This site includes our most popular "do-it-yourself" projects from the last 35 years, all the way back to some of our first boats published in Popular Science magazine in 1979, and we're adding new projects as they publish. Aside from our work in the boating press we've published in Family Handyman, Workbench, Mechanix Illustrated and others.
Harley, Chief of Security and Cultural Advisor
I was a contributing editor to the old original Small Boat Journal—may it rest in peace--and we've published over 200 project articles, three boating books for International Marine and Rodale Press, and in the process we've designed and built well over 100 small boats for publication and clients. We designed and built projects for the American Plywood Association for over 10 years and worked for Outdoor Life magazine for 25 years doing boats and outdoor related projects for amateur builders. I was fortunate enough to serve a 4 year traditional wood boatbuilding apprenticeship building plank on frame workboats and yachts and along the way I worked at various shipyards with a number of talented European shipwrights doing repair and new construction. Concurrently I served a hitch in the Marines, then a hitch in the Peace Corps establishing a vocational boatbuilding school and I studied with Westlawn School of Yacht Design for a few years and just long enough to realize I belonged out in the shop instead of a design office.
We have designs on the website from traditional classics designed to be built in ply/epoxy, to non-traditional and crossover designs, and all our more recent building plans are detailed with sketches, photos, material sources, step-by-step, builder's tips and discussion of options. The Maxi-Mac boat plans for example include over 40 pages in a spiral bound shop manual format which covers phases of construction in a step-by-step process. Hundreds of versions of the Max boat have been built and as seen in builders photos most are quite different. Plans are written with first-time builders in mind and we encourage customizing to suit intended usage. Boats are highly personal items and customizing is encouraged—so long as safety is uppermost. These are after all, small, simple fun boats, most can be easily cartopped, and a builder can choose from many options.
We have applied boat building materials to a variety of projects including hot tubs, saunas, furniture, heirloom toys, campers, cabins and houses. The availability of new materials could result in more predictable and long-lasting strength and weight characteristics and we could build projects that would perform better, look better and require much reduced maintenance over the long term. We built some of the first large sailboats and multihulls using these techniques, and some of the first lightweight ply/epoxy white-water dories built for commercial use in the Grand Canyon. With the evolution of my design philosophy I find myself most fascinated with small lightweight boats and activities like small-stream exploring and river floating, camp-cruising and open water rowing. Considering all the boats we've built from 34 foot sailboats down, the smaller designs have been by far the most enjoyable. They've also been the most fun to build, the least expensive, the most carefree and rewarding in every way.