The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders














John's Tool Crib
byJohn Cupp

Building a Fire Under the Plywood Industry

I wrote a letter today to CAN-PLY an organization that heads up standards for all the plywood manufacturers in the US and Canada. It started by my buying a book on the web that I thought was written by Edwin Monk. It turned out to be a full scale set of plans to an 18’ cabin cruiser - or Day cruiser if they didn’t have regular bunks and a stove.

The plans were from the Plywood Manufacturers Association of BC (British Columbia) and they sold in lumber yards all over the US and Canada in the 50’s and 60’s for $1.00! I read the history of these plans and the PMBC and found out that they sold plans from William and John Atkin, John Garden and other Naval Architects for only $1.00 to promote the use of plywood for home boat builders. They actually started the home boat building craze just after WW2 and finally stopped supporting the home boat builders in the middle 1970’s. Click here for a site with the History and links.

So from there I went to the modern version of that company and found the US representative for their association and wrote a letter about their R&D program and the way they let boat builders down when we helped them become giant companies so here is a copy of the letter I wrote to that companies Rep with a cc (carbon copy) to Duckworks Magazine.

Hello Jennifer Raworth,

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is John Cupp and I am a writer and columnist. I have columns that deal with new tools for the boat building industry and mainly homemade boats. You would be very surprised at the number of boat building projects that are completed each year in Canada the United States and South America by homebuilders. This is a market virtually ignored lately by the Can-Ply marketers and no new products for this application have been made in nearly 40 years. In fact, every year we find less suitable products for our use and the different sized sheets of plywood once available have disappeared. Oversized sheets that I could buy in 1985 are no longer available and the quality of once good plywood now is filled with inferior wood and there is no end to the amount of hidden voids inside the sheets of plywood sold by the companies you represent.

Essentially the plywood boat building section of your market is now totally ignored. I have people from Canada, Mexico and the USA write me trying to find inexpensive good plywood for boat building that is made in the Americas today. Unlike a few decades ago when your organization was called PMBC and you catered to the home boat building market you now seem to have left us out in the cold like a step child. Believe me when I say there is a market and if you came out with a good, less expensive marine glue panel, I would announce it and sing its praises in every boat building shop around the world! You folks once sold boat-building plans by now famous marine architects like Edwin Monk, William and John Atkin and other famous naval architects. Now sub divisions and custom homes have taken all the wood away from the boats that supported plywood in the early days.

Please believe me when I say I am not asking but begging that you spend some R&D money to bring out a new less expensive sheet product that is designed for the home boat builder. In fact, most of the Marine plywood that is of good grades comes in from overseas. I have done the boil testing and marine plywood from the Americas when you can find it is very sub par and as expensive as imported plywood. That seems out of place, doesn’t it? There are many things that could be done with new marine grade plywood such as epoxy bonding or UHMW overlays on one side for boats that work from a beach. Fixing core problems would also be nice. Finally, a special inexpensive marine plywood that would be treated with rot inhibitors made especially for fiberglass epoxy overlay. I know the price of wood has gone up but you could use this specialty market as much as boat builders could use the product.

Thank you for your time and I apologies for my rantings but we have been and still are a good market that has been ignored for some time. Bring out some new marine products and we will be there in full force buying them up.


John Cupp

cc. www.duckworksmagazine.com

Her email address is, raworth@canply.org

Who knows if it could help but if we got a grass roots effort going and you readers would email this person we could make the plywood industry that we helped build give us some new less expensive marine grade sheet products if they knew we would buy them in mass quantities.

The fact is that we helped build the plywood industry to where it is today. “WE” meaning home boat builders who bought the plywood plans and built the boats that were offered by designers. Sure, the housing industry will always use more plywood but that doe not mean we don’t need any. In the last five years I have seen an increase of home boat builders like when plywood first came on the market. I think that if they created a good inexpensive plywood with a rot resistant chemical used in the production and some good glue we could have a new boat-building era for home boats. Let’s face the facts, today if you want an open bow 21 foot Bay-liner with the trailer and a 200 hp motor you’re looking at 8 year financing of a $30,000 boat. By the end of eight years, you spend over $50,000.00 with the finance charges.

The same type boat like the fisherman’s launch by Bolger, a little longer with a smaller 150 hp motor would go the same speed and cost less than one-third the cost to build and out fit from plywood and buy the motor with all the steering and motor controls. It would also hold more people and could be used to ski or fish but at a much lower starting cost. The last plastic boat show I went to I stepped onto a 35 foot cabin cruiser that cost twice the amount of my house I bought in Klamath falls and it had to be put in a marina because it was 10 feet wide. It used the same motor I have in my Diesel truck and got 1/16th the mileage. That boat was one hundred and forty thousand dollars but only 35’ long. What type of people can afford to buy that type of boat and then let it sit in a marina for months on end without going out in it? I guess they make the payments then have no money left for the 600-gallon fuel tank. The surprising thing is that in California, Florida, and other shore states there are millions of these boats docked and sitting.

If you look at the Atkin’s design site, you can build nice big 39’ plywood boats for pennies on the dollar when you look at plastic boat prices but not with plywood anymore. You have to build from strip plank and or cold molding. We have to get the wood industry to make our market a priority. If they get thousands of emails from boat builders and high school shops, they just might build some new plywood products for us. I think we need to have an email campaign from all you readers as well as this writer and all the boat-building magazines together. We have a big voice if we join together and after all, we helped build the plywood market in its infancy.

Have a good day,