How To Build A Wood Boat

A guide to building a simple wood boat using common tools and practices.

Whether it's thoughts of yachting in the Riviera or daydreams of rafting down the Mighty Mississippi with Huck Finn, boating seems to remain close to the hearts of people around the world. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to simply go out and buy a boat... sometimes even renting one for an afternoon of fishing can become a costly endeavor. Luckily, there is another option available to those with a knack for do-it-yourself projects and a few common tools... if you can't buy or rent a boat, then build one.

Obviously, the first thing that you'll need when building a boat is wood. 1" x 4" lumber can work well for this, though you should avoid pressed wood or plywood. You'll need to get enough lumber for the bottom of the boat (which should be a rectangle that's around 9' - 12' long, and 4' - 5' wide), as well as sides for the boat (which need to be long enough to go around the area of the bottom plus a little extra, and around 18" tall). You'll also need a little bit of extra wood for decking and seating.

Once you have your lumber (or at least enough to get started), begin laying out the bottom of the boat. Lay several pieces of lumber side-by-side to get the width of the boat, and add more on the ends if you need additional length... you're going to want to lay out enough wood to make the finished product before you begin any of the actual work on the boat. Once you've got enough wood laid out to create the size of boat that you want, it's time to start cutting.

Arrange your boards in a stair-step pattern, so that the boards that make up the two ends don't all meet at the same point in the middle. (If you're using solid boards that have the full length that you need, you don't have to worry about this.) Measure out the length that you want, and use a chalk line to mark the boards where you will cut off the stair-step and create your ends. After both ends are marked, begin cutting the boards with the saw of your choice. Sand the boards, and get ready to start nailing everything together.

To nail the boards to make the boat bottom, you're going to need to place four boards cut to the length of the boat's width in a line, so that you can place the boat bottom on top of them. The two centermost boards should be very close together, so that they will hold the stair-stepped middle of the boat together. The other two should be spaced at the halfway point between the center of the boat and the ends. Begin placing and nailing the boards together, making sure that the boards that make up the bottom are placed as close together as possible, and that the nails go securely into the crossboards that you placed first. Once you've finished, flip over this section so that the crossboards are on top, and you have the bottom of your boat.

Now comes one of the hardest parts of the project. To create the front of the boat, you'll need boards that are slightly longer than the height of the sides... around 20" - 24" should do it. You then have to cut the ends of your boards at around a 45-degree angle (though this may vary slightly.) You then need to cut the other end at the opposite angle, so that once the front is secured you'll have a flat surface on the top of the board that is parallel to the bottom of the boat. Once you've cut these angles, begin nailing the front of the boat onto the boat bottom, being sure to keep each board straight so that the front doesn't lean to either side.

Once you've secured the front of the boat, add vertical crossboards nailed on top of the boat's bottom... these are what you're going to secure the back and sides to. Place them around 18" apart, all the way around the bottom of the boat (and yes, you'll still need some at the front, though place them near the edges only.) Once they are in place, begin nailing the boards for the sides in place... making sure to cut the boards at the appropriate angles so that you can connect them to the front.

Once you've got the sides finished, you need to make a top to the boat. Start by placing a board horizontally across the vertical crossboards you left near the front of the boat... line it up on the sides, and nail it to both the sides and the crosspieces. Work your way back from that board, filling in the area toward the front of the boat. Once you've finished that area, install new crosspieces vertically about 12" out from the back of the boat, and make a small back for the boat as well. You may also wish to create a seat near the middle (though slightly toward the rear) using this same method... though you'll only want it to be around 2 boards wide.

Now you're almost finished. All that's left is to caulk the inside and outside of the seams in the wood... this is known as "corking" the boat, and it shouldn't take a whole lot of caulk if your boards are tight together. Once you've finished corking the boat and the caulk has dried, you need to sand it down and then paint it with a few coats of primer and then a few coats of paint in the color of your choice.

And there you have it! A project boat of your very own is now ready to be tested on the open water.

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