Picture of Building A Ship In A Bottle.
Hello, Building a ship in a bottle was an old form of maritime art. Sailors of the past would often create things in their free time. They also did not have much room for big hobbies, and from this came old treasures such as scrimshaw carvings and ships in bottles.

I have not made one of these for twenty years. But I thought that this could make an interesting instructable. I also knew that I could use this opportunity to show my daughter how I used to make them. So I tried again, I was nervous that it wouldn’t turn out well. But I was pleasantly surprised.

To start with you need a bottle. The shape of the bottle will determine what type of ship you should build. A tall narrow bottle like this is best suited for a tall ship. A big square rigged clipper would not fit. But a topsail schooner fills the empty space inside the bottle nicely.

Step 1: The basic hull

I never used a kit. I just use blank pieces of wood that are available at craft stores, and begin with drawing a ship in the size and shape that I want to build. 

Holes are drilled through wood that will form the upper and lower parts of the hull. Toothpicks are then inserted into the holes to keep the wood properly aligned during the rest of the construction. Draw a rough outline on the stacked wood pieces. 

I don’t know how to put this any other way… And I’m not trying to be silly when I say… Now just sand away anything that doesn’t look like the boat you are trying to build. I started on a belt sander for the rough shape. Worked a little finer with a sanding drum on a Dremel tool, and finished with a piece of sandpaper. 

A quick look at the hull next to the bottle. You will be doing this A LOT!

You can see that the hull is already larger that the opening of the bottle. 

That’s why it is not built out of one solid piece of wood. 

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Thanks for this instructable. Could you append a list (with pictures if possible), of the various tools you used? Are they custom built tools (i.e. the stuff you use to work inside the bottle? Coat hangers perhaps?

schtipp made it!26 days ago

Once more unto the brink. I used your pinned hull method again to make a gift for a friend. This is the Irish immigrant ship Dunbrody. It took me about twenty hours. I chose to do the sails stowed so it would show off the rigging.

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goaly (author) 7 months ago

First… Let me thank everyone for their very kind comments!
I cannot believe that it has been almost four years since I made the ship and posted this instructable. It was the last on of these that I have made. Although I have not built one of these for some time, I find that I am constantly on the lookout for suitable bottles, and I have just found one!

I recently purchased a bottle of “Big House” Bourbon. This bottle does not have a screw top cap, and the opening is slightly oversized. So I think that it may be a good choice for your first attempt at putting a ship in a bottle.

When I am finished putting a ship in this bottle, I will post a photo for you.
Thanks again for looking at my instructable!

goaly (author)  goaly6 months ago

Here is the ship in the Big House Bourbon bottle.

schtipp goaly26 days ago

That is awesome! looks really sharp

ahsi0111 months ago

Hi, the detail on your work is commendable, but do you have a comprehensive list of materials needed? I noticed that you mentioned the necessary materials only during the corresponding steps, which makes it hard for a first timer (me) to compile the needed items.

Nice job on this Schooner!

Ramundicus1 year ago

This is such a well done 'ible, I might actually be able to do this. First, I need to find a suitable bottle. I've searched through thousands of old apothecary bottles on ebay but most have very narrow mouths. How large (tall) a bottle is typical and how wide a mouth can be found on bottles like that? I was hoping to find a bottle about 8 or 10" tall with a mouth at least 1" diameter. Any suggestions as to what kind of bottle would be like that? Liquor bottles? Medicine bottles? Thanks!

mtblucas1 year ago
Quick question. Once you get the ship in the bottle and the masts raised do you glue the other edges of the sails? Or, do you just leave the one edge glued? Also, what kind of glue do you use for the sails? Thanks!
goaly (author)  mtblucas1 year ago
If the sails stayed where I wanted them to, I just left the one edge glued. If they tended to curl at an odd angle, I glued them to something nearby, such as a toothpick boom or one of the thread ropes. (See step 12)
Also I just used Elmer’s all purpose glue for the entire project.
triumphman2 years ago
It would really be awesome with blue water (putty) under the ship, instead of a wooden stand. FYI
seeemann2 years ago
Nice Work, congratulations!

Would your like to know how to get a ship in a 34lts bottle?, I have been working on it... I have already deal with 64 in total.... Now I am catching the big fish. Keep working on your projects it is a really nice thing to do.... I just got me this page randomly. Now I am a member because of you, ahoi for that.
I do not use any mashines (anything with electric power/at least on the two last projects), just the old methods... it takes longer but I think it has something special.
I got me from Spain a glas baloon. It is a really crazy project if you think about, that I am making also the skeleton for that....
I usually do not spend money to getting bottles... but that one is like more that I can eaven imagine...

I hope you are doing great, lets get in contact...

deathpod2 years ago
This is a great Instructable! Very impressive! i can't wait to try this out. Thank you for putting it up.
schtipp3 years ago
I did another for my son, I continue to be greatful for this excellent instructable.
I assume this is the Black Pearl, right? Very nice "piratey" looking model. I have been considering building either the 'Pearl' or the Flying Dutchman in a bottle. For the 'Dutchman, I think the movie one is easier to copy because of all the footage, but making the legendary one from paintings and word descriptions from the era of exploration is a little bit trickier because they are all different. If I made this one, I would use clear plastic or something to hold the ship above the "water" to make it "fly".
Thats a geocaching travel bug in the picture right?
yes, I like to go caching whenever I get the chance. I have the same screen name on there.
goaly (author)  schtipp3 years ago
That is just incredible! Very, VERY well done!
HrdWodFlor2 years ago
Great work here! If anyone is looking for small drill bits but don't want to pay allot just ask your local dentist. They don't reuse them. They are small and free. Don't work well on metal but very well on wood. Fits most dremel type drills.
Here is mine!

Hey, I have a bottle of a similar size which I want to use for one of these but it has a square base. So to better use up this space I want to make a clipper with rectangular sails. How would I make the sails fit through the bottle neck? Keep in mind they will probably be wider than the opening in the bottle.
goaly (author)  awesomecreations2 years ago
Hello, The ship I made was a topsail schooner. There is one rectangular sail on the top of the front mast. This sail is similar to the sails on a Clipper. The thread ‘hinge’ allows it to rotate parallel to the mast when entering the bottle.
Okay, thanks!
GGlave2 years ago
Excellent instructable!
I think I noticed Ponal/ Elmer's White Glue used throughout. Did you glue the model to the bottle with White Glue as well?
Nice work.
goaly (author)  GGlave2 years ago
Thank you to the compliment. Yes, I did use Elmer’s glue to attach the ship to the glass bottle.
On the island of Mauritius there is a small factory which only makes ships in bottles. I went there in 2007 but the factory was closed when we went so I never got to go inside.
Climbim2 years ago
This is really quite amazing and one of the best tutorial on how to make these I have seen.

I have a few questions, most of which I've conveniently forgotten, but, off the top of my head.....

....what do you mean by typing paper? Typing paper is paper which is suitable to be used in typewriters, am I correct in thinking? If so, that may pose a problem. Therefore, are there any other materials one could use for the sails?

Sorry that was so lengthy.

goaly (author)  Climbim2 years ago
Hello, Any generic white paper should work. I used the bulk paper that you buy to put in a printer for your home computer. Out of habit, I still call it typing paper.

Thanks for looking!
I there. I was just wondering, if you had a round bottle, how exactly would you get the ship to stay upright? I've heard people use putty, is this the only option? Thanks for the guide, I'm definitely going to use it.
goaly (author)  justashipinabottle3 years ago
Hello, I always used blue putty when I put a ship in a round bottle. The putty was molded in roughly the shape that I wanted to end with, and then I would cut it into strips narrow enough to fit through the opening of the bottle. Once inside, I used a bent wire to press the seems of the strips together, and create the surface of the water.

I did not make a full hull for the ship, only from the waterline upward. And the ship would just be glued to the top of he putty. I would then use a little white paint on a very thin wire to paint the wake behind the ship.

Thank you for looking at my instructable, and I hope this helps.
titanic7653 years ago
where did you get the giant tweezers
goaly (author)  titanic7653 years ago
The tweezers came from a box of odds & ends that I bought at an estate sale. I got them years ago.

Jsquared243 years ago
Aren't ships in bottles made by putting the pieces in th bottle, rather than making the ship outside the bottle and then putting the ship in ????
goaly (author)  Jsquared243 years ago
This instructable demonstrates the traditional method of putting a ship in a bottle. A few parts of the ship (such as the upper and lower halves of the hull) are assembled inside of the bottle, but the majority of the work is done outside.
Oh, ok. Thanks for letting me know :)
schtipp4 years ago
This instructable is outstanding. It convincedme to become a member. I had done a kit one once asa kid, but this method allows for a way nicer hull. I made one using this technique to use as a geocaching clue. Thank you for the awesome help.
goaly (author)  schtipp4 years ago
I’m really glad that my instructable was helpful. I have to admit that your first ship looks better than the first one that I made. Well done!
Alaap4 years ago
The ship itself is great
the detail is amazing
i know i will fail but i will try it this summer
can i use cardboard
Alaap Alaap4 years ago
can i use bamboo
goaly (author)  Alaap4 years ago
I don’t see why you could not use bamboo. The only reason I use basswood is because it is readily available in convenient sizes at the local hobby store.
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