Frequently Asked Questions
See also: Questions From Builders and Prospective Builders
See Also, Construction Notes for:
- How do I order plans?
On the Paypal Order page, select the plan(s) you want, and add them to the shopping cart. Use your credit card to complete the transaction with Paypal. (You do NOT need a Paypal account to use this service.) Your plans will then be available for download in .rar archive format.
Alternatively, you may print and fill out the order form and mail it with a check or money order to the address provided. I will then either email your plans to you, or print them and send them by postal mail (printing/shipping charge added), whichever you request.
- How do I pay for plans?
Payment can be made by credit card through Paypal (you do NOT need a Paypal account) or, for USA customers, by personal check, cashier's check or money order. From outside the USA: International Money Orders only, please.
- What do the plans look like?
My plans are not typical blueprints. Instead, they are made up of a collection of drawings in "gif" format, taylored for email delivery and efficient printing on plain printer paper. (Alternatively, I can print the plans for you and send them by postal mail -- a printing/shipping charge will be assessed for postal mail orders.)
The plans include a series of scale drawing created on a CAD program on a computer. All relevant measurements are included, allowing the builder to transfer the drawings directly to plwood to be cut out as boat parts.
Click on the image below for a thumbnail look at a typical plans set (opens in new window).
All plans are supplemented by detailed photos and buiding notes that you can view right now. Just go HERE, then follow the "info" link for the design that interests you, and then click on the link to the Online Construction Notes found there.
Building a Boat
- Can I build a boat?
With some patience and determination, just about anyone can build one of my boats. I built my first boat (a 3-point hydroplane) at the age of 14, with few tools and virtually no assistance. The result was not especially impressive, except that it got built. Boats are made of curves and odd angles, which are inherently more difficult to produce than straight lines and right angles. But not as difficult as you might think. Boats go together very logically, each step building on the previous steps. It takes patience and attention to detail, but anyone determined to build a boat can get it done.
If you are unsure of your boatbuilding skills, I recommend the Dillon Mini Vee. It is a relatively simple boat, and a good place to get started in boatbuilding. Or, if you prefer a tunnelboat, the Dillon EZ Tunnel has been specifically designed for the first-time builder.
- How much does it cost to build a Dillon boat?
Generally speaking, 7-8 sheets of plywood, a gallon of epoxy, and a gallon of pour foam flotation will account for two-thirds of the cost of a bare hull. Double the bare hull cost and you have a rough estimate of the completed boat, minus motor and trailer.
In the U.S. market, I can build a Mini Vee bare hull from exterior plywood for under $400, or for about $700 from okoume marine plywood. Another $400 for steering, controls, battery, etc.
- What plywood should I use?
Okoume marine plywood is an excellent material, available in a variety of thicknesses. You can hardly go wrong building your boat with okoume. Some boatbuilders would never build with anything less. But it is expensive, and for most of us, not available nearby.
Exterior grade plywoods, on the other hand, have some draw-backs, but they are inexpensive and are available at your local lumberyard or home improvement store. Voids in the inner plys are the biggest potential problem, which can lead to immediate failure where it is sharply bent, or eventual failure under stress during boat operation. You may also find a lack of choice in thicknesses available -- I can't get anthing thinner than 5mm at my local lumberyard, and I like to use 3mm plywood for the decks of my tunnelboats.
I have built several Mini Vees, all exclusively with exterior grade plywood and with very good results. Although one of these boat did experience bottom failure on one occasion, I have seen (and experienced) similar failures in boats built with okoume.
I also built the original EZ Tunnel and Laker 14 with 5mm exterior grade luan plywood with no construction problems, and so far no troubles on the water.
- What lumber should I use?
When you need to balance light weight with good strength, the standard, at least in North America, is sitka spruce. If minimizing the weight of your boat is the most important consideration, and you intend to shave down the recommended sizes of the parts of your boat in search of weight savings, then perhaps sitka spruce is a good choice, but be prepared to pay dearly.
Two woods that I always have on hand (I build furniture for a living) are white pine and yellow poplar. White pine is a bit lighter than spruce, and nearly as strong. It has worked very well for me for stringers and for the cross-beams used in tunnel boats. Pine also works well for the various glue blocks and cleats that are used to bond bulkheads to the plywood sheathing.
Yellow poplar is heavier, but harder. I've used it for the rubrails on both v-bottoms and tunnelboats.
Further reading: Sitka Spruce Alternatives; Aircraft Woods: Their Properties, Selection, and Characteristics
- Where do I get the wood to build a boat?
Start by checking your local home improvement center or lumberyard. If you can't find what you want there, then search the internet for "boatbuilding lumber" or "sitka spruce" or whatever you are seeking.
- What tools do I need?
For my first boat (when I was 14-years-old) I had an electric drill for boring holes, and a screwdriver to drive screws. I had an electric jig-saw for cutting plywood, but also used it to rip stringers out of 3/4" spruce boards. And I had a plane, with a questionable cutting edge, to bevel the framework. I used a hammer as well. And sandpaper and a few tiny c-clamps.
Today I would say a reasonable minimum set of tools would include a jig-saw for cutting plywood; a circular saw for ripping stringers from lumber; a variable speed, reversable drill for boring holes and driving screws; a plane, 6" to 9" long for beveling.
Plus clamps. C-clamps and/or spring clamps. You will definitely want a dozen or so, and you can't have too many. I've accumulated about 100 spring clamps, most of them the plastic kind, which are fairly inexpensive, and now and then one of them breaks.
Fiberglass over plywood is best thought of as a finish rather than a building material. If you want a thick, hard, durable finish for your boat (to leave it in the water for long periods, for instance) then fiberglass is a good choice. But if your goal is to make your boat stronger, then thicker plywood is a better choice. Pound for pound, plywood is stronger than fiberglass.
Racing boats, which spend a minimum amount of time in the water, have no need whatsoever for fiberglass.
If you do fiberglass your boat, use epoxy resin. The experts will tell you that polyester resin (the stuff used to make most molded fiberglass boats) has no place on a wooden boat.
- What finish should I use?
I like to finish the bottom of my boats with clear epoxy resin, about three coats. It provides a strong, sandable finish. Spar varnish, and even polyurethane, also can be good choices, as long as your boat will not spend long periods in the water. These varnishes can also be damaged by sitting on wet, carpet-covered bunks on a trailer.
I paint the sides and deck of my boats with oil-based, polyurethane paint. A marine grade paint like Interlux Brightside is an excellent choice, but a bit expensive. I've had good luck as well with oil-based paints found at the typical paint or hardware store. Rustoleum works very well, as do store-brand equivalents. Also polyurethane paints intended for floors and (house) decks.
Setup and Driving
- Are these boats safe for the non-racer?
There is nothing difficult or dangerous about these boats as long as you don't exceed the recommended horsepower/motor-weight limits.
- What hardware will I need?
For racing we are required to install steering, a foot-operated throttle, gear shifter and emergency kill switch with clip-on lanyard.
A foot throttle is an excellent idea for the non-racing boat as well. It allows the driver to keep two hands on the steering wheel at all times, and it will return to idle speed as soon as it is released.
An emergency kill switch is also recommended for all drivers.
- Where do I get the hardware for my boat?
Some hardware you can make yourself. Other parts will have to be purchased. Search the internet for marine and racing gear dealers, or shop sites like Ebay for both new and used equipment.
You will find suggestions for both purchasing or fabricating hardware in the Construcion Notes that go with the plans I offer. See also: Links to Boatbuilding Supplies.
- What motors do you recommend for these boats?
Motor recommendations are included with the descriptions of the designs I offer. Generally, the smaller boats were designed for the 31.8 cu. in. Johnson/Evinrude 25hp-35hp outboard motors; the Sport C was designed for the 2-cylinder, 40hp Nissan/Tohatsu motor; the Laker series boats are meant to take advantage of larger motors in the 40hp to 80 hp range.
Horsepower is not the only consideration; motor weight is also an issue, especially as many modern motor are heavier than their older counterparts. See the description of the design(s) you are considering to see what has been recommended in terms of both hp and weight.
See also: Questions From Builders and Prospective Builders
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