How to Build a Coracle

How to Build a Coracle

The coracle is an ancient boat (often used for fishing) dating back to at least the Roman invasion of Britain  Like the currach (or curragh), the coracle is relatively simple in its construction.  These small one person vessels are in essence, a large basket made of either a bent lath or round wood frame covered with a skin.  Traditionally, the skin would have likely been hide but in more recent adaptations, calico is used and then waterproofed.   The craft are paddled with a single long wooden paddle in a figure eight motion.  A little tricky to learn and balance in, they are actually quite agile as well as easy to carry.

There are various regional coracle styles.  This video presents construction of an Ironbridge coracle.  I couldn’t catch where the presenter noted the waterproofing on the boat, so here’s a recipe I found.  Combine 43 ounces boiled linseed oil, 21 ounces paint thinner, 34 ounces porch and deck enamel, 2 ounces of Japan drier, 6.5 pounds silica, and 2 ounces of spar varnish.  Apply two coats, let dry and then apply two coats of oil based deck paint.

And remember, “There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Click once to view this video.


Cedric December 9, 2010 at 11:47 am


We agree and it would be excellent to find folks doing crafts and skills solely with the period tools, but focused content is hard to come by. We’re always open to suggestions and additional materials. Thanks for the observation and for watching.


Sean Valdrow January 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm

How to sail a coracle should be a follow up video.

Cedric January 9, 2011 at 7:51 pm

A figure 8 stroke is the best method we know. The paddle is placed in the direction that the rower wants to go and worked in a figure 8 motion with the paddle parallel to the craft. This should pull the user forward. Still, it’s worth further investigation. Thanks for the suggestion.

Conwy Richards July 30, 2012 at 9:34 pm

The coracle is actually a Shrewsbury type and appears to be a very well made example.

Chris September 4, 2012 at 2:10 pm

do you know what wood i will need

Cedric November 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Ash, hazel and willow are common coracle woods.

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