Build Your Own PVC Johnboat for Minimal Cost and Time.




Inspired by the PVC KAYAK, I thought I could build one up making it differently with a simple design that I have used previously in a small 1.5 foot boat which I built out of Plexiglas. I also plan on attaching a trolling motor with 34lbs or thrust to the rear of the boat. I ended up with a 55lbs thrust motor for not much more than a 34lb. Another thing that I wanted to make better was adding a good surface to the bottom of the entire boat. (To make a good fishing platform) I looked at a hard foam that seemed to be very sturdy, and I have also thought of using a very thin piece of plywood or both.

I will be updating this instructable more than a few times more in the next few days with additional pictures and better videos.

This video is from our first run out on the water at sunrise from being up all night. We cruised around for a few hours and she performed much better than expected. The only qualms we have is the rear frame bends too much for our likings when put on full power. We plan on adding support from the motor mounts to the floor supports. The camera died before we could get a video of the boat on full power to show what she can really do even with 2 people in it I don't notice a difference.

Second Video "I'm the one in the sunglasses":

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Step 1: Dimensions and Conceptual Design

I sketched out a general look and size that I would like to achieve while trying to think of any negative consequence or flaws before construction. My drawing abilities are not the greatest so bare with me. I did not end up using the exact design that I first drew up but it gave me a general idea of what to expect.

Step 2: Materails and Tools

Materials Used:
-3/4th Inch PVC piping about 130 feet of it. (10 ft segments)
-10 90Degree Angles Connectors
-Just under 50 T connectors (I think 48?)
-6 + connectors
-3 45Degree Angle Connectors
-PVC primer and cement
-200 Feet of rope (we used aprox. 170 feet of it)
-Styrofoam Insulation found with the insulation in your hardware store (there are blue and pink ones)
-3/8' sheet of plywood
-12x16 foot Tarp HEAVY DUTY

We tested a regular tarp and it had a few small trickles of water coming in. The heavy duty tarp worked perfectly!

Motor mount items
-Hose Clamps (worm-gear Clamps)
-Small rubber to put between clamp and pipe.
-2x6x6 Piece of lumber (aprox)

And the fun stuff
-Trolling motor (we got a 55lb thrust motor on sale for 150, you can get the 30-40lb thrust for about 100)
-Deep Cycle Battery (Any 12 volt full size battery will work)

This project does not require many tools what we used were as follows
-Hack Saw (cutting the pipe and some of the wood)
-scissor (to cut the tarp to fit)
-Grommet Installation kitGrommet Installation kit (Adding Eyelits to the tarp for the rope holes)
-Hammer to use installing grommets
-Sharpie to make marks

Aprox cost:
$15 - 130 feet of 3/4th tubing
$4 - 90 angle connectors
$11 - T connectors
$8 - + connectors
$2 -45 angle connectors
$5 - primer and cement for pvc
$8 - rope
$10- styrofoam
$10 - plywood
$22 - tarp

Step 3: Early Frame Construction

The building started with me starting a bit before the sun went down but i started cutting out pieces 2 feet in length for the bottom area. I decided on the height by how high a 2 foot section of pipe went at a 45 degree angle. It was aprox. 17 Inches. Next boat I think I would choose a hull height that is about a foot or just under a foot next time 17 inches was a bit tall.

I did not have a camera during the beginning of the project just my phone

This is just a general idea of what I wanted the frame to look like more supports and tubing will be added soon.

Step 4: Finishing Up Frame and Gluing

The great thing about pvc piping is that it is very forgiving so if you do mess up with a section you can usually cut around it and add or remove length with other couplings.
To start with you are going to want to figure out about how long and wide you want and then calculate how long of pipe sections to cut, and then just attach and lay it out once you have your frame complete and you feel that it will be a sturdy frame go ahead and begin the gluing process.

To make sure that you glue the tubes properly, have the entire boat put together and check all connections before any glue is applied. We picked up a 2 pack of primer and the pvc cement for about 5 dollars. It is more than enough for this project and any other project you will have with pvc.

If your going to do this by yourself throw on some tunes it can take a while, otherwise we had some interesting conversations that made no sense till about 4am.

Step 5: Attaching Motor Mount

I asked for help on this portion in the forums herehere.
We ended up getting a 2x6x7 Piece of wood that worked very nicely. We drilled 6 holes in the board for the worm gear clamps (hose clamps) which attached to the sides and bottom of the frame.

The only problem encountered with this motor mount was that the entire frame in the back flexed when the motor torqued up in the last 2 higher power settings (55lbs of thrust).
This should be very sufficient for a trolling motor rated under 40lbs but we would like to reinforce the frame by attaching more pipe at an angle to the floor frame.

(will add pictures when completed.)

Step 6: Tarp Fitment

Now it is time to lay out the tarp make sure that the tarp you choose is HEAVY DUTY. But you need the tarp to be long and wide enough so it folds over the sides and ends of the boat.

Once it is laid out measure and mark where the tarp needs to be cut to fit the frame of the boat. After the tarp is the proper length get our your grommet installation kit and start punching and hammering them at your choice of intervals. We put them at aprox 1 foot intervals.

Step 7: Lacing the "shoe"

This was just like lacing a shoe but it took a while longer we took the rope under the frame and across as you can see in the picture. This is fairly self explanatory. Oh yeah slide the Styrofoam in there if you are using it. (I thought it would help keep the tarp from rubbing on the frame as much)

And again mike gets all the credit, I really need to teach him to use my camera.

Step 8: Add Water + Motor and Battery

Or just use it as a car cap, We called him habeeb. "this was 5am"
The plywood on the top of the frame spreads the weight out over the frame so make sure you have it or you could crack the pipe if you stand on one part of it.
Don't forget life preservers even if you have just one for 2 people. We brought 2 oars too, just to get in the water before adding the motor and battery.

And we were VERY pleased it rode very high on the water. And then when we put the motor on it worked even nicer. We stayed out at the lake for 2 hours cruising around on the water watching the sun come up after a long nights work. I promise I will have more pictures and videos. But i expect to be fishing out of this boat quite a bit now its a VERY stable platform to fish from.

Please comment on anything you like I would love to hear from you, even if it is negative haha.

Look back for updates soon.

Second Video "I'm the one in the sunglasses":

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    232 Discussions


    11 years ago on Introduction

    hey man, I live in Wavell Heights, in Brisbane, on the east coast of Australia. I found your designs and instructable very interesting and am making one of my own. I am using 25/32 on an inch pipe, or as we say in Australia, 20mm, it is also pressure pipe, to increase structural integrity. It is also going to be powered under sail, and oar, should the need arise. it will also be collaspable, like into a backpack, or something. here are some photos of my first day of construction. thanks for the idea man. Ché

    8 replies

    ...very nice modifications, crazypoop. I like the staggered floor supports idea. That rudder won't be of any use though. It needs to extend down well below the bottom of the boat, to effectively alter the boat's course. I'd love to see pictures of this boat, after it's completed.

    I'm afraid there are no photographs of this boat when it was completed, as when I took it out on it's madien voyage it turned into a pile of PVC pipe and heavy duty tarp floating around me, it was so funny, I was just sort of floating around with my life preserver and laughing about how my boat had collapsed around me...I guess you had to be there...but then I had to drag this mass of PVC pipe and water filled tarp out of the water...then I walked away...walked away...


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Yea we know what happened. You forgot to glue the loints, rather than admit that you created a story about how planned a collapsible boat.

    ...pity. I've done a little researching, and there are a couple of ways to improve your boat, so the pieces don't seperate: 1. Bungy Shock Cord: Inserted into the pipe and connectors, these will provide tension on the components, when assembled. 2. Snap Buttons: Inserted into the male end of the 3/4" pipe, these allow the pipe to snap and lock into the couplings.


    hey everybody, just an update. I built my boat as a collapsable boat, so it could be stored in a backpack sort of thing, but unfortunatly, when it was in the water it collapsed in on itself and I was left floating in a sea of tarp and pvc pipe. so, I guess a good observation of this tragety would be to advise you all out there in internetland that a collapsable version of this boat is not advisable, nor is taking it out onto the ocean.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    wow haha you took this out on the ocean? i'd love to see what this looked like or where exactly you put in at.


    1 year ago

    Have you tried it in the sea? how it will perform with the waves of coastal waters?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    What happens when i bring it on the oceon. I think it would be fun to build a kayak using the tarp and pvc frame idea. Be fun to just be able to bring places except my family owns 4 allready.

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    yeahhhh, probably wouldn't be a good idea to put it in the ocean. May be wrong but i believe he made it for use on a lake, ocean would probably kill it lol.


    4 years ago

    How about finding away to bed line it


    4 years ago

    Going to put wheels and a lawn mower engine so i can drive this on land too with a steering wheel


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I'm completely new to the whole build-it-yourself scene, but I was thinking of making this boat. The only thing I am hesitant about is using a tarp--is fiberglass easy to work with? I have no experience with the stuff

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    fibre glass can be quite easy once you get the hang of it....
    It can also be a MAJOR pain in the posterior too.

    I suggest, that for you to gain experience with fibreglass, start small & simple...
    the hardest part I think is learning how much hardener to add to the resin. to little & it will either not set at all or it will take days/weeks/etc.
    And another thing, once you do get the mixture correct, you have to work fast or you'll have a rock hard mess in your bucket that you won't be able to use.

    As I said earlier, it CAN BE the limit of 2 extremes..extremely easy to work with OR a total pain in the posterior. It depends on how much experience you have with it...or don't have with it.