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Construction Methods — INDEX

Question: Can you describe the various construction methods currently available to homebuilders and also highlight their pros and cons?

Answer: Today, there are a surprising number of construction options and here is a run down of the main ones. (Please write and tell us about any methods that you feel we have missed and need to know about, so we can share the info with others). The articles completed thus far have a click-able link.

  1. Frames and plywood
  2. Lapstrake
  3. Cold moulded
  4. Constant camber (Brown & Marples)
  5. Cylinder molding (Hughes)
  6. KSS system (Kelsall)
  7. Strip Cedar and Balsa
  8. Foam core over male or female mould
  9. C-flex (fiberglass)
  10. Tortured ply
  11. Radiused Chine  (Dudley Dix)
  12. Hybrids  (Karmin, Waters, Leneman)

I particular like what Kurt Hughes had to say at the intro to a presentation he made back in 1992 so I'm going to paraphrase him here, with his kind tolerance ;-). Keep this in mind as you read about the various methods.

"Composite one-off multihulls have tremendous amounts of surface area for a given volume. Consequently, for a composite hull, a considerable time is spent in the molding activity. Builder's attempts at reducing that time are usually spent fairing the work later on." So strategies that reduce fairing time but still keep quality high are desirable. Construction-mould building may also take significant time and expense for any composite project, as "with a multihull, the problem is particularly acute as it will have twice the number of molds with a larger total surface area than an equivalent sized monohull".

(Note that throughout this article, 'mold' and 'mould' are used interchangeably—the latter being British. Just smile and bear with me ;-)

I'll not be surprised if the developers of these systems take issue with me on this, but the way I see it, Systems 4, 5, 6 and 10 have an important thing in common. They all take a basically rolled flat sheet and find ways of building in some compound shape for the ends, either through some torturing, closing of cut-outs, or a combination of both.

A system like 'Constant Camber' that also builds in a little compound surface through the use of diagonally laid narrow shaped strips, is less affected by this but may still use 'the trick' to get a particular shape in the bow area. As long as the surface affected only represents a small core of the total laminate thickness I see no major issue with this, as the enclosing glass skins are generally laid up after the shape is established.

The common advantage of these 4 systems, is that by working from large pre-moulded sheets, major areas of the hulls will have a generally fair surface with minimum finishing required and in the case of the KSS system, even a gelcoat finish for the topsides. See each system description for more details.


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