Homemade Balsa Wood Boats

Updated April 17, 2017

Many people, especially children, enjoy objects that can float in water. Small boat models can float along the banks of a river, in your backyard pool and even in your bathtub. By using balsa wood, a wood that is soft and easy for carving, you can design and personalise your own floating row boat to display as a model boat or use as a toy.

Outline the sides of the boat on a sheet of balsa wood. Draw a horizontal line 3 inches long. Draw a 10-inch line vertically at one end of the 3-inch line and a 7-inch line from the other end. Connect the two ends of the 7-inch line and 10-inch line to form a diagonal. Repeat the same procedures to create the second side.

Draw two rectangles that are 4 inches in length and 2 inches wide on a balsa wood sheet. These will serve as seats in the boat.

Create the bottom of the boat by outlining the shape on a sheet of balsa wood. Draw a 4-inch long horizontal line. Find the centre point of the horizontal line and make a mark 10 inches above the centre point. Form the sides of the bottom piece by creating a shape that is tapered and connects to the centre point at the 10-inch mark.

Outline a rectangle 4 inches in length and 3 inches in width on a sheet of balsa wood. This will serve as the back of the boat.

Create two triangles 2 inches in length and 1 inch wide on a sheet of balsa wood to form the tips of the paddles.

Use a jigsaw to cut out all the pieces you have drawn along their outlines.

Heat a hot glue gun. Use glue to secure the two pointed tips of the sides of the boat together. The 7-inch edge should be facing downward. Secure the two pieces to the bottom of the boat using hot glue. Bend the sides carefully to match the shape of the bottom of the boat. The bottom piece will be slightly longer at the front.

Secure the sides of the boat to the bottom with tape. The tape will allow the sides to remain in place while the glue is drying.

Secure the back piece of the boat to the bottom and side pieces using the hot glue gun. Apply glue to the edges of the side and bottom pieces and press the back piece in place. Use tape for additional security.

Allow enough time for the hot glue to set until it is dry to the touch.

Sand the edges of each rectangular seat so it fits into the boat. Use hot glue to secure the first piece closer to the front of the boat in the top half. Place the remaining piece closer to the back of the boat and secure the piece to the sides with hot glue. The two seats should not be pressed against the bottom of the boat.

Secure an eye hole screw to the centre of the boat by applying hot glue to the edge of the screw. Glue the screw to the interior side of the boat. Glue the remaining screw on the other side of the boat opposite to the first screw. The eye hole screws will serve as rings for holding the paddles.

Sand down the edges of the triangular paddles so the paddles now have slightly rounded edges.

Apply glue to the bottom edge of two 1/8-inch wide by 4-inch long dowels. Secure the dowels to the paddle tips with the hot glue gun.

Allow enough time for the hot glue to dry.

Remove the pieces of tape from the sides and back of the boat. Sand down the bottom of the boat and rough edges for a finished look using 100-grit sandpaper.


Test the design by first creating the boat out of thin cardboard and using tape to secure the pieces together. This will facilitate creating the boat out of balsa wood sheets as you can use the cardboard piece outlines. Use paints in various colours to paint and create designs on the balsa wood boat.

Things You'll Need

  • Balsa wood sheets (1/16-inch thick)
  • Ruler
  • Jigsaw
  • Hot glue gun
  • Tape
  • Two eye hole screws
  • Two 1/18-inch dowels (4 inches long)
  • 100-grit sandpaper
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About the Author

Scarlett Gauthier began writing in 2003. Gauthier has a graphic design/arts DVS from Rosemount Technology Center in Montreal.