For a while, Budster has been enjoying a book about a little tugboat, and summer seemed like a perfect time to give him his first boat, so we got some wood cutouts together and made him a toy paddle boat.
Though I used wood, you can modify this tutorial to work for other materials you might feel comfortable with. The paddle mechanism, used to propel the boat around, is universal. At one-and-a-half, Budster just delighted at the speed with which the funny wheel at the back turned, but for older kids, it could be a fun way to experience the mechanics of movement in a hands-on way.
– wood (1 x 5″ for the hull and 1/4 x 2″ for the paddle and the roof)
– craft wooden dowels of different diameters
– wood glue
– hand saw
– scroll saw/jig saw/coping saw
– sanding paper
– rubber bands
– acrylic paints
– outdoor varnish
– (optional) peg people
1. Cut a pattern for your boat and trace it twice onto the wooden board. Cut the inside of your pattern and trace it again. It will be the pattern of the rails around the deck.
2. Using a scroll saw/jig saw/coping saw, cut all the pieces.
3. Laminate them together, using a lot of wood glue.
4. Put something heavy on top and let your boat dry for a while. It will help to put some screws in the bottom to hold the layers together securely.
5. That’s how the boat looks after drying. Sand all the sides smooth. It will definitely help to have a hand sander!
6. For a more boat-like look, use an angle-grinder and sculpt the sides of the boat. This step is optional.
7. Cut a slot at the back of the boat. This is where a paddle will be inserted.
8. In order to attach the paddle in the future, drill two small holes at the sides of the boat and at the same level insert two little dowels on the rail. The rubber bands will go through the holes and attach to the dowels.
9. Paint the boat.
10. At this point the boat is functionally ready for attaching the paddle, but I want to add some decorations on top to make it look more like the tugboat from the book.
11. Cut a rectangle and drill holes in it. That will make a cabin with little windows.
12. Cut eight dowels and drill eight holes around the cabin. Insert dowels into them,
13. Make a roof. Drill a couple of holes in it for the dowels that will symbolize pipes.
14. Paint all of the deck details.
15. Finally, we are making a paddle. Take a thin (1/4″) board and cut two parts of the paddle, following the pattern shown.
16. They need to interlock and form a crest. The paddle need to fit inside of the cut made at the back of the boat and not rub against its sides.
17. Take two rubber bands and attach them to the paddle as shown.
18. Now, take both rubber bands and string them through the holes at the sides of the boat. Attach them to the dowels, as shown. The paddle will be secured in the middle, and if you wind it and then let go, the paddle will start turning. In the water it will make the boat move, and outside of water, it makes for an interesting little experiment.
19. Varnish the boat. Do it at least two or three times. Varnish will protect the wood and the paint against water, so that the boat could make your children’s children happy.
The boat is ready! But wait… it needs a crew.
To make the crew I painted three peg people. You can see how I painted their bodies solid first and then added little details. Last, I painted their hair and faces. The captain got a black felt hat, glued to his head, at that point as well. The peg crew also requires varnishing, because they might fall out in the water.
After making the boat, we headed out to our neighbour’s pool, and had the first voyage there. It was successful! The captain did fall in the water once, but did not lose his dignity. I hope that in the next couple of days this boat will also have a chance to explore the Great Lakes. I plan to put an eye-hook in the front and tie a rope around it. Then it can accompany Budster on adventures to lakes and rivers, and we will not worry about losing it.