How to make a sailboat out of cardboard

Updated November 21, 2016

If your crew of little sailors have a yearning for the sea, dig out the cardboard and glue and let them build their own sailing ships. Even a cardboard boat will float if you coat it with wax, so the gang can sail the seven seas of the backyard paddling pool with their finished masterpieces. With enough ships, everyone can be the captain of the fleet and set out on a voyage of discovery that will keep them busy for hours.

Get out the iron, but do not plug it in or turn it on. (It will be used as a template to make the bottom of the ship.) Set it face down on a large piece of heavy corrugated cardboard.

Trace around the iron carefully using a pencil, keeping the outline as neat as possible. (When you remove the iron, you will see you have drawn a boat shape on the cardboard.) Make two boat shapes this way.

Cut out the shapes with a sharp craft knife or heavy scissors. (Parents may want to help on this step---especially if using a craft knife or if children are young.)

Use a measuring tape to measure around the perimeter of a cardboard boat shape and add 1 inch to that measurement. Jot it down somewhere so you do not forget it.

Use a ruler to draw a long strip 2 inches wide and as long as the measurement in the previous step on another piece of cardboard, and then cut it out.

Glue the two boat-shaped pieces together, one atop the other to make a thicker bottom section for the ship.

Take a crayon or candle and rub hard all over both sides of the cardboard strip and the boat shape to wax it and make it waterproof. (Leave a narrow strip un-waxed---about 3/8 inch wide---along one side of the long strip, and do not wax the edges of the boat shape. This is where you will apply glue. Wax may keep it from sticking properly.)

Glue the cardboard strip around the edge of the boat shape using hot glue. Start in a back corner and work the strip around, gluing only a small bit at a time to keep the glue from hardening before the strip is pressed tightly to the edge.

Cut of the excess cardboard strip when you get back to the starting point, then glue the ends together at that point to finish the ship's sides.

Cut out a sail from construction paper--it may be square or triangular, but should be around 4 inches tall and wide. Make two 1/4-inch long slits in the sail (one near the top and another near the bottom).

Push a dowel or pencil through the bottom slit in the sail and then out through the opposite side of the top slit to make the mast.

Put a small ball of modelling clay in the centre of the sailboat and push the dowel or pencil mast into that to hold it upright.

Decorate the ship as desired, christen it and set sail.


If this inspires your little sailor to bigger and better things, help him build this cute wooden sailboat suggested by Craft Ideas to decorate his room (see References) or make other nautical crafts.

Things You'll Need

  • Iron
  • Cardboard
  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Craft knife or large scissors
  • Ruler
  • Wax (candle or crayons)
  • Glue gun
  • Glue sticks
  • Construction paper
  • Wooden dowel or pencil
  • Modelling clay
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