Origami Dinghy – really floats!


It’s been a long time since I posted anything about my first build, the 8′ Origami Dinghy. The boat got a brief trial and then put away in the garage. === If you recall, I don’t live near water, and the last time I was at the lake, we didn’t take a vehicle that would transport the craft. This last weekend we were out on the water with some friends and I was able to take the little boat along. It had handled storage just fine (although like many of us, it hadn’t lost any weight… that’s my main complaint with it, it’s too heavy). We took it out and I opened it up on the front deck of a pontoon boat. Kind of tricky in that space, but doable. Dane and I took it for a little spin, with a short paddle (all that was around). Still a fun and functional boat!

It floats!

In the water at last!

It floats!

So it was just a swimming pool… that’s all we had available.

I found it to be quite stable… surprisingly so. Its also heavier than I expected. Of course I have added the extra cloth up the sides (its well above waterline, as you can see). Some trim pieces along the edges of the cloth (as recommended in the instructions) would look nice.

There was a little water inside, but as near as I could tell that was from my intrepid testing crews’ bathing suits… they were already wet from swimming before we tested the boat. The wet interior is the reason that I am crouched down instead of sitting (I wasn’t dressed for this :-))

All-in-all it was a success, and we all had a good time playing with it.

You can see my small "outboard motors" hard at work 🙂

We didn’t even have a proper paddle around, but Dane used a piece of PVC pipe to surprisingly good effect… I would have thought it didn’t have enough surface area, but it did pretty well.

Not the level of fit and finish most of the online examples have shown, but very servicable for us… and the crowd really enjoyed it 🙂

Flapdoodle – another folding dinghy design

The Duckworks Magazine mailing list crowd has come through with another folding dinghy design that might be of interest. You’ve seen the “Origami Dinghy” (and the sailing version) all over this site. I’ve also linked to the Micro Folding Dinghy.

Now we have the Flapdoodle Dinghy. Described as “a no-nonsense rigid hardwood and ply 8 foot folding classic dinghy.” Its designed as a sail boat with a centerboard/daggerboard and flip-up rudder. The web site also states:

Designed after 6 years of research and testing to be as simple, rugged, and painless as possible. I will not claim this is an easy boat to build, but I made sure it could be built totally by one person with no assistance at any point. Every step will most likely be fun if you like to build things.

This is a “hard shell” folding dinghy that relies on metal hinges with PVC cloth (protected in a “groove”) for a waterproof folding mechanism. Looks like the design would be pretty versatile and tough, although might be a bit of a pain to build. Plans are quite reasonable. A Yahoo Groups mailing list is available for group support.

Ready for the water???

Well, its pretty much together… cloth has a few "rough" spots where its hard to get things around the curve. Note that this would NOT have been a problem if I wasn’t doing things different than designed 🙂

Yes, I know its nowhere near as nice looking as some others Origami 6′ – California Style, for example), but we had fun, learned some, and have something that will work for what we need.

We don’t have the keel "guard" or strip on, and we’ll see what we do about the "trimmy pieces" along the edges of the fabric, but it should definitely float now. No slick rope edging on the cloth, and I have some trimming to do at the stern (some of that you see is loose and needs trimmed down.

Its kind of a handful to pick up… an 8′ boat is bigger than I thought, really 🙂


Assembly at last

Well, nearly at the end… we got most all the wood put together, and most of the cloth on the craft this afternoon.

Anybody that’s following along looking for tips, etc. PLEASE note that I haven’t totally followed the directions 🙂

I’m sure that’s a designer’s nightmare, but us boat-builder types are independent and always have a thought of how to do it "better".

In the picture above, the floorboards are hanging down… this is because the bolts I had to fasten them to the rear floor supports which would have stopped them from flopping were too short. I’ll stop by the local orange box (Home Depot) and pick up more appropriately sized ones which will fix that.

With the earlier comments concerning taking measurements to the millimeter (literally), I still don’t see the need for that level of accuracy in some of this… at the end, you are propping things in place and fastening it together with strips of cloth… nothing wrong with that at all, but I don’t see that a measurement being off here and there really is that big a deal.

But, by all means, build it according to the instructions! Any deviation is my playing around, not recommended!

This picture shows the cloth mostly on. Here’s where I’m deviating (right now) the most from the design. I just can’t see the problem with letting the cloth extend farther up the sides of the craft to let that nice, very waterproof fabric protect that cheap, not great plywood. If I’m lucky, it will reach above the water line. I realize it will add to the weight, but that’s not high on my list of concerns.

I did run a line of glue (I used PL Premium for attaching the PVC cloth instead of silicone) along the edge of the side panels as specified, and then another at the edge of the cloth. If it proves to be a problem for the cloth to extend farther, then I can cut it back as the plans show and sand off the "extra" up at the higher spots on the sidewall.

Not that the aft and fore ends aren’t quite done yet, so you’ll note it hanging loose.

In correspondence with another builder, I came to the conclusion of using the PL Premium. I had it, wanted to use it throughout, although silicone would be obtainable easily. His testing found that the PL Premium, if dampened with a slight mist of water (lay a bead, spritz it) stuck very well to the PVC. Figured it sounded good to me… we’ll try. I put Dane (my handy little helper) to work wetting the glue and we put all the cloth on in just an hour or so.

Painting – its not just me

In my previous post ("More Painting") I mentioned the extent of painting even such a small boat… well, I’m not the first to run into this. Reading through Michael Storer’s writeup on his Dayboat/Launch, I found the following quote:

Well, we succeeded on all grounds.  The boat went together quickly because of the prefabrication method with all major components made up on the flat (drawing right), looked quite handsome, behaved quite well in the water, but the problem was the labour involved in painting all that surface area.  Despite the fact the boat was relatively clean and simple the labour estimates for the finishing made the whole project uneconomic – painting one boat was fine – but another 49+ could drive you nuts!!! It is a bit of a general lesson really – if someone says that a particular boat will take only 6 hours to build, or that their construction method takes half the time of someone else’s design then they are quite possibly not including the painting!

More painting

Actually, most of the time was spent painting the front porch rail, but I’m sure that was good practice 🙂 Did get pretty much all the paint on the dinghy… there are a lot of pieces/sides/edges to this thing. Just trying to get a decent coat of paint on a small folding boat gives me a much better idea (nightmare?) of painting a full size boat. No wonder it takes weeks/months 🙂 Hang in there folks! I’m sure you’re doing a better job than I am!


Well, me and my little helper got an initial coat of paint on most of it… still have some edges to hit, a couple of "back sides" we ran out of time for, and all will have to have a second coat, but its progress 🙂

There are a LOT of pieces of this thing (45 or so)… keeps seeming like something could be simplified, although so far I haven’t really figured out what.

My plywood is el-cheapo… and it shows when painting it… its not nearly as smooth as I thought. Ah well, it will still float (I hope). This is a trial/fun activity more than something I’m going to sell… and I bet it will be just as servicable.