Devlin Design & Technology

Design, whether for boats, toasters, or hotel rooms, is the process of balancing many factors and constraints into a beautiful, unified whole. Overall lines, balance of elements, visual dynamics, and sight lines all come into play. In the case of something functional, like a boat, the aesthetics are just the beginning.  Power, displacement, intelligent allocation of interior space, how to get the myriad of working parts to fit, the balance of various aspects of performance for the design goals of a particular boat, and so many others… All tug at the designer’s attention in a grand walk across a tightrope until the design emerges, ready to meet its seaworthy mission.

Lots of designers can solve the technical challenges, but few if any can achieve it with the magic of classic nautical lines carried intact into a highly refined, modern, and functional final product.

The Devlin Design Team

Sam Devlin

Sam is the creative core of Devlin Designing Boat Builders and the winner of the 2012 Lifetime Achievement in Design award by Wooden Boat Magazine. He and his boats are the subjects of many magazine feature articles, and he is the teacher of many up-and-coming boat builders. He is a pioneer of modern “Stitch and Glue” building methods and has refined it to a technical art. It’s safe to say that his impact on the world of wooden boat building is second-to-none.


Lee is the Office Manager for Devlin Boats. He came up through the boat building ranks at the shop, and now keeps the machine turning. More than likely, he will be the first voice your hear when you call. That puts you in expert hands from the very beginning. He seems to know everything and everyone, and only forgets annoying technical bits involving computers.


Sam’s son MacKenzie grew up in the Devlin Boatbuilding shop and has emerged as an accomplished boat builder. In addition to building many of his dad’s boats he finds time in his busy life to work on developing his own boat design skills. Devlin Boats is very lucky to have him on the team.

PS – He has almost completed restoration of his own Arctic Tern 26 and he finds his Snow Goose 16 to be an excellent photo shoot boat and fishing platform for himself and his son Rory.

What Makes Us Unique

For over 40 years Sam Devlin has been a pioneer in wooden boat building technique and a boat builder with a distinct sense of traditional style. He got there from the love he felt as a boy for boats that he shared with his Dad to his college summers in Alaskan fishing boats and tugs to his complete obsession with restoring a 1934 Tacoma built northwest salmon troller to a point where it’s even prettier today than the day it was launched and yet it retains the full heightened design sensibilities of its era.

When he independently came up with the stitch and glue building idea as a very young man he brought to it all of his heartfelt awe at the beauty of all Northwest and Northeast design legacies. Plywood, epoxy, fiberglass and sandpaper became the medium for honoring this historical design legacy and bringing wooden boat building into a new and contemporary form.

For all of us who love wooden boats Sam Devlin offers us everything necessary to create our own beautiful and contemporary boat. Many dozens of complete building plans, many hundreds of study plans and concept drawings, hundreds of boats completed at the shop and gracing waters throughout the US and Canada. And now through professional and amateur builders in over 85 countries around the world his boats are realities gracing international waterways and touching hearts everywhere.

We want you all to have the opportunity to be a part of this through our construction plans for all types of boats from 7 feet to 65 feet and through our custom builds for those who want a Devlin design built at our shop in Olympia, Washington.

This is maybe the most unique attribute of Devlin Boat Company. Sam designs and builds and then goes cruising throughout the Northwest. This combination of builder, designer, and active boater in one person brings something to his plans and boats that few other companies can offer.

Our Designs

Building a boat, turning pieces of wood into a functional, artistic and elegant shape — be it dinghy, sailboat, fishing boat, troller, cruiser, or anything in between — is wonderfully rewarding.  Check out our Design Gallery for a design worthy of your craftsmanship. 

And if you’re new to boat building, we’ve got resources to help you get started.

How can we help you build a boat?


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Artfully Designed and Crafted Boats since 1978

Shop tours on Fridays by appointment

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