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Boatbuilding with ONE sheet of Plywood

Designers and tinkerers have had a great deal of fun designing minimalist boats. In particular many boats for children have been built this way.

Surprisingly elegant and ingenious crafts have been built using only one sheet of plywood. Depending on where you live in the world there are several standard sizes for plywood. In this case we mostly refer to the 4 feet x 8 feet sheets.

Often the boats are put together using The Stitch and Glue Boatbuilding method. It is also common to use the chine log variation. In this case the plywood, often 1/4 inch, is cut and a board is attached to the edge to allow another piece to be glued or screwed on. In this case it is not necessary to make fillets or add fiberglass tape to the edges. The chine logs provide extra stiffness and strength.

Gavin Atkin's Mouse Boats

mouseboat one sheet boat

No discussion of minimalist boating can be complete without including Gavin Atkins's wildly popular mouse boat. Free Plans from Duckworks for the Mouse Boat I printed the plans on card and made the model above.

Simplicity Boats

The One Sheet Challenge, lots of designs and ideas and plans.Link to lots of info and various experiments Many experimental designs for minimalist boats.

There is a Yahoo group dedicated to Mouse Boats and variations. People often add a deck and flotation chambers which take more than one sheet, but it can be succesfully built using only one sheet of quarter inch plywood.

In his book Ultrasimple Boatbuilding Gavin Atkin describes the simple building methods used and offers several variations of the original mouse boat.

Ken Simpson's one sheet boat

Ken Simpson has a number of minimalist designs

This is his 1+ Sheet boat. Not only is it made from one sheet plus an additional 2x4 piece for transom, flotation chamber and bulkheads, but it comes apart for easy storage and transport. Youtube Video of 1+Sheet.

Hannu's Boatyard has many free boat plans
for one sheet boats

Hannu is a prolific and interesting boat designer. He has devised many minimalist boats.

I have great admiration for this sort of exploration. It pushes the envelope of what can be done and helps us understand what goes into making a boat stable, easy to move and enjoyable to use. It's like model making human scale.

The reality is that you can buy a second hand boat on Kijiji or Graig's list often for less money than you can build one, certainly cheaper if you count the labour, but where is the delight and pleasure in this.

one sheet plywood boat, the half-peaone sheet plywood boat, the half-pea

The "Half Pea"

As far as I know he has designed the shortest non-folding boat yet. At 4 feet by 4 feet his Half Pea can barely fit in a passenger! Not only does it float with respectable stability BUT it can be rowed. There is not a lot of space for your legs though! On his website he has a link to a small video where he shows his half pea being rowed and another one rocking in the water.

More one-Sheet Boats by Hannu

one sheet plywood boats

Check out his One Sheet Boat Plan page. He has a one sheet sampan, an 18 ft one sheet canoe, a punt and more!

one and a half sheet portuguese dory

Portuguese style Boat

Also very interesting are Hannu's Portuguese dinghies. They are 1.5 sheet boats.

Spend a happy hour checking out his website. Thank you for permission to use his photos.

one sheet wonder boats group

Yahoo Group One Sheet Wonders

A great source of information for one sheet boatbuilding is the Yahoo Group One Sheet Wonders. You have to join but inside there is an active boatbuilding community with lots of free boatbuilding plans and photos. It is maintained and was started by Phillip McCracken who also has his own website on boatbuilding. There are many free plans and instructions on using less traditional materials as a simpler and cheaper alternative to epoxy.

jon boat One Sheet-Tubby boatjon boat

Not only are the boats tiny but several can be used with trolling motors. Click on the images to find the free plans.

Flo-Mo one Sheet boats

Flo-Mo has a spectacular one sheet canoe/rowboat. He offers free boatbuilding offsets on his website, for many boat plans. He also offers many plans for 2 and 3 sheet boats. He uses a stitch and glue method of boatbuilding except that he tapes rather than stitches. He also tacks his seams using Super Glues before using epoxy for the final gluing.

He links to the wooden boat forum thread on this boat.

On the left (or top on a small screen) is a flickr boatbuilding sequence slide show. It documents the meticulous boatbuilding technique used to create a lovely one sheet canoe.

Many one sheet boatbuilders have a goal of getting on the water as quickly and cheaply as possible. This is a different approach. Here the excellent design and careful building methods are not particularly fast but result in elegant minimalist crafts.

I've included more links on the left side box. Many designers have one sheet boats available and there are many free plans.

Building a One Sheet Boat out of Coroplast

Coroplast folding boat made from one sheet.

I built a model of the 1 sheet coroplast boat and am in the process of making the folding boat now. I have tried it on the water and posted a video on Youtube.

Previous boats on this page have been build out of plywood often using stitch and glue method of boatbuilding. This one is different. It is built out of one sheet of corrugated plastic

I built one using plans from Ken Simpson. He offers plans for it here

Ken Simpson is at the opposite end of the boatbuilding spectrum from Flo-Mo above. He design simple easily built boats. If you've never built a boat but would like something to get on the water quickly then he's your designer. He is not particularly interested in making boats of great beauty but his boats work.

Not only is the coroplast boat fast and easy to put together but it folds in a tidy lightweight package. It is a very interesting exploration of material.

Check out my coroplast boat page

for links to several different examples.

email me if you find mistakes, I'll fix them and we'll all benefit: Christine