Notes on Boatbuilding Tools.

The basic boatbuilding tools the Wooden Boat Builder will need are mainly common woodworking tools.

There are only a few specialist tools that will be needed for traditionally built boats.

No matter what size your project it is always best to buy good quality tools.

Like most things on the market tools range in price from the cheapest to very expensive.

Never buy the cheap ones.

Even if you imagine that you will only use something once it is still false economy to buy cheap.

However the really expensive stuff is only justified if you are going to specialize and try to make a living from a particular skill.

It is best to stick to the good quality, robust, traditional style of tool.

Keep an eye out for second hand tools.

There are those who specialize in selling old tools. These are in demand because of the quality of old tools.

You can still find bargains.

Watch out for those garage sales, it is still possible to find 'Granddad's' old tool collection being cleared out by uninformed heirs.

I personally like to do as much of the work with hand tools, it is somehow much more satisfying than using power.

Besides, quite often it is quicker to do it by hand than to set up the power tool.

However, those power tools sure take the drudgery out of heavy repetitive jobs.



Tool box


In days of yore the first task an apprentice shipwright or woodworker would have to perform was to make himself (it usually was a 'him' in those days) a toolbox for his boat building tools.

This is not a bad place for the novice to start.

But bear in mind that a wooden tool box is rather heavy.

Add the weight of the tools and you end up with something which isn't portable.

My Dad had a truly wonderful wooden tool box, it was a lovely piece of furniture, lots of drawers, lift out trays and a slot for everything.

And it was thief proof, 'cause it was too heavy to move.

On the other hand the plastic ones are cheap, light and pretty well waterproof.

Tool rolls are an ideal way to store chisels and other sharp edged boatbuilding tools.

The roll will prevent those honed edges from knocking against each other.

Boatbuilding Tools

Caulking Irons

The Wire Twister

If you are building or renovating a traditional type of boat there are a few specialist boatbuilding tools you may need.

On traditionally built boats many of the fastenings were of copper nails and roves.

This is still an excellent method of fastening. It can be done with a hammer and any solid lump of metal.

However having the correct 'dolly' and 'rove punch' will simplify the job.

Anyone intending to caulk a carvel planked boat will need caulk ing irons.

For the restorer who intends to re-caulk an old boat raking irons will be needed to rake out the old caulking.

Caulking rakes can be easily made at home from an old file.


More on Clamps

You can never have too many clamps. That is a bit of a cliché among boat builders but it is so true it is worth repeating.

A clamp is like a third hand. Several are the equivalent of a troop of slaves (but more politically correct).

Clamps come in such a variety of types, everything from the ubiquitous G clamp to spring loaded and specialist clamps.

There are several simple clamps especially useful to have among the boatbuilding tools which can be easily made to measure.

Marking and Measuring

I'm going to include here some basic drawing instruments.

If you are not using professionally drawn plans or working from a kit you do need to have some sort of plan of you project.

For general woodworking you will require measuring instruments.

A retractable Tape Measure is indispensable, as is a straight edge for marking.

A Try Square is invaluable for marking square lines for end cuts.

A Sliding Bevel is similar to the Try Square except that it can be adjusted to any angle then locked in place.

A Level is as useful as a plumb bob for checking that your assembly is vertical or horizontal.

Marking Gauges, pencils and scribers will be needed to transfer your cutting lines onto the wood.

There is a wide selection of marking and measuring equipment available online from Rockler.


Saws come in many guises, from fast cutting, straight cutting, to curved cutting.

Western style saws cut on the push stroke while Japanese saws cut on the pull stroke.

Power tools such as Jig and circular saws will take the tedium and effort out of long saw cutting.

A Jig saw is almost indispensable when cutting plywood panels.

How to Cut Straight and Squarea using a Hand Saw.

Hammers and Mallets

The most versatile hammer is the Claw Hammer

A Pin Hammer is useful for those smaller jobs.

A wooden Carpenters Mallet is indispensable for those jobs where a metal hammer would be too hard.

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One of the most essential woodworking and boatbuilding tools.

Bevel-edged chisels kept finely sharp are perfect for paring and cleaning out waste from joints.

Mortise chisels are designed for heavy duty jobs where an ordinary bench chisel would be too weak or would jam in the cut.

Carving chisels come in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes.

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It is a good idea to keep a variety of screwdrivers.

However, it is possible these days to get away with one driver with multiple, detachable heads.

A powered screwdriver is not only handy if you have a lot of screws to insert, but it also drives the screws smoothly reducing the danger of sheering.

More on Screwdrivers

Wood Screws


More on Bench Planes


Wooden bodied planes can still be bought however, the metal variety are more common and they are much easier to set and adjust.

A small Block Plane is the absolute minimum anyone should have among their boatbuilding tools.This is perfect for cleaning up edges before assembly.

A Smoothing Plane (No 4) is next on the list of essentials for any one with woodworking aspirations.

The Jack Plane (No 5) is used to 'flatten' size and square timber. Because of its extra length it has less tendency to follow the dips and bumps in the timber, an all round boatbuilding tool.

Power planers will speed up a job, but they are noisy and not nearly as satisfying to use as a well honed hand plane. But that is just my opinion.

Spoke Shaves

Draw Knife







Hand drills


Awls and Gimlets.

It goes without saying that a power drill will speed up and reduce the amount of effort needed for any job.


The sharper and finer the edge you keep on your boatbuilding tools the more pleasure you will get from woodworking.

A dull edge will not only be difficult to use but will also leave a rough finish.

Hone your chisels plane blades etc regularly.

Use a strop to polish the honed edge.

Use a grinding wheel to hollow grind.

Sharpening and slip stones.

Strops and stropping paste.

Keep those boatbuilding tools sharp and clean and they will be a pleasure to use and last you a lifetime.


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