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Wooden Boat Answered

I've always wanted to make a little wooden boat. It just so happens that I have a bunch of quality balsa wood and the Idea came across to make one, any Ideas how and what kind of glue or water proofer I would need. I wasn't able to find an iBles on how to make one. It just needs to be simple, I might turn it into a sail boat too.



10 years ago

Okay After much thinking I thought to just use normal balsa and use silicone or other similar hobby glue thats waterproof. Then just get a small amount of deck sealant. Do you think it would be difficult to make it sail powered and just use a crappy R/C car to turn the sail and rudder?

Umm, maybe he should clarify just what scale boat he wants to build.

well i ment model when I said Little but I didn't want it to be like a copy of something.

Here's a challenge: Make the boat without glue, nails or screws. Hold the whole thing together with wooden pins and wedges.

Yeah but I'd only do that with plywood or something else, balsa is too thin and soft.

Not for balsa, however. This technique requires essentially "dimensional lumber," and rot-resistant lumber at that (super high cost.) Planking thicknesses 3/4 inch or greater. And unless you're building a 7 ft skiff, this approach produces incredibly heavy boats. I've found my own frequency of boat use is inverse to the weight of the boat... the 'bother factor,' if you will...

I think he meant a model boat, since he said "little wooden boat".

Could be. Then there aren't any limits beyond your imagination. It would be fun to see a small steam-bending rig for a model boat. Wouldn't take much for balsa...

thats a cool idea! It would be hard but it would be fun.


10 years ago

I've done a little wooden boat building. Balsa is an excellent material for laminates:

Quoting "The Gougeon Brothers on Boat Construction":
Balsa is one of the better core materials. When used in its end grain dimension, it makes a core with excellent crush resistance. We've also tried balsa in flat grain, using it both as a core and to improve structural strength by contributing to the overall stiffness and strength of a panel.

I've never used it, and even end grain balsa would need to be sandwiched between layers of a 'skin' (fiberglass, veneer, etc.)

You'll want epoxy resin as a glue. It's waterproof, incredibly strong and fill gaps well. (I've use 'West System', which is product produced by the authors of the above book.) West System is pretty expensive, you can find cheaper brands. The back of "Wooden Boat" magazine usually has other epoxy makers listed.

Re: my own boats, I've built a couple kayaks and a 21 ft batteau. (Here's an ancient (last updated in 1998?) website I had with kayak plans and photos.)

The two best approaches I can think of for balsa alone (and epoxy, of course) are:

1) cold molded
A (nearly exact) male mold of the hull is made of wood, plaster, etc. It's covered with strips of veneer (balsa) and epoxy in alternating or random orientation. Vacuum bagged, it conforms closely to the form.

Difficulty: Pretty high--the form (mold) needs to be very precise.

2) Strip built
A loosely constructed male mold is made from station molds (like bulkheads) and strips of wood are build up, side-by-side. Very glue intensive.

Normally, strip built boats are encapsulated with fiberglass (a must for balsa, I would think.)

Difficulty: Not too bad.