firmly. Wood-to-wood bonding with Torx screws and marine grade silicone--unlike permanent glues like Tightbond or Epoxies--can be taken apart however. This is a big change. Boats built with mechanical fasteners and marine silicone caulks can be taken completely apart and re-assembled at any time. This is important.

With modular, re-workable assemblies anything can be replaced. There is no longer any strong incentive to use the most expensive plywood. MDO sign painters plywood is more than strong enough. It is available at lumber yards and it can swapped out without major disruption, when and if it gets worn out. 

The combination of glue-laminated gunwales and glue-laminated chine strips, combined with mechanical fasteners and marine silicone caulk also makes it possible to dispose of any interior boat ribs.  A dory or drift boat made with a 5/8" MDO bottom and 3/8" MDO sides can be fastened together over a massive chine strip,  and then held stiff at the edges with glue-laminated gunwales. Ribs are superfluous.  

Any such boat could be built as decked or as an open boat. An open boat could also have a side-to-side spanning passenger seat, in order to extra-reinforce beam rigidity. But it really isn't necessary. Not if the glue-laminated gunwale is made thick enough. 

What would be the point? What are the advantages? Any boat without interior ribs is easier to maintain and to keep clean. Smooth is slicker.  3/8" thick side panels combined with a massive chine strip and gunwales makes the boat tremendously rigid. And yet eminently repairable. Any and all parts can be swapped out as needed. Skid shoes are suddenly irrelevant. If the 5/8" MDO bottom panel wears out after six or seven years take it off and replace it.  It's suddenly not a big deal.


What are the disadvantages? I can't think of any. I have not yet built a boat start to finish this way. I have built three now using bits and pieces of all these techniques. Later this summer I'll finish the first one built this way almost entirely.  The only exception is that i did give it a fiberglass bottom. If I had it to do all over again I would not. Who needs a fiberglass bottom if you can swap the plywood out any time you want?  Woody is better. Easier. Cheaper and faster. Easier to fix too. Easiest of all in fact. 

That's my story.  I think it's good stuff.

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Just to be clear you don't have to use MDO. You can still buy Hydrotek if you want a beautiful boat. It's just that you don't have to. Buy it cheap. Wear it thin. Swap it out.

Would love to see some pictures of this concept.



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