Introduction: Building a Wooden Boat
This Instructable contains my plans and method for building a boat. It is written as a journal. I'm a novice so please don’t expect exact and 100% correct boat building plans/ advice or terminology.
Experts, please feel free to constructively correct and participate..
1. If you're down-loading the PDF use the custom pdf.. the full doc hasn't updated and doesnt contain some corrections
2. If you're using a MAC use Adobe Acrobat to view the PDF - Apple's preview app doesn't show all of the pics properly
3. The duplicate text in the fairing section has been removed... and the correct text- reinstated...
Credit where credit is due.. There are many people who post their designs, ideas and plans on the web for free use by others.. Thanks, no new wheels have been invented here.
OK, All my life I wanted to build a wooden boat. The task always seemed too big or too complicated.. Then one day I saw an Instructable “Building a One sheet boat by Verga”.My Instructable is a bit of a tribute to Verga. I rate his as recommended reading and as a mandatory study project for those wishing to have a first go at boat building. My version of his boat can be seen in one of the posts..
Anyway.. Verga got me thinking, reading and wanting to design and build my own boat,.… I’m pretty good at doing a basic design and then making things as I go. Verga’s project is also of the “as you go” style. You build to a method, but the angles, cuts and lengths are finalized as the boat comes together. The construction method of this boat owes a lot to Verga’s Instructable- ie made by bending the sides around a centre ‘rib’ or frame.
This boat is an “artist’s sketch”- so it is a little over engineered for its size. This Instructable is more of a diary than a precise set of plans
I also wanted something I could fit a few kids in, and I could build with stuff that was lying around or easily picked up from building sites… ( mostly )
Lastly, I want to thank my wife and family for allowing me to build most of this 3M (118”) boat in my living room. While I’m never allowed to do this again, they love telling people how cool it was, they want me to build a bigger boat, and everybody participated…
Step 1: Materials
1. 748 screws, hot dipped gal ranging in length mostly 8Gauge x 18mm, 32mm and 50mm- used as appropriate for the materials being fixed. I didn’t bother with Stainless steel, which will rot away just as quickly as gal screws if they’re imbedded. The boat wont be in the water all the time anyway
2. 78 individual pieces of timber..( you’ll see )
3. Lots of old hardwood floorboards 19mm x 90mm ( I used a light eucalyptus often called “Tasmanian Oak” – not a brilliant timber but ok if not out in the open all the time
4. 2 sheets Marine Ply 6mm, 2400x1200 ( you wont need all of this ) ( the only new timber I purchased )
5. 600ml of urethane glue
6. Lots of disposable rubber gloves ( the glue stains skin very badly and you need them for when you use epoxy )
7. Epoxy putty
8. 6L of epoxy resin ( I used about 4L)
9. fibre glass matt and tape Enough to cover the bottom of the hull.
10. exterior acrylic house paint
11. Cardboard ( for templates)
1. 2x cordless power drills (one for pilot hole the other with a screw driver bit )
2. Hand plane ( or power.)
4. Belt sander with 80 grit ( for the first go over the epoxy
5. Cork sand paper block- with lots of sand paper
6. Appropriate breathing protection
7. Safety glasses and hearing protection
8. Orbital sander with 120 grit
9. Heavy duty divider for marking out screw positions
10. Very sharp knife
11. Wood saw
12. Mitre saw
13. A range of chisels
14. Lots of G clamps.. I have about 80
15. Really long clamps ( see the pics of the transom)
16. Pencils, rulers, tape measure
17. Carpenter’s angle thing
19. Home made long flat sander. With 40 and 80 grit. ( see the pic)
20. Drills that do pilot holes and counter sink in 1
21. Phillips Screw driver bits for the cordless drills
22. Paint brushes scrapers, rollers measuring and mixing equipment for epoxy resin
Important note- which I’m sure you will know already.
Don’t use power tools or chemicals unless you understand the safety implications.. High doses of Saw dust are known to cause lung damage and cancer, You only have one set of eyes, and sadly my hands have one or two extra scars from the construction of this boat.
Here is my fairing “sander” it’s about 650mm long- Also pictured is a set of dividers I made to measure the distances between screws when putting on the ply
Step 2: Planning
Step 1 Planning
I drew and drew lots of sketches..Took a lot of photos of other boats and finally I came up with this… NOTHING IS TO SCALE ALL MEASUREMENTS IN mm
I then built a full size cardboard mock- up to see what it would look like and to get a feel for the dimensions
From there I did some more detail…
If you did read Verga’s Instructable you will see that it is built by bending the sides around a centre rib to the stem and stern / transom. I created cardboard templates for the centre rib and the transom to guide me in their making, and identified a nice piece of timber for the stem.. Because of the method of construction getting these right is critical
The pics show the Templates for the Center rib showing detail for cut out for keel and inwales etc- all the dimensions are in mm NOTE: The Keel was 60mm Wide not 44 as in these pics.. In addition The inwales were 15mm thick in the final build not 12 as marked on the template in the pic..
Step 3: Making the Transom and Centre Rib
I made the transom by gluing floorboards together and then marked out the shape from the template. And cut it.. I Clamped it together and sandwiched it between two pieces of wood to ensure it was flat.. ( I used kitchen wrap to isolate the "form work" from the rest of the glue) Urethane glue foams as it sets... this is easily taken off when it has cured.
I cut and pre sanded the pieces for the centre rib before I glued clamped and then screwed them. After the glue was dry I made the cut outs for the inwales , chines and the keel
Step 4: Making the Shape
The Shape made using the natural curves of the timber
The chines and inwales were cut from the same pieces of timber to ensure that both halves bent with the same / uniform pressure.
I used some small angle brackets and clamps to mock up the chines and inwales. I put in a temporary keel and thwart across the centre rib. You can see the living room in action here. Note that the Transom is not Square to the keel. It is on on angle to allow the outboard to be trimmed.
I spent a lot of time getting this true/ symmetrical etc and carefully marking the timber so I could clue and screw it accurately. But first I had to match the cut outs in the centre rib to the curves of the chines and inwales- In the close up picture you can see the G Clamp holding a small steel bracket clamped to the chine for this
Once everything was right and true I tied and clamped it so I could finally glue and screw the chines and inwales to the transom, centre rib and stem. NOTE: I didn’t attach the Keel
Looking about right. The chines meeting the stem. Note that I later cut a notch in bottom of the stem so the keel would fit nicely when it was put properly in place.. and I deliberately left the stem long on top so I could create a tie point for rope. You can see pics of this in later steps
Step 5: Completing the Frame
Once the basic shape was formed by the natural curves of the timber I carefully measured the locations for the other ribs ( about 490mm Centre to centre ) and measured each element of the rib to be made.. I then built and shaped each rib uniquely to its location and fitted it:- being careful to ensure that the boat remained symmetrical.
At this point the keel had not been glued in it was clamped on ..
To make the bottom sections of the ribs I made a cardboard template then used the frame itself to ensure I got the angles and the distances correct. It is three pieces of cardboard. One with a cut-out that matched the profile of the chine ( on the bottom of the picture) and another matching the profile of the keel (on the top) . I lined up each cut out and then stapled the pieces making a careful note of the angle of curve in the chines at that location…I then – transferred the template to my timber blank, marked the cuts and proceeded. Once the rib had been made only minor adjustments (Sanding ) to the angles of the cuts were required..
After finishing the ribs the keel was glued and screwed in pace. Two heels- were installed on the keel one against the transom and another against the stem. When everything was dry and stable I planed down the stem to meet the line of the boat.
For the front-most rib I cut a curved piece of wood to go across the top to support some decking.. you’ll see that in a later pic
ONe of the pictures attached shows the whole frame right way up and has the temporary thwart removed. It is symmetrical.. but the optics of my phone camera make it look distorted.
Stringers give the bottom planks support especially in boats that can go fast and smack up and down- they are probably unnecessary in a boat this size- but I wanted to ensure the bottom could support my weight without flexing /cracking the finish along the edge of each rib.
I cut rebates into the bottom of the ribs about 200mm out from the keel. I cut the rebate very carefully so the depth matched the thickness of the stringer to avoid too much fairing.. The stringers were then glued and screwed in..
Step 6: Fairing
I’m sorry I don’t have too many pictures here… but essentially fairing ensures that the side and bottom ply panels have precise surfaces to fit on. Here is a drawing of what that looks like. NOT TO SCALE
To ensure a flat surface all the way- from the chine to keel I made a very long flat sander and used 40 then 80 grit.
There is a pic of my fairing “sander” in the materials section it’s about 650mm long- Also pictured is a set of dividers I made to measure the distances between screws when putting on the ply
To match the outer vertical sides of the ribs to the curve of the side panels, chines and inwales I mostly used a rasp.. Attached s a close up of the bottom, a chine, and a rib showing the fit. The side panel has been done in this pic.
Step 7: The Keel Strip, Seat Rails and Patching and Sanding
I attached a 19mm wide vertical strip to the keel. The bottom planking butts up to this and the strip protrudes about 15mm.
The strip was glued and screwed from the inside through the keel. It sat on the flat middle part of the keel left untouched by the fairing. See the centre rib drawing in the fairing section
I also put in two seat rails 15mm x 20mm by notching out a step on the inner side of each rib and putting a small lug on each side ofthe transom to support them.
Before I started attaching the ply I patched every screw rebate/ every small space with epoxy putty. I also did a lot of sanding. You have fantastic access to all parts of the boat before it is planked so do as much as possible..
( you can see that for a couple of steps I have been ‘moved’ outside now)
In the picture you can see the clamping/ attaching of the keel strip with stringers an seat rails visible
Note. The seat Rails and Stringers don’t go the whole length. The detail of the attachment of the keel to the stem and how that is shaped can be seen.
Step 8: 'Planking' - Attaching the Ply
This was fun.. the boat really started to look good..
Before attaching with the ply panels I made a gunwale or “rub rail” ( 12mmx 40mm X 3200MM) I didn’t have any timber long enough so I glued two lengths together by cutting and matching diagonals.. Again these were both made from the same piece timber to ensure uniform bending force.
After matching the cardboard sides from the full size mock up to the sides of the boat frame I traced them out onto the sheets of ply plus 10mm all around for risk… . A join was required toward the stern and I used a rectangle of ply on the inner side oF the join to provide support. This rectangle was a neat fit between the chine and inwale and was placed and clamped at the same time the panels were going on.
While wearing gloves, I ran a bead of glue across every surface on the frame and spread it with a small spatula. Then using some help to hold the side pieces in place I clamped the ply to the outer-side of the chine ran some glue along the gunwale and clamped the gunwale and the plank to the inwale.. I used a clamp every 200-300mm. To ensure the boat stayed symmetrical both sides were clamped in 600mm turns to ensure uniform bending and forces
While being held by the clamps I drew out the lines for screws and used a large compass I made to set the distance between each screw. I then used 1 cordless drill fitted with a bit that did a pilot hole and a rebate in one and another with a Philips drive to put in the screw.
When the sides were dry and ready I faired the excess on the bottom to create a flat surface for the rest of the hull.. ( see the earlier pic in the fairing step)
The twist in the bottom was quite large so I used 8 pieces of ply. 4 On each side. Three short ones at the front and one larger piece for the rest. Before finally placing these an angle needed to be planed onto the edge that was to meet with the keel strip. The front pieces were fiddly so I did these first.. I didn't take a picture of this but you can get some idea from a pic in the Epoxy Step
When all done I planed down the edges until they were flush and cut the excess off the gunwales etc
When the hull was complete I put on the ‘deck’, over the front and shaped the top of the stem..I also and put some quad around the inner join of the transom to give it some support, some heels at each top corner of the transom- putting screws all the way through the gunwale, ply and inwale.
This pic with my kids shows the position of the centre rib. It looks like it is toward the front.. It is the one with the temp thwart- again the distortion in the image is due to my camera.
Lastly in this step I shaped the top of the stem and put in a small peg to use as a tie point
Step 9: Seats
I cut two basic seats to be placed on the rail. The rear seat was attached to the last rib and so didn’t need any support. The middle seat had a support that went from the chine to the seat. Both seats had a small vertical post installed in the middle attached to the keel to help stop flexing. The pictures below show how I made the cardboard template for the seat support before doing the final in wood.
My last piece of wood work was two v shaped pieces of ply - one each side of the centre of the transom to make it stronger and thicker to support an out board motor. I had to cut it so it went around the heel between the keel and transom.
All the screw countersinks etc we plugged with epoxy
Step 10: Epoxy
In preparation for this I patched the top of every screw with expoy putty and sanded them flat. I patched and sanded everything I could
With the boat upside down .. On the bottom of the hull I spread a layer of fibre glass matt and trimmed it so it went ‘up’ the sides about 50mm all round. I also had some fibre glass tape that I applied to the edges/ corners and the stem.
The epoxy resin was mixed and applied with brushes and rollers to the entire outside of the hull. It took about 20 min to get all of the glass saturated until transparent. The resin started to go off after about 30 min. By the next morning it was hard.. (phew)
Next I flipped the boat and painted the inside with resin only..
Step 11: Sanding and Painting
WIth appropriate breathing and lung protection I sanded and sanded and sanded.. and sanded.... and sanded with 80 grit then 120 grit..Inside and out..sanding the inside was challenging because of the angles, and small dead ended spaces..
I applied a couple of coats for white exterior house paint as an undercoat and kept on sanding, mostly by hand and with an orbital sander..
Autumn had set in by this stage so I need to move the boat to a neighbor’s garage to complete the painting.. I used one of the modern acrylic enamel paints designed for exterior use. The colour scheme was based on the paint I had in my shed.
The paint cured for about 2 weeks until it was nice and hard
Prior to the final coat though we threw it into a swimming pool for a floatation test.. PHEW..
Step 12: Fit-out and Launch Day
I fitted the boat out with rowlocks, rope guides etc.. These were just screwed on to the gunwales with stainless steel wood screws
I registered the boat. ( which is an Instructable in itself because home made boats are not immediately recognized in my state ) and got a 2hp outboard is from e-Bay.
IT works well under power or just rowing. It is light enough for my son and I to carry it down a beach.
5 years ago
I'm an 18 year old and I am interested in building my own boat.
I've read through your instructions and they all seem very clear. I do have a few questions though.
1. Did you use 2x4 planks to make the frame?
2. How did you bend the planks in the frame?
5 years ago
I was extremely fascinated by your project on building a wooden boat from scratch and I had a few questions to ask you, if that is ok.
First off I should say this inspired me to take on this challenge myself and also to write about this process for my A level Use of Maths Course work. And I hope by you being able to answer some of my questions/ forward me on to a place where I could find them out so I can further my research in the field of building boats. as later in life I would like to become a Marine Engineering or a Naval Architect and it would cement my plans to aspire to my goal.
The first question I would like to ask is roughly how long did each of the steps take to complete the job and overall how long did the job take. This will help me understand and write about the time scale of the job at hand, which is one of the tasks I need to complete. Secondly how many workers did it take to complete the job.
Any help will be very valuable.
many thanks Nathan Dear.
Reply 5 years ago
Hi and thanks for the questions. It was a long time ago now, but the whole project took about 4 months of (very ) part time work.. In planning the boat I found some great resources for boat building. mostly in old boat building books which I found in second hand shops. One thing I didn't calculate well on this boat was the buoyancy.. it is a tiny tiny bit 'nose' heavy .. Also If you don't have one already I'd recommend a planimeter. ( I got a cheap vintage one on eBay now and it works well)
Reply 5 years ago
thank you very much. do you remember the names of the books so i can have a look.
Reply 5 years ago
Hi I used a number of references.. Making Verga's One Sheet Boat Instructable posted Aug 2010 is great preparation. I strongly recommend it.
The books I found very handy were
1. Small Boat Design and Construction. by John Teale ( Temple Press, London 1964 ) This is a great book for the maths and design principles..
2. Clinker Plywood Boatbuilding Manual by Iain Oughtred (Wooden Boat Books, Maine USA 1988) an all round handy book
3. Hartley's Guide to Boat Building by RT Hartley ( Nautical Services, Sydney Australia 1961 ) This is a bit of a unique book to Australia and might be hard to get elsewhere..
6 years ago
what size wood did you use for the frame and ribs of the boat?
Reply 5 years ago
Hi I'm sorry this is so late.. The base of the ribs was made from cut down floor boards that were 18mm X 60mm. The sides of the ribs started at 60mm and tapered to about 45mm..
5 years ago
Good job done
7 years ago
You've done Beautiful Work! This is a Great Instructable! Thank you!
7 years ago
i read the step by step methology and its very sound. i will apply similar techniques to a project of mine. Thank you.
9 years ago on Introduction
it seems impossible for me to do this mission
9 years ago
Hi great build I'm wondering what size motor you have my great uncle gave me a 1971 Johnson 6hp outboard motor here's a pic that I have found online the casing on mine is a navy blue the last to are of the starting coils which were replaced
Reply 9 years ago on Introduction
Hi.. I use a Yamaha 2hp.. slow but good enough.
10 years ago on Introduction
Great journal! And I also love that you built this in the living room. I could never pull that off but sure would love to try it! Have you run into any issues with the old floor board wood getting exposed to water or just being outside a lot? Did you buy them or salvage/recycle? Nice looking boat too.
Reply 10 years ago on Introduction
Hi. Thanks for the comment. I got the floor boards from a few places. We did a recent renovation to our house so the majority came from that project. Some were new ( off cuts) but the majority were old. I also got some timber from new house being built across the road. Being old the wood was very dry and stable.. and quite hard.. They have performed well- But I dont think water has ever touched them because they are encased in epoxy which keeps them in their own micro environment. The timber for the keel and seats was purchased.
10 years ago on Step 12
Wow, the living room!
That is a family affair.
Glad you didn't have the old built-it-and-can't-get-it-out-the-door problem some have. :)
10 years ago on Step 12
JEALOUS!!!!! :-) I used to build RC airplanes in my dining room. That was a cleaning nightmare. I cannot imagine what your wife put up with. Haha.
How much could you sell a boat like that for? It is SWEET.
Reply 10 years ago on Step 12
I have a flat bottom sailboat of similar construction for sale in SE Massachusetts if you're serious and local.
10 years ago on Introduction
Nice little boat!
A note about it went to my Blog:
10 years ago on Introduction
It takes a lot of nerve to build a boat from scratch in your living room.
We like people with lots of nerve.