Dillon Francis

Custom Design - Manufacturing - Project Management

Steel & Aluminium Construction

Steel Work


One of the first boats I built way back in the late 80's. Boat building has come a long way since those days.

Rib formation

Laying out the ribs, stringers and deck are the first step, depending on whether you are building at home over a long period or on a production line .

My experience in metal boat building is limited in comparison to other mediums, however,  I have completed two full projects.

Sub contracting on specific individual parts of a project is more my forte'.

When I look at a project like this now, I sigh a great sigh and these days I walk away. Always happy to share what knowledge I have to spare you the pain of going through this. 


Aluminium Production line  fabrication


 It is clean in comparison with steel.  If the plans are digitized and all the pieces are well cut, either with laser or water jet, you can jig your ribs, stringers and bulkheads with clamps and tack them into place before seam welding. 

Once you have your shop electricity supply set and the mixtures right on your welding it can be a pleasure to work with aluminium.

This work is all pre-thought-out and the desired finish and painting is decided prior to the grade of aluminium selected. 

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Back to Steel


Messy and complicated

After the frames, ribs and jigs are cut, formed and set, you get a better idea of what and how you are going to progress. Individual projects in steel are the only experience I have in the medium. So I apologize to the reader for my lack of enthusiasm for steel.

Shaping requires heating, banging, clamping and only finally welding. When working on individual projects like these, getting the steel to lay flat or form a curve can be tricky as when it cools it shrinks pulling with it the ribs and frames. 

This can be incredibly frustrating.  The final frame work with all tabs, attachment plates and equipment placement thought out and measured will enable a relatively fast construction. The finishing, however, is not a happy endeavour.  I have painted many steel boats and the re-work is a monster. The projects I have done in steel I have taken on for the experience and the money. I am glad I have done them but would think twice before taking on another steel project. 

There are new methods that when applied can make this a wonderful medium to work with. CAD water jet cut parts and prefab tanks along with the newer designs are far more worker friendly than the projects I have worked on. 

Setting up your shop is probably the most important part of steel boat building. Having a rail and car overhead makes life a lot simpler. For me, organization and cleanliness is the key to a successful project. 


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Water-Jet - Cad-Cut - Rib Work

  • Stainless has been good to me. Partly because of the cost. Most owners who can afford to work with stainless are not consumed with the nickle and dime over-runs and at the end of the day, land up with a quick, straight forward construction that actually costs them less.

  • This project was well thought out and all parts were pre-cut. From the mill to this point with 2 workers I laid this frame set up in 3 weeks. By the second month we were well on our way to setting and clamping the deck.

Working as a sub contractor


Working with professional boat yards and builders are only ever a pleasure, even if they have an attitude.  Some of the most cantankerous marine builders produce some of the finest yachts.

On-time comprehensive and conscientious. It works for me.

Professional - Clean - Timeous


These are the rules. A strict boat yard is a well run ship. I excel in this environment.

You arrive to do the job at hand and the previous contractor has cleaned up after himself.

The work has been bid, estimated and you have a dead line which is normally set a month or more in advance.

A 50% deposit is paid up front, the balance on completion or satisfaction. 

Knowing the other contractors and yard workers always helps to keep a friendly environment and the project on time.

Cold Forming Steel


This is probably the fastest and cleanest way to fabricate a steel boat.

Yes, this requires pre-cut sheets and some grinding, but the hull's form is fabricated and welded over an existing plug. 

The cradle is an integral part of the construction process. The marine company I worked for on this project was the first to use this technique and I believe they still build one or two boats a year like this although they have gone into composites now.