How to make a toy boat out of wood

Updated February 21, 2017

Making a basic toy boat out of wood is a fun family activity that requires very little previous knowledge of carpentry or crafts. A toy boat can become a child´s favourite toy, especially after they see it floating down a stream or in the backyard pond. This project is relatively inexpensive and not particularly messy.

Using a pencil, outline the shape of your boat on the 7-inch chunk of balsa wood. Mark the shape of the boat´s top on the 2-inch wide surface of the wood.

Using your carving knife, carve out the shape of the boat along the pencil line. Taper the side of the boat so that the edges form a round, even ridge around the bottom of the boat.

Using your scooping blade, hollow out the wood in the middle of your boat. Leave 3/4 inches of wood at the bottom and 1/4 inches of wood around the sides.

Carve a small groove (3 3/4 inches long, 1/8-inch wide, and 1/4-inch deep) on the bottom of the boat in which to place the boat´s keel. Carve your rectangular keel (1 3/4 by 3 3/4 inches) out of the second balsa sheet. Cut a diagonal piece off one of the keel's short side to form a trapezoidal shape. This part should face forward when you attach it to the bottom of the boat.

Clip on the two small fishing weights to the bottom of the keel. Coat the groove on the bottom of the boat with glue and insert the keel. Let dry for 10 minutes.

Drill a hole 3/16-inch wide and 1/4-inch deep 2 1/2 inches from the bow. Make the boat´s mast by cutting a 7 1/4-inch pole from the dowel.

Cut a strip of wood 1/4 by 5 1/2 inches from the balsa sheet. This will be the boom of the sail. Glue the boom to the mast about 1 inch from the bottom and let it dry.

Cut a piece of waterproof nylon cloth 6 1/2 inches tall and 5 1/2 inches wide for the sail. You can customise the sail by painting it or using a special piece of cloth with a flag or other pattern on it.

Sand all the rough edges of the boat and create smooth, splinter-free edges. Paint the boat using an acrylic, waterproof paint of your choosing. Let everything dry for half an hour or until visibly dry.

Place a few drops of strong craftsman glue in the drill hole in the body and insert the mast and sail.

Once everything is completed and dry, spray your boat with a silicone sealant and allow it dry one last time.


Parents should be present during all steps of the boat making process, especially if young children are involved. Wood carving and silicone sealing should be done by parents only.

Things You'll Need

  • Chunk of balsa wood (7 by 1 1/2 by 2 inches)
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Carving knife
  • Scooping blade
  • 4-inch wide sheet of 1/8-inch thick balsa wood
  • 2 large clip-on lead fishing weights
  • Strong craftsman glue
  • Drill with 3/16-inch bit
  • 3/16-inch wood dowel
  • 7-inch square water-resistant nylon cloth
  • Sandpaper
  • Waterproof paint
  • Silicone spray sealant
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About the Author

Charlie Higgins is journalist, editor and translator based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has written for a variety of lifestyle and niche market websites, including International Food Trader, The Olive Oil Times, microDINERO, Sounds and Colours, Connecting Worlds and The Buenos Aires Reader.