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!
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.
2. The Mouse
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.
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.
Also, here are a few extra useful The Mouse Notes for builders
3. The Slipper
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.
4. The Handy Andy
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.
5. The Junior
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!
6. The Jolly Roger
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.
7. The Cork
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.
8. The Hobby Kat
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!
9. The Tern
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.
10. The Falcon
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.
11. The White Duck
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.
12. The Sea Midge
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
13. The Zephyr
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.
14. The Gypsy
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!
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!