DIY Boat Cleat Tutorial: Make All The Cleats You’ll Ever Need

Boats are unlike any other form of transportation or living space. In their natural habitat they are constantly moving in one way or another, up, down, forwards or turning. This, combined with the technical elements of boating leave a lot of gear and tack that needs to be tied down from time to time.

Most boats have a few well-placed cleats for tying mooring lines and anchoring key elements in place when the time comes, but it always seems like there is at least one spot that could use another one.

RELATED: 1 Dead Simple Trick For Tying Your Boat To The Dock

You can purchase ready-made metal or wooden cleats at most places that sell boats and boating accessories, but we found this fantastic Instructable on a super easy way to make beautiful diy boat cleats from hardwood that will last a lifetime – plus give you something to brag about!

Make these simple, beautiful hardwood cleats for your boat.

Completed homemade boat cleats

First, select a good hardwood: the older, the better. Oak and yellow pine lumber work well on boats.

Avoid soft woods, such as cedar and redwood, which will last well in the weather, but don’t have the strength you want when your boat is lashed to a dock and the wind kicks up. Strength is key in DIY boat cleat construction.

This Instructable features some yellow pine scrap, but you can use what you have, within reason.

Choose a good, strong hardwood for best results.

Boat cleat strips

To get started, cut out your parts. You’ll want two long strips for the tie downs, and a number of blocks for the standoffs that will fit along the length of your strips, leaving enough space for several wraps of rope.

Space your standoffs evenly along the strips.

Boat cleat parts

Pro Tip: You should always skim through a how to, to make sure you understand what everything means before making adjustments.

You can follow the dimensions in this DIY boat cleat how to, or you can adjust to meet your needs. If you aren’t sure what you want, start with their dimensions and experiment with your next batch.

Once your pieces are cut, it’s a simple matter of laying them out evenly and fastening them together. You will want to be sure that your wood glue is rated for outdoor use, since water will dissolve standard wood glues.

Use plenty of clamps for strong joints.

Clamped boat cleats

Almost any kind of wood clamp that is large enough will work for clamping these pieces together. Use at least three clamps to ensure even pressure across the joint.

If you’re unsure of your clamping skills, you can add a couple of pin nails or screws to hold the pieces together, but the glue will give the cleat its strength.

Pro tip: Lay a sheet of wax paper under your joints if you are concerned with glue dripping through. It will easily peal off when your DIY boat cleats are ready.

Always allow plenty of time for glue to set up. In most cases, overnight is sufficient. Use a round over bit on a trim router to “ease” all of the edges before cutting your cleats.

To separate the two strips of boat cleats, cut right through the center of your piece on a table saw to create two long strips of cleats.

Two strips of cleats ready to be cut into individual pieces

Boat cleat pieces

Unsure of your saw setting? Mark the center of the cleat stock with a pencil and visually line it up before you turn the blade on. The mark should be at the center of the blade.

You can cut the cleats apart using a handsaw or jigsaw, but if you have a miter or chop saw available, save yourself some hassle and use it. The Instructable maker used a chop saw. It will make quick work out of separating these. If you want, set a stop on your saw and the spacing becomes automatic!

Once these are cutout, simply sand until you are happy with the shape and feel. Remember that any roughness will be exaggerated when they are exposed to weather, so sand more, rather than less.

Cleats routed, cut and ready for sanding.

DIY boat cleat build

Paint, stain, or use your favorite oil sealer to finish your cleats. (Spar varnish will last longest)

To attach your cleats, they can be fastened from underneath, driving a screw up into the block, or from the top. Always predrill hardwoods with a bit just slightly smaller than your screw to help prevent splitting!

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