Paper and pencil

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by laukejas, Dec 4, 2014.

  1. laukejas
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    laukejas Senior Member

    Hi all,

    As I've made several sailing boat projects, both finished and unfinished, I always used software. Freeship, Delftship, SolidWorks, and so on. With it, almost everything is automated, and even though it doesn't substitute knowledge, nor does it tell how to design a boat, it makes it easier to experiment and correct mistakes. For example, change one dimension, and the whole boat model updates in seconds, which would take hours to do by hand. Software makes it easy to design for specific criteria. I can program this software some more, and I can tell how much changing chine shape will affect maximum wind speed at which the boat would heel over in seconds.
    It also made learning easier, as I could check my new knowledge, easily visualize see how all things relate, and freely experiment without encumbering myself with manual calculations.

    And yet, somehow it made me feel dependent. I have some knowledge on sailboat design, yet I have no skills. If I were deported back several hundred years ago, with only a pencil and paper in my hands, I could not design a sailboat. I could make a rough hull shape, calculate things like CE and CLR to balance the boat, approximately size the sail, but the result would be crude, inelegant and probably not very seaworthy.

    And as I was browsing this forum this evening, I found more than one respected, experienced, old-salt sailors and designers who despise using software instead of old, traditional, manual, paper and pencil method. They say that the magic of creating a boat cannot be felt in front of computer screen.

    And this does make lots of sense. I guess that true professionalism means that modern tools should only assist, not substitute manual skills. Like a true sailor should never forget how to navigate by stars just because he has a GPS onboard.

    And so I decided to fill in this gap. I'm not giving over the use of software, but I want to learn to design a boat the old-fashioned way, just like it was done for thousands of years, by paper and pencil. Maybe just a calculator now and then to skip arithmetic.

    However, I have no idea where to start. Are there any books on this subject, some tutorials, or any general advice on how to get started? My drawing skills are really bad, but I'm willing to improve. Apart from knowledge, any recommended tools that I should get (like what kind of paper, pencils, rulers, and so on, I don't even know what).

    I know, this might sound strange. But I really want to learn to become independent of software when it comes to sailboat design. There is, indeed, some kind of magic in this art.
  2. lewisboats
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    lewisboats Obsessed Member

    More boats have been built by rack of eye than have ever been designed on paper or computer... combined.
  3. Ad Hoc
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    Ad Hoc Naval Architect

    Same as all of in a shipyard/boatyard/design office.

    You need to think of 'software' especially "easy" software as just a simple tool. Like picking up a hammer. But would you pick up a hammer when it should have been a Mallet, or a claw hammer or even a saw instead for the job? Just like any skill, you need to learn the trade and which tools to use, how to use them and why/where to use them.

    Since anyone can pick up a hammer, or saw etc..but it does not make one an instant highly skilled carpenter simply by owning such tools. Same for design/naval architecture. Unless you wish to remain an armchair designer using tools that are easy or freely available and remaining in the position you are currently in, wanting!
  4. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    I find that they are very different. Paper and pencil don't have the constraints that a programmer built in. On the other hand, calculations that a program does in seconds or minutes can take days by hand. It is possible to mix and match both. However, the smell of cedar when I sharpen a pencil can't be matched by a computer.
  5. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Neither can the smell of cutting wet white oak Gonzo . . .
  6. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Laukejas, I believe that you are onto something important. Designing with pencil and paper is far more educational than punching computer keys. Not to say that the programs are to be avoided. Computers do obey the GIGO rule......That is; garbage in = garbage out.

    There are several books that can be useful in your quest for knowledge. A good beginning is The Nature Of Boats by Dave Gerr. Your library should include Skene's elements of Yacht Design. Yacht Designing And Planning by Howard Chappelle is one of the basic books that is useful. None of those focus on small boats but the general ideas are there. For some insights into small boats I would suggest Sailing Theory And Practice by C.A. Marchaj.

    Marchaj is one of the pre-eminent researchers into what makes a boat work well, go fast, and stay right side up. His books are somewhat technical but the math is not beyond the abilities of high school scholars.

    Actually I find that doing the math by pencil and paper is stimulating, even fun. (that may be because I am a bit of a crackpot.) I still use a computer program if I want to do a "quickie" but sketching and calculating on the back of an envelope is more rewarding.

    I will post more later, about the tools that you will need for your drawing board. They are simple and not very expensive.
  7. rwatson
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    rwatson Senior Member

    This is some kind of perverse self punishment !

    Here you are, provided with the miracles from modern science, and you want to do it with graphite on vegetable matter ?

    Look - the old timers would have given their left testicle for the free software we have today, to avoid the years of painful and expensive experience to produce results that didn't always behave as expected. Its only the successes that get praised today - the hundreds of less effective designs have rotted away years ago.

    If you want to have a 'mystical experience', there are some excellent drugs. If you need to float around on water - don't make it harder than you need to.
  8. tdem
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    tdem Senior Member

    The problem for me with software is twofold. Firstly, it is restrictive in terms of what shapes can be achieved. This is not really a big deal most of the time.

    More importantly, it is too easy to try out different things. From what I can see laukejas is like me, a little bit obsessive. Since every little thing can be tried out, why not try it out? It doesn't take long, right? Except it does when you add it all up.

    You quickly get to the point where you are focussing on details or numbers that really have no importance. Who notices a 5 mm difference in freeboard in real life? Half a square metre wetted surface? The computer makes the quest for the ultimate design possible, which is a giant time waster.

    Paper is hard, it forces you to think carefully about what you are doing. You are forced to focus on the most important aspects of a design. This is a good thing.

    I found "How to design a boat" by John Teale a good introduction.
  9. TANSL
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    TANSL Senior Member

    Maybe not quite understand what you mean but I think the following: The designer always must think carefully about what he is doing, the paper does not bring more responsibility in his work. It just depends on how professional is the designer.
    The computer does not prevent nor hinder, studying the important aspects of a design. That also depends exclusively on the professionalism of the designer. One advantage is that computer also allows study small design issues in detail.
  10. laukejas
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    laukejas Senior Member

    Thank you all for your responses on this matter. I see a lot of different opinions, which makes it all very interesting. I'll try to comment on what you wrote.

    Very true. However, in case of an inexperienced amateur who has no master to learn from, or not enough time and money to learn the hard way, what may seem intuitive to you would take me many years to understand through experience. What I mean to say is that making mistakes on computer is easiest to fix, although easier to make in the first place. With building by the rack of the eye, it's the opposite. I hope to find a middle ground.

    I agree. However, I'm not planning to become naval architect. I consider myself an amateur, but I'm trying to learn this trade as much as I can without sacrificing other priorities in life (my profession, job, family) too much.
    It is true that the master can often make more with basic tools than a novice with advanced ones. All tools have their purpose, but I feel that I "skipped" some of the basic knowledge and skills by jumping right to CAD modeling.

    I might be too young to say that doing things the old way feels much more meaningful, but I definitely agree with you both.

    Thank you very much for your suggestions on reading material. I will investigate and try to get myself a copy of each of these books. I actually red quite a few books on sailing mechanics, boat design in general, sail shaping, and so on, but they usually focus on ballast keel yachts, not on dinghies. And they certainly don't give a beginner any advice how to design a boat from scratch on paper. For example, none of the books I red explained how to fair hull lines with paper and pencil. Or how to produce 2D development plates for stitch&glue from 3D hull shape without software.

    Do the books you mentioned explain enough how to design a boat from scratch the traditional way, or should I read something more for this specific skill?

    There is a lot of truth in this, I agree. Technological advance has given new tools which simplify mundane tasks, allowing precision and perfection that was never obtainable before. And yet, I feel something is lost along with this advance in technology.

    Let me give an example from my field. I am, by profession, a musician, classical guitarist. As you may know, most of string instruments are tuned by musicians using only their ear. It is considered a tradition, a certain matter of self-respect, and a healthy practice to keep the ear sharp. However, with technological advancement, some musicians adopted electronic tuners in daily use, which require no trained ear. For some reason, classical guitarists adopted this device more than other string players (it may be because classical guitar is a very problematic instrument to tune). I have seen many teachers encouraging pupils to use these tuners from the very beginning of their acquaintance with the instrument, never teaching them how to do it by ear. It may be understandable, since for a youngster, it might take several years of practice to be able to tune guitar quickly and precisely enough so it would sound acceptable at least.

    As I was studying bachelor studies in my local music university, we had quite a few of guitarists, aiming to perfect their skills enough to become known performers. There was this guy who played far, far better than me (he started playing in his early childhood, while I started 16). We both waited our turn to play in exam (we play about 4-6 pieces in each exam, and professors evaluate us). I, having never used electronic tuner, went into the auditorium, tuned my guitar, played my pieces, went out happy (more or less). And I found my colleague shivering in fear. No, it was sheer panic. With trembling voice, he explained me that the battery on his tuner has died and he has NO way of tuning his instrument. And it was really out of tune. He asked me if I could lend mine, but I explained that I don't own such a thing. Professors were waiting for this guy to go into auditorium and start playing, while he was running around the university, begging for someone to lend him a tuner. As luck would have it, no one happened to have one at the time. Finally, one of the professors came looking for him, asking what is the hold-up. As the guy explained, professor grabbed his guitar, and tuned it himself. The guy was red in shame, while other students were laughing at him. I wasn't laughing. I was horrified that during his career, spanning more than 15 years, as he played the most difficult musical pieces I could only dream of, he never managed to train his ear to learn the most basic technique required of any string player - prepare his instrument for playing. Most probably, he never even tried.

    So that's what I call dependence from technology. While I love the possibilities and comfort that technology gives, I don't want to lose the basic skills because I over-use it.

    Or, in case of boat design, I wish to attain these skills. I could never believe that learning them would be a waste of time, even in our century.

    You put it all together very well. Yes, indeed, I noticed that with possibilities software offers, I often find myself playing with broad variety of possibilities, getting distracted from really important aspects. Working on paper, with no automation, makes you more responsible, because you know that every change you make will cost you a lot of effort to re-design. A time-waster, sure, but an attitude-changer as well.

    Again, I'll refer to my profession. Apart from playing, I compose too. I tried composing with paper and pencil, and using Sibelius (notation software). With Sibelius, it is 10 times faster, easier and cleaner. And guess what? My best pieces are still on the paper. Many musicians I know report just the same thing. I could speculate of reasons behind this paradox, but the fact remains.

    I'll search for the book you suggested, thank you :)

    P.S. Reading again, you all really have a lot of very different, interesting opinions. With no harm intended, I'd love to put some of you in a small room, say "Boat design: paper or screen?" and watch you fight about it :D
  11. NoEyeDeer
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    NoEyeDeer Senior Member

    Principles of Yacht Design by Larsson and Eliasson is worth reading too. So is Chapelle's American Small Sailing Craft, just because it will give you a broader range of useful ideas. Also, Marchaj's Seaworthiness - the forgotten factor is extremely good for getting more insight into the dynamics of boats.

    The first book I bought on design, back when I was saving up paper round money, was Model racing yachts - Their architecture, design, construction, and handling by Benjamin Hamilton Priest and John Arthur Lewis. It contained basically everything you needed to know to design a boat from scratch (including warning about the effects of scale).

    ETA: Oh and grab a copy of Dixon Kemp if you can. It's fascinating.
  12. graywolf
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    graywolf Junior Member

    Very interesting, I just registered, and hit your post. It seems like a place to introduce myself, and hopefully meaningfully give an answer to your post. BTW, my work experience has been as a engineering technician, the guy who turned the drawings into hardware.

    About 50 years back I got interested in boat design as a hobby. I did design several boats, and a few of them went as far as test models, but none were ever built. In those days it was paper and pencil, and primitive scientific calculators if you were lucky. The advantage of that is you had to lay out the lines yourself, and to do that you had to have some knowledge of design, most of mine came from Chapelle's book.

    OK, that is what I see as the advantage. The disadvantage was that there was not all this stuff available back in those days. If you were around back then you would have noticed that most designers and companies only built variations of the same boat. Like Lyman built lapstrake runabouts, now they built them in a lot of sizes with variations of layout, but they were all basically the same boat. Why? It was hard to design a boat that performed right, it usually took a couple of prototypes to get it anywhere near right, so once you had one you went with that. Over and over, you went with that.

    The answer to your post is you need to read up on boat design, some others have recommended some good books, until you understand why your software is doing what it is doing. Once you understand that your can make meaningful changes, instead of just tinkering with the software.

    The other thing you have to know is when to call it done. If you do not know that, you can tinker with it forever, and never ship a product.
  13. tspeer
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    tspeer Senior Member

    It's been said that if you are building a cruising boat, one should start by building the dinghy first. What you learn from building from that will save you so much time on the rest of the boat that you can build the dinghy and the cruiser in less time than you'd take to build the cruiser alone.

    I think the way to learn to design a boat is to design boats. Especially if you design a small boat that you can build and then see how your ideas worked out.

    Just draw something up and start developing it, taking it as far as you can before you realize that it's not what you really want. Then go back to the beginning if you have to, and start over with the wisdom you've gained. This is called the design spiral. You revisit everything multiple times, filling in more details and making the design more refined.

    If you look at books from the like of John Shutleworth or Kurt Hughes, you'll see graphs of how key design factors, like displacement or sail area/weight ratio, change with the size of the boat. Use these as initial guesses for your design.

    The other way to start is by redesigning an existing design. Everyone starts with what's already sailing as an initial guess, because similar requirements drive similar solutions. So enter the lines from an existing design and then start modifying them according to what you don't like about the design. Pretty soon, you'll have made it your own design.
  14. SukiSolo
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    SukiSolo Senior Member

    One benefit of paper drawing is that you learn to use proper projections, most of the World uses 3rd Angle for engineering design. Once you undertand the basics of how to generate all the views, how they interlink, how to get sections and angled views from them you get a very good comprehension of how shapes can be represented.

    Boat design is just one specific branch (a very important one) of design which covers a multitude of marine vessels and structures. Others on here have pointed at resources to help understand the principles involved.

    If you choose to draw on paper, make it big - A0 or bigger, maybe use an A0 roll, but you'll need a very long drawing board. I've used an old 'Double Elephant' one before now....;) The reason is scale. Unless your vessel is pretty small you will be drawing at a scale , not full size. Using software you always draw or model full size and print out to scale ie to fit the paper. BTW never scale a CAD drawing or model to 1/3rd....;) If you need to visualise things, imagine drawing a Liner on a piece of A0, it would be tiny in relative terms on the paper maybe 1:200. So the thickness of even a thin pencil line might be 200-300mm in reality.

    I'd go as far as to suggest using 2D drafting software first to understand the principles (of drafting) and then move on to 3D modelling. However it is worth printing out drawings to get an appreciation of the real world scale - easy on small dinghies btw. Also remember to check any calculations such as displacement, generated by any program with a quick manual one. Decimal point errors are not unknown in engineering!.

  15. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    The first book would be "The Nature of Boats" by Dave Geer. This will be your primer and you can move onto the more technical side with, "Yacht Design and Planning", by Chapelle which would be the first drawing book to try, then move up to Skene's "Elements of Yacht Design". These will give you a overview of what you'll need to hand draw. With these three book absorbed, you'll be too pissed off to continue or interested in more absorption. Moving up to "Principles of Yacht Design" will bring you into the modern age of computing, which more refinement in sail and power for other sources.
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