How to Make a Jon Boat

by Don Kress
Basic wooden fishing boats have been used for generations.

Basic wooden fishing boats have been used for generations.

Building your own Jon boat may sound difficult, but in reality, you can produce a small flat-bottomed boat relatively inexpensively that is every bit as comfortable and useful as the kind of boat that you would buy at a dealership. Jon boats in particular are simply constructed, making them the ideal boat building project for a woodworking enthusiast to undertake.

Lay one of the larger pieces of plywood on the floor in the center of a large work area. This piece will form the bottom of the boat's hull when the Jon boat is complete.

Measure the other larger piece of plywood to determine where to cut it in half lengthwise. Draw a line with a pencil to mark this point and to provide you with a guide for making your cut. Cut the first piece of plywood in half using the circular saw. These two pieces will form the sides of the Jon boat. Lay one on the left of the larger piece of plywood on the floor and the other on the right. Lay the smaller piece of plywood in front of the center piece of plywood. This piece will form the bow of the Jon boat.

Measure and cut a two foot section off of the end of the plywood that will form the bottom of the hull. This piece will form the transom of the Jon boat. For now, leave it lying flat on the ground just behind the plywood that forms the bottom of the hull. Doing this will help you to visualize how the boat will fit together.

Cut all of the 2-inch by 12-inch boards into 4-foot sections. These will form the seats, inner supports, and the transom support for the Jon boat.

Measure back from the edge of the base of the boat where the transom is lying on the ground along the board's length, making a mark at 3-feet, 6-inches and another at 5 feet. This is where the seats will be mounted in the boat. Lay one of the 4-foot long boards on each of these lines.

Stand one of the 4-foot long boards on its side so that it is straight up and down, and then stand one side of the boat up. Scoot this piece of plywood forward until its back edge is flush with the back edge of the base of the boat. Secure the plywood board in place with a wood screw, then stand up the second 4-foot board and secure it with a wood screw.

Stand the other side of the boat's hull up against the 4-foot boards, and secure it with a wood screw into each board, making certain that the back edge of the board is flush with the back edge of the plywood base board.

Attach the plywood board that is to be the transom of the boat to the sides and the base of the boat using wood screws. Next, drive additional wood screws into the sides to hold the seat support 4-foot boards in place.

Remove the plywood board that is to be the bow of the boat. Along one of its 4-foot long edges, use the circular saw to trim it so that there is a 45-degree angle at the end. Place the board back into its position so that the angle that you cut into the edge of the board is flush with the leading edge of the board that comprises the base of the boat. With this board in place, secure it to the sides and the base of the boat with wood screws.

Turn the boat up on its side and use the circular saw to trim the excess plywood board off of the sides of the bow, using the board you just put in place as a guide. Do this for both sides of the boat. While the boat is on its side, drive wood screws up through the base and into the seat support boards running through the boat.

Lay the boat back onto its base and place the 4-foot boards that you are using for seats over the top of the seat supports, and then drive screws in from the boat's sides to hold it in place.

Sand the entire boat using 400-grit sandpaper to smooth out any rough edges, and then turn the boat upside-down. Fill any holes or gaps that you notice with waterproof, paintable silicone sealant. Next, apply silicone sealant to all of the places where the plywood boards meet. It is best to rub the silicone into the pores of the wood with your fingers.

Paint the outer hull of the boat with several thick coats of marine-grade epoxy paint. This will help to seal up the edges further as well as prevent water damage to the plywood. Allow the paint to dry completely before continuing.

Turn the boat back over onto its base. Apply silicone sealant to all of the inside edges of the boat where the boards are connected. Allow the sealant to dry, and then paint the inside of the boat with the marine-grade epoxy paint.

Items you will need

  • 2 sheets of 4-foot by 8-foot by 3/4-inch thick plywood
  • 1 sheet of 4-foot by 3-foot by 3/4-inch thick plywood
  • 2- 2-inch by 12-inch by 8-foot pieces of lumber
  • Circular saw
  • Measuring tape
  • Electric drill with screwdriver bit
  • Galvanized wood screws
  • Waterproof silicone sealant
  • Marine-grade paint
  • Sandpaper

Tip

  • Avoid using large outboard motors with a Jon boat of this size. Use an electric trolling motor or a small gasoline motor for the best results.

References

  • "Ultrasimple Boat Building: 17 Plywood Boats Anyone Can Build"; Gavin Atkin; 2007
  • "Building Classic Small Craft : Complete Plans and Instructions for 47 Boats"; John Gardner; 2003
  • "Building Small Boats"; Greg Rossel; 1998

About the Author

Don Kress began writing professionally in 2006, specializing in automotive technology for various websites. An Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified technician since 2003, he has worked as a painter and currently owns his own automotive service business in Georgia. Kress attended the University of Akron, Ohio, earning an associate degree in business management in 2000.

Photo Credits

  • Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images