How to Build a Raft

With help from his father, the author experienced first hand how to build a raft.


| March/April 1981



068 how to build a raft - photo

Learning how to build a raft left the author and his sister with this water-worthy vessel.


PHOTO: NANCY WALLACE

I've always been interested in boats and sailing, so one day I built a very small raft out of scraps of wood. My father, Bob, and I put it in our VW beetle and went to a nearby lake to try it out.

We carried the raft down to the shore and set it in the shallows. It floated, but its deck stayed about six inches under the water, and the raft was hard to move. Still, it was fun to use. The other children in the lake kept trying to stand on it. Finally one of them did. I swam behind the person on the raft and wished that it was big enough for both of us to stay on.

After that day, I decided that I wanted to build a real raft that had a sail, and to use it to float down Blood Brook (a stream that's near where I live) to the Sugar River. My father discouraged me from making such a long trip, but he did say that he'd show me how to build a raft with a sail, and that I could use it in the Blood Brook swimming hole.

We didn't want the raft to be big or heavy, because we knew we would have to transport it to the brook and back. So my father and I decided to make the raft fairly small, and to add styrofoam to the bottom to help it float.

Two Logs

First we found two three-inch-thick maple logs which were lying on the forest floor but weren't rotten. We wanted to use the logs to hold the deck planks together. We measured them and cut each one to the length of 61 inches with a handsaw. Then we pulled all the bark off.

The Deck

The raft's deck was made from 11 planks that were called "one-inch" boards. (They were supposed to be an inch thick, but they had been shaved a little and were really only about three-quarters of an inch thick.) With my father's help, I measured and cut each one to the length of three feet.

stuart joseph
9/15/2007 12:00:00 AM

Daniel (Dan) Beard wrote a book entitled "The American Boys Handy Book." It has plans for a number of rafts, boats, a houseboat, and a lot more stuff.Some of the designs range from really easy to skilled building and before the days of power tools. A lot of the projects are made from salvaged materials and some projects aren't possible without sybstitution as the items aren't around any longer, like the balloons filled with gas from the gas jet lighting.He also wrote a number of other books including one on just boats and rafts, but I don't remember the title.If I were going to add a sleeping cabin to the raft, I would look at a gazebo or canopy system that are made for camping. They have lightweight frames and a cover. You might have to make sides for it, and some might need to be covered with a tarp as the roofs are water resistant and not waterproof.


miso stjepanovic
7/19/2007 12:00:00 AM

I want build raft for stationary on river Vrbas, lake Bocac, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It will be for recreation and fishing. I plan measurement 6 x 4 metters and smaller cottage on this. I plan use barrel of fuel volume 200 litters. Can you help me by concrete plan and suggestion?Thanks,Sorry for bad English


jamie m_2
7/19/2007 12:00:00 AM

I have neve in my life built a raft but I have read a bit about it. I Cant however understand if you are trying to put a cottage (house?) on the raft you are trying to make. I would think if that is the case you are going to need a HUGE body of water to float that kind of monster on, or it will be more like a pontoon on barrels but you will want an aluminum framed structure since its the light weight way to go.






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