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DIY Boat - The One Sheet Skiff

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

We don't do kit boats but we do like people getting out on the water and recognise that some people desire the satisfaction of building their own vessel. Wooden boats don't have to be time extensive projects and the One Sheet Skiff (OSS) pioneered by Herb is a great example of a quick build that you can knock off with the kids over a weekend.

The picture below is a One Sheet Skiff that Pip (one of our staff members) built years ago on an RDO while up on a fly camp in the Pilbara, WA. This was taken after 24hrs after the start of the build in a room filled with the delicious aroma of Sikaflex curing. Over the next week, it had some paint thrown at it and by the next RDO was out exploring the tributaries and waterways of the Fortescue River.

The story goes on when a store claiming to own adventure in their tittle requested an adventure platform for display in their store. Basically they wanted a table that can boat. Boats are big so even a small dinghy would sudenly make a table large enough for a great hall.

We stuck to our word and made a boat that could table. Although this adventure platform was consigned to a life of retail service all I could see is a bloke with an esky fishing in this dinghy. Yes the Boat is fitted with a HIN.

We used this opportunity to capture photograph instructions for building your own dinghy. The same basic method described below was used to build this boat however the photos just dial in on the detail.

Who'd have thought that the middle of the Pilbara would provide such exquisite boating opportunities? A nice contrast to the busy life of working on a mine. Right: ... and then who'd have thought I'd get to actually build one for a real client?

What you need

Things & skills

- Basic woodworking skills

- Wood saw (preferably electric)

- Drill or electric screwdriver

- A wood planer is handy but you can use the saw to chop away excess shape

- a bit of space to get messy


- One 8'x4' panel of plywood ~6-7[mm] or you can go lightweight at 4[mm]

- Glue; Pilbra build:(I used Sikaflex 291 but Gorilla, Weldbond, Titebond III will work, this isn't the place to be cheap), & Goat Pen Build (I used SikaTech expanding polyeurathane adhasives, only use this one if you have nice matching edges when you glue them together.)

- Wood screws

- Some solid bits of timber (the example pictured above used two survey pegs and part of a pallet)

Notes for the build

I've left a lot of licence in the materials list with the choice relating to your budget or desired quality. The total material budget for the pictured boat was $80 which was roughly:

- $43 for a sheet of CD exterior grade plywood from bunnings,

- $28 for glue (Sikaflex 291),

- $20 for Dulux exterior grade paint, &

- $5 for a bag of screws, I got a couple of button heads and some counter-sunk heads).

This matched my situation well as exclusively flying to work meant that this was not coming home with me as checked baggage. As such this build would only have a one year life getting used every 14th day so I didn't want to over-invest in this project.

You must use at least an exterior grade plywood but upgrading the plywood panel to BB Exterior Grade or AAA Marine plywood with a good quality paint will turn this into a 10+ year toy. Similarly, there are bits of solid timber that look a bit nicer than a survey peg or recycled pallet. This will double or triple the required budget which may be a worthy investment if you plan to keep it for the 10+ years.

The bends in this build are also fairly mild so you could also go for the next heaviest gauge of plywood (normally 9.5 [mm]) without too much trouble.

The Plan

The only way the plan could be simpler is if it had metric dimensions; 1 [inch] equates to 25.4 [mm]. Below is a copy of the original plans by Herb Mcleod which is the same image used to whip up the one-sheet skiff in the Pilbara.

Total credit on this to Herb Mcleod, you can find this image and many variations of this design all over the web but Herb doesn't appear to have his own digital space. I can only presume he'd rather see people out on the water than achieve notoriety.

This plan is not a strict recipe and like the materials, a bit of creative licence can be applied. In the example build that is pictured, I did not use any hardwood on the chine and instead backed the Sikaflex to hold the seam together. Similarly, I didn't reinforce the gunwale with any bits of wood because I couldn't be bothered finding an appropriate bit of wood and is not really needed for a shorter life.

Shaping wood

Let's Build

  1. Do a bit of Google-ing to see what others have done and work out how your boat needs to be or function. Buy your stuff and set-up your space.

  2. Mark out the plywood panel excluding the bottom piece and chop up the parts. Place the leftover piece of plywood which contains the bottom piece outof the way for now. Cut out the stem piece from some solid timber and shape it into a triangular prism with the forward-facing edge forming an angle of 57 degrees (as per the detail in the top-left (as presented on this page) of the plan)

  3. Glue and screw the following:

    1. A bunch of solid timber onto the transom piece so it's framed with a couple of millimetres of the solid timber hanging over the sides of the transom.

    2. The frame with its reinforcing gussets.

    3. The bow end of the side panels to the stem on both sides of the 57 degree wedge.

  4. Give the glue in step 3 a bit of time to cure. The example boat had these bits glued together the evening before the RDO and left to cure overnight. After curing, in the morning, the screws were all removed and the holes goop-ed up with the Sikaflex. Arguably, if you're using good glue the removal of the screws will improve the longevity of your build as the screws can eventually allow water into the wood which can start the wood rotting. this thought can be applied to any of the glue and screw steps.

  5. Shape the overhanging timber edges on the transom and and the frame with the reinforcing gussets to drawings. Check the transom and frame fit as some small shapping may be required.

  6. This is where the assembly takes shape as the transom and frame are now fixed in place on the stem and side panels prepared in step 3.c.. The frame, if well shaped will only need to be held in place while the transom will have to be held in place either with screw and glue or clamping.

  7. Glue and (or use loads of clamps if you have time and clamps) screw timber for the chine and gunwale in place. Plane the chine timber so that it is flat to the bottom of the boat as detailed in the side profile given on the bottom left side of the plan.

  8. note: Don't use too thick of a piece of timber or it will be too hard to bend! Alternatively or in addition, using two thinner bits that get laminated together might also be an easier option. This step was skipped in the example build.

  1. Get the leftover piece of plywood that contains the bottom piece and glue and screw it to the bottom of the boat. Trim the excess plywood off from around the edges of the chine.

  2. Give the glue a bit of a chance to dry, paint it. Place a piece of wood in the middle of the boat as the seat and get out boating. This is the minimum build but we've included some steps for those who want a more premium product.

  3. Optional: make some paddles, oars or put a nice chunk of wood at the top of the transom to fit a small outboard motor.

  4. Optional: A breasthook and aft lodging knees will significantly improve the sturdiness of your boat. Despite the mildly hectic name, these pieces are just triangles of wood at the top of each corner of the boat. You can even make these into much bigger expansive pieces to give you somewhere to stash a small esky, sandwiches, an anchor or whatever else you see your adventure needing.

We tried to keep the nautical talk to a minimum for this one for those who can woodwork but don't know a boat from a bathtub; if you need a bit more explanation feel free to contact us or just google the odd-sounding words.

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