Not just anyone can build a wooden boat -- it takes a solid knowledge of
design and woodworking. These skills are taught in a few wooden boat-building
schools on the East and West Coasts.
There are many schools and courses available for people interested in boat-building
as a hobby, but relatively few offer the woodworking skills and knowledge
required to develop a career in this area. Look for schools that offer
apprenticeship programs culminating in a woodworking, carpentry or shipwright
Many of these programs last eight months or longer. They often require
students to complete a certain amount of work experience beyond the course
to receive certification of competence or a journey ticket.
Students learn how to use basic hand tools to produce smaller pieces in
preparation for more complicated work. They may also use a variety of portable
and stationary power tools for larger pieces. Students learn to understand
drafted plans and to convert them into a half-sized model of the hull
using chisels, gouges and a spokeshave (a tool for planing convex or concave
Next, students "loft" the boat, or transfer plans for the boat into a full-size
drawing on the floor of the workspace. Lofting is the heart of boat-building.
From there, they put together the internal structure of the boat, put on the
interior and exterior hulls and build any cabinetry required.
Some programs also show students how to install motors and basic electrical
and plumbing systems. Then they finish the boat with varnish and paint
and take it out on the water.
Shop classes are the best way for high school students to prepare for boat-building
training. Metalworking, woodworking and even drafting all give students
You'll need math, especially geometry and trigonometry. But you
don't need to be a master mathematician. "Academic qualities are not emphasized
as much as a willingness to work," says Rick Barkhuff, an instructor for the
cruising boat program at the Landing School in Maine.
"You need some math and English, but if you are not proficient you can
still do well in boat-building. You should have a high school diploma, though."
Art classes could also be useful. Anything that strengthens visual
and hand-eye coordination skills will help.
Reading about boats, studying the history of boats, using boats and just
generally hanging around boats all provide students with useful experience
and knowledge, says Barkhuff. "It's hard for people to learn how to build
a boat if they've never been on one. Any experience in any kind of boating,
even a rowboat, will help."
Occupational Outlook HandbookFor more information related to this field of study, see: Woodworkers
WoodenBoat MagazineA magazine about boats and boat-building
Center for Wooden BoatsA museum of wooden boats