Buehler's Backyard Boatbuilding
by George Buehler

Review by Max E. Wawrzyniak III

I had been interested in trying my hand at boat building for more than 30 years, but a couple of things keep me from trying it until recently.

One reason was a complete lack of suitable space.

The other reason was a realization that my carpentry skills where not up to the level required to produce a vessel to the standards that most of the boat-building books that I had read, and some of the wooden boat magazines that I had purchased, had set for me.

Then about 8 or 9 years ago, I purchased a copy of “Buehler’s Backyard Boatbuilding".

It was a revelation.

Here was a guy who was not afraid to say that “good enough” was, indeed, good enough. That an ill-fitting joint did not necessarily ruin a boat, and that the lumber needed for a wood boat did not have to be an exotic species imported from a far-off land.

Here was a book that said a solid, sea worthy boat could be assembled by an ordinary Joe using lumberyard materials.

Buehler’s book provides plenty of details, illustrations, and photographs of exactly how this is done while making it clear that there are other ways of doing it as well.

Also included in the book are small-scale copies of a few of Buehler’s designs. These boats, like most of those designed by him, feature simplifed “work-boat” style construction. Most of the wood-planked designs, for instance feature cross-planked bottoms, which require little spiling and can utilize relatively short planks. Sam Rabl and Weston Farmer were fans of the cross-planked bottom, at least in their designs intended for amateur construction. Cross-planked boats are very common in the Chesapeake Bay area.

It should be noted that as of late the U.S. Coast Guard has been coming down hard on cross-planked-bottom boats due to two recent incidents, one involving fatalities, with two inspected passenger vessels, the “El Toro II
and the “Charlotte K”. To be fair it should be noted that these were older, 1960’s built vessels with apparent maintenance issues, in one case, and possible overpowering in the other.

And Buehler points out that his designs can be built with longitudinal bottom planking, or even plywood sheathing, if desired.

The information he provides gives one the impression that a trip to a local auto wrecking yard or salvage business will provide all the hardware necessary to outfit one’s craft, and it probably will as long as “bristol” is not a word you want associated with your home-built boat. Galvanized home-made weldments can substitute for expensive “marine” hardware.

About the only complaint I have with Buehler has nothing to do with this book, but with the pricing of his plans, which I think are a bit expensive. For example, his Pilgrim 44 power cruiser design is priced at $975.00, while the Reuel Parked-designed 50 ft power dory design is $550.00

But that does nothing to detract from this book, which I still have and still occasionally read, and which I feel should be on every potential Boat builder’s shelf.

In years to come, it is certain to be counted among the classics of boatbuilding.