How Does One Build A Large Ship From Wood?

Wooden ships have gone down a long road in history, with the first ones built by the Egyptians, dating back to 2500BC. From then to now, ships have come ahead in an unfathomable manner.

Large wooden ships might not be conventional these days; however, surprisingly, there is still a niche demand present. With the art of wooden shipbuilding dying out, we must educate the coming generations. To ensure the passing of the torch, to help fill this small niche for the years to come.

Why Use Wood?

The start of building a good ship is the material you’ll be putting into it. Being in the 21st century with high tech equipment and a mixture of material, it might seem there is no place for ‘good old wood.’

However, that’s pretty far off from the truth. Wood to date delivers exceptionally well. A large part of developing countries, depending on their fishing industry, is a key to their lively hood.

Wood is not only cheaper but also provides a lower weight per unit volume. Making wooden ships lighter than ships made of other materials such as steel. Carrying more weight than vessels of a similar size wooden ships prove to be an economical solution.

Process of Ship Making

Shipbuilding isn’t as complicated as people make it out to be. However, you will require careful planning, precise measurement, and the right tools to make sure the job is done right.

The process of shipbuilding goes on a step by step basis. These steps have been carefully described below to help you get an exact apprehension of the process.


One of the most crucial elements, but one that must be extremely flexible to incorporate changes. The design is what forms the base of the entire production process. Its recommended that you get the plan approved from a master carpenter. To make sure all the dots are connected and ensure you aren’t falling short anywhere.

You must make sure to keep the budget in mind to not go completely overboard. The design should be made not as a whole rather part by part. This will help you focus on each segment of the ship, giving the carpenters a detailed look to make sure there are no discrepancies.

The design must be drawn up precisely, with the plans put up in exact required measurements. If you’re using feet or inches that must be mentioned as well, this ensures the carpenters working on the project are in sync — cutting off chances of wastage that make the project more expensive than it needs to be.


The plans you made on paper were just plans; you must be prepared at all times for things to go wrong. This can be considered step 2, make sure you have your inventory, complete with the material you’ll need for each step. And some extra material in hand just in case something goes wrong.

Being prepared for any situation may be related to safety, or the ship will put you at an advantage. It’ll save time and further make sure you stay on schedule, another way you’re saving money.


Like any structure starting from the skeleton is the way to go. Emphasizing most of your resources here is essential. To make sure that everything remains sturdy and secure while facing the wrath of the sea.

The ship’s framework is wholly based on the keel of the ship. Also known as its spine. Thus it must comprise a large piece of lumber. Usually, a 12″ ×12″ piece would do the trick.

However, according to the size of your ship, you might increase or decrease the size. Make sure that you bolt on the stem piece as well along the length of the keel to support the upper deck. This stem also provides the base of the bow of the ship.


The framework of the hull must be based on a variety of wooden pieces, mainly two sets of timber pieces, straight and curved. This forms the basic rib-like structures of the hull. You’ll start to see the structure of a ship, start taking shape.

Once the ribs are formed, its time to set the flooring for the ship. This should be done using the best timber available. Considering this is the part of the ship that will remain underwater.

The carpenters must make sure that the flooring is watertight by preparing their edges by caulking (sealing tight edges with oakum and coating them with hot tar).

All the frames must be carefully shaped and smoothened, and unrequired ends cut off. This will makes covering the frames a simpler process. To further strengthen the base of the ship, another keel may be added on top of the keel. You must position it on top of the frames that have already formed the floor of the ship.

Planking and Caulking

 The floors being set its now time for the sides of the vessel to be built. This entire process is known as planking. Using long, heavy, and durable planks, the sides of the hull are covered up. The timber on the sides will encounter bumps and hits from waves. These need to be placed sturdily to withstand that force. 

Once the sides are done, the carpenter must cover-up the inner layer; this is another form of planking known as the ceiling. Contrary to its name, the ceiling is the placement of planks to form a cargo hold. This and the added benefit of extra strength makes it a necessary layer.

Once the planks are put in place, they must be made watertight. This again, must be done using caulking. That is, you must seal off the edges of the planks by driving yarn or fibers into the slits and then covering the entire floor with hot tar to completely make the planks waterproof and resistant to rot.

Engine And Rudder

The main powerhouse of the boat needs to be installed before you completely seal up the upper portion of the boat. This is where your engineers and mechanics come in, to help you install the engine and rudder onto your boat. Make sure the controls are carefully and securely installed.

Since we’re dealing with a large amount of fuel, the fuel tank must also be securely placed in the lower deck. Taking all the necessary precautions that are mentioned by the engineers in charge.


Once the engine is installed and checked, the deck must be covered up. Using the support from the frames and the stern, the deck must be planked. Over here, the wood being used doesn’t necessarily have to be thick and hard. This one will depend on the purpose you’ll be using the ship for. If it’s to transport heavy material, a fairly sturdy wood should do the trick.

Once the decks finished, ship joiners can start working on the internals of the ship. This includes the houses/ cabins for crew members and guests, the control rooms, the kitchen and washrooms, the hatches that take you below deck, and much more according to your requirements.

A proper coat of paint would only do the ship better, as a coat of paint will make the ship further water-resistant, would also make the wood catch fewer rots. Moreover, a coat of paint on the metal joints would save you from corrosion.


If the engine doesn’t do you enough and you want your ship to have that classic look, then the mast will be the way to go. Masts usually come in large poles that are produced using timber.

The stems that we included in the previous points were mainly to support the weight of the mast. Using large cranes, these mast bars must be loaded on top of the deck. Here they need to be parallelly matched with the stem bases in the lower deck.

Riggers must keep a careful watch on ques; as soon as the mast reaches its desired position, the riggers need to use the lines attached to help keep it in place. These lines need to be secured to the sides of the ship. The lines used must come out of the factory waterproof, rot-proof, and able to keep up in the worst of conditions.


As common sense dictates, it always helps to build ships closer to the shore. So, at the time of launching, transportation costs can be minimized. Ships must be built on top of beams that help support the vessel during construction; this is also known as blocks.

Before launching the floor of the slope through which it’s supposed to slide down must be greased up. Next, carpenters must design a cradle-like structure; this will hold the ship upright instead of the blocks. But this will also allow you to tip the ship sideways.

Using this method, the ship must be carefully and gently launched into the water. However, you must make sure to keep safety harnesses attached while the ship slides down, preventing it from tipping over.


In a world that keeps moving forward, we sometimes miss out on the beauty of things from the past. Regardless, we hope this article helps make an impact on future shipbuilders. Guiding them to help successfully build ships of sheer size, strength, and power.

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