Many boating enthusiasts dream of owning their very own boat but cringe at the thought of buying a brand new watercraft because the initial and long-term investment can be astronomical. By building your own fibreglass boat, you can save a ton of money and own a customised watercraft at the same time. This article walks you through the process of building a dinghy out of marine plywood, wood glue and fibreglass. Follow the steps below to get started on your fibreglass boat today.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Fibreglass kit
- .25-inch-thick marine plywood
- Band saw
- Hand tools
- Wood glue
- Wood rasp
Begin by laying your boat design out on the plywood. The dinghy is a good solid design that has been proven generation after generation and handles well on large and small bodies of water. Click the link below for a set of downloadable drawings that can be blown up and traced directly onto your pieces of plywood.
Cut your panels out of the plywood using the band saw and jigsaw. You should have a bow, stern, bottom, two sides, several crossbraces and a seat. Sand all of the edges down using the sandpaper and rasp. Make sure your lines are straight as in the next step you will butt the edges together tightly to glue the seams.
Butt the edges of panels together and glue them together at the edges, starting with the sides and bottom. Glue the bow and stern on next, then fit the cross braces in the middle. Finish by placing the seat in the middle of the boat and allow to dry overnight.
Begin covering one panel of the boat with fibreglass resin, starting at the corner and slowly moving clockwise around the boat. Once a three-foot section is completely covered with resin, smooth the fibreglass cloth over that section, completely engulfing it. In this manner work your way around the entire outside of the boat, making sure to overlap the edges of fibreglass cloth to increase the rigidity and strength of your boat.
Repeat Step 4 on the inside of the boat as well. Pay special attention and add extra resin to the seams where the plywood panels are attached to one another, as these areas are the weakest areas of the boat and need extra leak protection. Allow to dry for at least 48 hours.
Seal the boat by painting with several coats of paint and then two coats of polyurethane. Sometimes it is also a good idea to have sealed the marine plywood with deck sealant prior to building the boat, providing more protection against rot and leaks. Allow the boat to dry for 48 hours to let the stains and paints cure properly, then test it out.
Tips and warnings
- There are many options for the do-it-yourself boat builder these days. Check at local sporting goods shops for "build your own" boat kits with all of the tools and materials needed to make anything from a dinghy to a small sailboat.
- Wear protective gloves, goggles and mask when spreading resin and fibreglass cloth on the boat as the resins can be irritants to the nose, skin and eyes.
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