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Building from old boat plans.

The information below is supplied by MGYD (Mertens-Goossens Yacht Design Inc.), a company with 25 years experience in boat design for amateurs. MGYD's web site is and you will find many references to the tutorials posted at

Where do the free boat plans come from?

There are many old boat plans in the public domain available on the Internet. For many of those plans, the copyright has expired and they are available for free if you know where to look. Some old plans have been maintained, the copyrights are still in effect and those plans are legitimately sold, the Atkins designs are a good example.

Free copies of public domain old plans can be downloaded from web sites like Svenson or better,

Some copies of the same old plans are sold at various web sites and on eBay, sometimes at an exorbitant price. They talk about a “master boat builder” and his secrets but those are exactly the same plans than the ones above, assembled on a CD. Despite their advertisement, you will not receive nice boxed software or a booklet but just a plain CD in an envelope, with the same copies of plans than the ones listed for free at Occasionally, our company sells on Ebay and similar sites, at cost, a CD with all the copies of those plans and copies of our copyrighted HowTo files and tutorials.

There are other legitimate sources of free or almost free plans. Many designers offer one or two free plans as a sample of their work. Then there is DNGoodchild, a company that reprints some of those old plans in high quality format for a small fee. There may be others but in most cases, your free boat plans will come from one of the web sites above and be copies of old plans published in magazines.

First look at the plans.

Most of the free plans are more than 50 years old and they are very different from today's plans. The plans were drafted on paper, almost all require lofting and specify materials than may not be available anymore. Those are the points we are going to look at, one item at a time.

You can build from those plans but the plans are more difficult to use than modern ones.

To help you, this file will show how to use today's materials as substitutes and explain how to read the old plans.

We will not be able to cover every detail and possible solution. More information is available at technical support web sites like for the plans and for materials.

How to open the plans and print them.

Most of the free plans will be in PDF format. To view and print the plans, you need Acrobat® on your computer. Most computers have Acrobat installed but if not, you can download it for free. Once the plans show up on your screen, you can print them on regular paper but you can also zoom in, enlarge details and print them at a larger scale.

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