Build Your Own Wooden Fishing Boat

Building your own handcrafted wooden leisure of fishing boat is not nearly as difficult as you might think. I have built many from scratch, but the first is the most educational. And that’s what this article is all about. You don’t need special expensive tools or any carpentry experience. Just follow simple instructions and you can build an incredible wooden boat of your very own and save thousands of dollars for that new rod and reel.

So what would you like? A saltwater fishing boat ready for the bay? A freshwater cruiser primed for the lake? If you can imagine it, you can built it. And for less than $250 using top-grade marine plywood and certified materials!

Let’s start with the basics. My first boat-building project was an eight foot outboard ready motorboat. The plans were for a simple “Portuguese style rowing dinghy” designed by a boat builder in Finland named Hannu Vartiala. All I had to do was add a motor-board (all of ten minutes work) and all of the sudden I had a handcrafted motorboat ready for an outboard. Let’s look at a similar simple project.

First, get some plans and, if possible, building instructions. You can buy them at a number of online boat building shops by searching for “plywood boat plans” on Google, but Hannu’s are incredibly easy to follow and free. Here’s the link to the first project I did. It’s an eight foot car-top model that goes anywhere:

For materials, all you need is

1.) 2 sheets of 1/4″ marine plywood. You can use other types but I always stick with marine. You can get it in most places for about $39 to $45 per sheet.

2.) Marine epoxy with hardener (1 gallon kit is plenty) and about 40 feet of 4″ fiberglass tape.

3.) A couple 3/8″ x 1.5″ pieces of trim board for the rails

4.) A piece of pine for the bench and reinforcements

5.) A set of cheap oarlocks (optional.)

You can find everything by searching Google and the wood at a local home supply store or lumber yard.

The boat construction method we will be using is called “stitch and glue.” Note: Hannu has a modified stitch and glue method that saves time, and in my experience, builds a better boat faster.

Moneysaving Tip: Everyone who even knows someone who has built a boat will talk about West Marine for all of your supply needs. And they certainly do have it all, but I found I could find deals averaging 40% less by shopping around. There are plenty of real bargains out there. If you can find the online store of a shop in a popular boat building area like coastal Maine, Cape Cod MA, Nags Head NC, Santa Barbara CA, or just about anywhere in Florida – you can usually get better deals on supplies and expert advice from anyone working in the shop. Raka, Inc down in Ft. Pierce Florida is a good example ( but certainly not the only one.

As for tools, all I use are an 18V battery operated handheld power drill, 18V battery operated circular saw with a plywood blade, 24″ metal straight edge and square combination and a whole lot of “C” clamps.

If you start with an easy boat like the one I did, you can build beautiful wooden boats like a pro without ever doing anything more complex than a straight cut with a circular saw. That’s how I got started and now I build custom wooden saltwater fishing boats you might see in fishing tournaments.

You can do this. Best of luck!

Michael Small is a wooden boat builder specializing in custom crafted saltwater fishing boats in use from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to the Chesapeake Bay, 500 miles south, in Virginia. He can be contacted anytime through his website at and is always happy to answer questions.

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