Introduction: How to Make a LEGO Ship in a Bottle

Picture of How to Make a LEGO Ship in a Bottle

Ahoy, me Hearties! Have you ever wondered how they make those "ship in a bottle" displays, you know, the ones that look like it's impossible since the ship is bigger than the neck of the bottle? I know the ship would have to be broken up into smaller pieces before they're assembled inside the bottle. So since LEGO can be broken up into pretty small pieces too, I thought I'd try to make a LEGO ship in a bottle. I quickly learned that it was tough! Snapping the pieces together was harder than I thought since I didn't have a lot of leverage when working inside the bottle. It took me two days but I did manage to get my pirate ship inside that bottle. Below, I'll share the tips and tricks that I came up with for making a LEGO ship-in-a-bottle. You'll need steady hands, some ingenuity, and a lot of patience!

If you'd rather watch than read, check out my how-to video below:

Step 1: Select & Prepare Your Bottle

Picture of Select & Prepare Your Bottle

My first piece of advice is to select your bottle before building your LEGO ship. That way you'll know how big your ship can be and still fit inside when assembled. Check the neck of your bottle to make sure that it can fit the biggest LEGO brick that you plan to use for your ship. For my ship, the biggest piece was three studs wide. For my first attempt at a ship-in-a-bottle, I went with a bottle that has a shorter neck because it would give me more room to maneuver my tools. After looking around at several thrift stores, I ended up using a BBQ sauce bottle that I found at my local grocery store. It measures about 7" long and 3" wide at the body. The bottle neck is about 1-1/2" wide. If your bottle has a label on it like mine did, you can use nail polish remover to remove the sticky glue on the bottle.

Step 2: Build Your LEGO Ship

Picture of Build Your LEGO Ship

With your bottle ready, it's time to build your LEGO ship. To make it look "impossible" or impressive, I tried to make the ship as big as I could and to fill up as much space inside the bottle as I could. But I made sure that each piece could fit through the neck of the bottle. TIP: Try to use pieces that are easy to snap together. Avoid pieces that do not have studs - they're really hard to snap on, unless they're already assembled before you slide them into the bottle.

This is the pirate ship that I created for my bottle. It's about 5" long and about 1-1/2" at the widest part. If you like this ship, you can find the step-by-step video tutorial here:

Step 3: Tools & Tips

Picture of Tools & Tips

Now for the fun part of squeezing the ship into the bottle. Here are some tips that will save you some time and frustration:

TIP #1: Assemble as much as possible outside the bottle. This means inserting as many whole, assembled parts as possible. So I started by I breaking up the ship into the biggest chunks that could fit through the neck of the bottle. I found that if I broke the ship into single pieces, it was way too hard to put them back together inside the bottle. I tried to keep the hard-to-snap pieces assembled as much as I could, that includes any single-stud pieces.

TIP #2: Start from the back of the ship, building forward and up. So the sails were the last pieces that went in.

TIP #3: Secure the bottom of the ship once it's assembled. This will make your life so much easier because things won't be moving around when you're trying to snap pieces together. To secure my ship, I attached a foam stickie to the ship's bottom, but you can also use silly putty, Play-Doh, or something similar.

TIP #4: Double-sided tape is your friend. I used the tape for holding pieces together and for moving smaller pieces around.

TIP #5: Be prepare to redesign some parts of the ship if you can't get it to fit or assemble once inside the bottle. I had to rework the back of the ship to use fewer pieces and less difficult pieces. The strings that went on the sails also gave me lots of problems, so I had to change how they were held together.

TIP #6. Make your ship as fold-able or collapsible as possible. The sails were the hardest to assemble inside the bottle since each stood on a one-stud mast and the sails were so close together that they were touching. I actually had to redesign the sails so that they were fold-able. This let me insert a whole sail unit into the bottle and then unfold the sails once inside.

TOOLS

You'll need some tools to help you recreate your ship inside the bottle. See photo for the tools I found helpful for inserting, moving, and manipulating the LEGO pieces inside the bottle.

Here's the list of tools I used (as shown in the photo):
A. long plastic stick
B. ruler
C. wooden stick with rectangular end
D. thin metal stick
E. long LEGO stick
F. tweezers
G. handle that broke off of a kitchen strainer
H. knife with hook
I. electrical tape
J. sticky foam
K. double-sided tape
L. scissors

The sticks were mainly for moving the pieces around in the bottle to the right spot. I used the ruler to slide pieces inside the bottle and also for pushing pieces down. I used the edge of the ruler to secure the pieces together. I wrapped double-sided tape around the rectangular wooden stick to hold onto smooth-top LEGO pieces that don't have studs. The long LEGO brick was for snapping on pieces and inserting them in the bottle. The tweezers were for grabbing and moving pieces inside the bottle that were close to the neck of the bottle. The strainer handle, which were like tongs, was great for holding and moving pieces deep inside the bottle. I added electrical tape at the ends for extra grip. I also found the hooked knife to be really useful for straightening the masts which tilted often while I was putting the pieces together. The sticky foam was to prevent the ship from moving too much inside the bottle.

Step 4: Tutorial Video - LEGO Pirate Ship in a Bottle

Picture of Tutorial Video - LEGO Pirate Ship in a Bottle

Again, the whole process of putting the ship into the bottle can be viewed here:

I hope you enjoy this Instructable and please let me know if you do make your own LEGO ship in a bottle.

Have fun and good luck! :)

If you like this Instructable, please vote for me in the TOY BUILDING BLOCKS contest. Thank you!

Comments

RealModelsInBottles (author)2016-01-08

Wow this is really cool. I might have to give one of these a whirl over at www.modelsinbottles.com! I promise that if I do a Lego ship I'll link back to your post here as my inspiration. Really cool tutorial!

That would be so cool RealModelsInBottles! Love your site - those ships are amazing!

Thanks man, I appreciate the kind words!

zman1204 (author)2015-02-11

And you seem pretty young yet you obviously have a lot of intelligence. Good work!

legochest (author)zman12042015-02-11

Thank you for your kind words, zman1204! I love Lego and always try to play with them in different ways. :)

real madrid fan (author)2014-08-17

That's cool

hunter999 (author)2014-08-06

Nice job! This is awesome, very clear instructions too :-)

I'm sorry for my absence, I see you've uploaded other awesome 'Ibles :D

legochest (author)hunter9992014-08-06

Thank you Hunter! Good to hear from you. How've you been? Have you done any Knex projects lately?

hunter999 (author)legochest2014-08-15

Good, very good thanks my friend! And congratulations on being a finalist. Well deserved :D

yoda333 (author)2014-08-08

Wow this is really neat. I might build one of these. It would look awesome next to my lego lighthouse.

legochest (author)yoda3332014-08-13

Thanks so much yoda333. Good luck with yours :)

johnstat000 (author)2014-08-08

Someone could totally take this to the next level with a gigantic bottle and lots of patience... Nice Job!

legochest (author)johnstat0002014-08-13

Thank you johnstat000!

RomanO1 (author)2014-08-08

This just proves that everything is better with LEGO. I am surely making one of these for my living room.

legochest (author)RomanO12014-08-13

I agree RomanO1. Good luck with your build!

Robot Cop (author)2014-08-07

i think you going to win(:

legochest (author)Robot Cop2014-08-13

Thank you Robot Cop.

natedgreat (author)2014-08-07

Awesome job! Great video too!
**drops bottle while putting it on the shelf** :/

legochest (author)natedgreat2014-08-13

Lol! Thanks natedgreat!

remy.choon (author)2014-08-07

Hahaha. I somehow love the video you prepared. Simply adorable

legochest (author)remy.choon2014-08-13

Thanks so much remy.choon! :)

Triggerhappy101 (author)2014-08-06

I wonder if i can fit my HMS Victory in a bottle xD

I checked out your ship, you would need a very big bottle for that! :)

Yep :P

Triggerhappy101 (author)2014-08-06

There are easier ways of doing this, but great job!

Thank you Triggerhappy101. Please share some of your tips!

Greenman2 (author)2014-08-06

Cool!

legochest (author)Greenman22014-08-06

Thanks Greenman2!

PiotrS (author)2014-08-06

Dude i admire your patients grate work your really good at talking about what you're doing wich makes this tutorial fun to wach. Keep it up you have my vote. and never grow up a 100% just 60 is fine live the 40 for a kid life is more fun that way :)

legochest (author)PiotrS2014-08-06

Thank you for your kind words and advice PiotrS! :)

Tater Zoid (author)2014-08-06

What a great video. I really enjoyed the fast forward part.

legochest (author)Tater Zoid2014-08-06

Thank you Tater Zoid! :)

Tater Zoid (author)legochest2014-08-06

You bet. Keep up the good work.

tofugami (author)2014-08-06

The ship out beautifully. Love it and the video was great too.

legochest (author)tofugami2014-08-06

Thank you tofu911! So glad you enjoyed it. :)

ajishyama (author)2014-08-06

voted

legochest (author)ajishyama2014-08-06

Thanks so much ajishyama!

Fikjast Scott (author)2014-08-06

This is fantastic, what a great idea. Well done

legochest (author)Fikjast Scott2014-08-06

Thank you!

emilyvanleemput (author)2014-08-06

This is great!

Thank you Emily.

bkeating1 (author)2014-08-05

Wow i am very impressed! Keep up the good work kid!

legochest (author)bkeating12014-08-06

Thanks so much @bkeating1!

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