Introduction: How to Make a Cardboard Canoe for Your Kids in the Pool

Picture of How to Make a Cardboard Canoe for Your Kids in the Pool

This instructable shows how my friend Jared, my brother, and I  built a cardboard canoe for his kids to play with in the swimming pool.

Materials Used:

-Packing Tape - 1 1/2" - (lots(3 rolls))

-Cardboard - 1 sheet - 40" x 84"

-Utility knife (to cut the patterns out of the cardboard)

-Time (about 3-4 hours start to finish) (Not including CAD/Design/Snack time)


Step 1: Step 1: Design the Canoe

Picture of Step 1: Design the Canoe

 We've attached the canoe design so that you can print it out and scale it to however big you want the canoe to be.

We printed the shapes out on an 11"x17" paper and made a model (see pics)

The final kids' canoe shapes were printed out just shy of 8' long.


Step 2: Step 2: Get the Design Onto Cardboard

Picture of Step 2: Get the Design Onto Cardboard

Now that we have our canoe design we needed to get it on the cardboard.

We decided to scale the pieces up to fit on a 40"x84" piece of double walled  cardboard.
We projected the shapes using a laser galvanometer and traced them.

If you have access to a CNC, you could use that instead.
If you have a large laser cutter, that would work.
**UPDATE** You can use a normal computer projector (like for doing a power point presentation)
**UPDATE** You can print out the pattern and use an overhead projector.

If you are a very good artist, you could just copy the pattern using that grid technique that only works for a drawing of Mickey Mouse.
You can use the pattern and have it printed out on a large format printer like they have at copy stores(Kinkos) and then cut patterns out of paper to transfer it to the cardboard.



Step 3: Cut Out Your Pieces

Picture of Cut Out Your Pieces

Use a razor knife to cut out the patterns.  Since cardboard is difficult to cut, you may want to do an initial cut that just breaks the surface of the cardboard and then go back and cut all the way through.  This may help you from making mis-cuts.
Use proper knife safety. Don't let your kids cut the cardboard. Don't cut any cheese during this step.

Step 4: Step 3: Prep and Assemble the Pieces

Picture of Step 3: Prep and Assemble the Pieces

Because the canoe needs to be as water tight as possible, we encased each piece in packing tape.

After taping each piece, tape the pieces together to form the finised canoe.

Step 5: Step 4: Play in the Water!!

Picture of Step 4: Play in the Water!!

Step 4: Now that our canoe is built its time to hit the pool!


vatosupreme (author)2017-01-17

About 96" long from end to end.

Good Luck!

seanlucassinke (author)2017-01-17

on the paper what is the scale. please tell me sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MaryF10 (author)2015-06-18

BernardM (author)2015-03-10

Do you have a way to copy your design for anybody to copy ??? Some plans that we can copy in a printing shop !!

interestedturtle (author)2013-11-07

How much can this hold

kodiwoedee (author)2013-09-30

Very cool project!

horses34 (author)2013-08-08

So cool!!! Wish I had that much cardboard. I call myself a "cat" because I love getting into boxes. LOL

shernandez24 (author)2013-07-21

Thank you! I did the trick to cure my son's summer time boredom. We had a great time building it and paddling across our neighborhood pond.

redfoxtrystman (author)2013-07-18

Sorry for the double post

redfoxtrystman (author)2013-07-18

Go to your local hardware store and buy a few door skins. Me and a friend built a small drift boat out of 2 of them for a friend's kids. You cut them the same way but you fiberglass or resin them. I suggest go with the glass. But it will last years. Also just Google "door skin canoe plans" and you will find it.

redfoxtrystman (author)2013-07-18

Go to your local hardware store and buy a few door skins. Me and a friend built a small drift boat out of 2 of them for a friend's kids. You cut them the same way but you fiberglass or resin them. I suggest go with the glass. But it will last years. Also just Google "door skin canoe plans" and you will find it.

rjohnson68 (author)2013-07-17

How much weight can it hold?

Lamlamomo (author)2013-06-20

I wish the cardboard bike( also had an instructable.
i hope someone will make one someday.

olmon (author)2012-09-11

If you go to an Auto-Body shop & ask them to save some of the big boxes that fenders, hoods & other large panels come in, you could get the cardboard free & you might also get some double thickness cardboard, I have used cardboard and fiberglass to repair floorboards in cars & trucks & it lasted for years. I even repaired a rusted out spare tire well in early 70s Ford station wagon & it was good for almost 6 years & would have lasted longer but the person I sold it to had a flat & just threw the spare back in without fastening it. The repair broke out after about 6 months of the tire bouncing in there. He drove on unpaved back roads daily.
With a coat of resin & fiberglass cloth & some wood strips laminated on the edges & bottom, you would have a canoe that you could go anywhere with.

dhanraj22 (author)2012-01-17

wow amazing

bob.the.devil (author)2011-10-16

lets say i did this but made it larger and coated it in fiberglass... would that work for a full sized human in an actual river/lake (or any "real" body of water)?

This isn't the most stable design for full fledgged canoing. There are other patterns out there with a "flatter" bottom that you could use. However I think that the construction method should work.

thank you. i will try it next season. well build it over the winter, use it next season, if it works i am going to use pvc to make joints and saw it in half, so i can slide it together and duct tape it annually (for easy storage) if i do that i will deff post a ling to my work on here so you can see it :D

thelmuth (author)2011-09-23


randometry (author)2011-09-18

I helped my daughter build a cardboard boat for a physics class project when she was in high school. The rules were - nothing was to be used except, cardboard, brown paper and elmers-type (non-waterproof) glue. Any painting on the boat had to be above the waterline and the boat had to last for 1 pass up and back in an olympic size pool.

If I were doing a project like this for a home pool, I'd use a good waterproof glue and paper mache the exterior using the same glue. Then a good coat of paint would finish off the water proofing.

If I had a pool I'd be trying different designs all the time. It was a cool project.

jquinn4 (author)2011-09-01

Wow! I'm impressed! I'll have to file this away... what a great project to do with the kids!

ANDY! (author)2011-08-09

That looks fantastic.
Perhaps I can use the cardboard boat as a mold for fiberglass or something in the future!

rhoula (author)ANDY!2011-08-14

I was thinking about the same thing wow :)

emocutelemon (author)2011-07-17

This is so cool! how did you get it to the perfect length? This is a perfect project for us. we have a 3 yr old lil sister and a back yard pool.

vatosupreme (author)emocutelemon2011-07-18

I'm not sure what you mean by "perfect length", so hopefuly this helps. We purchased the cardboard and scaled the drawing to fit the material. the 84" length was a stocked length and it seemed pretty good so we went with it. Anyway, that is how we chose the size. We are thinking about buying some 144" coroplast and making a bigger one for an adult. ****One thing to remember, since the bottom section of the canoe is relatively small, the boat is a little tippy.... so you shouldn't leave a 3 year old unattended because it will most likely flip. ****Notice in the photo our 4 year old has some swim floats on. In a future version we will make the bottom section wider with respect to the total width of the canoe.

claudg1950 (author)vatosupreme2011-08-08

VatoSupreme: Great job. Congratulations.
However, you say here that the bottom section came too small, so the boat is a little tippy. Also, I find the shape of your forms not too easy to copy and follow (even using the canoe_pieces.pdf file).
Why don't you solve both problemas at once and make your life easier? Perhaps next time you might consider building something with only three pieces, such as this extremely simple design you can download here:
Drawings are excellent, so you only need to scale them down as desired.
(Since there are no many waves in a swimming pool... flat bottom shouldn't be much of a problem :D )
All the best.

emocutelemon (author)vatosupreme2011-07-18

good idea and we would never leave lil kenlee alone. thnx! =P

attackchef (author)2011-07-18

Having just built a boat for the cardboard boat races, I can say with strong conviction do not use duct/duck tape. It's not water proof, if you paint the boat it degrades the tape and shrinks, thereby creating gaps! made for a spectacular sinking though!

Sparkyrob (author)attackchef2011-07-21

I can say with strong conviction that duct tape IS a good option - but only if you don't tape it. I have seen some really cool duct tape boats around here. they work great if you half lap each layer.

theexpert (author)Sparkyrob2011-07-29

he ment duck duct tape brand and i will tell you that duck duct tape brand is very bad so make sure the package dosnt have a duck on it

lol XD (author)2011-07-21

That kid in the picture is using it as a kayak. Canoes are for kneeling and kayaks sitting. Not to be mean, just an OCD moment there :D

willichan (author)lol XD2011-07-21

That is not correct. I have seen kayaks designed for sitting and others designed for kneeling. I have owned three different canoes, and all three had seats designed for sitting.

lol XD (author)willichan2011-07-22

Many canoes come with seats, it's more comfortable, and mainly used for two people. As for kayaks, they are made for sitting.

jongscx (author)lol XD2011-07-26

I wanna cite the internet too...

garpg001 (author)2011-07-22

I remember as a 12 year old seeing a cardboard kayak at my local kayak club, i think they made it to fleece yokels at our cities annual raft race, it was similar looking to an olympic 4 man kayak except had room for 5 paddlers and was about 40 feet long and only about 3 feet wide at the widest. (it seemed) I think it was joined up with strips of fibreglass and coated with resin, It seemed to last a few years so must have been well made. with a top speed of about 20 20km/h no doubt it beat every comibination of 44 gallon drums ever assembled. Perhaps it was history's fastest ever carboard canoe.

Rikall (author)2011-07-21

For more variety in the design on the canoe you could Google plywood canoe plans and still use cardboard as the material.

arduinoboy (author)2011-07-21

You could use a hot air gun to melt wax over it after you tape the joints.

rrhyne56 (author)2011-07-21

This is delightful! Thank you! Something that came to mind is wax covered cardboard used for boxes of meat. I suppose there are as many ways of water-proofing as the imagination can come up with.

At any rate this is the best pool toy I've seen in some while.

andygreene (author)2011-07-21

Awesome. You could fiberglass the boat and it might last forever....

back in 8th grade art, we made cardboard and paper maché models of old civil war boats. We coated them with some kind of waterproof paint. I can't remember what it was called, but something like that might be an alternative to packing tape.

I am inspired! I will try to build one of these for my kids. now to find some big cardboard!

nitai108 (author)2011-07-21

Never heard of this before, should be a lot of fun for the kids.

Zeelrock (author)2011-07-18

This reminds me of my boy scout camp. Every summer we had a camp tradition: the cardboard canoe race. It is so much fun riding in a boat you know will be destroyed by the water if you didnt tape it right.

ARJOON (author)2011-07-18

will it support my 90kg

vatosupreme (author)ARJOON2011-07-18

Probably not. My friend who weighs about 90 got in the canoe and sitting still the water was within 5 cm of coming over the top.

I think you would need to scale this up by about 50% for an adult size.

jgderuvo (author)2011-07-18

Awesome design. How long did it last in the water?

vatosupreme (author)jgderuvo2011-07-18

The kids were playing in the water for about an hour. We found 1 spot where water was seeepin through the tape but it is still in good shape.

wwlaveck (author)2011-07-17

Where did you get the large sheets of cardboards?

vatosupreme (author)wwlaveck2011-07-18

We purchased them from a packaging store. But you could use a bicycle box or maybe a refridgerator box and possibly get the cardboard for free. Thanks

javajunkie1976 (author)2011-07-17

I wonder how someone could attach a sail to it? Maybe a couple of broomsticks, cord and an old sheet...

rimar2000 (author)2011-07-17

Awesome! Congratulations.

splazem (author)2011-07-16

Cool beans!

About This Instructable




More by vatosupreme:Super Spooky Evil LED Eyes of Doom Using AtTiny85 and Arduino IDEHow to Make a Cardboard Canoe for your Kids in the PoolFire & Ice: or How to Unfreeze Your Water Meter (& How to Keep It From Freezing in the Future)
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