The Göta Canal was largely built by 58,000 billeted soldiers from 16 different regiments. During the 22 years building was in progress, about 60,000 men, including a company of Russian war prisoners and a number of civilian workers, worked a total of about 7 million man-days, each of 12 hours.

Most of the Canal was excavated by hand using iron-shod wooden spades. Work mainly consisted of digging, blasting and dressing stone. Baltzar von Platen also introduced several new techniques using various equipment from England. A number of highly skilled English foremen were recruited.