We have a lot of trees we've been removing from our property for one reason or another. Instead of throwing them on the burn pile, I thought I might be able to make something of them.

I've always wanted to make a small wood sail boat. Something along the lines of this: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/e8/22/ab/e822aba14ec3b4324de78f13f078554b.jpg

That's probably not what I'm going to start on as I'll most likely screw something up and have wasted a massive amount of effort. I'll probably start with a canoe.

My question is what type of wood can I use from my property, properly dried of course. I'll either let it air dry or build one of those drying boxes you can build that act like a kind of oven. I love the look of cedar and we have a lot of it, but we've taken down a lot of oak as well and I know it's strong. It would probably be good for the ribs and the big beam along the bottom. (Transom?)

I'm really just starting to look into this, so I don't know the right questions to ask. I assume with the wood, it's simply a strength issue, because it gets coated in fiberglass sheets. I've seen videos where they do that to seal it and when the coating goes on, it makes it look like there is nothing on the wood. This sailboat will only be run on a fresh water river. Thanks for any help. Feel free to include references.

  • Hi Dalton, welcome to the site. As you admit, it seems like you don't know exactly what to ask, but just want to know if it's possible without starting on this endeavor, right? Unfortunately, that's a bit broad for this site. Maybe you can re-word it to clarify a single, specific uncertainly (e.g., is cedar strong enough to build a boat from?) Perhaps create multiple questions if you have more than one specific uncertainty. Another one might be: How can I apply fiberglass sheets over my wood on my own?
    – drs
    Apr 1, 2015 at 19:48
  • @drs Hey, my question was whether I can make it out of Cedar, either with just cedar or a combination of cedar and oak. The rest was just explanation to help give an idea of what I've got to work with. Sorry if it got lost.
    – Dalton
    Apr 1, 2015 at 20:23
  • @Dalton This is an interesting question but as drs mentioned it's currently too broad. I'm sure you can build a boat out of almost any material but whether the boat starts breaking into pieces as soon as wind hits the sail is another question. It would be helpful if you could share your research thus far on cedar boats, research you've done on sailboats, and specifically what it is about cedar vs. any other wood commonly used in sailboat construction which has you asking this question.
    – rob
    Apr 2, 2015 at 19:14
  • I guess if I had to narrow it down, I like the look of a cedar strip canoe. I like the shades and patterns of cedar, but I wanted to know if cedar would be strong enough to handle the stress and if so, would that only apply to manufactory processed cedar or could I cut down my own and dry it out to use. I only mentioned the oak, because I have lots and I figured that at minimum the keel would need to be something stronger. I don't plant on running it up on any beaches, but I have seen people put something like skid on the bottom to protect against that.
    – Dalton
    Apr 7, 2015 at 20:27

3 Answers 3


Yes, provided you use fiberglass, and the technique is often called "cedar strip construction". This method of construction is a very forgiving method of building small boats compared to other techniques.

Pretty much any wood will work, though cedar and other rot-resistant woods are better because when you invariably bump into rocks or other stuff, and expose the wood through the fiberglass, that it doesn't rot away between when it gets damaged and you get around to fixing it.

The reason why the wood doesn't really matter is because virtually all the strength of the construction comes from the fiberglass. The wood only serves to keep the two layers of fiberglass separated, in what's known as a sandwich structured composite. In typical fiberglass boat construction, foam is used between the layers, instead of wood.

After the fiberglass is applied, without a gelcoat, it dries to be almost completely transparent.

With all that said, this works well for canoes and kayaks, however sailboats have many extra steps involved as they need to be much more rigid, are much bigger, and have hull shape needs that are challenging to accomplish with cedar strip construction such as provisions for a keel or centerboards.

  • 1
    Or you can use ductape instead of fiberglass for the home-made look Apr 2, 2015 at 8:00
  • Even if you follow a different boat-building method, cedar will work. While many people will debate what the optimum wood would be, cedar will work well for any approach you decide to follow for a small boat.
    – ewm
    Apr 2, 2015 at 23:54
  • OK, I really want to make a duct tape boat now.
    – Daniel B.
    Apr 7, 2015 at 4:31

If you're looking for a simple project you might consider a skin on frame canoe or kayak. Cedar is a good choice for skin boats and actually works better when it's 'green'.

Skin on frame boat in Mission Bay

Take a look at skin-boats.com to get some ideas.

  • This is interesting. I'll have to check it out some more. Thanks for the link!
    – grfrazee
    Jul 17, 2015 at 3:15

Yes you can use both cedar and oak from your property, especially for small boats like canoes and kayaks. You're definitely thinking right in planning to use oak for the keel and frame and cedar for the planked skin. This sort of construction, traditional plank on frame, is quite common for small boats up to about 20 feet in length, and is most likely the construction used for the boat in your picture.

The cedar strip plus fiberglass construction mentioned in another answer is an option, but traditional construction was used for hundreds of years before fiberglass arrived.

Do a little research on the courses offered by the Wooden Boat School in Brooklin Maine. (I have no affiliation with them, but have enjoyed their courses.)

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