Note to the reader

Please note that these pages are merely an insight into work I have done in the marine industry around the world. I have spent much of my life sailing and working in or running boat yards.

Many of the folks I have worked with and for, could write books on wood projects and and boat building techniques. Being either a laborer,  shop owner or subcontractor,  probably, the  first and most important factors when building with wood is your shop layout, the tools, machinery cutting blades and cleanliness. This generally helps in the organization of ones projects and staff management. 

From the moment I start a business the work has always poured in. This can be a bad thing as one tries to keep up with demand. It is hard to say no to a person whose boat is sinking or whose life long dream is to fix his dad's boat and go sailing with his family.

I am as comfortable taking direction from a client as I am from the owner of a company. When one is project focused the client,  the yard owner and boat itself are one and the same thing. The biggest differences between working for a company and owning your own company or operating as a subcontractor are the myriad of legal responsibilities and hours of book work involving accounting, taxes, legal compliance, insurance and employee related responsibilities.

Dillon Francis Oberholzer


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Bending and forming

Ash, Mahogany, Teak & Oak, and ply-woods or laminates of these are generally the materials we work with.

Although other exotic woods are available for different applications you will find that these make the major group.

I am a little embarrassed with the open, un-plugged screw heads but the owner did not want to go the extra mile and thought they might need to be tightened later.


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Mahogany - Teak - Ash

Buiding the jigs, bulkheads, plugs and tools (molds), are the first part of boat building. 

Regardless of the material you are using the forms around and upon which to fabricate the hull and deck are an integral part of the boat building process.

Deciding which layer to form first is really up to the individual boat builder and his-her fabrication shop, space or tool availability. 

I have constructed boats both from the outside in and the inside out, depending on where we have been with other projects.

I like to work my laminates directly over or into pre-made forms.

Post Cure . Post Cure . Post Cure !


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    Repairs Can Be Nasty

Seeing a small soft spot can be indicative of further cancer. You will only know when you start poking. 

A well built and vacuumed laminate (or saturated in earlier boats) should not lead to this kind of cancer.  

Here we router out the layers prior to replacing the bad wood.

I find that vacuum bagging as well as bronze nailing will hold the new layers of wood in place while the initial curing process takes place.

If you know what you are doing and have a portable vacuum bag system you can do these repairs pretty quickly.


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     Cold Molding techniques

There are as many different methods and techniques as there are roads in London.

As the available materials increase so production techniques are evolving.

Here we have foam which is then over-layered with Mahogany and teak skins. This process is faster and cleaner than standard GRP glassing / construction.

When this system is incorporated into normal GRP reinforcement layup for chain plates and bulkheads it can shave 15 to 20 % of the weight and construction time - costs for individual or short run hull  and deck construction.

I enjoyed this process and project, the vessel shows no sign of de-lamination after 15 years of hard sailing and winter storage.


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     Choosing your teak

  • Hmmm. Your supplier is is the key. Getting green wood is a nightmare for any wooden boat builder.

  • For that matter, different woods from different forests can also be a right royal pain. 

  • For the ultimate finish you really need to have a good supplier who can deliver. 

  • Looking at and evaluating the colour and grain prior to cutting is where the experienced craftsman is worth his weight in gold.

  • Bending, spacing, calking, clamping and waiting.

  • These are some of the tools we use.

  • Most prevalent is the waiting part!

  • Patience . Patience . Patience .

 

Note to the reader

As many of the folks I have worked with, we could all write book on wooden projects and building techniques. Being either a shop owner or subcontractor The most important factor when building with wood is your shop layout the tools, machinery cutting blades and cleanliness. This generally help in the organization of ones projects and staff management. 

I am as comfortable taking direction from a client a I am a boss. When one is project focused they are one and the same thing.The biggest difference are the myriad of responsibilities and hours of book work that comes with owning you own company or operating as a subcontractor. 

Dillon Francis Oberholzer


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     Confidence & Patience

  • Patience. Steaming with a heat-lamp and a spritzer does the job every time, Just have patience. 

  • This is why all boat yards and builders are working on ten projects at the same time. I like using the cheap and nasty little plastic clamps for this job as, if the pressure is too great, they tend to break before the wood does.

  • Laminating individual skins to form the shape desired is another way of achieving the form you desire. This can be done but takes a little longer and will require additional finishing. 


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     Fine woodwork

  • Fine wood work is always a pleasure, both to behold and to create.

  • Setting up you jigs and laying out your pattern prior to the your plank selection is always a good idea. Colour  and grain matching is the mark of good workmanship. 

  • It also always helps to have a sharp blade.


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     Fast and Fun

  • Keeping your "Pre-Preg" laminates relatively flexible is a super quick way of hull formation on smaller boats.
  • Obviously you need to have your stringers, bulkheads and ribs fastened and the frame work secured prior to skinning the laminates onto the form.
  • This hull skin took 5 hours to attach.
  • You can see there were some openings in the outer skin but as this was to be covered with carbon.... NO Worries!

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This is pretty straight forward work. If you ever have to do it don't be scared. 

Take a screw driver and start pushing into the wood. anything soft needs to be replaced. Once the boat is out of the water and you are replacing planks the work is cut out for you.

So, whether you are replacing one, two or ten planks 50 % of the work is already done and the money is already being spent. You may as well do a complete job and have the confidence that you wont need to look at it again for 30 years. 


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OWNING a Wooden Boat

Hmmm, this is where owning a wooden boat becomes interesting. 

Please remember that the fasteners are important, however, once the wood has been in place for 20 + years it has had time to settle . It is not going anywhere. Yes, in many boats I have worked on and owned, the phosphor bronze fasteners and nails have been eaten away by electrolysis. This stray electrical current is in every marina. You could have a legitimate claim against a marina if the readings from the water are way off the charts but most marina owners are a savvy bunch and cover themselves in the contract you sign when you lease your slip.

This is a 35 year old hull that has been kind of neglected but is not in bad condition. The ribs are soft and need replacing. For this project we decided to cut out part of the ribs and sister in new wood. 

 The boat was left for 6 months to dry over summer and the work was done over winter.



Personal Notes

My career in boat building has taken many a turn.

As a Boat Yard and marine service company owner, one has to cater to one's client's requirements and wishes whilst covering the costly overheads which can be a juggle at times.

As a marine professional, when dealing with boats you always have two clients; the boat owner and the boat itself.

Although you may make the client happy, your reputation is always on the line. The next owner of the boat, or the other boat owners in the marina in which the client's boat is birthed may look at the work you have done and give you a bad name if the work done is a little wild or "out there!"

Keeping within the lines of the boat is always a good idea. Traditional lines I enjoy following, even though much of my work has been in multi-hulls and modern styling,  incorporating composite materials. 

Above in the three buttons you have links to what I regard as the three main materials of construction available for clients's projects showing my experience in these areas.

I have worked in the fourth ..... CEMENT ! 


FOREWORD-Afterward

As many of the folks I have worked with, we could all write book on wooden projects and building techniques. Being either a shop owner or subcontractor The most important factor when building with wood is your shop layout the tools, machinery cutting blades and cleanliness. This generally help in the organization of ones projects and staff management. 

I am as comfortable taking direction from a client a I am a boss. When one is project focused they are one and the same thing.The biggest difference are the myriad of responsibilities and hours of book work that comes with owning you own company or operating as a subcontractor. 

Dillon Francis Oberholzer