Introduction: Barton Skiff...

About: I was born in Los Angeles on August 8, 1928. Like most youngsters, he had a favourite playground: it happened to be the old Warner Bros. Studio on Sunset Boulevard where my uncial worked as a production mana…

Barton skiff...

15ft 4in, by 4ft 8in, by 650lbs
displacement outboard skiff

This boat has
been designed by an amateur with no qualifications in boat design or
boatbuilding and should be regarded as experimental. The designer accepts no
liability for any loss or accident that may result from following these
instructions or their attendant plans or from any loss or accident that may
follow from using this boat.

Design points

This little
outboard skiff is designed to get a lot out of a small motor; it's not meant to
plane but to be semi-planing – so should allow a knot or two more than its
length would allow were it a pure displacement boat. It should be not be used
with an outboard much above 5hp, and in fact the well aft will not accommodate
outboard engines much bigger than this, and is not intended for rough water.
It's not a dory and not a vee bottom, so please don't treat it as if it were!
In any case, far too many accidents take place because outboards of the wrong
size have been used, and far too many of these are fatal.

Construction points

The Barton skiff is intended to be built
using the stitch and glue method, but with cleats supporting the decks and
seats, with a 'box girder' along the central line of the boat that is intended
to ensure the bottom of the boat takes up the correct profile.

The panels needed
to cover the 'girder' between the seats have not been included on the ply
panels; these can easily be made up without drawings and I would recommend that
they be made removable so that the area beneath can be cleared and cleaned out
from time to time.

The areas
underneath should drain conveniently through holes marked on the ply panels,
and all other enclosed areas should have at least two drain plugs, or better a
drain plug and a rotating opening, both for storing gear and equipment that
needs to be kept dry and to ensure a good flow of air when the boat is not in
use. That means they must be removed to allow the air to circulate!

As always, it's
best to build a model first. When marking out, if you find an odd dimension,
don't cut anything – ask me first, as there's always a risk that there will be
an error here and there.

I don't to create
a parts schedule at the present time, as I don't think it would be particularly
helpful because everyone seems to use very different quantities of everything,
perhaps especially epoxy.

Readers may with
to read my book Ultrasimple Boatbuilding published by International Marine and
available from high street and online bookstores.

Before going any
further, it's important to check the size of the plywood available to you, as
it comes in different sizes in different countries around the world. A sheet of
ply in the UK and the USA is likely to be 4ft (1220mm) wide, and 8ft (2440mm)
or a little more in length, and this is the size these plans are made for.
However, in the rest of the world including Australia, New Zealand and
continental Europe ply sizes can vary considerably.

I'd like also to
emphasise the importance of model-making. I'd ask you to please make a model
first as it will show how the boat will look but perhaps more importantly how
each component part goes together and contributes it's pennyworth towards
creating a usable boat with a rigid structure.

The system of
coordinates I use to define the shapes of the panels on the 4 by 8ft plywood
panels is the aspect of the plans most likely to cause concern in the minds of
boatbuilders. This is because the approach seems unfamiliar, but in fact the
technique is straightforward – and is the same as the one most of us used to
draw graphs when we were at school - though I'd argue that building a boat is a
darn sight more fun than maths lessons.

Each pair of
coordinates describes a particular point on a plywood sheet. The first number
(the X-coordinate) in each pair of coordinates is a measurement along the
bottom of the sheet, while the second in the pair (the Y coordinate) is a
measurement up from the bottom - that is along a line that is a right angle (or
90 degrees) from our point along the bottom.

Before plotting
each of these coordinates one by one, I find it best to square off the material
into twelve-inch squares, as it's so much easier to plot from your squaring off
than it is to mark out each measurement from the panel edge, but also because
it helps to show whether you material is really 8ft long.

Ply is frequently
a little longer than it's supposed to be, and if you don't remove the extra
before starting to build the boat, you could be in trouble, with some
components longer than others.

For squaring off
ply, I often like to use a drywall square, but a tape measure and the side and
edge of another sheet of plywood will do the job perfectly well, if slightly
less conveniently.

Once the lines
have been drawn, you need to draw your cutting lines. I do this by first
finding a flexible batten to help re-create create the curves, and I've found
that perhaps the best thing to use is an 8ft plastic moulding of the kind one
can buy in any do-it-yourself story.

To make the
curves, drive small nails into the material at each of the plotted points, lay
the batten along the nails, using weights to hold it up to the nails. When the
batten is in place and reasonably secure, draw along the length of the cutting
line using a soft carpenter's pencil. After a few hours of plotting and
drawing, you should be able to see that the lines on your ply correspond to
those on my plans.

I'd like to offer
a final word of warning on marking out. There are a lot of coordinates to plot
here, and that means there are a lot of opportunities to make mistakes, both
for the builder and for the designer. If when you have plotted the points and
drawn the lines there are any that don't look right, check them, and check them
again. Remember the old carpenter's advice that one should measure two or three
times before cutting once. If after all this checking you're in doubt and feel I
may have made an error please contact me at - I don't want
you to risk wasting material unnecessarily because of a mistake I have made.

The next job is
to cut the material out, and to build the boat using the stitch and glue boatbuilding
method, otherwise known as tack and tape construction.

Anyone who has
used this method before will see immediately how it will work with this design,
but if any of you reading this haven't worked this way before I won't explain
it here but I would recommend reading it up at almost any epoxy supplier's
website. One example is the UK Epoxy website:

I'd make only
four general construction points.

First, these drawings have been created with the intention that the fore
and aft sections of the bottom and sides should be joined by epoxy tape on
either side of the join, rather than using butt blocks or a scarf. I often
prefer this method for several reasons: it's easy and unlike using butt blocks,
I don't afterwards have to cut the thickness of the butt block from any frames
they happen to coincide with. If you do build this boat using butt blocks,
you'll no doubt have to cut some material from the central frames to make up.

Second, I have drawn a plywood solid timber reinforcement for the bows of
this lightweight boat. This may need to be trimmed a little so that the
components can be stitched together snugly.
I would then reinforce the inside of the bows on each side with several thick
layers of epoxy and tape.

On the outside I'd
suggest applying two single layers of wide tape so that each lap over the sharp
edge of the bows and each other, and finally I'd apply another length of tape
along the centre line, covering the lapped area you just created.

Third, once the sides are bent around the frames, you'll find that the
sides become slightly curved where they meet the frames, and that there will be
a small gap between the frame and the side-plank. That's only to be expected
from the geometry of the side planks. All you have to do is to make sure this
gap gets well filled with epoxy and covered over with tape in the usual way.
The joint will be as strong or stronger than a similar joint with no small gap.

Fourth, it's clearly impossible to make stitch and glue fillets inside a
closed box. Instead, the seats must be supported by cleats – pieces of wood of
say 1 by 1in running across the frames from one side of the boat to the other.
Standard epoxy fillets should be used where the seats meet the sides of the

There are a
several special construction features of this boat that require a little

Gunwales I'm very much in favour of gapped inwales
- they make a boat very rigid, and they look good. For this boat I'd make them
from 2in wide material by doubled ½ in material, with 1in blocks. You'll find
that the frames I've drawn will leave a hard corner that you will want to round
off. If you go for the gapped inwales, you'll need to work out your gaps so
that they coincide with the ply frames. However, for many people they're no
doubt a complication too far and heavier gunwales will be preferable. If you go
for the heavy gunwale option, I'd suggest laminating two lengths of 1 by 2in
material to make a gunwale that's close to two inches wide, with the outer layer
made from some kind of suitable hardwood.

Doubled outboard frame stern This has to be strong and I'd prefer to
double this part of the boat, particularly if there is any chance that it might
be used with even a small outboard.

If you do have
any questions, please contact me at