Introduction to Wooden Boat Building

Enlarge Building a wooden Skiff rowing boat from a kit

Building a wooden Skiff rowing boat from a kit

Although wooden boat building is too labour intensive for wooden boats to compete commercially with their plastic counterparts, wood is still one of the best structural materials for small boats. Wood and epoxy are used to build some of the world's best multi-hull sailing boats, sprint kayaks and rowing shells.

Wood is up to 10 times stiffer than fibreglass by weight and nearly 6 times stiffer than kevlar-epoxy composite. Thus your energy is used moving the boat, not expended flexing the hull. Wood also retains its strength despite repeated cycles of tension and compression from rough seas and fast paddling: it does not get brittle with age as fibreglass and plastic can.

Marine ply boats are lighter than a glass or plastic version so they accelerate quicker, carry more equipment and supplies, and are easier to spin on wave tops and in surfing conditions. Ashore, lighter boats are also better: they are easier to carry above the high water mark or lift onto a car roof rack.

With fibreglass sheathed hulls to resist puncturing and abrasion, these boats are tough. All the wood is saturated in epoxy so that most of the maintenance associated with traditional wooden boats is eliminated.

Can I really build a boat?

Enlarge Building an Elterwater Pram rowing boat

If you are still unsure about your ability to build one our kits you can purchase the boat building DVD or the plans and construction manuals for most kits. You can study the manuals to become familiar with the various techniques involved and the order and stages of the building.

The manual was very clearly laid out, specific and entertainingly tongue-in-cheek, and kept me on the straight-and-narrow during the epoxy phase. I had to make one phonecall to clarify what the seat braces were for and how to attach them. It was a pleasure to speak to a human being and be given the advice and guidance so quickly.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable experience and unique challenge that brings me enormous pride and pleasure. Thanks again!

Matt W.

To help you decide which of our boats are more suited to your skill level, our website provides additional information for each boat. The build difficulty gives a simple, non-scientific, indication of the technical difficulty of each build. The estimated build time is in full working days and does not take into consideration epoxy curing times, thinking time nor the painting and varnishing which are open ended jobs. The actual time taken varies from person to person: some want to beat our times and others are quite happy to potter for years.

In some cases we are able to supply study manuals which give sufficient information to convince you that you can assemble one of the boats. In other cases we only supply full construction sets which include:

There is sufficient information to allow you to source your own materials and build the boat from scratch.

If you decide to purchase the kit the cost of the construction set or study manual will be deducted from the price. However, the cost of the full sized template plans will not be deducted – these are the large plans that tend to be more expensive than the ‘normal’ plans.