Select Page

Traditional wooden boats have a plank on frame construction, a centuries old boat building method that is still in use today. Variations of the traditional method include carvel, clinker and strip planking, which all relate to the way the planking is attached to the frame.

The hull of a wooden boat usually has a keel and frame made from a hardwood such as oak, with planking made of softwood, such as pine or cedar.

Boat hull contstruction, Clinker hull, carvel hull

Clinker hulls

The construction method of clinker-built hulls, also known as lapstrake, has been used for hundreds of years. The bottom and sides of clinker-built hulls are made first, after which the ribs are fitted. Then the planks are fastened to each other through the overlap between one plank (also known as a strake) and the one running along beneath it. The strength of clinker-built hulls comes from their wide, thick planks.

construction wooden hull clinker

Carvel hulls

The frames of carvel-built hulls are put in place first and then the planks are fastened to the frames. The frames provide most of the strength of these boats and the planks are thinner than on clinker-built boats.

construction wooden hull carvel hull

Strip planking

Strip planking is a type of construction used for smaller, lighter boats where the edges of thin strips of planking are glued and fastened together, similar to the carvel method but needing no caulking between the planks.

wooden hull boat

Other wooden hull construction methods

More recently, since the mid-20th century, marine plywood has been used for hull construction. Marine ply is very durable and less prone to rot than ordinary plywood, offering high resistance to water and fungus, the causes of wet and dry rot. Plywood panels are either fixed to a frame, known as ply on frame construction, or alternatively the panels are edge glued together and reinforced with fibreglass, which is known as the stitch-and-glue method (as used by the popular Mirror dinghy). This method does not use a frame and is a little more straightforward to build.

Another modern type of wooden construction is cold moulding, which is similar to strip planking but uses several multiple layers of thin wood or veneers where layers of veneer are laid at criss-cross angles to one another, resulting in a strong, flexible and lightweight hull.

wooden hull

Boat covers

If you look around a boatyard one of the first things you might notice is that some boats have some serious covers over them while others don’t. Is that just excessive love and attention by some of the boat owners? Or is there more to it than that? If you were to look under many of those covers you would probably find that most of the boats are wooden. Covers prevent rain (fresh water) from penetrating the inside of the hull through deck leaks, which can lead to wet rot. Note that salt water is not such an issue as salt water prevents rot from developing, while rain water does the reverse.

Covers also prevent the sun from harming wood and they will make a big difference to a boat that is left ashore for several months.

wooden hull maintenance       wooden hull maintenance

Preventing a wooden hull from drying out

At the same time, allowing a wooden hull to dry out completely is not desirable as the timbers will shrink. It is important that wooden boats have just enough air circulating around them to ward off mould and mildew, but not so much that they dry out completely. The trick is to keep the boat’s moisture content constant, allowing enough moisture in to prevent it from drying out. That means taking the covers off from time to time when the sun is not too strong and there is a gentle breeze blowing, rather than a howling gale.

Keel maintenance and Repair – Part 2

If you have ever witnessed a boat colliding with a rock or other submerged obstacle you will know that there is an almighty thump and the whole boat shakes and judders. While such hard groundings seldom result in catastrophic keel failure, something has to give and even the sturdiest keels can easily be damaged by such an impact.

Galvanic and electrolytic corrosion

Galvanic corrosion is an electrochemical reaction between two or more different metals, in the presence of an electrolyte (note salt water is a good electrolyte).

Dag Pike’s Boat Survey

We're really pleased to be working with Dag Pike on some great new apps for iPhone & Android. Here'a a bit more about the first app: Dag Pike's...

Essential Knots: Reef knot

Essential Knots: Reef knot Use: Tying two ends of rope together, often used for tying up a bundle of loose sail around the boom. Step...

First aid at sea basics

At least one person on board should be trained in first aid and know how to administer the contents of the first aid kit, ensuring there are adequate supplies for the planned duration of the trip.

How to improve a yacht’s upwind performance

There are several ways to improve the upwind performance of a sailing yacht. Read on for some useful tips including headsail reefing, heavy weather jibs and motor sailing.

Boat Handling – anchoring

Anchoring your yacht or motorboat Anchoring is one of the most important boat handling skills. If you can set an anchor...

Seized fixings and fastenings

Maintaining a boat can be a rewarding experience but at times it can also be frustrating. A prime example of this is when you come across a seized fixing or fastening that refuses to budge. Read our tips on how to release and fix them:

Boatyard Health and Safety

Boat storage facilities are potentially hazardous environments and it is the responsibility of both boat owners and boatyards to ensure that the...

Boat decks and superstructure

The deck of a boat is constantly exposed to the elements and should be inspected on an annual basis. Particular attention needs to be given to the overall condition of deck fittings such as the stanchions, cleats and chainplates.

Sailing to windward – how to take advantage of wind shifts

For most sailors, sailing upwind is the most exhilarating point of sail as you tack your way to your destination. Sailing to windward is a bit like zig-zagging your way up a mountain road through a series of hairpin bends – great fun but also calling for concentration and hard work.

Essential Knots: Clove hitch

Essential Knots: Clove hitch Use: Tying a rope to posts, bollards, rings or a guardrail. Step 1. Make a turn around the object and lay...

Marine engine electrical system

The typical basic electrical system associated with a marine engine includes a dedicated engine starting battery, a starter motor, a charger in the form of an alternator, a solenoid and some engine sensors and instruments.

Points of Sailing

The course on which a boat is sailing can be described by its angle to the wind, not to be confused with its compass...

Distress flares – which flare, how & when to use?

How to use distress flares at sea Flares should be kept in a waterproof container in an easily accessible location such as a...

Essential Boat Safety Briefing

Skippers Responsibilities Skippers are obliged to give a safety briefing to the crew even if they are a regular crew. At...

Boat engine cooling systems

Some boat engine breakdowns are unavoidable but those caused by lack of maintenance or regular checks can be avoided. Failure to maintain an engine’s cooling system is a well known example of this, so it is well worth spending time checking over the cooling system both when the boat is ashore and afloat.

Fire prevention on boats

  Fire prevention on boats - common causes of fire: • Smoking below decks • Galley cookers • Build-up of butane or...

Wooden Hulls – Part 2

It is important to ensure the essential hull maintenance of a wooden boat is done, even if you are paying others to look after your boat for you. The priority is to prevent rot from taking hold. The protective layers of paint and varnish over wood are far more critical than on GRP boats, where the topsides are painted more for cosmetic reasons.

Understanding marine sealants & adhesives

Sealants, adhesives and adhesive sealantsThere is a bewildering variety of sealants, adhesives and even adhesive sealants available for...

Medical Emergency at Sea

How to deal with a medical emergency afloat   If you are planning a boating trip, it is important to have at least one...

Boat electrics inspection checklist

With the boat ashore, here are some recommendations for carrying out a boat owner electrics inspection. Safety is always paramount so remember to do the checks with the batteries off. Wearing a head torch helps, make notes as you go and only tackle a repair if you are 100% sure you know what you are doing:

Boat maintenance log

Keeping a boat maintenance log is an ideal way of reminding owners what needs to be done to a boat and when. Read on for some tips,...

Safe Skipper – crew management tips

Effective crew briefings are a vital part of the good on-board communication that helps everything to run smoothly on a sailing vessel at sea, whether it is cruising or racing.

Sail boat rig checks – Part 1

Sailing boat rigs need to be checked regularly to reduce the risk of rig failure at sea. In part one of Sail boat rig checks we run through a series of useful checks that owners and skippers can carry out.