The Right Approach On How To Build A Boat

So you thinking about building a boat and you wonder yourself – how to build a boat? and not just any boat – you want the perfect one, something you can be proud of and also enjoy the process of actually building it, piece by piece.

Since the earliest days of recorded history, people have set out across the water on crafts of their own making.  Having been improved and expanded on for millennia, boat design has been of interest to millions.  Whether you have your sea legs or you are just now beginning to explore the waterways around your home, having a boat is a necessary first step.

Your first inclination may be to go out and buy a boat.  This is not a bad idea.  Boats can be relatively inexpensive all things considered.  Without things like engines and when a small enough size, you can get a kayak or canoe for only a few hundred dollars.  An alternative to buying boats is building boats.  As an increasing number of Americans are learning, building a boat can be one of the most challenging, rewarding, and satisfying hobbies out there.

building a boat

Bringing into existence a practical craft capable of allowing you to navigate waterways, riding in a boat built by your own hands is a magical experience.  In addition, building a boat may be easier than you think.  Even with limited wood working skills, you can build on what you know and work towards building a boat.  Below we go into detail about what you will need to gather in order to build a boat.  Along with reviewing materials and design, we will look at how a boat building book can speed up the process and leave you with the boat of your dreams.

So How To Build A Boat?

Considering Materials

If you want to know how to build a boat, then you better start with materials.  Every boat has to be made out of something, and boats that people build on their own are typically constructed from wood.  Wood is lightweight, flexible, and has been the primary building material for boats for thousands of years.  Using wood that you can buy locally, you use your skill and understanding to make the correct cuts and to shape the wood in the right way to build a boat.

The type of wood will make a big difference as woods have different kinds of flexibility and strength.  Ash is well liked for being tough and flexible.  Cedar is another popular wood for boat building as it works well when shaping and has a great color.  Douglas Fur, Iroko, Oak, Sapele, and Utile are other popular woods that just happen to have properties that make them good for boat construction.

You will also want to consider the finish you use on the boat and the various materials used to help make the boat watertight.  Wood naturally shrinks and expands when exposed to water and moisture.

Older boats are known to leak whenever placed in the water after being out for a long time.  Consider the kinds of finishes available and techniques that you can use to ensure that your boat will still be usable years down the line.  This should be considered during planning so that you can ensure no issues between your wood selecting and finishes.


huge boat building in progress

Consider Design

There are a number of different techniques that you can apply to your boat building that will depend on the type of boat you are building.  Whether you use clinker ply, strip planking, clinker, cold molding, or carvel techniques will be based on the kind of form you want.  So, do you want a kayak, a canoe, or something larger?  Are you planning to take the boat in fresh water or salt water?  Will you be in shallow areas or in deep water?  Is there a chance of waves and will you need to find a way to remove excess water?  All of these are questions you should carefully consider before picking a design.

Consider Cost

Building a boat will cost you in two ways.  First, there is the material cost of constructing the boat.  You will need the materials, as well as the tools used to help you create the final product.  In addition, you will require a significant amount of time on your part.  While it is possible to build a boat from scratch with little wood working skill, it will take you significantly more time than someone who is experienced.  Building a boat is a process that can take months to finish.  It should not be rushed and the mantra of ‘better safe than sorry’ is important to follow.

Note that any design flaws in the basic construction dramatically increase the risk of the boat being damaged or failing to stay afloat after months and years of use.  Only through a considerable amount of care will you build a boat that lasts.  Thankfully, there are resources that can help you do just that.

Why You Want To Get A Boat Building Book

There are many places for you to get resources on boat building.  One of the best options is courses taught by professional and experienced boat builders.  They will be able to guide you through the process and offer their experience and hard lessons learned.  Barring a course, your next best option is getting a boat building book.  Why get a book instead of following a guide online?  Good question.

A book dedicated to building boats will have everything you need to know.  Where as most online guides are rudimentary to say the least, you can purchase a book on the particular kind of boat that you want to construct.  Formatted well and providing in-depth pictures and descriptions to help you along the way, a boat building book offers a lot of practical information that will be found no where else.  Along with material selection, you will learn about proper shaping, sanding, and polishing techniques.  Taught from an expert who carefully put a book together, you can be sure that the resource for information is top notch.  Unlike online guides where the author is unknown, a boat building book will typically only be made when there is an authority on the matter sharing their skillset.


You have a lot of options for boat building books.  While some will cover simpler canoes and kayaks, others will go into larger boat design.  Depending on your skill set and experience, you can start simple and gradually improve your skillset over time.  A boat building book will inform you on what tools you should use to get the job done.  They will also point you to resources you may not be aware of to find even more information on boat building.

For these reasons and more, a boat building book should always be your first source for information.  Before deciding on a potentially expensive class or materials, read through a boat-building book and see if it is worth your time and attention.  You might find a design you like even more than what you first imagined and you can use that knowledge to plan the construction of your boat.

Boat building books can be found in libraries as well as bookstores.  You can also find them online and purchase through sites like  Books about boat building are not that expensive and will typically run you between $10-20 dollars.  If nothing else, they make excellent coffee table books and people will love going through the pages.

Where Does That Leave Us?

Building a boat is a challenging process that requires a great deal of time and the development of certain skills.  Along with improving your wood working and learning more about the simple practices that underlie boat design, you will benefit from the many guides and books written on boat building.  This information will give you the confidence and the knowhow to construct a boat of your very own.  Perfectly doable, all you need are the right resources, the right tools, and the drive to create something practical and beautiful.  Good luck!