Building a Prop Boat




Recently for a production, I was asked to build a small boat, which can be controlled by the feet of two people sitting on opposite sides facing each other.

Tools needed:

- table saw

- compound miter saw

- air compressor

- a pneumatic staple gun with 1 1/2" staples

- belt sander

-palm sander

- safety glasses

- some sort of ear protection

- tape measure

- 10' straight edge

- Skill Saw

Materials needed

2- sheets of 3/4" plywood

2- sheets of 1/4" Luan ( it was a bit hard to bend to make the bow of the boat, but I made some small cuts to help make the bend easier)

10- 1x3x8 pine boards

- wood putty

- varying sized dry wall screws 2" , 1 5/8"

- wood glue


Step 1: Figuring Out the Layout of Your Boat

After looking at a lot a row boats and coming across this image, I settled on a general idea of what I was going to build. I decided that the boat needed to be about 3'-2" high for the young actors using it while seated, 7'-8" long, about 4' wide on the back end and 3' on the front end where it comes to a point.

Building the Boat

I started by drawing out a simple boat shape on a sheet of ply wood by measuring and marking the outside area first and then the inside area. Then, I took both sheets of plywood and screwed them together to a table and started to cut out the top and bottom at the same time to match perfectly on the inside edge and outside.

I then cut all the "Rib" pieces at a 30 deg angle and counter angle on the other side at 3'1/2" and glued and stapled them to the pieces of plywood. I also cut two angled pieces for the back of the boat.( I do not remember the exact dimensions for the back pieces)

It was at this point that I remembered that I needed a seat in the front of the boat and had to reattach the shield looking piece by adding a cross brace to the bottom and top of the boat. I also realized that the top piece should have been exponentially larger than the bottom due to the angle I made to the ribs of the boat. I eventually however just used the belt sander to smooth out each rib to match to the top piece.

Step 2: Adding the Skin of the Boat

Looking back, I should have made 1/16" small cuts along the entire inside area of the skin on the table saw to make it bend easier. All I did for this, is rip two pieces of 1/4" luan to 3'-4" or so it 1" off the floor to make it look like the boat was floating on the ground.

Bending it around the bow of the boat was extremely hard to do by myself, so I had a friend lend a hand putting in screws as we forced it to bend on both sides.



    • Trash to Treasure

      Trash to Treasure
    • Arduino Contest 2019

      Arduino Contest 2019
    • Gardening Contest

      Gardening Contest

    6 Discussions

    Bosun Rick

    3 years ago

    Next time you build a boat or any other wood project using luan plywood, you might try dampening (not soaking) the wood. This will help the ply's move & form to the curves easier. You'll need to experiment on how damp you need it to be for proper forming without cracking.


    4 years ago on Step 2

    Please vote for me in the Teach It Contest and the Epilogue Challenge


    4 years ago

    Good job! Question, If it's just a prop, why not skin it with cardboard and paint? It would be lighter, easier to move.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago

    It was used in 30 shows in different cities.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, not bad for a first-time instructable! Looks like a nice prop boat.

    The only tip I'd give is to turn any sideways photos right side up before uploading. Those tend to make people a little dizzy. :)

    Cool project, thanks for sharing it. Can't wait to see what you make next!