Building and Racing Wooden RC Boats: A Beginner's Guide

Building and Racing Wooden RC Boats: A Beginner’s Guide

Wooden RC boats have grown in popularity as a hobby over the years, and for good reason. These miniature watercrafts are both aesthetically pleasing and provide a fun and challenging task for enthusiasts to complete. Whether you’re interested in building your own wooden RC boat from scratch or purchasing one that’s already been constructed, there’s a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with owning one. Unlike other RC boats made from plastic, wooden RC boats offer a level of authenticity and detail that cannot be replicated with man-made materials. Every piece of wood used in the construction process is unique in its coloring, texture, and grain, adding to the overall charm and personality of the boat. Plus, building and operating a wooden RC boat can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels, making it an activity that can be shared among friends and family. In this article, we’ll explore the world of wooden RC boats, how they’re made, their different types and designs, and offer tips for maintaining and racing them.

Materials Used in Building Wooden RC Boats

Building a wooden RC boat from scratch requires choosing the right materials necessary for construction. There are different choices of wood to use, including:

  • Balsa Wood
  • Birch Plywood
  • Maple
  • Cedar
  • Redwood

Each of these types of wood has distinct properties, which makes them suitable for particular parts of the construction process. Balsa wood is an excellent choice for hulls or other parts that require soft and lightweight materials. Birch plywood and maple provide excellent strength, making them perfect for frames and decks. Meanwhile, cedar and redwood are waterproof and rot-resistant, making them a good choice for use in deck planking and other elements of the boat where sturdy, long-lasting construction is crucial. For those who want a comprehensive guide to building wooden RC boats, there are various resources available online, such as tutorials, plans, and product reviews. Some recommended websites include:

Wooden Boat Magazine

This website offers step-by-step guides and how-to plans for building wooden boats, along with a discussion forum where enthusiasts can discuss building techniques.

Modeler Central

Modeler Central provides tips, tools, and plans for building wooden RC boats of all kinds. There are also community forums where people can share and discuss their building experiences.

Sig Manufacturing

Sig Manufacturing is known for its high-quality model airplane kits but also offers a wide variety of wooden RC boat kits. Their website has a comprehensive section on building tips and instructions to help hobbyists get started.

What is the best wood to build a wooden boat?

There are several types of wood that can be used to build a wooden boat. The best wood to use will depend on the specific requirements of your boat, as well as your budget. Here are some of the most common types of wood used for boat building:

  • Marine-grade plywood
  • Teak
  • Mahogany
  • Cedar
  • Oak

To learn more about the best wood to use for your boat building project, check out websites like Boat Design or Wooden Boat Magazine. These resources offer a wealth of information on boat building materials and techniques, as well as access to products and services that can help you get your project off the ground.

Building a Wooden RC Boat from Scratch

Building a wooden RC boat from scratch can be a challenging but rewarding experience. Here are some of the key steps involved in the construction process:

Step Description
Design Begin by designing the boat using plans, software, or your imagination.
Materials Gather the materials and tools you need for construction and ensure they are of high quality.
Cutting and Sizing Cut the wood according to your design, and size it appropriately for the different parts of the boat.
Assembly Assemble the boat’s frame, keelson, stem, and other components.
Planking and Fitting Install the planking using adhesives and fasteners, fit the shaft and rudder, and add the radio control components.
Finishing Finish the boat with a coat of varnish and paint, and polish it for a smooth surface that is waterproof and durable.

There are many resources available online that can help hobbyists learn about the construction process and create their own wooden RC boats. For instance, the website RC Groups has a guide that provides visual and detailed tips on building a wooden RC boat from scratch. Another helpful resource is the book “Building Scale RC Boats” by Don Preul. The book includes step-by-step instructions, diagrams, and photographs to guide readers through each stage of the process.

How to Build a Boat Out of Wood?

Here are the basic steps to build a boat out of wood:

  1. Choose the type of boat you want to build. You can find plenty of plans and designs online or in books.
  2. Gather the necessary tools and materials. These may include saws, drills, screws, marine-grade plywood, epoxy, and paint.
  3. Cut the plywood into the desired shapes and sizes using the saws.
  4. Assemble the pieces together using the drill and screws.
  5. Apply the epoxy to seal and waterproof the boat.
  6. Sand and paint the boat to finish it off.

If you’re a beginner, it’s recommended to start with a simpler design and work your way up to more complex boats. You can find step-by-step guides and video tutorials on websites like WoodenBoat or on YouTube. Additionally, there are a variety of boat building kits available for purchase, which provide all the materials and instructions needed to build a specific design.

Maintenance of Wooden RC Boats

Maintaining a wooden RC boat is essential for prolonging the lifespan and ensuring that it functions correctly. Here are some of the key maintenance tasks that you should perform:

  • Regularly inspect the boat’s components, such as the hull, rudder, and propeller, for any signs of damage or wear and tear.
  • Clean the boat thoroughly after each use, removing any dirt, grime or saltwater using a soft cloth or brush.
  • Apply a protective coat of wax or polish to the hull to maintain its shine and protect against UV radiation.
  • Routinely check the battery and electrical components to ensure that they are functioning correctly and have not suffered from any damage or corrosion.
  • If you store the boat for an extended period, make sure to drain the water and fully charge the battery before storage.
  • Regularly test the boat in the water to ensure that it functions smoothly and make any necessary adjustments to the components or controls.

There are also various maintenance resources available online that can help you maintain your wooden RC boat correctly. Websites such as RC Universe and Model Boat Mayhem provide helpful tips and guidelines on how to care for and maintain your wooden RC boat properly. It is essential to consult these resources regularly to ensure that your boat functions correctly and is always in tip-top condition.

Are wooden boats hard to maintain?

Maintaining a wooden boat requires regular attention and care, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some tips to help keep your wooden boat in good condition:

  • Keep the boat dry and well-ventilated to prevent rot and decay
  • Apply a fresh coat of marine varnish or paint every few years to protect the wood from UV damage and moisture
  • Regularly clean the boat to remove dirt, salt, and grime
  • Inspect the hull, deck, and rigging for damage or wear and make repairs as needed

There are many resources available to help you maintain your wooden boat, including online forums, books, and workshops. If you’re looking for products specifically designed for wooden boats, there are companies that offer marine paints, varnishes, and other coatings that are durable and long-lasting.

Different Types and Designs of Wooden RC Boats

Wooden RC boats come in a variety of designs to suit various preferences and applications. Here are some of the most common types of wooden RC boats:


  • Designed for speed and performance, these boats often feature sleek, aerodynamic designs.
  • Most commonly built in the hydroplane configuration with a stepped bottom to help with lift and increase speed.
  • May be powered by electric or gas engines, depending on the size and application.


  • Designed with a focus on elegance and traditional design elements.
  • Often feature intricate detailing and ornamental elements, such as brass fittings or handcrafted sails.
  • May be powered by wind, electric, or gas engines, depending on the preference and application.

Tug Boats

  • Designed for pulling or towing other boats or objects and require significant pulling power for their size.
  • Often built with twin screws or paddlewheel designs to assist with navigating tight areas.
  • May be powered by electric or gas engines with multiple motors.

There are plenty of resources available online to help you choose the perfect wooden RC boat design for your preferences, budget, and skill level. Websites such as RCGroups and Model Boat Tips provide plenty of information and reviews of the different types and brands of wooden RC boats available. It is essential to research, review and compare before making a purchase to ensure that you select the right type of boat for your needs, and that you will be happy with its performance over time.

What Are Wood Boats Called?

Wood boats are commonly known as wooden boats, or sometimes simply as “woodies.” They can also be referred to by their specific type or style, such as a wooden canoe, sailboat, or motorboat.

If you’re interested in learning more about wooden boats, there are a number of websites and resources available. The WoodenBoat Magazine website offers a wealth of information on wooden boats, including articles, forums, and a directory of builders and suppliers. Additionally, the Antique Boat Museum offers a collection of over 300 wooden boats and related artifacts, as well as educational programs and events.

Racing Wooden RC Boats

Racing wooden RC boats can be a fun and exciting way to enjoy your hobby. Here are some tips on how to get started:

Requirements and Regulations

  • Most races require that boats adhere to specific weight and size restrictions, or other criteria based on the type of boat, engine, and other factors.
  • Races may be divided into different classes, such as novice, intermediate, and advanced.
  • Rules vary from place to place so it is important to check with the organizers of the race before attending.

Preparing for a Race

  • Ensure that your boat is in good working order.
  • Ensure that your batteries (if applicable) are fully charged and ready to go.
  • Practice your maneuvering skills beforehand so you can navigate the course with ease.

Racing Strategies

  • Learn the course before racing, making note of any potential trouble spots or tight corners that may require adjustment in speed or direction.
  • Keep a close eye on your boat and monitor its performance during the race.
  • Be alert and responsive to changes in wind, water conditions and other factors that may affect your progress.

There are several websites with information on RC boat racing races, including APBA and IMBBA which are just a couple of many websites available. It is important to research and follow the guidelines and regulations established by the organizer of the event where the race is to minimize the risk of disqualification or injury to yourself or others.


In conclusion, wooden RC boats are a great hobby that can provide hours of entertainment and satisfaction. Building a wooden RC boat from scratch can be a challenging yet rewarding experience, and the variety of designs and types available makes it easy to find the perfect boat for your preferences. Racing your wooden RC boat can add another level of excitement to the hobby as well. Whatever your level of interest, there is a wealth of information available on the internet about wooden RC boats, including forums, blogs, and online stores that offer a wide range of products and accessories.

If you’re new to wooden RC boats, it may be helpful to start with a simpler and smaller design before moving on to something more complex. Whether you’re building, racing, or just enjoying the beauty of your wooden RC boat, make sure to follow safety guidelines and regulations to prevent damage to yourself and others. With the right tools, knowledge and enthusiasm, you’ll soon be able to enjoy the satisfaction of owning and operating your own wooden RC boat for years to come.