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Boat Builders Projects


Thanks for the kind words. There is definitely a minimalist demographic, quite opposite from the Welsford steam-bending crowd. Thanks for reminding me. Stevenson Projects (mentioned in a previous post for their Pocket Cruiser Catboat), also has plans for the Mini Cup. It’s the home-brew version for the Snark/Laser/Sunfish crowd. They’re all great boats for learning and lake sailing. After having raced Lasers on San Francisco Bay at Treasure Island, I have a warm & fuzzy place in my heart for these small craft (although the water didn’t leave me feeling warm and fuzzy).

Here’s the manual for building the Mini Cup. And here’s a somewhat amateurish yet accessible full-blown Instructables on building the Mini Cup as an exercise in stitch & glue boat building.

I can totally seeing myself throwing one of these together almost as a complement to our camping gear for when we take off to camp on some lake somewhere and don’t really want to drag the “big boat” around. BTW, the plans for the Mini Cup are $20, so even if it’s a pipe dream, you can dive a little deeper without a lot out of pocket.


On a completely unrelated note, I was lucky enough to be able to run down to Seattle today to crash the Center for Wooden Boats school where they were building several Passagemaker dinghies. As a professional rigger and having just recently completed my own Passagemaker, I was in a unique position to offer some insight/advice as to what they might do with the boats once they get them safely home.



Ron Downs & Fred Smith

If we’re going to have a discussion about building small wooden boats, we would be remiss to not at least mention the Smith Brothers of Samish Island, WA. Legends in the small boat business, they started building boats circa 1960. Since then, they have literally cranked out thousands of boats from their little shop. Although I haven’t been there, I’ve heard they cut a hole in the wall so that longer boards could be worked on the bench during the winter. A couple of the more popular boats they’ve produced over the years are the Pelican and the El Toro.


We’ve discussed the Pelican and its cousins above, but I wanted to add that the Smiths made so many Pelicans that they used to host an annual regatta here in the San Juan Islands. So many Pelicans would camp on a specific beach in the 70’s that it officially became a park and was named Pelican Beach.

Fred’s Pram mold

Now let’s discuss the Smith Brothers’ El Toro. I have had numerous run ins with El Toros over the years. You can still find them for sale on Craigslist. You can also buy old-school plans for them. They are essentially 8’ prams, similar in design to the Eastport pram that I build a few years ago. Some have buoyancy tanks built in, some just look like wooden bathtubs. Legend has it that the Smith Brothers have this well worn mold that they build hundreds of El Toros with over the years (see above). The El Toro was designed in Richmond, CA (where I used to live) by some members of the local yacht club. They wanted a sturdy boat that could be raced and was easy to build by a parent and child team. You can still walk through the boat yard at Richmond Yacht Club and see dozens of El Toros, all with the same hull, but with completely different interiors. I had the opportunity to run a boating store in Seattle for a few years and our front counter was literally a large piece of Lexan sitting on top of a Smith Brothers El Toro. Pretty cool, huh?

Another interesting thing about El Toros is that although they were originally intended for kids, for over 40 years, there’s been an annual race across San Francisco Bay called the Bullship. We all plop our adult bodies into our El Toros that we’ve built, bought or borrowed and sail from Sausalito over to San Francisco. After my first Bullship I was actually very close to building a perfect El Toro in order to use it as a plug to form a carbon fiber hull over it to do the race again the next year.

There’s a great episode of the Hooked on Wooden Boats podcast where Wooden Boat Dan talks about the Smith brothers. It’s been a couple of years since I last listened to it, but I seem to remember they could crank out a boat in just a few days. Considering I’m almost 250 hours into mine, that’s pretty mind-blowing. I would love to hop into a time machine and go back and be able to spend a day in their shop watching/helping these guys crank out some boats in their prime.

If you consider that these guys were building boats old-school, just imagine what a small shop could crank out of their Maslow was spitting out parts up against the wall while you’re stitching them together on the sawhorses while the epoxy is curing on another one over in the corner. If we ever have a Renaissance of small, wooden water craft, it would be immensely fulfilling to be able to crank out a new boat every few days for some lucky owner to be able to go mess about on a local lake. I used to spend my Sundays sailing my Eastport pram on Greenlake in Seattle and they were some of my best days.

El Toros on Greenlake, Seattle circa 1970



I just wanted to brag about splashing my 12’ pram for the first time the other day on Lake Samish (fresh water). Then today, I took out “TOY YOT” out for a taste of salt water. I launched at Camano Island State Park and sailed her around in front of my house for a couple of hours. Then straight as an arrow, pointed upwind back toward the launch ramp. Gotta love a gunter-sloop rig for its pointing ability. Anyway, completely successful sea trials. Next, on to Sucia Island…


I build boats and restore airstreams as a profession, just opening a new shop in Connecticut after having been out of the business for almost 4 years. I learned about Maslow about a year ago and after much research I decided to purchase one. I plan on having the Maslow up and running once I finish moving into my shop. I have been doing a lot of designing on Fusion 360, I plan on cutting out most of my frames with Maslow and some of the other parts. looking forward to learning and experiencing the (hopefully) increased efficiency of my builds.



I checked out your FB pics and that shop looks perfect for a Maslow up against the wall cutting out custom bulkheads and stuff. Good luck with your endeavor(s). Keep us posted. Very cool! :sunglasses:

When I was building aluminum sport fishing boats, I cut out custom dashboards, ceiling panels, wheelhouse trim pieces, Lexan hatch covers, etc. so I know it’ll be a great investment.


Thanks, I will be sure to post updates here too. I am really looking forward to getting started I’m my new shop. I start moving in this week.



It’s January 2019, but I just came across this post, so I’ll add my 2 cents. Many years ago, I built a flyfishing pram from a set of opti plans. I use it about 80 times per year. 2.5 sheets of 1/4 marine fir plywood. Glue and stitch construction. No glass to save weight as I have to car top it by myself and marine alkaloid protects it. I built a battery box under the seat to balance weight, and use a 40# electric. My battery lasts a weekend of trolling, sitting and full speed returns after dark. With me, battery, motor and fishing gear, cargo weight is about 325#. A sweet boat that I still use.



Hello all. I am looking at getting a Maslow for trying my hand at building a boat, no experience all with either one though. It would be nice to build a boat with my elderly father for use locally fishing, crabbing and such, and was thinking of a flat bottom skiff with a console. From reading this thread it seems something the Maslow should be easily capable of, however I cant find any place at all that I would get the files for something like that.


I started a topic for kayak software it includes boat building software check out this link


That’s the unofficial Maslow slogan i think. :smiley:


Very cool! In case anyone is interested, there’s a link to the CNC files for an Opti farther up this thread. That’s a great testimonial for an easy to build boat that I believe fits within an 8’ sheet of plywood. Prams are great all-around boats because of the extra buoyancy in their non-pointy bow. Thanks for sharing!


I think if you’re going to be a newbie, then after “Hello World”, it would be amazing to cut out boat parts with your new Maslow! Having a goal to take your father out is even better motivation. Plus, we need another build blog on this site. Not all plans are available in CNC format, but we’ve discussed how to overcome that if you’re serious. has a Jimmy Skiff II or “classic” that might fit the bill. Their plans come in paper form, so you’d have to play the offset game. There are plenty of other designers that are more amenable to putting their cut files out on the open market, so do quite a bit of research, which is part of the fun. Don’t focus on CNC boats that come with cut files, first find the boat you love and then see if cut files are available.

For example, I love Vivier’s Beg Meil and it just so happens you can buy cut files for under $200. Other catboats I love aren’t available in that format, so I’d have to do the conversion. The only thing to keep in mind that I can foresee is if you spend as much or more time setting up and calibrating your Maslow as it would take to just cut out the boat by hand. At that point, Maslow isn’t helping much unless you have other uses for a Maslow in order to amortize the expense and effort. Or, in my case, you envision building more boats in the future (whether they’re more of the same boat or other designs).


Another interesting concept would be to use your Maslow to digitize or “trace” an existing object, in my case the masonite templates I made while building the first two boats. If you loaded a 1/32" probe into the router, then manually jogged the Maslow around to capture x number of data points, you could then put all those into some CAD software and using tools like Bezier curves, recreate a cut file from the physical object. I’ve only found one thread here after a quick search where they broached the concept and it wasn’t taken any farther than the “cool idea” stage. Of course a handheld router and a pattern following bit can do the same thing, but it’s the concept that’s important.


Hey there!

Excellent topic! I never owned a boat, but all of this makes it suddenly look like an approachable project…

What about Wharram Designs though? Can something like the Hitia 14 be cut with the Maslow?

Also, on a more legal note… Boats like these Wharram cats have their roots in traditional polynesian boat building… Say if someone from this community would buy the plans, build one, gain experience, and then use that experience to publish an open-source design that would rely on those polynesian traditions, but in a modernized CNC version… Would that be a problem in terms of copyright?


A quick search on the Wharram Hitia 14 didn’t reveal what format the plans come in. They’re traditionally built in out of the way places, so I suspect they come as paper plans. We’ve covered how to handle that.

Short answer is “Yes” you can build a Wharram Hitia 14 with CNC’d parts you cut out yourself. The issues you will run into are plans format, tiling, puzzle joints vs scarf joints, accuracy at the edge of the sheet, etc. All of which I believe have been discussed above somewhere.

While the Wharram designs aren’t my cup of tea, you can’t dispute the fact that tons of people have built them in amazing locations around the world. If you’re willing to live like that, they can go anywhere your dreams will take you.

Wharrams’s designs are most probably trademarked if not patented. I’m not a legal expert so will not offer an opinion. This would be a whole other discussion, so you may want to start your own thread for that. There was some legal discussion earlier, so check that out.

Regardless, this forum definitely needs another boat build thread, so it would be very cool if you decided to pull the trigger. Good luck and keep us posted.


I think it would be cool if someone could do a literature review on boat design, and post findings on this forum. The documentation, conclusions, references, would all be posted. That would be a great way to kickstart an open, wide-spread knowledge-base. It would obviously have to be an original work, and would have to follow copyright and plagiarism laws.


just get some plans and build a boat…

you’ll be less concerned about others designs, duplication, copyright, etc, when you’re out on the water having fun!

It takes more than a CNC to build a boat, go for it, and use all the tools you’re able to effectively. A MaslowCNC can be of help in a number of ways, but itself isn’t required or particularly helpful in many aspects of boatbuilding.

Mostly the direct answer to your design questions is something like: ‘technically maybe, in some places, in some form’

but realistically, you’d probably spend more time and effort ‘covering your tracks’ from a clear and direct connection which would clearly be wrong, morally, ethically and perhaps, in many but not all places, legally, if not always rigorously enforced, or noticed.

building a boat is enough work, with an excellent reward, to not want to engage in some form of intellectual property theft.



I apologize. I didn’t want to over-complicate things or imply that we do something illegal.

I understand that spending $100 for professional plans is a small price. However, literature reviews are are very common, and very valuable in research.

As a Maslow owner, I would like to browse the Community Garden, select from the numerous open-source boat-plans, choose one, and build it.


The concept of “open source” is not common among naval architects. I think you’re going to have a challenge finding a sufficient number of designs to choose from in any given boat type/style. Of course I could be wrong. Regardless, there’s nothing wrong with doing a little research.

Part of my resistance (besides being an old fart) is that building a boat is so expensive and so much work that I want to be really secure with my choice of design. To that end, I’ll choose designs from among well-established designers with plenty of blogs to read from people building their designs. This may end up limiting my choices as much as relying on open source designs. Hmmm…