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June 23, 2013

Do-it-yourself Rowboat

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Excerpts from Steve Garbarino's Wall Street Journal story follow.

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Hammer: check. Drill: check. Caulking gun: check. Now go build — and float — your own full-size, seaworthy boat. Any smooth-palmed greenhorn can do it, according to the founders of the Balmain Boat Company. All it takes is one of the Sydney-based outfit's do-it-yourself kits and a few free weekends.

The kit includes 38 precut plywood pieces and ships in four boxes.

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The company's BBCo Classic Rowboat Kit includes a 17-step, 22-page manual, 38 cut-to-fit plywood parts, stainless steel screws, square copper nails, two-part epoxy glue, cups and stirrers (for preparing the glue), three tubes of Sikaflex marine adhesive-sealant, and disposable gloves. You'll have to supply your own sandpaper, primer, undercoat, paint, varnish, rope, six-foot-long oars with rowlocks (available from Balmain)— and a pen to sign the safety disclaimer.

At 8 feet long and 120 pounds, the rowboat is, as mariners say, "yar" — particularly when finished with a Nantucket-red and snowy egret-white hull and natural-wood deck. The company has been making the kits in Australia since 2010 using sustainable hoop pine. For the U.S., where the flat-pack kits began being manufactured this year, the boats are made of imported Russian pine.

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The… company estimates that the entire process should take about four weekends, including allowances for drying time between steps. When Nicole Still, the company's co-founder, built her first boat using the kit, it took her about 10 hours total, though she had neither building nor boating experience (she grew up in landlocked Loveland, Ohio). That broke down to four hours to nail and glue the pieces together, two hours to seal and sand it and about four hours to paint.

According to co-founder Andrew Simpson, an accomplished sailor and industrial designer, the company has developed a niche market among parents and grandparents looking for a bonding project and rite-of-passage birthday gift for 18- and 21-year-olds. Later this summer, Balmain will launch a 16-foot DIY model called the BBCo Pilot, modeled after the original pilot boats that took colonists to shore in Australia. With three times the number of parts as the rowboat kit, it's intended for "a much more serious wooden-boat builder," said Ms. Still.

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$1,610.

June 23, 2013 at 08:01 AM | Permalink


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