How to Build a Raft With Barrels

How to Build a Raft With BarrelsBarrel rafts can be great for flotation, but they are generally not much good for sustained abuse that can occur from floating down rivers with rocks. Building a barrel raft requires some rudimentary building skills, materials and tools.


Difficulty: Moderate

How to:

Things You’ll Need:
  • Four 2-by-10-by-8 redwood boards
  • Six 2-by-4-by-8 redwood boards
  • Two sheets 1/2-inch 4-by-8 plywood
  • Four 30-gallon drums
  • Box 3 1/2 inch nails
  • Hammer
  • Saw
Step 1
Soak your barrels. The most important step in creating a barrel raft is to make sure that the barrels won't take on water. Ideally, the longer you can let the barrels float, the better. You can tie a length of rope around each barrel and then tie it off to a fixed structure while you check the buoyancy of the barrels.
Step 2
Build your outer frame. Use the 2-by-10 boards and connect them on either end. Make sure you use at least six nails at all connection points in order to secure the outer frame.
Step 3
Place your barrels in the corners. This will tell you where the 2-by-4-by-8 boards need to go. You'll want to place all the barrels so that they are running the same direction out of the corners.
Step 4
Attach your parallel supports. Nail in your 2-by-4-by-8 boards so that they are parallel to each other and running just under the bottoms of the barrels. The boards should be flush with the top of the outer frame. Essentially, these boards will be used to keep the barrels from moving back and forth under the structure. You may have to take a couple of inches off the support boards. The best way to do this is to place the 2-by-4-by-8 boards across the outer frame and mark the boards with a pencil.
Step 5
Add cross supports. Cut down your additional 2-by-4-by-8 boards so that you have made four boxes for the barrels. The outer frame will work as two sides of these boxes. The parallel supports will help with one side and your cut down cross supports will then complete the boxes. These will be nailed in flush with the outer frame and flush with the top of the parallel supports. Once again, measure, mark with a pencil, then cut.
Step 6
Affix your plywood deck top. Once again, you can attach the plywood using the 3 1/2 inch nails. If you have four-by-eight foot plywood, the sheets should fit perfectly on the top of the raft. You may need to pull your barrels out for a short amount of time in order to get the plywood on tight.

Tips & Warnings

Paint the boards with a waterproofing like varnish or polyurethane to keep the wood from soaking up water and rotting.
You can attach 4-inch lag bolts through the decking into the barrels for better stability if needed.

Article Written By Patrick Cameron

Patrick Cameron is a freelance writer with 10 years of diverse experience in consumer goods branding, promotions and retail communications. He works out of his home in Denver, Colo. He received his Bachelor of Arts in mass communication from the University of Minnesota.

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