Wooden Boat Restoration at Dan Lee Boatbuilding

An outline of my typical process for complete Wooden Boat Restoration


Assessment Phase

The first stage of any restoration project is to first carry out a proper assessment of the boat. I will aim to answer questions such as what is feasibly reusable and what should be replaced? If the boat is of historical importance, should the focus be on preserving as much originality as possible or are we just aiming use existing parts to produce new patterns?

This phase will nearly always require some element of deconstruction of the boat. Note that it is not possible to provide restoration estimates based purely on photographs or even a visit to the boat, it is almost impossible to evaluate the true condition of a wooden boat without first removing certain components. By the end of the assessment phase, I will aim to establish a rough estimate for the total restoration and in turn, establish the feasibility of the project before moving on.

This phase will typically amount to around 10% of the total budget for the restoration work.

Tideway deconstruction during restoration at Dan Lee Boatbuilding

If it is feasible to proceed, I will then look into the deeper elements of what is required of the boat post-restoration. I will look to establish how, where and when the boat will be used and stored. Upon looking over these factors we will formulate a plan for the restoration work, establishing whether there are any construction alterations to be adopted within the process or whether the boat should be re-built in its original form.

Once the assessment proposal and estimate has been agreed upon, if desired, we can look to begin work on the complete deconstruction and reconstruction phase of the project.

Chris Craft Bottom Removed at Dan Lee Boatbuilding

Deconstruction and Reconstruction Phase

Before you can move forwards with a wooden boat restoration there is a significant amount of “working backwards” to do. Depending on the condition of the boat it may require a complete deconstruction before I am able to proceed.

In the case of the Chris Craft shown, a complete deconstruction was required. Many of the components of this boat were either oil soaked or significantly rotten and needed either thorough treatment or replacement. As the only dimensions I had to work from were from existing parts, this process had to be undertaken very carefully. Bracing and retaining the boats components in a careful sequence so that the shape could be retained.

Once all of the “backwards work” is completed I can begin to formulate a clearer picture of exactly what needs replacing or repairing on the boat. From this stage I will be able to put together a more refined estimate of the work that will need to follow.

As the rebuild phase of the restoration takes place I can begin to repair or replace original timbers with correct or modern alternative species. At this stage I will also begin to implement any construction alterations that may have been deemed necessary during the assessment phase.

The deconstruction and reconstruction phase of a restoration can constantly evolve throughout the project but it will typically amount to around 40% of the projects total budget.


Varnish, paint and fitting installation is a process that can take up a deceptively long amount of time within a project, particularly when a high standard of finish is required. This can quite easily amount to around the same amount of time required for the reconstruction phase, around 30-40% of the total budget should be allowed for this.

Wooden speedboat details flagstaff

Final Fit Out, Launch and Sea Trials Phase

Final fit out is generally pre-empted during the finishing phase. I always aim to do a dry fit installation of all hardware, mechanical or rigging work during the finishing stage to ensure that all mountings and holes are pre-positioned before final finishing takes place. This in turn helps the final fit out to flow more smoothly, however there should be a significant amount of time allowed here, typically around 10% of the total restoration budget. I believe that details can make or break a boat and the screw heads simply MUST be lined up!

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