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Can I Build a Boat? The 4 Basic Building Steps

By Morten Olesen 2011, All Rights Reserved

Pushing off from the shore, you set sail across the water with an enormous sense of pride and anticipation. You've done it! You've built your own boat and are free to take on any water-bound adventure you can envision. That may be your dream, but for many building a boat seems like an impossible task. Take heart!

While it may require some patience and a few new power tools (nothing wrong with that!), there are really only 4 basic steps to building a boat.

Step 1: Choosing a Boat Design

What do you want to be the captain of? A simple canoe? A row boat? How about a skiff or dinghy? From catamarans to tugboats, you can choose whatever type of wooden boat plans you'd like.

Of course, the bigger the boat, the more complex the plans and the longer it will take to complete. For your first attempt, you might consider a canoe or row boat. But if you've been there and done that and have now set your sights on bigger fish (so to speak), you may be ready to tackle a speedboat or a pram. Once you decide, you'll only have 3 basic steps to complete before sailing off into the sunset.

Step 2: Lofting

According to, "Lofting is a drafting technique whereby curved lines are drawn on wood and the wood then cut for woodworking. The technique can be as simple as bending a flexible object (such as a long cane) so that it passes over three points and drawing the curved line.

"Lofting is particularly useful in boat building, when it is used to draw and cut pieces for hulls and keels, which are usually curved, often in three dimensions."

If you can draw a curved line on a piece of plywood, you have the basics of lofting wooden boat plans down already.

Step 3: Assembling

There's a method to the madness when it comes to organizing and assembling the pieces of wooden boat plans. Once you learn a few tricks of the trade, the process goes pretty quickly.

Assembling each section in the right order and using the correct materials and techniques makes all the difference in the world. When you get expert help in the form of plans and/or boat building courses; putting together your dream craft is as easy as following the instructions and pictures.

Step 4: Laminating

Boats made from wooden boat plans are created from individual pieces of wood. Those pieces have to be connected in order to have a finished vessel. If this were anything other than a boat, you might just use nails or screws to hold everything in place. But since our creation will be placed in the water, connecting the pieces has to be both functional and also leak proof.

Although it might sound strange, water can be a boat's worst nightmare. The seams of your vessel have to be watertight in order for your boat to stay afloat. This is where many a novice boat builder goes astray. There are 4 basic techniques for laminating correctly the first time. Each has its pros and cons. Taking time to learn all 4 and which would be best for the boat you dream of building will be well worth your while.

In essence, that's it. That's all it takes to build a boat. If you were wondering whether you could do it or not, the answer is yes provided you have the right plans and instructions. I recommend you start small and work your way up. Get a little experience under your belt then move up in size and complexity until you create the boat you've always wanted.

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Morten Olesen, Naval Architect/Owner - Hyldvej 1A - DK-4540 Farevejle - Denmark

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