Category Archives: Modern boatbuilding

Modern and plywood boatbuilding and plans

Percy Blandford’s autobiography is on sale now!

Percy Blandford - A Life Full of Hobbies

Publlishing phenomenon and prolific post-war era canoe and boat designer Percy Blandford’s family have had his autobiography published, and it’s now obtainable from them. To obtain a copy, message his grand-daughter at diane.naested@gmail.com

I think the foreword  (see below) explains it all as well as anyone could… I should add that the grand old fella wrote his autobiography at the age of 95.

Percy Blandford was a man of many talents, interests and achievements. A world-renowned boat designer and builder,
a pioneering Do-It-Yourself expert and the author of countless books and magazine articles on an extraordinarily wide range of technical subjects, he was also a leading figure in the Scouting movement for well over eighty years, an unrivalled long service record for which he was honoured with a unique certificate that had to be created specially for him.

Born in Bristol on October 26th, 1912, Percy was apprenticed to a large local engineering firm before qualifying as a technical teacher and going to work in a school in London.

During the war he was recruited as a technical writer for the RAF, producing manuals for new aircraft. After the war he returned briefly to teaching before launching his career as a small boat designer and all-round technical journalist, making a name for himself in the post-war D-I-Y boom.

In his workshop at home in Newbold-on-Stour he designed and built prototypes of scores of canoes, kayaks, dinghies,
trailer-sailers, yachts, cabin cruisers and – in the sixties – even surfboards! Altogether, he sold more than 78,000 of his D-I-Y boat plans worldwide. They are still available and his boats are still being built today. He himself was a keen canoeist, narrowly failing to qualify as a candidate for the 1948 Olympics, although he was very proud to be appointed a timekeeper and judge for the rowing and canoeing events, staged at Henley.

As well as writing thousands of magazine articles on technical subjects ranging from net-making and ropework to
blacksmithing, knife-making, upholstery and every aspect of woodworking, Percy also published 113 books on an equally broad range of subjects.

For more posts about Percy and his boats, click here.

I’d like to underline the point that his boats are still being built by sharing this shot of one of his PBK canoes launched by Dundee-based canoeist Bill Samson.

Bill Samson pbk canoe

Building Emma and a video diary of building the Fairlie 55

Two contrasting videos: in my mind, the first should be titled ‘Building the beautiful Emma’!

My thanks to reader Keith Johnston for letting me know about these two.

BBA students launch a strip-planked Andrew Wolstenholme Mallard dinghy

Boat Building Academy student Tim Harrison launched this 12ft Andrew Wolstenholme Mallard dinghy at the annual early summer student launch. The photos are by Becky Brown, Paul Dyer and Jenny Steer.

I gather the Mallard was originally designed for the Boatman magazine.

Tim, an experienced sailor and ex-merchant seaman, wanted to use a modern construction method and chose to strip plank the dinghy in western red cedar, sheathed inside and out with glass fibre and epoxy. She has a laminated khaya stem, sapele hog and keel, and mahogany transom. She is painted inside and out with bright finished thwarts and trim.

The boat was lofted, as are all boats built, as part of the course, and the moulds were CNC cut by the Architectural Association at Hooke Park using CAD files supplied by Andrew.

Tim chose a cat-rig for ease of use, to free up hull space and for its pretty appearance. The boat has a pivoting centreboard.

The dinghy’s sail was made by the class as part of a four-day sail-making short course at the Academy taught by Jeremy White of Elvstrøm Sails.

Students work on all of the builds, but BBA staff say Peter Holyoake particularly enjoyed his time working on the Mallard.  Peter came to the BBA from the Isle of Wight, where he worked for a major logistics company for 25 years as a programme manager.

However, after reading an article about the academy in Coast magazine he had what he calls a ‘lightbulb’ moment and decided it was time for a change.

The course inspired him to learn some other skills – at Lyme Regis he took time out to train as a barista at a local independent coffee house, and learnt how to prepare fish and shellfish at a fishmongers near the Cobb – Lyme’s historic harbour wall.

If anyone ever fancies a mackerel cappuccino, Peter says he’s your man… [I’ll pass on that, Ed]

Tim chose to name his Mallard dinghy ‘Tucana’ – Tupi for ‘Toucan’. Tim’s daughter is an amateur artist concentrating on birds, and the Victorian bird illustrator John Gould was born in Lyme Regis.

A traditional sign writer painted the name on the boat, together with a bright image of a toucan on the dinghy’s transom.

Tim plans to enjoy Tucana with family and friends in East Anglia and the West Country, and Peter plans to start a new career in the marine industry.

See the Mallard’s build diary here.