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Woodworking: How to Make a Nautical Boat Shelf

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In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to make an adorable wooden sailboat shelf using a scrollsaw or bandsaw and a few other basic tools. It's the perfect addition to any nursery or playroom as it provides a bit of storage as well as nautical-themed decor! If you're new to woodworking, make sure you read our woodworking fundamentals tutorial.


Boat Shelf SuppliesBoat Shelf SuppliesBoat Shelf Supplies


  • When working with power tools such as saws, it is very important to wear safety glasses at all times.
  • Make sure you are fully concentrating on the task at hand as saws and other power tools can do a lot of damage very quickly!


  • For this tutorial, we assume you will be using either a scroll saw or band saw. However, all photos included in this tutorial feature a scroll saw.
  • We recommend using a drill press because holes made in a press tend to be more accurate that those made with a hand-held drill, but either method will work.

1. Draw the Design

Using a pencil, draw the wave and boat design on the piece of wood you will be cutting.

Boat Shelf Design LayoutBoat Shelf Design LayoutBoat Shelf Design Layout

2. Cut the Design

Line up the saw blade with the edge of the wood where your design begins. Cut along the wave and wave/boat line.

Boat Shelf CuttingBoat Shelf CuttingBoat Shelf Cutting

3. Sand the Wood

Once your pieces are cut, use sand paper to finish and smooth all the edges of your project pieces.

Boat Shelf Sanding (2)Boat Shelf Sanding (2)Boat Shelf Sanding (2)

4. Mark, Clamp and Drill

Step 1

After sanding all the project pieces, you will need to mark the points where eventually the front of the shelf will be anchored to the shelf bottom. Make a mark half an inch from the bottom of the shelf front at the 1", 5", 9", 13" and 17" point. This is where you will drill your holes for the dowel rod and pegs to be inserted during assembly.

Boat Shelf markingBoat Shelf markingBoat Shelf marking

Step 2

Now it is time to clamp all three pieces of your shelf together. Make sure to line up all the corners and edges of the pieces that mark the front piece of the shelf.

Boat Shelf Clamping MarkingBoat Shelf Clamping MarkingBoat Shelf Clamping Marking

Step 3

Using a drill bit that is the same size as your end painted dowel rods/pegs, drill holes at the marked spots. Make sure to drill all the way through the front of the shelf and well into the middle portion of the back shelf.

IMG_2465 (600x450)IMG_2465 (600x450)IMG_2465 (600x450)

Step 4

While the shelf is still clamped, mark the bottom back portion of the shelf at the half way point and one inch in from each side. Then drill a hole with a drill bit that is a smaller diameter than the diameter of the screws you will be using. These drills are called pilot holes and will keep the shelf from accidentally cracking when the screws are put in place. Sand any rough areas around freshly drilled holes.

Boat Shelf Back HolesBoat Shelf Back HolesBoat Shelf Back Holes

Step 5

The last hole to drill will be the hole for the boat's mast. Locate the middle of your boat on the flat top part of the back piece of the shelf. Drill a hole that is the same diameter as the dowel rod you will be using for the mast.

Boat Shelf Mast (600x461) (600x461)Boat Shelf Mast (600x461) (600x461)Boat Shelf Mast (600x461) (600x461)

5. Paint the Shelf

Step 1

Now it is time to paint your shelf! Pick out your favorite nautical colors and give your shelf some color. Make sure to paint the bottom and short sides of the shelf bottom because they will be visible. Also paint the ends of the pegs or dowel rods that you will be using on the front of the shelf.

Boat SHelf Paint (600x450)Boat SHelf Paint (600x450)Boat SHelf Paint (600x450)

Step 2

After the paint is dry, lightly sand any areas that may have gotten a bit rough from applying paint.

6. Add the Mast

Once the paint is dry, it's time to add the mast. Cut a dowel rod to the length you would like (the length pictured here is 4 inches). Add a bit of glue in the hole and gently tap the dowel into place.

Boat Shelf Mast (2)Boat Shelf Mast (2)Boat Shelf Mast (2)

7. Assemble the Shelf

Step 1

It's assembly time! To help the shelf take its shape, clamp it together like in step 4. Only this time, add a bit of wood glue to the edges of the front and back pieces that will come in contact with the bottom part of the shelf. Adding glue to these joints will increase their strength.

Boat Shelf Painted Clamp (2)Boat Shelf Painted Clamp (2)Boat Shelf Painted Clamp (2)

Step 2

Once all the pieces are properly lined up and clamped, add a bit of glue to each hole on the front of the shelf and then gently tap the wooden pegs into each hole.

Boat SHelf pegsBoat SHelf pegsBoat SHelf pegs

Step 3

Now on the back of the shelf carefully install the three screws in the pilot holes that you drilled earlier.

Boat Shelf ScrewsBoat Shelf ScrewsBoat Shelf Screws

8. Make the Sail

Step 1

Now that the shelf is fully assembled, it's time to make the sail. Cut a felt rectangle that has short sides that are approximately one inch shorter than the mast of the boat. Then fold the short side over by three-quarters of an inch. This will form the sleeve that will fit down over the mast.

Use a running stitch to sew a seam up and over the fold to make the pocket. Trim the felt to make the rectangle into a triangle.

Step 2

Just slide the sail on to the mast and your shelf is complete!

Boat Shelf SailBoat Shelf SailBoat Shelf Sail

You're Ready to Set Sail

Congratulations, you've made a whimsical nautical-themed sailboat shelf! It will surely be the perfect addition to any playroom, children's room, or nursery.

In this tutorial, you learned how to draw a design on your wood, cut it out using a scroll saw, and assemble it to make a little shelf. You can use the same techniques to make any other themed shelf, like a circus tent or a farm.

Boat Shelf Final (2)Boat Shelf Final (2)Boat Shelf Final (2)

Are you enjoying our woodworking tutorials? What project would you like to learn how to make? Let us know in the comments below.

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