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Steps on Building a Model Boat

Updated February 21, 2017

Boats are large, seagoing vessels that have been made into models for years. There are a wide variety of model boat building kits in existence, in a huge number of media ranging from plastic to wood. Some float and others are simply for display. If you like working with your hands and with tools, you can make your own model boat from scratch, using plans or your own design. More complex boats will need more elaborate procedures, but a simple boat can be pulled together with a small amount of work.

Lay out the sheets of balsa wood. Cut out any templates from the plans you have and trace them onto the wood. If you don't have plans, you can find some sample plans online (see Resources), or you can design your own using the hull designing software (see Resources).

Label the parts of your model. There should be at least two sides, the base of the boat, the back panel, centre struts, and gunwales. Gunwales, pronounced "gunnels" are the upper edge around the outside of the boat.

Cut the parts of the boat out of the wood. The utility knife or circular fabric cutter will give you more accurate cuts than a pair of scissors. This will make your boat more precise.

Glue together the sides of the boat at the prow. The prow is the "nose" of the boat, where the two sides meet at the very front. This will create a V-shape in the balsa wood.

Bend the wood into the curved shape of the boat by gluing the centre struts in place. Slowly bend the back with an elastic band. Loop the elastic band around the outside of the back of the boat, about an inch from the end. Insert a long scrap of balsa wood inside the elastic loop and begin twisting until it gently pulls the boat into shape. Rest that scrap on the inner strut to keep it in place while the glue dries.

Hold the boat together while you remove the elastic band. Glue the aft, or back of the boat, together with the back panel.

Glue and clamp the gunwales to the sides of the boat. They should go around the top and will need to be clamped to maintain the curves of the ship. Do this slowly, lest you break or crack the wood.

Glue the base of the boat onto the bottom of the sides. Clamp the boat together.

Sand the edges of the boat to give it a more finished look. If you want to paint or stain the model boat, do so now. When the boat dries, your model is ready to display.

Things You'll Need

  • Balsa wood panel
  • Boat plans
  • Utility knife, scissors, or circular fabric cutter
  • Glue
  • Elastic band
  • Clamps
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint or stain (optional)
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About the Author

Grahame Turner has worked as a freelance writer since 2009 and a freelance reporter since 2010 for Wellesley Patch and Jamaica Plain Patch in Massachusetts. He also works part-time as a bookseller at the Northeastern University bookstore. He is a Northeastern University graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English.