How to Build a DIY Canoe with Plywood

One of the biggest advantages of living on a waterfront property is direct access to the lake, ocean, or river and all the recreational activities that come with them, such as leisure boating, fishing, and swimming. However, to participate in most water activities, you need a personal watercraft. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford a speedboat, yacht, cabin cruiser, or jet ski due to their high cost.

This is where simple vessels like canoes come in. These simple, almost perfect boats have been used for centuries by native tribes for hunting, fishing, transport, trade, and warfare. Today, canoes are popular for general recreation and quickly become a staple in waterfront properties due to their highly affordable cost.

Moreover, a canoe is one of the few vessels you don’t need to purchase if you have basic handyman skills and DIY experience. All you need is some plywood and essential carpentry tools/equipment, and you’re all set to build your own.

If you’re intrigued by this idea and have some time to kill, you’re at the right place, as we’ll be sharing a complete guide on how to build a DIY canoe with plywood. So, let’s get started!

Why You Need a Canoe?

If you’re not entirely sold on the prospect of building and owning a canoe, here are some of the main health benefits this incredible water vessel has to offer:

  • Canoeing is a low-impact activity that can improve cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength, particularly in the legs and torso.
  • Canoeing allows you to get closer to the water than sailing in a large boat, making it more peaceful and relaxing.
  • Since canoes are low maintenance and don’t require any fuel or license, they can reduce the financial strain on waterfront residents, thereby lowering stress and anxiety.

Benefits of Building a DIY Canoe with Plywood

Modern canoes are typically built using aluminum, fiberglass, acrylic, or a combination of these materials. Traditionally, wood was the go-to material for these vessels but gradually became less popular following the emergence of lighter materials. Wooden canoes are heavier than their modern counterparts. Still, they offer some distinct advantages in terms of cost and ease of construction. Building a Kevlar or fiberglass canoe requires the use of special equipment and caustic chemicals – both of which most DIYers don’t have access to.

In contrast, all you need to build a DIY canoe is some plywood and common woodworking tools/equipment you can find in most garden sheds or garages. What makes plywood stand out is exceptional water resistance, which is the most important factor to consider when deciding on the building material. Moreover, wooden boats can be made quite narrow, making it easier to paddle and attain speed, especially in rough waters. Lastly, from an aesthetic viewpoint, wooden canoes are far more flexible in terms of design, and since they’re handmade, they make a fine and unique showpiece filled with mystique and personality.

How to Make Your Own Canoe with Plywood

Without further ado, here’s how to build a DIY canoe with plywood:


  • Safety equipment (goggles, gloves, mask, etc.)
  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Jigsaw or table saw
  • Drill and drill bit
  • Drawknife
  • Hand plane


  • 2 sheets of 1/8-inch waterproof plywood (4’ x 12’)
  • 1.5 gallons of polyester resin or epoxy
  • 2-inch glass fiber tape (100 ft)
  • 1 liter of exterior varnish
  • Cable ties


Prepare the Plywood

A plywood canoe is built from three sheets of three thin sheets of waterproof plywood held together with epoxy or polyester resin. The first step is to cut out two long strips of plywood (10 inches x 8 feet), put them on top of one another, and drill 4 holes at each end. Once you’re done, use small cable ties to hold them together.

Shape the Side Structure

Next, ask a friend or family member to sit on another sheet of plywood before pulling open the two connected plywood strips you prepared in the last step. Carefully place the strips surrounding the person and determine how wide the canoe must be by pushing the sides in and out. The general rule of thumb is the wider the canoe, the greater its bottom surface area and stability.

Prepare the Base

Once you’ve determined the canoe’s width, you need to hold sides in place while someone uses a pencil to draw around the shape on the bottom plywood sheet. Once you’ve drawn the base’s template, use a table saw to cut out the shape. Once you’re done, drill holes near the corners of the base and two sides and connect them with cable ties. Make sure you plop the ties on the outside of the boat.

Seal the Canoe

Once you’ve connected the three pieces, the next step is to hold everything together and make it waterproof. To do this, you need to apply polyester resin or epoxy around the seams before sealing it with glass fiber tape. Once the sealant is completely dry, turn your canoe over and cut off all the cable ties. Next, repeat the process on the outside seams.

Finishing Touches

Once your DIY canoe’s structure is ready, you can add a small deck at each end by simply gluing sticks between the gunwales. Next, coat your plywood canoe with exterior varnish and let it bake in the sun before taking it out for a test sail.

Don’t Forget to Customize

Once you’ve tested your DIY canoe, it’s time to get creative and make it your own with unique designs, logos, typography, and colors. Oh, and don’t forget to make the paddle. For this, you’ll need a less flexible type of wood, such as oak or cedar. All you need is a 2â€x6â€x6’ piece of wood from a local hardwood store. If you have a drawknife and a small block plane hanging around in your shed or garage, that’ll come in handy. Once you have everything you need, you simply need to trace the top view shape of the paddle, layout the profile, and start carving. Make sure you don’t hogg all the wood out of your paddle to make it lightweight.


And there you have it – everything you need to know about building a DIY canoe with plywood. With this information, you’re a fun weekend away from building your personal watercraft and heading into the lake or ocean in style. Plus, you’ll be saving a whole lot of money compared to buying generic options from a local canoe store. So, what are you waiting for? Head to the local hardware store and order everything you need online to get started!