How to Build a Steel Hull Boat

Written by tim brugger
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How to Build a Steel Hull Boat
Steel boat building is a project for the enthusiast. (modern building image by jeancliclac from

There are certainly a number of positive aspects to building and owning a steel hulled boat. Steel is the least expensive material for building a boat, it is readily available (unlike exotic woods, for example) and the boatbuilder needs few tools to complete the construction. Also, steel hulled boats, not surprisingly, are extremely strong and "stiff" when on the water so there is less listing in strong seas than with lighter boats. Finally, in large part because of the ease in building and safety upon completion, steel boats tend to retain their value more than other homemade or custom-made boats.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Boat plans
  • Electric and gas welding tools
  • Metal cutting blade
  • Large storage and work space
  • Woodworking, spackling and tile setting tools
  • Steel
  • Sander
  • Rigging

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  1. 1

    Source and price the required number and thickness of steel sheets, per the boat plan specifications. Most plans for building steel hulled boats call for heavyweight, hull framed designs rather than lightweight. The heavyweight approach to steel boat building uses a minimum 3/16-inch plate, while lightweight designs can be as thin as 1/8 inch. Thinner plates lessen the weight of the boat, improving performance, but thicker plates are safer, more stable and more reliable.

    How to Build a Steel Hull Boat
    Boatbuilding starts with the hull frame. (steel,construction image by Greg Pickens from
  2. 2

    With the hull upside down, build the hull frames, or "strongback," and then attach the keel, rim, stem and chines while the frame is in this position. This makes attaching these boat parts considerably easier while there is still ample room belowdecks.

    How to Build a Steel Hull Boat
    Use hull frames for additional strength and stability. (Ship in dry shipdock image by Vasyl Dudenko from
  3. 3

    Cover the hull frame with heavyweight steel sheeting, and turn the hull over and secure it upright. An important consideration for hull integrity is to use the largest steel sheets possible. While a steel hulled boat can be built using smaller, "patchwork" pieces of steel, there is a much greater risk of the metal wrinkling, and ultimately the boat's stability may become an issue.

    How to Build a Steel Hull Boat
    The thicker the steel, the stronger the boat. (steel rain image by martin from
  4. 4

    While the hull is bare, complete all additional interior welds, making certain all joints and crossbeams are secure. This is also a good time to make flush, either with a sander or steel saw, weld mouldings and creases.

    How to Build a Steel Hull Boat
    Weld the hull to finish the metalwork of the boat. (welding project image by leemarusa from
  5. 5

    Once the hull is finished, build the cabin and interior appointments, per the specifications or your personal preferences. Often, with a steel boat, the cabin framework is also made of steel. The cabin can be made of lighter weight steel. This will maintain structural integrity, while minimising overall weight to improve performance.

    How to Build a Steel Hull Boat
    Your vessel is ready for personal touches. (boat dock image by Tammy Mobley from

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