building vs buying...

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by tugboat, Jul 14, 2013.

  1. tugboat

    tugboat Previous Member

    hey all... my back has been somewhat better as of late- but had x-rays done again and this time its two bare disks rubbing at L4 and L5. on top of that I have a bone spur in my spine. no wonder Im in agony.

    anyways- if you have the time to read this you'll notice im pro build vs buy.
    let me explain.

    I'm feeling pretty discouraged.

    I hate giving up my steel tug dream.

    but I'm struggling still with material choices. and designs.

    I have designs/plans I like but the problem is- what material- and

    should I build or buy?

    I'm tired of spinning my wheels. its been about 4 years now and I have gotten nowhere. other than one boat that was built over a couple summers ago.

    I actually just bought a half acre lot solely for the purposes of building a new vessel. after its done Ill throw a cabin on it and use it as a vacation lot.

    yep its been a long road on this. sooo.

    buying vs building-

    I'm now in a position where I might be able to buy a used boat in the next couple years.
    I disagree with those who say that buying is cheaper- I personally find its not. but I say that with one condition- if you don't care what boat you buy- yes its cheaper. But its also not going to be new-or one that resonates with you. or meets most of your requirements. if that stuff doesn't bother you-- buy!
    if its a bargain-it will need thousands in work anyway. And if you take a loan out- there's mega interest. and you get what you pay for. or maybe less than that even.

    surveys, repairs, new engines- engine overhauls, new props, tweaking specs, wheelhouses, redesigning layouts etc. etc. etc. replacing steel, or other repairs and the list goes on- when buying.

    this is why they are bargains in the first place.
    the only thing it does save you- is time.
    on top of that - the boats I've seen listed in my category of interest- are just plain fugly! This is why I wont buy a boat that is not the dream boat of my life.

    so that leaves building -

    The nice thing about building- EVEN if it was cheaper to buy(which I believe in the long run it isn't)you get to see your progress- it motivates you to keep going seeing the progress...

    a custom boat, you know what your getting, it can be all new in fact and your savings comes from labor-your labor. in fact savings can come from deals on materials too! generally you can modify a boat for your needs right from the get-go.
    for me, I'm very picky about what I want. so buying isn't an option.

    In the end I find-you have to strip down the whole boat anyway and by the time you do all the removal of parts and restore the used boat, you end up with twice the work since you first must remove -then repair-then replace. this is two operations. rather than one.

    this brings me back to which design...?

    I want a radius chine tug hull- so assuming I use PDW's very sound advice that I could use the back issue as a means to be more creative in how I deal with the heavy plate, simply by re-evaluating the logistics of moving plate in a different way, could a soft chine be easily done?

    so to all reading who know about hard will it be to plate a radius chine? especially a constant one? using my meager tools? Is it worth the expense to roll? is it costly to roll plate to the required radii?
    does it need to be rolled? or can I create the compound curvature with my limited come along's and chain hoists??

    Ill add pics tomorrow of my design choices but- they are posted on my last few threads.

    but think of working with something like the radius of about .5 ft. over the soft chine area.

    think my back is too far gone for this?

    Ill add more tomorrow...hope everyone is doing well...
  2. pdwiley
    Joined: Jun 2008
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    Location: Hobart

    pdwiley Senior Member

    Not unless you're an absolute genius with an oxy-acetylene torch and can heat/quench plate to get the curvature. I wouldn't try it.

    Wynand is your man WRT radius chine. Looks to me like it can be done, but needs to be farmed out to a company that can roll plate IMO. Some jobs are worth paying for.

    Space you own is a good start as you can litter it up as you please. A gantry setup is essential IMO. Plenty of chain blocks etc. That stuff is dirt cheap compared to the utility and savings on your muscles. A decent plate clamp is essential, you do NOT want a plate to get loose because you saved less than $200 by kludging something together.

    It's all possible. I've knocked off for the winter (work to do interstate) but the hull is done, a lot of the lining is done & the engine is installed. One day it might be finished.....

  3. rwatson
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    Location: Tasmania,Australia

    rwatson Senior Member

    Having seen close up PDW's setup, its a real eye opener just how much setup and preparation has to be done to build a boat.

    A commercial setup would have all that in place, the big tools, lifting gear, the machinery etc.
    PDW has lathes, major metal working gear to manufacture all sorts of fittings, special jigs etc. Even then, as he said, there are jobs that are far better off being done at commercial places.

    If you have an income from your own specialty, it is far cheaper and quicker to get a commercial place to do the building for you, rather than assemble your own infrastructure, and then pick your way carefully into the mysteries of the build.

    Now comes the question of your health. To enjoy a boat you have to be able to walk and move without pain. If you wreck your body with overexertion, and become a cripple like has happened to many elderly boatbuilders, wheres the savings ? Even Peter has had his share of suffering from steel springing back, hot things etc.

    You say also say "I'm very picky about what I want" - but why so ?

    A true professional can not only do anything you specify, but do it better and quicker, with some extra finessing that you didnt expect.

    If you actually have a choice about getting something built by an experienced person, I wouldn't hesitate to suggest that you dont do it yourself.
  4. El_Guero

    El_Guero Previous Member


    If you factor your time at $15/hour, I think just over the last 4 years you would have made a good down payment on buying a good vessel ....

    The reason you build instead of buy should be one of satisfaction in your work, not trying to build on the cheap.


    But, as for heating and bending plate on your own, wow.


    You completely chnage the temper of the metal, inducing a much weaker area of metal where you might think it is stronger.

    1 person likes this.
  5. pdwiley
    Joined: Jun 2008
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    Location: Hobart

    pdwiley Senior Member


    Wrong. A36 steel does not suffer any loss of strength etc from heating. If it did, the HAZ of a weld would be much weaker than the parent material.

    It's not.

    Only reason for building a boat is because you want to build a boat. If you've come to this conclusion, no further rationalisation is required.

    Just accept that all the money spent on the build is pissed down a rathole with no prospect of recovery. If you can't bring yourself to believe this, you'll suffer far more when your expectations of a (derisory) return are not met.

    However, keep in mind I'm a tool tragic and I build stuff as an excuse to buy more tooling. I have another 1.5 tonnes of machine tooling on the way home, that makes over 3 tonnes of tooling I've bought this year. None of this lot has the slightest thing to do with boat building, I just like machine tools....

    1 person likes this.
  6. Mr Efficiency
    Joined: Oct 2010
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    Location: Australia

    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    Discs in the back gone, that alone would preclude any kind of project that involved lifting heavy weights, you really have to put your health first.
  7. tugboat

    tugboat Previous Member

    Thanks Peter
    If I don't say much on this thread- its because I'm listening and thinking about everything everyone has said- - I 'd like think I'm not as arrogant or as stubborn as I once was in regards to going about a build- its actually necessary for me to adopt a new attitude- since my old has gotten me nowhere...I hope my frankness does not repell any would be posters. but the truth is- there is nothing I want better than to own my dream vessel - I want to get past the build (or buy stage) and get on with the actual piloting stage which is my ultimate goal. as ive said , sailor first- builder second.

    cheers- id add reputation to everyone on here but it wont let me...
  8. tugboat

    tugboat Previous Member

    This I the reason that last winter I gave up my small steel tug build and sold the parts. I just couldn't do it alone- I'm engaged now and have a younger strong young woman to at least help me, which is why I'm considering it again. but materials could make a big diff in what I could build. i.e frp vs steel. but steel always has that nice stiff motion in a seaway. Thanks!
    I honestly do put my health first but only a hairs breadth away is my longing - almost yearning for this boat to be built. building- allows me to see profess..I was never great at saving, so seeing a project coming along for me at least is very satisfying...
    I believe that frp could be viable since from my investigation into - it doesn't involve much lifting?? or perhaps less back hurting work?
  9. tugboat

    tugboat Previous Member

    I am in complete agreement A pro would be the best way to go- but its not always practical for me... for taking the time to input! Thanks Mr. Watson
    I'm processing all your thoughts...
  10. tugboat

    tugboat Previous Member

    Thanks Wayne-I had to laugh there, as im sure you will too- I don't think anyone can really build a large boat on the cheap. at least if one wants it to float.
    you input is welcome and appreciated.
  11. jonr
    Joined: Sep 2008
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    Location: Great Lakes

    jonr Senior Member

    IMO, if you are skilled enough to build a boat, then you are skilled enough to get a boat in need of some repairs and fix it. These can sometimes be found at fantastic bargain prices - less than you can buy the materials for. And still less time than building from scratch.
  12. tugboat

    tugboat Previous Member

    Hi Jon- I agree- the only problem is - the boats that are for sale are nothing I'd want. most are downright ugly. I've scoured the used ads, and anything in my price range needs so much work its just not worth the repairs. better to just build from scratch and get a custom boat for less.

    But it is an option and I'm not closing my mind to it. But preferably I want a boat with my signature on it.

    Something that is unique and not just what everyone else owns.

    A few years ago, I had an opportunity to buy THE EXACT hull ive wanted to build. a 45 ft Army st tug. they wanted 5000.00 for it- a bare hull that needed plating in spots.

    this was about ten years ago actually and I had worked out a deal with him and was about to buy it but realized the moving costs alone would make the hull costs about 5000.00 more. however I am kicking myself now. the tug sold shortly thereafter. ill likely not see another one for sale like it least not for 5k.

    There were others- a really nice steel 40 ft Georgian Cruiser. It was roomy and able to take some of what the great lakes could throw at it.
    but again moving costs made it unrealistic, -you see I would have to move it twice- once to get it home then again to get it to water- two long trips. very costly so it didn't compute.
    thus what seems like bargain buys are just impractical especially since it needed about another 10k to sink into it and way more time to strip the paint and rebuild the whole boat not to mention the plating it needed. the inside had to be gutted completely- so why not build form new?

    there have been many others I looked at - all of them-every single one- needed extensive repairs and by the time I would have been done- I might just as well have built one.
    but that's my experience. Im open to see what there is out there but specifically if anyone sees an old bare hull 1950's 45 ft st tug. Im all ears.
    that's currently what I would like to find. again the steel on those tends to be very thin. so where is the bargain?...
    thanks for the input... Ill be open to the always...
    currently I have computed that it is about 1/3rd less to build a NEW boat than to BUY a NEW boat..

  13. WestVanHan
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    Location: Vancouver

    WestVanHan Not a Senior Member

    There are many variables,and it also depends highly on your income.
    And your patience/health/and ability to maintain the drive to get it done.

    I've known of guys giving up almost 6 figure incomes for 3+ years,plus the building costs-to build a boat that may sell for $150k.
    I guess they get satisfaction out of the build, but $350k's worth?

    The boat building craze ended years ago,and garages,lots,and yards all over North America were littered with tens of thousands of unfinished boats... today,not so many.

    Keep looking-yachtworld craigslist,etc.

    Search all of Craigslist,kijiji etc:
  14. tugboat

    tugboat Previous Member

    Hey WestVanhan- how goes it?

    somehow craiglist hasn't caught on here in Ontario..Don't know anyone including myself who uses it- kijiji is good- last year there was a pre st tug for sale for 20k. it was bare with the wheelhouse- funny though I priced steel out for almost the same hull and it was 16 960 tax inc.
    so I could have built a new hull for about the cost of that hull- which needed work.
    I would challenge that statement only because there are more than enough N.A's making enough to live on with their sales (if I have my stats right?)

    I will definitely keep looking-
    what's new in your neck of the woods?

  15. tugboat

    tugboat Previous Member

    Hey got the curvature of the radius chine for you guys to see- how hard would it be to have rolled?.. think a steel fab place could do it for cheap? this section is about 28 ft long...has compound curvature on every point. have a look...

    Attached Files:

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