How to Make a Model Boat Hull

Written by paul bragulla
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How to Make a Model Boat Hull
Laminated hull construction is excellent for recreating the hulls of ships like this ore freighter. (ship image by Terry Duchene from

Model boats often possess carefully reproduced features of real ships, from billowing white sails to highly detailed superstructures, that demonstrate the skill and craftsmanship of their builder. Without a well-made hull, however, all the delicate details in the world will not make a good model. Whether the hobbyist seeks to make a display, floating or even remote-control model boat, the hull is literally the foundation on which the rest of the model must be built. There are many different ways of constructing model boat hulls, but one of the simplest and most versatile is the laminated, or "bread and butter" technique, so called because of the way in which the three-dimensional hull is built up out of layers of flat boards. This method is ideal for constructing larger models with hull widths of at least 4 inches.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 8-10 pine boards, 1/2-inch in width
  • Band- or jigsaw
  • Wood glue
  • 2-4 bar clamps
  • Hand-held belt sander

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  1. 1

    Determine the number of boards that you will need to produce the hull shape of your choosing. The boards that make up the hull will be sandwiched vertically and stacked from left to right (or right to left), with their long axis matching the long axis of the completed hull. The number of boards required will therefore be dependent on how wide ("beamy" in nautical terminology) the type of real-life ship you are attempting to replicate is, with a "beamier" ship requiring more boards to make up its hull.

  2. 2

    Draw the side-view profile of the hull design on two of the boards. These two boards will form the centre of the hull of your model hull, with the rest of the hull being built out from them via the application of more boards.

  3. 3

    Draw progressively smaller profiles of the hull on more of the boards so that when the slices are cut out and laminated together they will form the basic outline of the hull. There will need to be two boards with each profile, one for each side of the hull. Make sure that you use a number of boards such that the sum of their widths will add up to the desired width of the model.

  4. 4

    Cut the profiles out with a bandsaw.

  5. 5

    Glue the slices together with wood glue and clamp them together. Wait until they are fully dried, or approximately 24 hours, before removing the clamps and continuing work.

  6. 6

    Sand the rough hull shape smooth with the belt sander. The final result should look as though it was carved out of one piece of wood. Your piece, however, will be stronger than a hull carved out of a single piece, as single-piece hulls tend to crack or warp over time.

Tips and warnings

  • For hulls with particularly complex geometry or curvaceous shapes, or just to make the process simpler in general, only draw the hull profiles on the boards for half of the hull and either cut two boards at once (one on top of the other) or cut the ones you marked and trace their outlines on the boards for the other half of the hull. This will ensure a perfectly symmetrical hull shape, a vital characteristic for floating or RC models.
  • For a strong hull, use the edge of a small piece of cardboard to spread the glue evenly over the entire surface to be glued.
  • Use ear and eye protection when employing the belt sander to avoid getting sawdust in your eyes or suffering possible hearing loss.

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