How to Make an Easy Model Boat by Yourself

Written by paul bragulla
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How to Make an Easy Model Boat by Yourself
Model boats can be sailed in any sufficiently-sized body of water. (toy pirate boat image by Tomasz Cebo from

Building model boats is a hobby with wide appeal. From simple balsa wood pond racers to elaborately detailed replicas of great ships from history, anyone can enjoy it. Starting with a few pieces of wood, some cloth and a little patience, in a few hours the intrepid hobbyist will be watching her creation gracing the water of a nearby pond or fountain as its sails are filled by the passing winds.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 7- by 2- by 1.5-inch block of balsa wood
  • 4-inch sheet of 1/8 inch balsa wood
  • Carving knife with cutting and scooping blades
  • 2 to 4 large lead clip-on fishing weights
  • Electric drill
  • 3/16-inch drill bit
  • Sandpaper
  • 3/16-inch wooden dowel
  • 7 inch square sheet of nylon cloth
  • Cyanoacrylate glue
  • Waterproof paint
  • Silicone spray sealant

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  1. 1

    Draw the outline with a pencil of the top of the boat on the 2-inch wide side of the large block of balsa wood. This outline should start at a point in the centre of the end of the block that will be the bow, widen out within the first 2 inches of the block to meet the sides, and then curve back in for the last 2 inches until it meets the back of the block 1/2-inch in from the sides. On the bottom of the block, mark a line down the centre of the block from bow to stern. Use a ruler to ensure the symmetry of the outline on the top of the block as well as the line that marks the centre of the bottom.

  2. 2

    Carve the wood away from around the outline using the cutting blade of a carving knife. Continue carving down toward the bottom of the block so that the two sides of the hull curve in and meet at the line you drew on the bottom. Keep the sides of the boat symmetrical so that it will float upright.

  3. 3

    Carve out the material on the inside of the hull using the scooping blade of the carving knife until the hull is hollow. Leave 1/4 inch of material remaining on the sides and 3/4 inch remaining on the bottom.

  4. 4

    Drill a 1/4-inch deep hole 2 1/2 inches back from the bow on the inside of the hull.

  5. 5

    Sand the hull until it is smooth. Do not remove too much material around the thin sides of your boat.

  6. 6

    Make the keel by cutting a 1 3/4- by 4-inch strip off the 1/8-inch balsa wood sheet. Make a diagonal cut on one of the short sides of the keel so that its front will slope back toward the stern when attached to the bottom of the hull.

  7. 7

    Cut a 4-inch long, 1/8-inch wide and 1/4-inch deep groove in the outside bottom of the boat such that the top of the keel can be inserted into it.

  8. 8

    Attach weights along the bottom of the keel, using cyanoacrylate glue. Keep them evenly spread out along its length.

  9. 9

    Glue the keel into its slot on the bottom of the hull.

  1. 1

    Cut a 7-inch length of dowel to serve as the mast of your boat.

  2. 2

    Cut a 5 1/4- by 1/4-inch boom from the 1/8-inch balsa sheet and glue its end to the dowel at a right angle to a point an inch from the bottom.

  3. 3

    Cut a 5- by 6-inch triangular section out of the cloth and attach it to the mast and boom with glue.

  4. 4

    Glue the bottom of the mast into the hole in the hull and allow the glue to dry.

  5. 5

    Paint the boat in whatever colour scheme you desire. Once the paint is dry, spray it evenly with silicone sealant.

Tips and warnings

  • Be careful when handling components made out of thin balsa wood, such as the keel and boom, so that you don't accidentally break them.

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