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Earthbag Building & Other Natural Building Methods

Creating a Ferrocement Boat

Creating a ferro cement boat from EMAS on Vimeo.

Another great project by Wolfgang Buchner of EMAS in Bolivia, the inventor of the EMAS pump. I want one of these! This ferrocement boat could be built for around $50, depending on where you live. (Adjust for costs in your area.) Try finding a sturdy boat for that price. And it’s so simple to do! Once you’ve mastered the basic steps, you could build many other types of boats. What about a houseboat made one section at a time? This would be a great cottage industry product for certain areas.

Source: Vimeo
EMAS home page
Ferrocement boats can last over 100 years according to The World of Ferrocement Boats.
Don’t want to use Portland cement? Try to locate geopolymer cement in your area. (Search the geopolymer site for suppliers.)
Note: the same ferrocement skills can be used to build roofs or even entire houses.

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7 Responses to “Creating a Ferrocement Boat”

  1. Owen Geiger says:

    Jay — You want to delete the latest posting that starts with “I’m not an avid boat person…”? It’s still in the queue.

  2. Jay says:

    EMAS is an awesome organization.

    One thought about a ferrocement boat. It is wise to create small completely enclosed floatation chambers at the bow and stern of the boat. Build a small bulkhead that will enclose an air chamber at the bow, and then fill that chamber with a closed cell foam material. (waste extruded polystrene foam packaging bits from dumpster behind a store that receives lots of shipments of breakable items.) Then use the ferrocement to enclose that foam completely inside a sealed chamber.

    By making such chambers large enough and placing them at the bow and stern, you can be certain that the boat will not sink completely to the bottom if it ever capsizes or gets swamped in bad weather. People will be able to hold on to the side of the capsized boat for floatation until help arrives. Also, the boat will be easily salvaged if it gets capsized or swamped.

    For generations, many University Civil Engineering Departments compete in an annual “Concrete Canoe Race.” where students design and build their own concrete canoes and then race them against other university teams.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afgdqtAR3qo

    It’s very educational. Teaching students about cement, ferrocement, fluid dynamics, friction, strength to mass ratios, and all kinds of other concepts in a fun way.

    • Owen Geiger says:

      I like the idea about styrofoam in the bow and stern. That would be easy to do and well worth the effort.

      • Jay says:

        Here is a good example.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkVmkvbUVuE

        Note the enclosed chambers at the bow and stern of the canoe.

        • Owen Geiger says:

          Brilliant. I hadn’t seen that before, maybe because I’m not a boat person.

          Also note the sleek lines on that canoe. Ferrocement boats don’t have to be clunky looking. I imagine there are some good books that show how to make high quality streamlined boats. This could be a good sideline business that enables you to keep working through winters and economic downturns. Materials are low cost. It’s mostly labor. So this seems like a very good skill to have.

          • Jay says:

            I agree it is sleek.

            Just be careful that you don’t make a boat TOO sleek.

            I’m not an avid boat person either, but I did go to Engineering school back in my young adulthood. My team won a couple of heats in a concrete canoe regatta, but we weren’t good enough to win any championships. All brains and wimpy muscles. The champions have both brains and muscles.

            The great thing about college and concrete canoe races is that inevitably, there will always be a few teams that will push their boat too far. They will make it too light and too weak to survive the stresses of racing.
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDw0HfwysgM

            I’m proud to say my team’s boat back in the day may not have been the fastest, but it did survive. We stayed dry aside from splashing each other.

            I suggest that building an everyday ferrocement boat need not focus on raw speed for most utilitarian tasks. One need not try to make the boat as thin as possible. Extra strength is a plus so that the boat will last for many years. Extremely sleek and thin concrete canoe racers tend to live life right on the edge of survival.

            But it sure is funny to watch some college kids competing in a race go under, especially if they are a traditional rival school.

            I do agree that if someone lives in an area where there is a market for boats that ferrocement boats of a variety of types could be a great business.

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