The Boat Builders depicts two young boys sitting on a rocky shoreline working on building toy boats. They both wear wide-brimmed hats, which shield their faces from the viewer. A blue sky in the background resides over the ocean, where a number of boats pass by the shore. The painting is on a mahogany panel and is signed on the lower left: "HOMER/1873"; by 1969 the date was no longer visible on the painting.
In 1873 Homer spent his summer in Gloucester, Massachusetts, which is where he painted The Boat Builders, as well as other works in his series of drawings and paintings about shipbuilding. The connection of the boys' toy boats and the sailing ship was sought to intertwine the imagination of the boys with the real-life experience of fishermen. It is believed that the boys' hobby suggests their future role in the ship, sea and fishing industries.
The artwork is housed in Indianapolis Museum of Art.