How to Build a Wooden Boat

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How to Build a Wooden Boat

How to Build a Wooden Boat

If you enjoy paddling down small creeks or rivers, or if you want a small boat that just hugs the shoreline, these plans are designed just for you. Nearly anyone can build this amazingly simple small wooden boat with a few tools and a few dollars. You will be amazed at how quickly you can create this easy design. Assemble your tools and materials, and let’s get started!


  • Outboard motor
  • Box of 2″ wood nails
  • Four pine boards, 16′ long, 1″x10″
  • One 2″x4″ spruce board 16′ long
  • One 2″x4″ spruce board 2′ long
  • One spruce board, 161/2″ x1/4, 4′ long
  • 3/4″x6″ board, cedar or spruce, 120′
  • 7/8″x 10″ cedar or pine board, 16′ long
  • Two 7/8″x2″ boards of spruce, 16′ long
  • 4′ long piece of scrap board
  • Metal sheeting, 11/4″x 10″
  • One pound white lead
  • One old sheet


  • Hammer
  • Plane
  • Chisel
  • Saw
  • Heavy drift

Getting Started:

  1. To make the transom: Select the spruce board that is 16-1/2″x1/4″x4′. Cut it to a length of 42-7/16″. Use the saw to cut the board at an angle, making the top exactly 8 inches shorter on each side than the bottom. The result will be a trapezoid shaped figure that measures 161/2″ tall, 42-7/16″ at the base and 31-1/2″ at the top. In the center of the top, cut a groove 2″ deep and 14″ long.
  2. To make the keel: Use the 2″x4″x16 foot board. Round off the ends of the board so that the last 1″ tapers to a point at one end of the board. The flattened, tapered end should resemble a paddle about 6″ long. Taper the remaining length of board to 1/2″x4″ x15.5′.
  3. The stem is designed from the 2′-long spruce board. Place it so that the board is lying on the worktable and the height of the board is 4″. Cut a small groove into the first end on the left side so that the left side of that end is 1/4″ narrower 2″ down the 4″ length. One the right side, make the cut so that the board is 1/4″ narrower 2-3/16″ down the 4″ length. Repeat the process on the other end so that the two ends are mirror images of one another. The groove created should run the entire 2 feet of the stem board.
  4. To make the sides: Use two 16′x4″ x1″ boards. Cut a notch in the 10″-width of first plank that is 1-1/2″ wide and 1/2″ deep. Repeat the same process on the other board. The notches will run the length of the board. The two boards should fit perfectly together. Nail the boards together. Repeat this process for the other side of the boat.

Assembling the Sides:

  1. Place a strip of white lead in the length of each notch cut in the stem. Lie a small amount of twine along the length of the notches cut into the stem. This will help to waterproof the seam. Insert one end of the left side into the notch created on the stem. The top and bottom planks should fit perfectly into the notch. The planks should be positioned so that they are 20″ in height as you are looking at them. The stem should be 2′ tall. Use nails to secure the planks into the stem from both sides. Stagger and toe the nails. Repeat the process for the right side of the boat.
  2. Next, place the trapezoidal transom so that the groove is facing the sky. Pull the other ends of the left side board tight so that they touch the slanted height of the transom. The ends of the sides should lie flush with the ends of the transoms. Nail the left side of the boat to the transom.
  3. Repeat the same process for the right side of the boat.
  4. Nail the molding along each side at the juncture of the side planking.
  5. Clinch the nails along each side by using the drift to drive the nail completely in.

Assembling the Bottom:

  1. Turn the boat upside down.
  2. Cut the 120′ length of wood into strips. The first will be 42″ long. Measure the width of the bottom of the boat 4″ from the wider end. This will be the length of the second strip. Cut a groove in one side of the first strip, 1-1/2″x1″, along the length of the plank. Cut grooves in both sides of the second strip.
  3. Nail the first board firmly to the transom and to both sides of the bottom of the boat. Lap the boards together and nail the second board in place. Continue cutting boards the width of the boat, grooving them, and nailing them in place along the entire length of the boat.

Finishing Touches:

  1. Smooth the edges and sides of the boat. Smooth the bottom so that it is as flat as possible.
  2. Nail the keel to the transom and stem of the boat.
  3. Turn the boat upside down and look through the cracks. Nail the keel to each of the bottom boards in the boat.
  4. Patch the cracks. Cover nail holes with white lead. Cover larger cracks with Metal sheeting. The important part is to be sure the bottom few inches are watertight; making the rest of the boat watertight is not as important.
  5. Place the sheet metal binding at either end of the transom, and make the sheet wide enough to overlap the side and the transom, as well as the bottom of the boat, by a few inches. Nail it in place.
  6. Add boards for bench seats along the sides of the boat. Place the seats 2-3 feet apart, depending on how many seats you desire. The boards should be long enough to be nailed flush with each side of the boat.
  7. Add oarlocks if desired, to hold the oars in place.
  8. Fasten the outboard motor to the stem of the boat.


  1. Smooth the boat as much as possible.
  2. If you don’t want the boards to weather, use polyurethane or deck sealant to coat the boards.
  3. Paint the boat if desired, or add a name to the side of it.

Now, you are ready to set sail! Become the dream captain, the envy of all your friends and neighbors, with this fun little project!

Vintage project plans:
Retrieved from Vintage Project Website June 29, 2008:

Building a Wooden Boat Images



  1. Daniel said,

    on March 29th, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    I live in the UK, I’ve recently moved to the beach and would like to build this, however I’m not sure where to buy a lot of the material, can someone help me out please?

  2. susan causey said,

    on October 11th, 2009 at 8:07 am

    I was wondering how to build a small wooden bat-toe boat.