Fiberglass Canoe and Kayak Moulds; Should I buy them?

Discussion in 'Fiberglass and Composite Boat Building' started by CuriousCanuck, Jun 16, 2017.

  1. CuriousCanuck
    Joined: Jun 2017
    Posts: 2
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    Location: Ontario, Canada

    CuriousCanuck New Member


    I have been dreaming of building boats (primarily canoes and rowing shells) for years now. Last night I got an opportunity to buy some fiberglass canoe and kayak moulds that are in really great shape. The gentleman selling them has been in the fiberglass industry for a while, and has some impressive accomplishments and was kind enough to spend 3 hours with me as I looked at them all and asked questions. He even provided a demo for me! Needless to say, I got a good feeling from him. His company specializies in making highe-end fiberglass components for other industries and has no desire to be in the boat business. They acquired the moulds along with some materials when the mould builder closed up shop, but has never used them himself.

    Now I went into the night thinking I would buy one 15' or 16' mould, but I came away thinking of buying 5 (I left a small deposit and reserved the 5 I liked best). The price seems right (I save $100 per mould if I buy all 5) , and they came from a manufacturer up in northern Ontario know for their skill. I even recognized canoe model names on the sides of the moulds. What do you think, should I be safe and buy just 1, or live a little and buy 5 (or more)? Keep in mind I have only ever read about building them, never tried it yet.

    Thanks for the input in advance!
  2. latestarter
    Joined: Jul 2010
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    Location: N.W. England

    latestarter Senior Member

    Dangerous word 'dreaming' in relation to boats.
    Are you wanting this as a hobby, a part time job or your sole income.
    You need to consider your competition, there seem to be several established canoe builders in Ontario.
  3. waikikin
    Joined: Jan 2006
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    Location: Australia

    waikikin Senior Member

    Buy the mold for the canoe you want for your own use, then build that... see if you like doing it...
    The other builder stopped for a reason, maybe retirement- or margins dropped competing with roto-molded pop outs- health- whatever?
    If you like it the niche areas might be best like from custom fishing through to a tough boat hire/livery model, competing selling against rotomolded will be close to impossible. Canoes/kayaks are actually the best value boats to own, it's just the 70s are over so not so cool now.
    Just buy one & haggle it, once you gain some skill then you can develop your own tooling to meet the next craze.. SUP is still going but heaps of competition.. whatever is next I have no clue.

    All the best from Jeff.
  4. Rumars
    Joined: Mar 2013
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    Location: Germany

    Rumars Senior Member

    IMHO the molds are worth nothing without the rights to build the boats. Wich rights may be owned by the designer, or by the original building company, or be with their estate. Owning the molds means nothing without the building rights, they are boat shaped fiberglass flowerpots.

    To a homebuilder wishing to make one copy for himself the molds may be worth the price of a used copy of that design. Add to that the building materials price and it's probably cheaper to restore a used boat.

    If the seller was in the industry he probably already knows all this.

    I agree with waikikin, if you want to learn about boatbuilding buy a mold (at used boat price) and do a boat. But for commercial purposes the things are probably useless without the propper documentation and contracts. I would look what a used canoe of that make and model brings on the open market (craigslist) and offer half the price for the mold.
  5. CuriousCanuck
    Joined: Jun 2017
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    Location: Ontario, Canada

    CuriousCanuck New Member

    Thanks for all of the input! I really do appreciate it. I'll see what I can do to on price. Right now we are at $300 per mould.

    Now I just need to decide which of the ones I marked I want to buy; 15' flat bottom, 15' single keel, 15' v-bottom or 16' v-bottom. I'm thinking the 16' would be best but takes another 1' in my shop.

    All the best!
  6. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    You can buy a 15 foot canoe, for $500 or less. Can you compete with established brands? Have you made a cost/time estimate?
  7. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    He dreams of selling the canoes he will build. Unless he is competitive in the market, he won't succeed.
  8. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    Most retail stores buy canoes and resell them. Very few build their own.
  9. Reefergirl
    Joined: May 2019
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    Location: Florida

    Reefergirl New Member

    I am very interested in this endeavor as well, if you could email me I would love to chat a bit more about this dream of yours!
  10. ondarvr
    Joined: Dec 2005
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    Location: Monroe WA

    ondarvr Senior Member

    He hasn’t been around since back then.
  11. Steve Clark
    Joined: Jul 2004
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    Location: Narragansett Bay RI

    Steve Clark Charged Particle

    A $100 mold is essentially free. Buy as many as you feel good about throwing away.
    You will spend more on your first roll of fiberglass, bucket of resin and gel coat.
    Oh and don’t forget mold release wax.....
    If you want to build some fiberglass Canoes and you like these designs, go right ahead.
    If you are thinking about capitalizing a boat building company and are worried about spending a few hundred bucks for tooling, you should re-examine you assumptions and business plan.
  12. KD8NPB
    Joined: Mar 2018
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    Location: South Carolina

    KD8NPB Senior Member

    Kinda funny this thread got resurrected, because I'm basically doing the same thing.

    Only with L-RTM process and fluid heated molds & resin so I can go from gelcoat spray to demold in less than 95 minutes.

  13. DCockey
    Joined: Oct 2009
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    Location: Midcoast Maine

    DCockey Senior Member

    Below is a summary of my research into US law relating to "rights" to boat designs, which I have posted before. (If anyone has information to the contrary I'd appreciate being told about it including the applicable laws.) I expect Canada is similar. Quick version- the canoe designs are very unlikely to be covered by any form of copyright, patent, etc. It is conceivable there was a contract between the designer of the canoes and the original builder relating to royalties, etc. If (and that is a big "if") such a contract exists then there would be the question of whether the contract applies The shape of a watercraft is not covered by copyright.

    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and the information below is not intended as legal advice. The information below are based on research into United States law.

    Utility Patent 20 years. Must be applied for and granted. Most boat designs and elements of boat designs don’t qualify for a utility patent because they don’t meet the required conditions. Validity of a patent is only established through litigation. After 20 years the contents of a utility patent are public domain.

    Design Patent 14 years. Must be applied for and granted. Protects only the original aspects of the appearance and ornamentation of an object, not it’s functional aspects or construction. Validity of a patent is only established through litigation. After 14 years the contents of a design patent are public domain.

    Vessel Hull Design Protection Act 10 years. Registration must be applied for and approved . Designs which are covered by a design patent are not eligible for VHDPA registration. Covers the shape and the hull and deck if they are sufficiently unique. “Protection is afforded only to vessel hull designs embodied in actual vessel hulls that are publicly exhibited, publicly distributed, or offered for sale or sold to the public on or after October 28, 1998.” Application for registration has to be made within two years of the first public showing of the hull. Once the 10 year term expires the design is in the public domain.

    Copyright Term varies depending on when the work was created, and for works created before 1978 if and when the copyright was registered. For more information see "Duration of Copyright Works created after 1977 do not require registration or notice. Terms for works which qualify for copyright are very long. In general copyright applies to “original works of authorship”. Artwork is covered by copyright to the extent it is non-functional. Functional objects are not covered by copyright. Boat plans which are original may be covered by copyright and can’t be reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner (other than within the fair use exemption). However the knowledge in the plans isn’t covered so boats can be built from copyright plans without infringing on the copyright. The "First sale doctrine" allows someone who has purchased a copy of a item subject to copyright to sell that copy of the item, but not to create additional copies of the item for sale.

    Trademark Indefinite. “A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” The name of a boat design such as “Laser” or “Sunfish”, or of a manufacturer such as “Benateau” may be a trademark and if so can only be used by the trademark owner. However, a trademark is not a design so ownership of a trademark does not confer any rights to a particular design.

    Trade Dress Indefinite. Trade dress are the unique, visual, generally non-functional elements of a product (or its packaging which is unlikely to apply to a boat) which are identified with its source. Once rights to a trade dress are established they can last indefinitely. Registration is not required though there are advantages to registering a trade dress. I assume that similar to a trademark, trade dress has to be defended or rights to it may be lost. Trade dress appears to have been the primary basis of Hinckley’s claims concerning its “picnic boat” designs. Only certain elements of a boat’s design could constitute trade dress.

    License Agreements and Contracts Term depends on the agreement. Private agreements only enforceable by one of the parties which entered into the agreement. An example would be a license agreement between a designer and a builder under which the designer agrees to furnish the builder with plans for a boat and the builder agrees to pay a fee, build only one boat from the plans, and not allow anyone else to build a boat from the plans. Presumably this type of agreement is what is meant by statements such as “buying a set of plans only allows one boat to be built”. A license agreement can also include a requirement that the plans cannot be transferred to another party without their agreement to the license terms. Someone who is not a party to the license agreement or contract cannot be forced to abide by its terms, nor can they require the parties to the agreement to behave in a certain manner. Museums and others who own plans can require agreement to a license agreement which may restrict building of boats to the plans as a condition of purchasing copies of the plans. However owner of plans cannot restrict the building of boats of the designs by parties who did not agree to the license conditions.

    David Cockey

    Rockport, Maine

    7 December 2010

    Revised 31 March 2011

    Revised 10 September 2018

    Revised 28 January 2019 to subsequent owners of the molds.
    MassimilianoPorta likes this.
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