In the beginning...
I started Duckworks in 1999 as an example for our teenage kids who did not seem to be taking the then blossoming internet seriously enough. They still mostly ignore the old man, but the project has grown into a home business for me and my wife, Sandra.
We set out to do an online version of Bob Hicks' excellent magazine "Messing About in Boats". He has a great publication which is almost entirely reader written. I figured that since most magazines' subscription money only goes to pay printing and postage costs, we could publish one for free if we could just get the advertising money.
About three years ago we were in the situation where Duckworks had grown into a huge hobby that consumed a lot of our time but paid us not a cent in return. You may recall that about that time, the dot com bubble had burst, and lots of internet businesses were going under. No one was buying advertising so we had to either quit or find something that would work.
We decided to adopt a two pronged approach:
1) we would open a store to sell stuff that boat builders wanted (and advertise in the magazine)
2) we would begin charging for subscriptions to the majority of the site.
The store began with Jim Michalak's plans and quickly expanded into hardware, books, and sailmaking supplies. Later we added John Welsford's plans and those of a few others. Epoxy and fiberglass was added recently and we continue to add as many hard to find boat building items as we can. This effort has been most rewarding with sales quadrupling in two years. We are even selling some outside advertising now.
Our subscription experiment has been a different story. From the first month, the response from our loyal readers was encouraging. But subscriptions did not keep up with the growth of store sales - and the administrative chores turned out to be unexpectedly time consuming. One day it struck us that if we opened up the site to all surfers, we would generate more in store sales and lose the subscription chores. Besides, we reasoned, if we did not make our site a free, advertising supported one, someone else would do it and we would be left behind.
About a year ago, we began incrementally reducing the price of a subscription. We did not want to drop the price all at once because a lot of loyal readers had sent us their hard earned money, and we needed to respect that. Now the site is completely free and the green links are gone along with the need to log in. In addition, we are able to offer you our entire archive - all articles, projects, columns and everything else that has appeared in these pages. Just click the archives button on the navigation bar (above left).
This really is a huge website for two to say grace over with some 40,000 files posted over the years. Sandra and I work hard to bring you a daily boat building fix and to fill your orders for supplies. Please keep in mind that it is the sales of those goods that almost exclusively support this endeavor, and we hope you will buy from us when it makes sense to do so. We try to have the best prices and to give the best service we can.
Chuck & Sandra Leinweber