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Modern Wooden Boat building skills

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Embark Disembark Vessel DurationVoyage No
Mon 29-01-2024, 08:30Boat Building Academy Lyme Regis Fri 02-02-2024, 17:30Boat Building Academy Lyme Regis The Boat Building Academy 4 NightsBBA290124

It’s Wood, Its Beautiful, but it ain’t Trad

Learn the skills for constructing wooden boats with fast modern techniques. In a nutshell, this the course to learn the skills for glued clinker, strip planking and stitch & glue boat building. There will also be a foundation in scarfing and lamination of timber components. Understand the theory of modern methods for setting up building moulds, backbone arrangements and lining off planks.

If this is gobbleygook and you just like the look of a finished wooden boat, then read the voyage description to understand the difference between modern and traditional wooden boat building. Good quality timber is expensive and sometimes environmentally dubious to import, but creating your own ‘solid’ timber with laminations of wood and glue is an extremely versatile option. A glued clinker boat looks gorgeous and once painted, most admirers would not even miss the copper roves. Creating a mould with strip planking to cover in a skin of modern materials can create very tough and light craft.

If you have ever been tempted to build a boat or canoe yourself from a kit or design drawings you can buy, then chances are the techniques will involve construction methods that embrace glue, epoxy, affordable wood strips you can laminate and bend into shapes you want, or pre cut plywood you can stitch together quickly and then add waterproofing layers.

Gain insight and practical experience of the construction of small boats. The majority of 11-20ft boats being built at the Boat Building Academy by the 40 week students are constructed using modern wooden boat building skills. If you would love to do the 40 week course but can only afford a 5 day course, then this taster is probably the one that ticks all the right boxes.

The skills are valid at any scale, whether you want to build a 35ft yacht or motor launch or a lightweight Greenland canoe or row boat.

If you haven’t done the setting up course, then don’t worry as setting up your building jig and connecting the stem, keel and sternpost is covered too.

Lyme Regis also do short 5 day courses in traditional wooden boatbuilding if you are more interested in constructing boats the old way with nails and rivets, caulking and carving and shaping solid wood with planes, chisels and spokeshaves.

This course is taught ashore at the Boat Building Academy, Lyme Regis. The college is right on the waterfront at Monmouth Beach, yards from the sea and the famous Cobb Harbour, immortalised in the film ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’. The college building has a real buzz to it with career students from all over the world on longer courses in professional boat building or furniture making.

You might like to combine this course with another and save 5% on course fees. See the voyage description for combination suggestions.

There is no upper age limit or skill requirement to join a short course or the longer courses. Accommodation is not included but plenty of options locally.

  • Voyage
  • Vessel

Ideal Course for:

Boat builders in a hurry, who want to learn boat building techniques that create a hull shape fast. Beginners who want to gain confidence to build their own boat. Anyone who wants to see how modern materials can be applied to timeless boat design shapes , or perhaps a gift for a friend or a treat for yourself.

Course Content

  • lead by a boat building tutor
  • small group teaching
  • workshop tours – see boat building in action
  • How to create a boat with panels by stitch and glue
  • laminating components like a boat stem or knee
  • scarfing planks
  • creating a hull shape with strip planking
  • clinker planking with glue rather than rivets

The Boat Building Academy

Vessel type / Rig Educational Establishment
Guest Berths 18
Beam Workshops
Draft Two Story
Deck Length Shorter
Overall Length Long
Year Built 1997
More about the Vessel

Voyage Description



Skills for Modern Wooden Boat Building 

Gain practical experience in modern wooden boat building in 5 days. So what are modern wooden boat building skills and what sort of boat do they create?

Firstly there are several approaches, and all can create stunning looking boats. 

Stitch & Glue Boats

If you have a boat or canoe hull shape that can be created from a small number of pre cut panels then you can build a boat really quickly with limited tools. It particularly suits flat bottomed speed boats or hulls with hard chines. On the 40 week long course building a pram dinghy using stitch and glue techniques is one of the first practical challenges the new group tackles. There are no building moulds and the panel shapes have been pre determined so that you can simply wire them together and a 3 dimensional shape emerges. Small filets of thickened epoxy create a more permanent bond and the wires can be removed. The interior seams are waterproofed with glass fibre strips to span the fillets. 

It is not easy to design your own boat and get the panels right, but there are many boat build kits you can buy and build in this way. Typically the hull is sheaved with glass cloth and epoxy resin. Later layers use a mix of glass spheres and resin so it is easier to sand the hull. Learn about spray rails for planing speed boats and the basics of fitting out your stitch and glue vessel with gunwhales, knees, thwart seats, bouyancy tanks. when your instructor discusses the sort of boats that can be made with this technique, he or she can show you slides of some attractive vessels that have been made at the College in this way. e.g. Fast runabout sports boats with plywood decks with hardwood decking on top or varnished veneers.

Cold Molded Boats & Strip planking

Debbie from Classic Sailing was on the long boat building course in 2020 and one of the students commissioned a 21ft motor launch which was strip planked /cold moulded using yellow cedar strips. Firstly the building moulds were set up over a ladder frame. The hull was to be constructed of glue together cedar strips, and then sheaved in GRP.  Another type of cold molded boat is to create the shape over the molds with wooden battens for structural strength and shape, and then lay wide strips of timber veneer diagonally accross the hull with staples for the skin.

Hopefully of the short course you will be able to have a go at laying the veneers and stapling them, or at least see some cold molded boats being built around the workshop. The final layer of wood veneer can be sealed with modern coatings like Awlgrip Awl-wood primer and topcoats that look like varnish.

Glued clinker construction skills

A wooden clinker constructed boat is a very desirable thing and has surprising structural strength and watertight integrity when new and well built, considering that planks overlap. Traditionally built clinker boats require a multitude of skills, culminating in a hull that looks similar to a Viking ship with copper nails and roves (domed washers) that clinch the planks together.

Small boats constructed this way are best kept in the water so the planks don’t dry out, which does not lend itself well to trailer sailing, where the boat gets taken home after sailing. Modern glued clinker boats are equally fascinating to build and look very similar to traditional clinker once painted. Their big advantages are cost and availability of timber.  With planking created from stable woods like marine ply, fastened with glue and sealed with 2 part paint they can be a more viable option to keep ashore.

You can still fit them out with solid timber seats, tillers and solid wood transoms.

You learn scarfing as the plank shape is often like a banana and it is more efficient use of timber stock to cut and join 2 pieces of timber for one plank run. Being able to plane a bevel angle on the side of a plank is important too.

Lining out the planking is where you decide on how many planks each side and how to make then look fair. Very important for clinker and lots of tricks to learn.

Even if you don’t get to do everything in the 5 days there are usually plenty of on going projects to go and look at on the ground floor where the long 40 week course students are building several boats.

The Boat Building Academy is located on Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis so you are a stones throw from a beach full of fossils, spectacular Jurassic Coast cliffs and the famous Cobb Harbour. The college building has a real buzz to it. There are students there from all over the world. The majority are living on site and on a 40 week professional boat building course or 12 week furniture making course. They may have started their career change path on a short course at the college, just like you.

You might like to combine this course with another and save 5% on course fees. See the voyage description for combination suggestions.

There is no upper age limit or skill requirement to join a short course or the longer courses. Accommodation is not included but plenty of options locally.

The College by the Sea

The Boat Building Academy is located on Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis so you are a stones throw from a beach full of fossils, spectacular Jurassic Coast cliffs and the famous Cobb Harbour. The college building has a real buzz to it. There are students there from all over the world on a 40 week professional boat building course or 12 week furniture making course. They may have started their career change path on a short course at the college, just like you.

Boat Building Academy Launch Lyme Regis photographer 2021

Book 2 courses & Save 5% – Our Combo suggestion

You might like to combine this course with another and save 5% on course fees. See the voyage description for combination suggestions.

Modern Wooden Boat building – 5 day short course

This is still working with wood, but using more modern approaches that are generally cheaper and easier to build. Learn how to make timber with the right curve for a stem or knee by laminating it. Try stitch and glue techniques similar to kit boat builds. try glued clinker, strip planking and cold molding techniques.


Where Can I Stay?

Accommodation is not included but plenty of options locally. The College can send you a list of possible B&B, lodgings, camping, or hotels.

The BBA building is at the quieter end of the beachfront, but only 5 minutes walk to the East lies the harbour with cafes, pubs and waterside restaurants. Walk further along the promenade and there is a park with great sea views to enjoy a picnic and the main high street and food shops behind.

The main beaches are sandy and great for an evening swim to wash the sawdust away.

Debbie’s View: Why this Short Course is Awesome

Co-founder of Classic Sailing Debbie Purser spent 40 weeks at the Boat Building Academy in 2020-21 and built a 16ft spritsail yawl called ‘Wild Boy.’ She knows the tutors and has an inisders view. In a nutshell, this is why Debbie thinks this course is awesome:

“A heap of challenging techniques in 5 days. It sounds like boat building. You can smell the wood. You have to cut it, shape it, bend it and fasten it…..and make it into a waterproof boat without glue. “


Start & End Port

Boat Building Academy Lyme Regis


‘I am a boat builder’.

When I heard about the BBA – only a few miles along the coast from Weymouth, I had to investigate.  To be honest, when I visited, it all seemed wonderful, but so far from anything I’d ever done before that I didn’t know if it would be the right place for me, but then some friends offered to lend me half the fees, and I just couldn’t refuse their generosity.

Before the BBA, I’d never used a jigsaw, nor a plane or chisel, and I have almost no memory of woodworking class at school, however the instructors were so helpful and clear in their instruction that I quickly picked up the basic skills. Then came lofting, and my ever migraine, but it was still an amazing experience! I had been sailing off the West coast of Scotland before going to the BBA, and had fallen in love with the old wooden boats I’d seen, and wanted to work on something traditional, so it was great to be able to participate in the build of a 17′ 8″ clinker Pilchard Larker; an open working boat….

I feel very lucky to have been able to attend a school like the BBA, and then to go on and be employed by two of the world’s top luxury boat builders, without having any other previous experience in the industry.  The BBA gave me a mass of skills (many of which I had never heard of before); a love of making things, and a career and a direction for my life.  I may not be living on a boat yet, but when people ask me what I do, I can now confidently say; ‘I am a boat builder’.

After the course Ben worked for Spirit Yachts and Sunseeker.

For me, attending the BBA was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The pace is massively intense and the teaching is very no nonsense with a commercial focus but it is up to each student to put as much in as they want to take away.  I put in a massive amount and graduated with so much from a beautiful boat to a life changing career and some great friends.  It is also great to still have a link with the BBA when I return to carry out our epoxy talks and see what other students are building with our products.

The full boat building course was an amazing experience, it challenged me both mentally and physically. When I began the course I had absolutely no wood working skills and by the end of the nine months at the BBA I was able to confidently work with wood and was the proud builder/owner of a 13′ larch on oak clinker rowing punt.

The course provided me with a range of practical skills that has enabled me to gain a foothold in the wooden boatbuilding industry and latterly has enabled me to be offered a three year funded PhD researching the Shetland Boat: its history; folklore and construction.

I left the BBA in December 2008 and I have been impressed by the continued encouragement and support the team have provided me.  When in Lyme Regis I always enjoy popping-in for a welcoming chat and a cup of tea.”  Marc’s boat ‘Defiant’ was centrepiece of the ‘Boats that Built Britain’ exhibition at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich that accompanied the BBC series of the same name.

Information of Marc’s NMM exhibition appearance can be found on the National Maritime Museum website.  Read his PHD blog here

The 10 month course really appealed to me as I didn’t want to spend several years at college not earning.  I wanted to be exposed to new tasks quickly and pick up the skills then move on to the next job.  Sometimes in education you feel that the tutors are talking for the sake of talking.  I never got that feeling at the BBA.  They are all like minded people who have had to get things done as quickly and as easily as possible in the real world and want you to be able to do the same. 

The second half of the course is mostly building boats from scratch. Whilst doing this you are learning all the time, even if you don’t realise it.  You can be sanding for 5 hours but you have learned not to put so much filler on next time!  Your personal progression is clear from the quality and speed at which you complete jobs as the course moves on.  First time it might take a whole day, second time you might be finished by lunchtime and you wonder what took you so long before.  Before you know it you are tackling something you would never have dreamed of doing and it turns out really well.  Being immersed in the whole boat building environment and just walking around the workshop is a valuable experience each day.  You can see how others have approached similar tasks and benefit from their mistakes and vice versa.

Your college has set the benchmark for the future of training craftsmen, which has long been the biggest worry of traditional boat builders and repairers. You  deserve to go from strength to strength, and I for one will recommend it to anyone looking for a career in our industry.

Tom Richardson, Owner of Elephant Boatyard, Hampshire

My visit to the Academy was truly inspirational. I found the energy and commitment of the staff to be second to none. Their dedication to their craft and the students, and their passion for excellence in design and technical skills, clearly explains the success rates that the Academy has, and the very high level of results achieved by the students. You truly are a centre for excellence in your field!

Chris Humphries, then Director General of City & Guilds

I attended a three day Clinker Boat Maintenance and Repair Course some years ago. The knowledge has proven extremely useful. The skills I am still working on !

Adam Purser, Director Classic Sailing

Vessel Gallery

The flagship 40 week Boat Building course teaches men and women how to build boats to industry standards.

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