How To Build A Timber Boat

You can easily build a timber boat that suits your needs at home. To achieve this goal, you need the right timber, tools and expertise. Below is some more information on how to build a timber boat.

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Timbers Used To Build Boats

Traditionally, wood has been the material of choice for boat builders worldwide because it is readily available, easy to work with and is renowned for its buoyancy. The most common tree species used to build boats include:

1. Ash

The Ash tree species produces sturdy, light and resilient timber that can withstand exposure to the elements after treatment. It is also affordable and easy to bend making it ideal for building boats. Modern boat builders use it to build boat interiors.

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2. Oak

Oak trees produce heavy and strong timber that can be used to build almost any part of a boat. Nevertheless, oak timber can corrode some metals and cause wood staining.

3. Teak

Teak timber is usually used to build cabins, decks and gunwales. Moreover, since it is resistant to rot and wear, it is suitable for building boat parts that are exposed to the water. However, it is expensive.

4. Cedar

Cedar timber, which is durable and cheap, is mainly used to build racing boats and boat interior fittings.

5. Mahogany

Mahogany is very easy to work with, stable, affordable and produces a high quality look.

6. Iroko

Iroko timber is a cheap alternative to teak due its durability and dark brown color. However, the former has irregular and interlocked grain, whereas the latter has straight grain.

7. Douglas Fir

Douglas fir timber finishes well, is moderately durable, and heavy. These properties make it ideal for building boat parts such as the mast.

8. Pitch Pine

Unlike other pine species, pitch pines produce very durable and cheap timber. However, if you intend to build a boat using pitch pine, use commercial grade pine because of its strength qualities.

9. Southern Yellow Pine

You can use southern yellow pine timber for interior and exterior boat construction. Furthermore, it is cheap and finishes well.

10. West African Mahogany (Khaya)

Khaya, which has a coarse texture, is lighter than Brazilian mahogany. Additionally, it produces low quality timber compared to American mahogany.

Hull Types

There are two main hull types: displacement and planing. A displacement hull helps a boat move by pushing water aside with the use of minimal propulsion force.

However, a displacement hull is only suitable for boats that cruise at slow speeds.

On the other hand, a planing hull rises out of the water as a boat gains speed, thereby enabling the boat to skim along the surface of water at high speeds. As such, a planing hull is mainly used on powerboats.

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It is virtually impossible to cover all the boat plans you could use because they run into the hundreds. Fortunately, most of these plans are available online together with instructions on how to build a boat using boat plans.

Building a Timber Boat

1. Materials and tools

The materials you will need include about 80 pieces of timber, screws, hardwood boards, at least two 6mm marine ply sheets measuring 2,400 × 90mm, urethane glue and acrylic house paint.

You will also require a wood saw, chisels, rasp, cordless power drill, safety glasses, rubber gloves, belt sander, mitre saw, G clamps, heavy-duty divider, paint brushed, ruler, pencils, tape measure and rollers.

2. Planning

Start by sketching a plan of the boat that you would like to build complete with the measurements. Then, use a cardboard to build a smaller replica and put it in a tank of water to determine whether it functions as expected or has some design flaws that require fixing.

3. Fashioning boat scaffolding

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Use G clamps and angle brackets to bend timber to the desired shape of your boat’s center rib, keel, in-wales (ribs that support your boat) and chines (change in the cross sectional area of a boat).

4. Complete the frame

After assembling the basic frame of your boat, measure and shape pieces of timber to form about 6 to 7 ribs for a boat measuring 7 to 8 feet long.

This part is quite taxing and can take weeks or months to complete depending on the amount of time you spend building your boat daily

5. Planking

With the frame of your boat complete, attach the marine boards to the frame of your boat and then cover any spaces with a suitable glue.

Use a sander to smooth en all the rough surfaces and apply a suitable resin product on both the exterior and interior of the boat. After this, cover the exterior surface with a “fiber-glassing” product to ensure your boat will not leak water.


Some of the things you need to build a timber boat include the right timber, materials, boat plans and the right tools.