“Do you really want to build that first metal boat . . . or buy a used one and repair it?”

Roger McAfee gives the would-be first-time owner, boatbuilder, or repairer of a metal boat an insight into the project in store. This is not an overly detailed “how-to book,” although certain aspects of metal boatbuilding and repair are covered. Rather, it is introductory in nature, meant for the would-be builder or repairer.

The author starts with a metal analysis of steel, aluminum, and copper-nickel. Next he asks the reader to consider whether this is a “family project” and discusses important considerations regarding the vast scope of a boatbuilding or repair project. He also discusses tools and equipment for the project and the relative costs of new and used tools, giving the first-timer a guideline for acquiring the minimum equipment necessary.

One chapter should cause first-timers to consider attending a welding/burning training course before beginning their projects. Another assists with the choice of which project to pursue. It acquaints the reader with cutting open the steel hull and patching it. Roger stresses getting a thorough survey of the steel hull and discusses methods of determining metal thickness. He goes on to patching holes in the hull and the different techniques for doing so.

One marine designer’s steel boat design is included to give the prospective builder a feel for the planning and building of a steel-hulled vessel. This is only one of many other sources of designs available.

After all this, Roger zeroes in on financial considerations. He suggests that comparative costs must be made to determine how best to approach a boatbuilding or restoring project. As he points out, “Research can result in substantial savings, not only in building a boat, but also in fitting out.” He lists some books and sources to be pursued by the interested metal-boat enthusiast and reader.

The Steel Hull qualifies as a worthwhile, easy-to-read introduction to metal boatbuilding and repair. It aids and directs the first-timer in the quest for a metal boat to go cruising in. “To build from scratch . . . or buy and repair?” That is the question that author Roger McAfee asks – and helps the reader answer for himself.

Reviewer Lynn King is president of the Metal Boat Society.

The Steel Hull by Roger Mcafee (Nighthawk MArine Ltd., Vancouver B.C. Canada, 2001; 148 pages)