How to build a small boat out of wood

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How to build a small boat out of wood
Small wood boat (Holzboot 1 image by Simon Vorhammer from

Many people would like a small wooden boat to take to a lake or river for a day of exploring. Modern epoxy glue gives a boat builder the ability to build a small wooden boat in a short period of time. The most common method to build a small wooden boat is called stitch and glue. In this method boat parts are cut from plywood and stitched together with wire. Epoxy paste is then applied to the joints, making the boat rigid. This project is something that can be accomplished by most anyone with tools available in the home workshop and materials purchased at a local home store or marina.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Sawhorses (2)
  • Boat plans
  • Marine plywood (amount required by plans)
  • Marking pen
  • Jigsaw
  • Cordless drill
  • 15 metres (50 feet) bailing wire
  • Marine epoxy (amount required by plans)
  • Plastic mixing bowls
  • Sawdust
  • Wire cutters
  • Fibreglass cloth (amount required by plans)
  • Scissors
  • Fairing compound
  • Sandpaper
  • Vacuum
  • Tack cloth
  • Paint or varnish with paint brushes

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  1. 1

    Choose a workspace at least double the size of the boat being built. Access to the workspace should be large enough to remove the boat after it is complete. Set two sawhorses in the centre of the workspace.

  2. 2

    Lay one piece of plywood on the sawhorses.Use a marking pen to transfer the outlines of the boat plans to the piece of plywood. Replace this piece of plywood with the remaining piece. Complete transferring the outlines of the boat plans. Use the jigsaw to cut each piece of the boat from the plywood. There should be two side pieces, one bottom piece, one transom piece, one bow piece and seat pieces.

  3. 3

    Lay the bottom piece on the sawhorses. Use the cordless screwdriver and drill holes two inches apart along each side of the bottom piece. The holes should be approximately 12 mm (1/2 inch) from the edge of the plywood. Drill holes, in the same manner, along the edges of each boat piece that will connect to the bottom piece.

  4. 4

    Use the wire cutters to cut approximately 200 fifty milimetre (two inch) pieces of wire. Align the wooden side piece directly along the bottom piece. Stitch together the edges of these pieces with wire placed through the holes on each piece. Twist the wire tight with pliers. Continue to stitch the sides of the boat to the bottom. Then stitch the transom at the end. Finally, stitch the bow in place at the front of the boat. The plywood pieces will now have the appearance of a boat stitched together with wire.

  5. 5

    Mix one quart of epoxy glue in a mixing bowl according to directions on the glue container. Add sawdust to the epoxy glue until the mixture is the consistency of peanut butter. Use a spatula to apply this mixture along the interior joints of the boat where the sides meet the bottom. Do the same at joints for the transom and the bow. The seams should be approximately 50 mm (2 inches) wide and 12 mm (1/2 inch) deep at the centre. Allow to dry overnight. After drying the boat will be rigid

  6. 6

    Use the wire cutters to cut each wire stitch at the exterior of the boat.Use the pliers to remove the wire from the boat. Make additional epoxy glue with sawdust. Apply to the exterior joints of the boat. Allow to set for several hours until hard. Attach the boat seats to the interior of the boat with wire. Use the remaining glue and sawdust mixture to cement the seats in place. Allow to dry until hard.

  7. 7

    Cut fibreglass cloth into three-foot-long strips. Mix one quart of epoxy in a plastic dish. Lay the fibreglass cloth strips end-to-end on the interior seams. Use the paintbrush to thoroughly wet the fibreglass cloth. Allow to dry overnight.

  8. 8

    Sand the interior and exterior of the boat until smooth using sandpaper. Apply fairing compound to any nicks, crevices or low points around the boat. Allow the faring compound to dry until hard. Sand the boat again until smooth. Continue to apply and sand fairing compound until the entire surface of the boat is completely smooth. Extra time spent on this step will pay off in a better looking boat.

  9. 9

    Vacuum the boat. Use a tack cloth to remove any remaining sandpaper residue. Paint or varnish the boat as desired. Mount oar locks, cleats and any other hardware as desired. The boat is now complete and ready for launch.

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