Homemade Boat: Build a Small Row Boat

Lead Image for Homemade Boat: Build a Small Row Boat
What You'll Need
2x4 lumber
3/4-inch plywood
Saber saw
Table saw (optional)
Electric drill
Hammer and nails
Weather-proof wood glue or epoxy

A winter project sure to delight any woodworker has to be building a homemade boat. Learning how to build a small row boat, for example, is a wonderful activity to occupy fall's dreary, rainy weekends, and a rewarding one to welcome the spring. This project requires minimal skill, goes together quickly, and with the use of inexpensive materials, is a very economical project.

The construction of this homemade boat will help challenge the beginner, and hone the skills of the more accomplished woodworker.

Step 1 - Building Form Construction

The first order of business is to use 2x4s to construct a simple building form on which you will attach 3/4-inch plywood cross-forms. In this step, a table saw would be best to use for cutting your 2x4s to the proper sizes, but if you don't have access to one, your saber saw will still work.

You will build three squares connected by four longitudinal 2x4s. These squares will be increasingly larger in order from the first to the third, which will be the transom (a flat beam reinforcing the stern). The longitudinal 2x4s running along the top and bottom of the squares will extend forward of the first square and will form the breasthook. These two 2x4s will be joined by an angled stem member. From your 3/4-inch plywood, cut three forms with your saber saw in the shape of a "U" with the sides angling outward somewhat. These will be temporarily attached to the longitudinal 2x4s along the front, middle and back of the building form. Construction of the building forms should be as exact as possible, as they will help form the finished product.

Step 2 - Building the Boat

The hull of your rowboat will come together when you attach the transom, breasthook, chine logs, and bottom battens. Next, begin to attach your plywood planking to the building forms and the other parts of the boat, transom, breasthook, etc. Using your saber saw as well as your sander, cut and shape, fasten and trim your boat to what suits you. There is no right or wrong during this step. With the exception of the 2x4s, make sure you are using 3/4-inch plywood and hardwood for your boat's parts. Gluing and screwing parts works exceedingly well with weather-proof wood glue; however, epoxy works better. Always use your clamps to hold your pieces in place while the glue or epoxy sets.

A Word about Your Plywood

There is a multitude of plywood to choose from in regards to building boats. You will want to use a waterproof wood, or take steps to waterproof the materials you are using.

Plywood comes in AA, AB or AC varieties, which denotes the amount of defects allowed on the reverse side of the wood. Regardless which you choose, place the "A" side of the plywood on the inside of the boat, and the other side on the outside. If there are open voids on the outside of the boat, they can be covered or filled with epoxy putty before you finish it with either fiberglass and epoxy or marine-grade paint. It is not advisable to use interior grade plywood for boat building. Suitable woods to consider would be Douglas fir, white oak, teak or various species of mahogany.