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15 Free Boat Plans You Can Build This Week (with PDFs)

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15 Free Boat Plans You Can Build This Week (with PDFs)

Boatbuilding is one of the most ancient forms of craftsmanship still alive today. As long as our ancestors have had a curiosity about exploring open waters, they have been practicing and honing their boatbuilding skills.

To be honest, however, building a boat is no small task. It will require a lot of work and patience to ultimately create a finished product that you are happy with and that is actually seaworthy.

Of course, we have also included a few free boat plans that you can keep in your back pocket for the next time you are asked to build a cardboard boat as part of a contest or lakefront teambuilding adventure.

We hope that these resources help you in your journey to build your own boat!

Photo by SeventyFour via Shutterstock

Free Boat Plans

  1. The Wanigan
  2. The Mouse
  3. The Slipper
  4. The Handy Andy
  5. The Junior
  6. The Jolly Roger
  7. The Cork
  8. The Hobby Kat
  9. The Tern
  10. The Falcon
  11. The White Duck
  12. The Sea Midge
  13. The Zephyr
  14. The Gypsy
  15. The Crazy Cardboard Boat

Why Build Your Own Boat?

Photo by Halsey via Shutterstock

There are a lot of reasons why you should explore building your own boat versus buying a pre-made model. Here is a quick breakdown of the most obvious benefits:

  • You will know the ins and outs of your finished boat better than anyone
  • It can be a great project to work on with your teenage or even adult children
  • You will gain valuable skills molding and shaping wood and other materials
  • You can design your boat for your specific needs
  • You don’t have to trust the sometimes-questionable manufacturing of mass-produced boats
  • You can create a boat that functions as your second home on the water
  • You can save money if you source materials mindfully

Of course, most first-time boatbuilders still experience some level of trial-and-error. With patience and perseverance, however, you can craft a one-of-a-kind vessel that has no equal anywhere in the world.

Free Boat Plans You Can Build This Week (with PDFs)

1. The Wanigan

PC Duckworks Boat Builders Supply

The Wanigan boat began as a garvey design, which is one of the older boat plans known to the Americas. Traditionally, these boats were built as work scows and were very popular among American summer camps.

The design itself is very simple, but these boats can carry heavy loads. It can also handle a trolling motor being mounted to the stern so you can cover more ground if you want to use it as a fishing boat.

The creator of this boat plan became aware of some of the downsides of the garvey design, such as the heavier weight that made it less efficient than some other designs. So he combined elements of dory and wanigan designs to create a hybrid.

The main changes include an enlarged beam, tilted lathes to provide a stiffer hull, and knocking off the top strakes to reduce the boat’s overall weight.

The Wanigan text

These additional The Wanigan drawings  may also prove useful for your build process!

2. The Mouse

PC Duckworks Boat Builders Supply

The Mouse is one of the most compact and nimble boat plans we have found for this list. It is an easy build and also a great boat for two kids or a single teenage paddler.

The original builder began with a one-sheet boat design in an effort to create the lightest and most affordable boat possible. This means it is only suited for calm waters and should not be used in high winds or wavy conditions.

That said, it was built in roughly 12 to 24 hours of work time and doesn’t require a full workshop to construct. The main material that is required for building this boat is quarter-inch plywood, but the builder recommends using one-inch by half-inch pine or something a little sturdier.

The plywood and pine components are held together using a method called ‘stitch and glue’. This method requires choosing one of the best glues for kayak outfitting, which are typically made of epoxy and glass tape rather than something cheaper like polyurethane.

The Mouse Instructions

Also, here are a few extra useful The Mouse Notes for builders

3. The Slipper

PC Duckworks Boat Builders Supply

The Slipper is the first of many sailboat plans on our list and it is faster, easier, and cheaper to build than most. It also features a deeper cockpit than many other sailboat designs, which makes it safer for intermediate sailors.

This sailboat plan features dual steering stations so that you can sail from inside or outside of the helm. It also includes a centerboard trunk that hardly intrudes into the cabin at all so that it is easier to work around while you are in the cockpit.

The exterior hull and cabin of this sailboat feature a modified dory design using two sheets of plywood ripped to three feet wide before being joined together. The resulting hull is a modified V-shape that reduces drag.

The centerboard of this boat can also be winched up to the level of the top of the cabin or lowered down to alter the draft. This allows you to customize the boat design for a stiffer and more weather-worthy vessel if you need it.

The Slipper was also intentionally designed with an aft cabin that naturally helps to keep the bow pointed into the wind whether you are underway or the boat is anchored in the port.

The Building Slipper

4. The Handy Andy

PC DIY Wood Boat

The Handy Andy is a great little 10-foot portable rowboat for hunting, camping, fishing, and other recreational uses. It is actually the only folding boat design on our list, which makes it best for folks that need the most portable boat plan possible.

This boat features a 42-inch beam and a depth of about 15 inches at the mid-section. It also weighs roughly 80 pounds when assembled and can handle up to three average-sized human passengers.

The design boasts a flat bottom with canvas-bound edges and the primary material used for construction is ⅜-inch marine-grade plywood. Despite its lightweight nature, this rowboat can handle trolling motors or even outboard motors with a maximum of five horsepower.

Once finished, the hull can be folded or unfolded in less than a minute’s time. This design makes it one of the only boats on this list that can be stored in a truck bed or easily carried by two people to be launched at more remote locations.

The Handy Andy

5. The Junior

PC DIY Wood Boat

If you are looking for an all-purpose dinghy that can handle almost any use you might imagine, look no further than The Junior free boat plan. It can carry three or four average-sized adults and is much easier to row than a traditional dinghy.

It is also durable enough to be equipped with a small outboard motor or you could even set it up with sailing equipment if you want to use it as a sailing vessel. As we said, this is truly an all-around boat design!

This boat plan requires constructing three frames that will provide the majority of the load-bearing support. The builder recommends using ¾-inch framing with ⅜-inch plywood as the exterior material for this boat build.

Resin glue and flathead screws are also required to hold this boat together, but there is a full list of materials included in the plans we have linked to below. Sticking to that plan should also give you enough leftover materials to construct two six-foot oars for rowing this boat until you install a trolling motor or outboard motor down the line!

The Junior

6. The Jolly Roger

PC DIY Wood Boat

Channel your inner Captain Morgan when you are following these plans to build your very own Jolly Roger boat. This flat bottom boat design is designed for pond fishing, but it can also be a useful yacht dinghy for getting from your dock to a larger vessel anchored offshore.

The plan follows conventional dinghy construction methods but also includes a few modifications that will save you time and energy. The wide design is super stable for boaters of all ages.

The keel, frame, chines, and risers are all cut from ¾-inch oak, ash, or any other trusted hardwood you can get your hands on. For the smaller components, the builder recommends using cedar, cypress, fir, or white or yellow pine.

Because this boat plan is also sturdy enough to handle a small motor, it includes important points for protecting the wooden hull from spark plug damage. Be careful to follow these guidelines to build the safest boat possible if you imagine installing a motor down the line.

The Jollyroger

7. The Cork

PC DIY Wood Boat

The Cork is another simple rowboat design, but this one trends away from the flat bottom plans that we have included thus far. Instead, it features a deeper, V-shaped hull that makes it better suited to more efficient rowing and easier maneuverability.

It can be rowed easily from either seating position and is durable enough to handle up to three average-sized adult passengers. The ends of the boat are identical, which allows for multi-directional rowing.

The list of materials required for this boat plan should cost you between $30 and $50, depending on your location and hardware costs there. The resulting build is lightweight enough for two people to be carried and also to be transported on top of a vehicle.

Inside the boat, the builders use aluminum tubing to secure the struts that hold the seats. This material choice keeps the overall weight of the boat down while still adding the necessary rigidity across the beam of the boat.

The Cork

8. The Hobby Kat

PC DIY Wood Boat

The Hobie Cat is one of the most iconic and recognizable small sailing vessels ever made. This Hobby Kat plan is your answer to building your own iconic sailboat without spending thousands of dollars.

Your finished boat will be able to handle speeds of up to 20 miles per hour and will be a super fun vessel for windy days on the lake or bay. The builder was able to construct the hulls, decking, and rudder for this boat while spending little more than $200.

From there, they purchased and installed the mast, boom, sail, and rigging, which brought the total amount spent to roughly $650 (still much less than a name-brand Hobie!). Without the mast and sail, this boat weighs roughly 165 pounds and is constructed using primarily 3/16-inch marine plywood.

You can also elect to build your own mast, boom, and sail if you have the time and skills to do so. Those elements are not included in this boat plan, but they do offer some recommendations for where to buy these components!

The HobbyKat

9. The Tern

PC DIY Wood Boat

Named after the common seabird found around the world, the Tern is a lightweight and nimble sailboat with a 72 square foot base design. She is made for inland sailing and planes very well in moderate breezes.

The hull design also provides minimal water resistance and the small floor plan makes this boat easier for intermediate sailors to handle. Even though it offers a small footprint, this boat is sturdy enough to handle up to four adult passengers.

One of the best things about this boat plan is that it can be built almost entirely by using only common hand tools. Of course, you can speed things up if you have power tools and you are skilled enough to use them correctly.

The Tern boat plan includes a 20-foot mast, but you can shorten that length if you desire. The plan includes a complete list of materials and step-by-step instructions on how to plane and assemble each element.

The Tern

10. The Falcon

PC DIY Wood Boat

As you might expect from its name alone, the Falcon is an incredibly speedy sailboat for its size. It boasts a 14-foot centerboard and can handle two to four passengers, depending on its size and weight.

In tests of the original build, the creators claim that this boat out-distanced many Snipe and Comet sailing vessels as well as pacing evenly alongside longer 18-foot sailboats. When finished, your boat will have a six-foot beam and a total weight of roughly 475 pounds.

For the main framing components, they recommend using white oak and plywood will be the main material used in the hull construction. The hull features a V-shaped that was inspired by larger schooners.

The Falcon is best suited to sailing on bays, lakes, and wide rivers. It is also a boat plan with just under 120 square feet of deck space and it is a great build for amateur craftsmen and sailors.

The Falcon

11. The White Duck

PC DIY Wood Boat

The White Duck is a flat-bottomed rowboat with a total length of 13’6” and a four-foot beam. The cockpit is approximately 15 inches deep all the way around and this boat can handle up to five passengers while maintaining buoyancy and stability.

When fully constructed, it will weigh roughly 200 pounds, but the final weight will depend on the type of lumber you choose for your build. This boat plan features plywood planking over solid wooden frames.

The White Duck is built with a pointed bow that cuts nicely through the water. The flat stern of this boat design will make it easy to attach a small outboard motor with a maximum of six horsepower.

As you might expect from its name, this rowboat is a great option for duck hunting trips. That being said, it is a highly versatile craft that can also be used for pond fishing or casual rowing on your nearby lake.

The White Duck

12. The Sea Midge

PC DIY Wood Boat

The Sea Midge is one of the smallest rowboats on our list and it is ideally suited for one average-sized rower or two small paddlers. It is only about 8 feet in length and offers a 52-inch beam at its widest point.

The Midge’s small dimensions make her ideal for navigating narrower creeks and streams. With an approximate weight of 62 pounds, she is easy to maneuver on the water and can also be much more easily transported than some of the larger boat plans on our list

The Seamidge

13. The Zephyr

PC DIY Wood Boat

The Zephyr is a compact and speedy dinghy sailboat that measures roughly 14 feet long and approximately five feet across. This boat style was originally developed for safely crossing the English Channel, which means it can stand up well in rough waters.

When finished, it is also light enough to be transported on a small trailer or on top of a larger vehicle. The boat plan calls for using hemlock or fir for the framing and oak or Douglas fir for the keel and chines.

The Zephyr

14. The Gypsy

PC DIY Wood Boat

The Gypsy is a small cruising sailboat that is meant to be equipped with an outboard motor for powered locomotion. The original design resulted in an incredibly seaworthy vessel that logged more than 6,000 nautical miles in her lifetime.

It includes a comfortable cabin that makes it well-suited for multi-day sailing adventures and this boat plan includes improvements on the original design that will help you build an extremely durable and long-lasting sailboat.

The Gypsy boat design will help you construct a vessel that can handle a motor up to 25 horsepower so that you can enjoy cruising speeds of up to nine miles per hour. While it may require a bit more of an investment in time and money, it will also help you produce one of the best boats you can build with a free boat plan!

The Gypsy

15. The Crazy Cardboard Boat

PC Saint Dominic Catholic School

Finally, let’s talk about a crazy cardboard boat plan that you can build in less than a day. This is a great boat plan to bookmark for your next teambuilding project so that you can earn bragging rights with your coworkers.

The plan calls for using 1.5 sheets of cardboard, but you can use the remaining half sheet to build your own boat paddle if you want to get creative. Triple-thick cardboard is best for this boat plan, but you can always double up thinner sheets if that is all you can find.

These plans include an easy-to-follow diagram for marking, cutting, and folding the cardboard sheets to create the hull of your boat. From there, it calls for using contact cement and construction adhesive to seal the edges and corners.

If you are looking to save a little money on this build you could also use duct tape and then wrap the entire design in plastic sheeting to provide waterproof qualities. Overall, this build is one of the cheapest and easiest on our list, and it is also a great project for hot summer camp days on the lake or river!

The Crazy Cardboard Boat

Final Thoughts

Photo by Alexandra Soloviova via Shutterstock

We hope that you now have a couple of free boat plans to inspire you to begin your own construction project.

Don’t hesitate to check out YouTube for some useful boat-building videos when you are getting into the nitty-gritty of these build processes!

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Free Boat Plans You Can Build This Week (with PDFs)

Author: Peter SalisburyPete is the Owner of KayakHelp.com. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him skiing in the mountains, reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.

Welcome! I’m so glad you are here :-) I’m Pete. I am the owner of KayakHelp.com. I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When I am not out on the water, you can find me skiing in the mountains, reading my favorite books, and spending time with my family.

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