A beautiful name board can add a wonderful touch of distinctive elegance to any boat.
But beware of optical illusions that can be caused by curved transoms and sheer lines.
Once upon a time boat names were all hand carved or pained and because this was a skill that took time and care, time and care was taken to ensure that the lettering was designed to fit and enhance the boat.
The proliferation of cheap vinyl lettering and clip art has virtually
done away with the need to hand paint lettering.
However, this can lead to unfortunate results.
No matter how professional the graphics and lettering are, how they end up looking on your boat will depend on their positioning with regard to the overall design and character of your boat.
of the problems associated with graphics on a boat is caused by the
optical illusions created when curved surfaces are viewed from
Even the most beautifully carved name plate, which looks wonderful
viewed straight on, can look slightly odd viewed from above, especially
if it is on a curved surface.
A straight name board on a curved, sloping transom can look like a grin when viewed from above.
Equally, name boards on the bows need careful consideration.
A bow with a pronounced flare will cause foreshortening.
And a name board which looks fine on the starboard bow might look
completely wrong on the port bow.
Foreshortening will also affect how the height of the letters will
Most small boat names will be viewed, most often, from above, either
the deck of another boat or from the dockside.
The usual solution is to arrange the name board to conform to the shape
of the taffrail or sheer line or follow the shape, size and curve of a
And keeping all lettering the same size will reduce the likelyhood of distortion due to foreshortening.
purpose design is to establish a harmony of proportion throughout
the whole structure.
Whether you are using cheap vinyl lettering, carving you own, having
one made, such as a bronze
plaque, first consider the
Once you decide where the name is to go, make some rough measurements
and estimate the size you want.
A ‘rough rule of thumb’, starting point, for the maximum length of a bow name plates is to make it 1 inch for every foot or 75 mm for every Meter, of overall length of the boat.
For a transom, somewhere around 60% to75% of the transom width.
But these are general rules of thumb, you will also need to take into consideration the number and size of the letters, a short three letter name will look odd if it is stretched.
In some cases the size and shape will be dictated by the position, the height of a shear stripe or plank width, etc.
On others the best size may not be so obvious.
So before spending too much money or time on the finished article make
a paper mock up, stick it on with some Blu-Tac or tape and then stand
back and take a critical look.
Try to view it from the angle it will most likely be viewed from, in
the case of a small boat, from just above.
If you are not sure you can ask for the opinion of others, however,
beauty, as they say is in the eye of the beholder.
The neater you make the paper mock up the easier it will be to get an
idea how the finished article will look.
You can draw it out freehand if you are sufficiently artistic.
However, it is relatively simple to print out full sized letters and
even clip art using your computer's word processor or ‘Paint’ program.
If you are looking for ideas, have a look around at other boats and
what they have used, this probably the best way to get a true idea of
a name board looks in reality.
Generally the designs which work best are the least complex, traditional name boards.
Actually choosing a font is probably more
choice on the average word processor is enormous.
Try to choose something which will express both the personality of your
boat and perhaps say something about you.
Type your boat name into your word processor, then keep changing the
font type until you find the one that seems most appropriate.
For a traditional look a font with serifs, such as Times
New Roman is
the safest bet.
For a truly classic design use an upper case, serif, font for the boat
name and smaller upper case, sans serifs for the port of registration.
No further embellishments are required.
With the advent of vinyl decals it has
become perhaps too easy to
incorporate imagery into a boat name.
An image can make a name more visually compelling, however a boat name
does not require an image.
And all too often the vinyl decals use ‘clip-art’ of dubious artistic
or original quality.
Images work best when they simply add a flourish or add to the meaning
rather than overpowering it.
Something else to consider is that the more ornate a name board, the more difficult it will be to keep it maintained.
There is nothing like a bit of gold leaf on
name board to turn it into
a real work of art.
And the extra benefit is that the gold leaf will out last any varnish
or even the wood itself.
But whatever the finish the boards will need removing from time to time
for maintenance, it may just be to paint underneath.
So, when it comes to mounting, do it such ways that the screws/bolts
can be removed at a later date (something else which you cannot do with
A wooden name board which has been varnished needs to have the top coat
The UV protection in the top coat will break down with time and it is
this which needs topping up.
That beautiful name board will add a wonderful touch of distinctive elegance to any boat so long as it is kept looking good.
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