The One Sheet Skiff (OSS)

The One Sheet Skiff (by Herb McLeod) is a design I happened upon while browsing Gavin Atkin's Web site (reference my homepage for that link). The reason I chose this project was two fold:
- One, I'm cheap and broke and still wanted a boat.
- Two, I was intrigued by the idea of building a boat whose total hull enclosure is comprised of one sheet of plywood!

So, here's a quick overview of this flat-bottom skiff. The boat measures just under 8 feet from bow to stern. It is constructed from 1/4 pine plywood, and 1" x 2" pine strips for the frame, gunwales and chines. The seat (which requires a small amount of additional scrap ply), is attached to the boat along with a section of beadboard (styrofoam) for flotation. As you can see in the photos, I added a small deck at the bow, both for asthetic reasons, and to provide some additional flotation and stability (presumably it helps). It is sealed using the tack and glue method with galvanized deck screws and water-proof (premium) polyeurthane construction adhesive. I used exterior primer and latex enamel for the finish. In most cases, this boat is oar-powered, though you will find people on Herb's site who have modified theirs for sailing and for small trolling motors. I use homemade oars and a Shakespeare trolling motor (14 lbs of thrust) on mine, which moves it along nicely when I'm out fishing or just buzzing about.

I'm not sure what its limits are in terms of weight capacity. I weigh about 145 lbs. and have absolutely no problem with stability. Even with fishing gear, a small anchor, a battery and the trolling motor, there is a good amount of freeboard. It's pretty crowded for two adults. My wife (who is a tiny person) and I took a short ride and found the boat to be highly unstable even in fairly calm water. In my opinion, it's about right for one small to average-sized adult and a little gear, and possibly for two well-supervised children.

You will find a links to the plans below, in addition to several photos of my version of this boat. Following are a few tips I would offer builders (and adhere to myself if and when I make another one):

Hardware: I realized late into the project that I was using 1 1/4 inch screws, when I believe the plans call for 1 inch. Subsequently, I ended up spening precious time removing the sharp ends that poked through the hull with a hacksaw. The plans also advise that one could use nails, but I think this would be challenging, as the screws help pull a bend the chines and trim when attaching them to the sides. A drill or cordless screwdriver is an essential timesaver!

The plans, I think, call for wood blocks as oarlock sockets. I spent about five bucks on a pair of metal oarlock sockets at Fleet Farm, and I would do it again. Additionally, I paid less than five bucks for plain old unsecured oar locks at a local marine shop.

Wood Selection: Choose your plywood carefully, not only to ensure a sturdy craft, but to ensure a smooth, attractive surface as well. I don't know that I would spend the money for this project, but it may be worth the additional expense to purchase marine plywood (I bought good old lauan plywood at Menards), especially if you plan to have a natural varnished, but unpainted, finish.

Cutting: I cut the entire hull out and then assembled all of the pieces. Next time, I would wait and trace the bottom onto the completed sides/transom/frame. It fit just about right, but I did end up having to seal an additional piece of ply to the stearn, which added precious time to the process. Better to trace the actual size you need and avoid the extra work of adding wood or having to remove a lot with a grinder or block planer (though I think planing is kind of fun).

Finish:I used exterior latex enamel--fine--but, next time I might consider using glossy rather than flat. It seems like it would be easier to scrub and might help to further reduce moisture soaking into the wood. Or I might consider marine paint. Also, I didn't float this thing before painting. Had no clue it would be helpful, but I was told that it helps to do this, as the wood expands when it gets wet. I am going to confirm this at some point!

Tools: Before I build another boat, I will spend a few bucks on some long clamps. They weren't essential for this project, but there were a few times when it sure would have been nice to have them.

Oars: I used closet rod for the oar shafts; the blades can be cut from the same sheet used for the hull enclosure. I bought a small can of Plasti-Dip at the hardware store and dipped the ends of the oars into it for rubber-coated handles. So far, they've held up nicely and feel better on my hands than bare, painted or unfinished wood.

FREE plans for the OSS

Herb McLeod's One Sheet Skiff
Visit Herb's site for free plans and stories from several other OSS builders!
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Here it is after two days of work. Finally looks like a boat!

For the photos above, it is important for me to mention that it is only registered with the state of Minnesota because I use a trolling motor! Normally, a non-motorized boat this length would not require registration, so don't spend the twenty-odd bucks if you don't need to.

Andrew Meyer
Minneapolis, MN
United States