Wooden Boatbuilding – a review

Wooden Boatbuilding Jean-Francois Garry

Baffled by the difference between a futtock and a fashion piece? Would you like to be able to read a set of offsets or take off some lines? Would you like an attractive, nicely illustrated guide to the principles of traditional-style boatbuilding to read over Christmas?

Wooden Boatbuilding could well be the book for you.

The first in a new series about classic boats from Adlard Coles, this is a very attractive and nicely designed book written by a well known French boatyard and chandlery owner Jean-Fran├žois Garry, and translated into English.

There are sections discussing boat plans and how to choose between designs, taking-off lines, lofting, timber types, the various components of traditionally built boats and the techniques required to plank hulls and decks, boat carpentry and maintenance. Despite the book’s claims for itself, I wouldn’t want to attempt any of this stuff having read this book alone, but it certainly provides a useful introduction.

There’s a very Gallic theme among the photos and illustrations, and the occasional appearance of words in settings unfamiliar to a native English speaker remind one that the material was originally written in French. In the foreword, for example, we learn that the book gets to the point in a helpful manner ‘by deliberately overlooking difficulties that an amateur would not encounter’. Elsewhere, ‘oak is widely used for classic yachts but so too are red woods’. We know what’s meant but we haven’t heard it put quite like that before.

Happily, the technical side of the translation seems to be correct throughout, so I don’t think there’s any danger of learning something that later turns out to be misleading. There’s also a very useful collection of recommended reading, a short section on the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) and a glossary. The only thing that lets it down are some rather dodgy and fuzzy photos that look like they’ve been placed at low resolution by mistake.

This very attractive and useful package would make a nice gift for many people interested in traditional boats, and is available from Amazon.