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by Daniel Roberts - Salisbury, North Carolina - USA

I’m a bit of a tool nut. In my defense, I come by the vice quite honestly since I’ve made a career out of one simple premise: “Men love tools”. Yes, I am Machinery Dealer. I’m also a boat enthusiast (I have five) and I have always dreamed of building my own.

I started a little sharpie a while back (Summer Breeze) but got frustrated and gave up when the 1 x 2 external chine log broke and ruined a whole day’s work; so this time I decided it would be built of Aluminum and this time it won’t be just a little day sailor but a big expedition sized one. A boat I could camp cruise in but with an honest work boat’s heritage. It would be an open sharpie just shy of the normal size of the 100 bushel New Haven style at around 25 ft.  It would have the trademark round stern, have twin masts and sharpie sprit sails (hmmm, maybe I can make some wishbone booms).

Further, it would nod toward modernity by having an outboard in a well and bench seats with lots of storage for week long expeditions on Albemarle and Pamlico sounds (NC). Extras would include a provision for cooking, fresh water storage, twin ice chests and a bucket head stored under the forward deck. She’ll be named Lagniappe’ which is a Cajun word meaning “a little something extra”…like the 13th donut in a baker’s dozen. The word is in common usage all over south Louisiana by some of the nicest people in the world. If this turns out I can sell all the rest of my boats…I’ll finally be satisfied.

Tools and Equipment

I had a problem. If I was to build this boat I would have to acquire a welder and learn to weld aluminum.

A tall order I was told but believe me it’s not…a tall order, I mean. It’s actually very easy if your head isn’t cluttered with years of steel welding procedures and techniques. Actually, the credit should go to the manufacturers of modern welding equipment. The new rigs allow anyone to learn it in short order.  Anyway, I bought a welder with a spool gun and proceeded to teach myself to weld using the techniques and information gleaned from the various internet sites, forums and videos in addition to Stephen F. Pollard’s book. When I was able to cut two pieces in half and weld them back together, sand it flush and sandblast it with the result being not able to see the welds; I graduated myself. Now don’t get me wrong…I know I’m no master and I definitely bow to those who are but I can stick two pieces together and even though it may not be pretty, it’s waterproof and for a boat that’s what counts.

I also bought a 37 amp plasma cutter. It cuts through any ¼ inch  metal like butter. I will use it for trimming late in the building process.

Next I bought a tube roller for shaping the gunwales out of pipe and a pipe bender for making grab bars and leeboard guards. To make the pipe joints fit I got a tubing notcher too.

Needless to say the tool companies love me because I also acquired: hole saws, wire cutters, stainless steel brushes both powered and manual, a non-contact infrared thermometer, a chain hoist, a $350.00 welder’s helmet (you can’t be too careful where your eyes are concerned), various consumables, tips and lots of welding wire, grinding wheels, specialized extension cords, lots of sharpie markers and on and on and on.

The list includes deluxe carts for both the welder and plasma cutter. Did I mention that I’m a tool nut?

I hope I bought enough!

Shop Made Tools and Jigs

In my reading I came upon a welding jig/clamp affair that is pure genius.
It’s made from a length of channel to act as a heat sink but it also functions as a clamp to minimize warping by adding two matching lengths of angle iron either bolted or clamped down on either side of a seam to be welded.

Here’s another jig to slit pipe into a useful gunwale (gunnel?). Scribe a line on top of the PVC tube and another on the pipe you wish to slit. Keep them aligned as you push through the saw and you’ll  get a straight cut every time.

I tried using a chalk line to mark the pipe to be slit but it really needs two people to do it right and since I work alone (mostly) I came up with a marking jig using a pencil or sharpie marker to draw a straight line down the 20 foot length of the pipe.


I now have:
10 sheets of 4 x 8 x .125 – 5052-H32 alloy
2 sheets of 5 x 12 x .125 – 5052-H32 alloy
5 lengths of 1.3150 x 0.133 x 20' 0" – 6061-T6 alloy

All up it’s just over 800 lbs.


Yes, I’m a tool nut but it’s not worth buying everything to fabricate a metal boat. I took all my materials to a local Fab Shop to shear it down to manageable sizes and he even used his Press Brake to fold the bench seats for me. It sure beats ripping it down with a table saw. Total cost was only $140.00. The equipment he used could easily cost over $100,000.00.

Hope you give it a go someday and more to come...

Dan Roberts
Encore Tools & Equipment Inc.
Salisbury, NC

"Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing,
with tools he is all." Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881)

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