How to Scratch Build Model Boats

Written by nicole byerly
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How to Scratch Build Model Boats
Model boats can be collectables. (the model sailing boat image by Shirley Hirst from

You can create a model wood boat using balsa, an extremely soft wood. You can shape and mould it around curved edges without cracking or breaking. Crafting a homemade model wood boat takes less than a day using some lightly detailed boat plans and crafting tools.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 1/8-inch thick balsa wood, 4 inches by 36 inches
  • 1/4-inch thick balsa wood, 4 inches by 36 inches
  • Super Glue
  • Sharp hobby knife
  • Straight edge
  • Cutting board
  • Ruler
  • Boat plan
  • Yarn
  • 220-grit sandpaper

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  1. 1

    Find a boat plan to base your model on.

  2. 2

    Measure the width and length of the boat in the plans. Draw the boat deck onto the 1/4-inch-thick balsa wood. Cut the section out of the balsa wood using a sharp hobby knife.

  3. 3

    Measure each plank along the deck cutout for the boat. Draw a line for each plank along the interior and gently press over each line to indent the wood, creating the illusion that each wood plank is cut.

  4. 4

    Measure the height of the base sides on the boat plan.

  5. 5

    Stretch the yarn along the top edges of the boat in the plans to determine the side lengths. Set the yarn along the ruler to find the exact length.

  6. 6

    Measure and mark both base sides onto the 1/8-inch-thick balsa wood. Cut each section out carefully with a sharp hobby knife. Use the straight edge to achieve perfectly straight edges.

  7. 7

    Measure and mark down 1/4 inch from the top edge of the base sides. Apply Super Glue directly below this line. Gently mould the base sides around the deck cutout. Press firmly around the edges to form a tight bond, leaving the 1/4-inch top edge to act as the boat lip. Attach the opposite side in the same manner.

  8. 8

    Apply Super Glue and press together the front and back ends of the boat. Scrape away any overhang with the knife to flatten rough edges and create a flat line.

  9. 9

    Apply Super Glue to the bottom edge of the boat. Carefully press the boat base sides together along the bottom edge.

  10. 10

    Sand the edges along the interior and exterior of the boat to create clean folds and edges.

Tips and warnings

  • If the model you choose has sails, use a dowel rod and fabric to build them.

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