Design Process In-depth

Storm_Petrel_510Sam’s close look at the Devlin design process in his own words.


The goal of our new boat design process is to take your unique set of requirements and tailor them into the best possible solution.


I like a rather freeform approach to Custom Designing.kokanee36-510px Usually the process starts with a face-to-face meeting, or a phone conversation, where I can make some notes on what you might like in this new design. Often at this stage, if it’s appropriate, I might suggest one of our numerous stock designs, but if those designs aren’t hitting the mark, then something new is in order! It’s important for me to get a feel for what you like in similar boats, your boating lifestyle sockeye45(both realistic and imagined) and your dreams for what your boating future and who you might be sharing it with.

At this point, it’s a fairly easy task for me to estimate what the cost of working up preliminary drawings for the new design. With that agreement in hand, then it’s time for the real work to start.

The Preliminary Designs

Preliminary Designs are really the “Art” part of the design process with an attempt to capture the look, feel and if possible, the essence of the new design. Usually preliminaries start life as simple non-scaled sketches of my interpretation for the boat, but I would have to say that these days, my sketches tend to be fairly close to scale and my real objective is to lay down the “feel of the boat”. When I’m happy with the sketches, then it’s time to go to the old trusty drawing board and flush out the design so that you as the customer can also get the feel of her.

I have always enjoyed drafting and drawing with ink and pencil but in these days of computers, I must confess that quite often my work might all be done on the computer screen.  Whichever way is selected, the end result of an preliminary design is always an attempt to show you, in small scale, what my interpretation for the design is. The preliminary also allows us a chance to work together, to check working styles and most importantly, for you to see if my interpretation of what you were thinking of, might work.

The Hull Lines and Offsets

Once the Preliminary Design is flushed out and both of us agree it is a workable solution to your needs and desires, then it’s time to flush out the rest of the building plans, with that process being in three distinct sections.

The first section is the hull lines and offsets. Work is done in the computer for this section to design the hull itself, check the hydrostatics (the displacement or weight, prismatic coefficient, hull loading and other data) and make sure that all of the new design fits what the original intent was. Where the Preliminary is the “Art” part of the process, the hull lines and offsets is really the engineering part of the process and using computers helps considerably with the task.

Panel Projections, Bulkheads, and Construction “3” Views

With the lines and offsets drawings finished, the next step is to lay out the essence of the “Stitch and Glue” boat, that is the panel projections and bulkheads. All “Stitch and Glue” boats are basically a build from the exterior inward type of process and so the expanding of the hull skins into their exact shapes or layed flat shapes is a very important part of the design process. The hull skins will ultimately rest on the longitudinal (lengthwise) and athwartships (sideways) bulkheads and so the layout and shapes of those parts is also very important.

With the panel projections and bulkheads finished, now is the time to draw the construction “3” views of the boat. Those are the top view, side or profile view and the end view of the boat showing the parts of the boat as cutaways. This is a long and complicated drawing but forms the framework that all the rest of the plans rest upon.

Detail Drawings

Once the Construction “3” View Drawings are finished, next comes the “Detail” Drawings of the design, with sections (cuts thru the boat drawn as if you sliced a loaf of bread and did a detailed drawing of the individual slices) drawn for as many parts as necessary for interpretation from either the home builder or the Shipwright. 

These views help call out the scantlings (or the thickness and shapes) of all the parts of the boat and help with making up the materials lists for the construction plans. A lot of these drawings are in full scale (lifesize) and might involve many sheets of drawings. Wrapping up of the materials list happens at this time and it’s often at this point that the early set of full construction drawings is shipped out to the builder for starting with the project.

Engineering Drawings

The final drawings for your new design are the engineering drawings. These might include the engine installation, rudder details, steering details, electrical schematics, plumbing schematics, etc. They really finish out the design to whatever level of detail might be necessary for the builder. If we are building the boat at Devlin Designing Boatbuilders, then we might not need quite the detail that for instance a home-builder in Maine might need. I try very hard to fit the plans to the experience level and the complexity level that was outlined in the Preliminary Design. The goal is to provide enough information to properly build the boat but not necessarily hand holding clear through the process. It’s as simple as tailoring the plans to fit the builder.
That’s the process and we usually split the fees for the Design up into the 5 stages so that we accomplish a simple goal — that is to have us work hard for you and be compensated fairly and timely for the hard work.