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Plywood boats are commonly built by two methods, conventional and Stitch and Glue. Conventional plywood boatbuilding has been used since plywood became practical for boat use. It’s a modification of the methods used for the old conventional planked boats that seem to last forever.

Although most think Stitch and Glue is new, it has been around quite some time. Its popularity, however, really took hold when marine epoxies were developed. Both conventional and Stitch and Glue building methods are reviewed under the listings Boatbuilding Methods on the GLEN-L website.

What’s the best method? It depends on the type of boat, not all boats are practical for Stitch and Glue (S&G) construction. This method is impractical for hulls designed for cold-mold or diagonal plywood strips. Our plans utilize S&G methods for many small boats using sheet plywood.

The contours of the planking are given, so you don’t need to determine the shape from marking it out from a framed boat as would be required for conventional plywood boat building. Stitch & Glue eliminates fairing, a task that most builders find confusing, though, after a little experience it isn’t really much of a problem.

S&G is popular with first time builders as a boat is formed very quickly after the parts are cut out. This boosts confidence and stimulates the itch to do more. Some don’t like the fact that applying the epoxies and taping seams is a smelly, messy project; and epoxies can be toxic for some. Although epoxies are currently used on S&G and conventional plywood boatbuilding glue bonding, it’s not as extensive as the glue, fillets, and fiberglass reinforcements of S&G boats.

Cost to build is predominate in most builders minds. At first glance, S&G seems to be more expensive and it possibly is, by a little. Many check the GLEN-L “Stitch and Glue Kits”, see the price and blanche. But such a kit provides the fastenings and bolts, the “FASTENING KIT” used on conventional construction plus any bolts required. Also included is epoxy to use as a coating, with or without additives (furnished) for gluing or forming fillets; you can even make fillers for patching screw holes or other minor imperfections. Fiberglass laminates to bond the seams, and copper wire to “stitch” the seams together, even a few tools for application  are included. S&G eliminates much of the solid wood, frames and longitudinals typical of conventional methods. Even the stem, the long curved wooden section at the bow, is eliminated in most GLEN-L S&G plans. Subtract the items not needed in S&G and the costs to build come quite close.

It is possible to take shortcuts on conventionally built boats that are not desirable for S&G methods. Glues can be substituted for epoxy and encapsulation can be eliminated. Cheaper fasteners used and fiberglassing eliminated or polyester resin used. On smaller “throw away” boats, this may be satisfactory but in the long run comparing the two methods on equal terms is the only fair way.

Durability? Either conventional or Stitch and Glue methods have excellent life, particularly when epoxy encapsulated. Dry rot will always be a problem if rainwater collects in the bilge. Epoxy inhibits this but over a period of time under soggy conditions the wood can rot. Obviously, keep the bilge dry and most of the possible problems are eliminated.

So, will you build your boat using conventional plywood or Stitch & Glue? Or, perhaps cold-molded, strip planked, fiberglass, aluminum or steel? Boat plans for all these methods are available in Glen-L’s online Catalog.

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Your Thoughts?

2 Responses to Stitch and Glue or Conventional Plywood Construction?

  1. Chris says:

    One of the better short articles about these two building method. I also appreciated the comments about encapsulation not being a total answer.
    It is nice to see an article being able to identify a boat as a throw away. Smaller boats are easy to build and can be done very cheaply if they are not built like a bank vault!
    It is nice to see this validated by someone that understands boats! 🙂
    Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to have a extremely long lifed boat, but some boats are just for fun and not meant to live forever.
    When I raced hydroplanes, they seldom lived for more than a season, two at most. Then on to the next one.

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