How to Make a Wooden Model Boat

Illustrations by Andrew DeWitt

Things You'll Need

  • 2 sheets of balsa wood (1/16th of an inch thick and 36 inches square)
  • 100 grit sand paper
  • Hot glue gun
  • 1/8th of an inch wide by 4-inch long dowel rod
  • Jigsaw
  • Pencil
  • Scotch tape
  • 2 eye hole screws

Anyone who likes working with his hands, regardless of age, will likely find model boat making to be a satisfying, rewarding hobby, whether the goal is to create something to display, or to actually send the boat out for a sail along a tiny stream or pond. The model can also be used as a science class project to teach students about buoyancy and simple machines. Whatever you use the boat for, you will find making a model wooden row boat to be a stimulating project.

Split the 36-inch square sheet of balsa wood in half to create two sheets of balsa wood. Cut the sides of the boat out of a sheet of balsa wood using a jigsaw. Cut the sides so that they are 10 inches long on the outside edge and 3 inches wide at the bottom edge. The inside edges should be 7 inches long. This will create an angled tip for the sides of the boat. Draw a diagonal pencil line connecting the tip of the outside edge with the tip of the inside edge and cut this out. Cut out 2 rectangles from the balsa wood that are 4 inches long and 2 inches wide.

Cut the bottom and back of the boat out from a sheet of balsa wood. The bottom should be 4 inches wide at the bottom and measure 10 inches long. The left and right sides of the bottom of the boat should taper to a curved point at the top. This bottom will be larger than you'll need but you will sand it down to fit exactly later. Cut out the back of the boat by removing a 4-inch long by 3-inch wide rectangle. Cut out two small triangles 1 inch wide and 2 inches long from the balsa wood to create the tips of the paddles.

Glue the tips of the boat sides together with a hot glue gun. Carefully bend the bottom of the sides together so that they match the shape of the bottom of the boat. Secure the sides in place with a piece of Scotch tape. Hot glue the sides of the boat to the bottom. There will be some overlap with the edges of the bottom of the boat sticking out. Hot glue the back of the boat to the sides and back bottom of the boat.

Sand the right and left sides of the two small wooden rectangles. Place a bead of hot glue on the right and left sides of these shapes and slide them down into the boat so that one is near the top half and the other near the bottom half. These will act as seats on the boat.

Sand the outside edges of the bottom of the boat until the wood is flush with the sides of the boat. Hot glue two eye hole screws to the middle inside section of each side of the boat. These will act as rings for the paddles. Sand the triangle sections of the paddles so that the points are round and hot glue each paddle to a 1/8-inch wide by 4-inch long wooden rod. Slip this into the eye hole screws to show the paddles.


  • Test out the design first by cutting the boat out of card stock paper to make sure the design fits the way you want it to.


  • Always wear safety goggles when cutting or sanding wood.