RC Sailing boat DIY

October 2019


This is my first attempt - with 38 years - to build a wooden, small radio controlled sailing boat. I've never done that before, so this is a kind of experiment with open end and result(s). The general plan is based on a ship design from Gary Webb (US, Illinois - thanks Gary!) and has a small retro touch, with a steady hull shape. The general target size is 1 m long and 1 m mast, weight ~6 kilos and has two RC servos, one for the canvas and one for the rudder, so there is no engine and it's just powered by the wind. A truly sailing boat. Nice, but I have to build everything by myself, so this is also a "keep up" challenge and training for me. It's not easy to complete your childhood as over-the-hill office life adult! So I expect a few weeks of working aside my daily life & work and there will be frustrating moments... but's that okay. It's for the fun! \o/

The process

On this page, I will log all steps and experiences during the next week's. I'll post some parts / the building images in black & white, because most of the time I will work in the evening and the quality of my smartphone camera is very low, so colors are a problem.

Day 1

After I received the plan as PDF file, I searched for a possibility to print it out in original size. Not easy, but finally I found a small hobbist store a few streets from here - with a plotter. After a nice small talk, I'll get two huge papers for less then 10 Euros. First challenge completed.

Cutting out everything - the easy part of the project...

Then I transfer the shapes to some cheap plywood, that I found at a local warehouse for 3 Euro x 2. That's okay and should be enough for the hull and deck.

Some clamps support me.

Good, all hull parts are from the same plywood sheet, that should make it easier, to shape the wood later.

Day 2

Next step: cutting out everything with the jigsaw and also the band saw. Loud and dirty, but necessary.

Marking the drill holes... stitch the hull parts together. I use small wire with plastic casing from cables. That's enough for a test.

Okay, maybe it will work... because it's looking good and a has some kind of "Mh, it could be possible, if you don't mess around". \o/

Day 3

Now I use some tape to fix the plywood parts together and to take a closer look at the measurements. Here you can see the unfamiliar, steady shape of the boat.

The bottom parts will be a challenge. The plywood has 4 mm, the original plan works with 2 ~ 2.7 mm, which is a huge difference in bending the wood and needs some force.

This is the reason, why I really have to think about the fixture of the hull parts. At the moment the tape will form them a little bit during the next days, but I hope, that some Epoxy stuff will support it persistent - if I found the appropriate one: next challenge.

Day 4

Another day... we cut down two small pieces with the band saw from my personal wood pool.

Combine them with waterproof wood glue and we have the base for the fin bracket.

I will drill two holes on the top brace - later this will provide the fixture for the fin inside.

To fix them on the main hull brackets, I use some small screws, that I luckily repealed from an old computer fan.

Then I cut small wood pieces to smaller pieces...

... and glue them on both sides of the hull plates. Later this will provide the support for the wooden deck.

Final test, before we start to glue things together! The point of no return.

The force of the bended hull is too high, so I trim again the angles of the bow and stern front and rebuild everything again... deform the curve of the hull shape just a tiny bit - this reduces the force on the bottom part and works quite good. The next thing is to reshape the hull brackets and their angles too, just 1~2 millimeters here and there. But after three hours of work today, that's enough for this Saturday!

Day 5

After reshaping I glue some wooden blocks inside the hull to support the inside parts.

This supports the shape and also reduces the vertical force of the wood and makes it easier, to deal with the form.

Finally I also receive the Expoxy stuff, to glue everything together.

5 minute Epoxy is a great stuff and glues really everything! But you have to be really fast, after mixing the two components (hardener & resin).

Then I discover, that the reshape of the side panels changed also (no surprise) the shape or curve of the general hull. So the bottom parts don't fit anymore... \o/

Alright, so let's make new ones...

...and draw and cut everything again...

...and try to work as exact as possible.

Alright, we are ready. I use a lot of tape, to bend also the bottom parts to the general hull... again, the plywood is very thick, so this is not easy!

Now we take some fabric... provide the hull parts more stability. After this photo I cover everything inside with a coat of clear Epoxy.

Day 6

After drying I start now with the outside sanding, to give the hull a soft surface for the outside Epoxy coat. When you work on it, it has the resonance if an instrument (body).

Sanding, sanding,... get a smooth line.

Then I use some laminate epoxy for the first, basic coat on the outside hull.

And let it dry now for 12~24 hours, before we start with a glasfilament fabric coat. Sure, after sanding again. \o/

Day 7

Now the fabric coat on the outside of the hull.

Looks nice and great...

Again we are using laminate epoxy for the coat.

Not visible here in black & white, but the wood looks really nice. But this is just the first coat, there will be a second one and later then classic white varnish.

Day 8

Just a tiny piece on this evening... a bracket for the ship mast.

Cutting some thick wood...

...mark the right position with some other pieces of cutting material.

Now smoothing on the plate sander, to get the right shape.

Later I will glue that with some epoxy inside the bottom hull.

Now we mark the center of the bottom mast end... drill the right position inside the bracket.

Again some sanding inside the hull, to provide a good foundation for the bracket.

But we will save that for later... now a small fitting test. Nice... looks like a boat!

Day 9

Next step... working on the deck, to get the right dimensions and positions for all parts.

We use the band saw, to get the right shape and parts.

But I have to change again the curve, because of the reshape of the hull parts before.

The first time, where you can see the real shape of the boat.

To find the exact middle for all parts, is not easy - one hull side is a tiny bit too long, just a few millimeters, and also the inner parts of the hull have a tiny, small twist.

But it's my first boat ever, so this inaccuracy is okay and I can live with that. But after one hour of sawing and measuring, it's enough for today.

Day 10

Another day, but not enough time for more... so just cutting all holes of the ship deck.

Cutting also all parts of the cabin with the right measurements.

Gluing brackets for the side panels for the assembly later.

A small test... I also start to think about the visual appearance of the boat.

I will (maybe) use some wooden veneer on the deck, with a small touch of Carlo Rivas designs... but this is just a first thought.

To be continued...

Last update: 25.10.2019 · # · Vienna, Austria · emanuel//at// · Data privacy