Introduction: How to Build a Boat Made of Trash & Recyclables!

Picture of How to Build a Boat Made of Trash & Recyclables!

We are hosting a Recycled Boat building contest @ Saluda Shoals Park in Columbia SC. This is a quickie guide on how to make a boat. This is just an example. Go out and find your own trash! Building a boat can be a great activity for the whole family to enjoy!! Check out my new blog at

Step 1: Make a Plan!

Picture of Make a Plan!

Building a trash boat is the coolest thing since building pepsi can stoves. Everybody is doing it! The first step is to make a plan. How many people do you want it to hold? Where do you plan sailing this incredible vessel? Do you plan on sailing it? What about people power? What kind of junk are you going to use? Do you want to stick to strict "must be recyclable only" guidelines?

Our plan consisted of conversations, occasional drawing on napkins and late night brainstormings. Remember, you don't want to pollute the river or lake in which you plan to cruise. So whatever you decide - give a hoot! Don't pollute!

The picture here shows some old containers we are using for pontoons. But anything that floats should do fine. What about lots of milk jugs? or 5 gallon water containers? Don't buy 'em! Look around! Stop something useful from entering the waste stream!!

Step 2: Go Look for Trash!

Picture of Go Look for Trash!

Trash is easy to find! I like to look in dumpsters, behind grocery stores, recycling centers, my neighbors backyard. That grocery cart looks promising! Trash makes Allen super happy! Look at that grin!

We happened to find that perfectly good grocery buggy in the dump! I know!! Its a perfectly good buggy! Anyway, we haven't found a place for it yet but we are still in the prototype stage. We have many weeks to finalize our design.

Step 3: Get to Building!

Picture of Get to Building!

Trash is great. You don't want to use trash to secure your boat though! Don't use trashy duct tape or old rusty nails to secure your boat! Buy new or steal from your parents! We used Gorilla Glue Duct Tape - its the strongest thing i have ever seen (besides Allen's biceps!) We also used those cool straps with buckles. You may also want to seal up any holes you might find. the "pontoons" you see in these pics are actually old containers (maybe for oil?) and one had a hole in it. We didn't realize this until it started to sink. Its a good thing I was tied to good old terra firma with such a sturdy line!

We are realizing that paddles must be made. Remember kids: don't buy 'em - make 'em! Old brooms or rakes make great handles. We might even make some sort of paddle boat design... this might take some good old fashioned Allen ingenuity! We call it STREET KNOWLEDGE!!!

Step 4: Keep Building!

Picture of Keep Building!

Listen, building a boat out of trash takes hard work, dedication and a sense of humor! Don't give up! If all else fails add more trash! Remember: when documenting your hard work and creative endeavors take your finger off of the lens! Amateur mistakes like these can cost you time, cool points and possible friends wanting their well deserved 15 minutes of fame! I am sorry Ranger Heather!!.

Step 5: Put That Bad Boy in the WATER!!!

Picture of Put That Bad Boy in the WATER!!!

Dump your boat carefully into the water. Do not fling or catapult the boat from a distance. This is your pride and joy. Treat it like the tedious friendships you have with movie stars. Don't bother it too much or it won't like you anymore and may even leave you stranded.

The SS. P! To captain such a mighty vessel!!! If only there was room for everyone aboard. I am sure there are many who would like to share in my journey. But I must go it alone for now...

Step 6: Enter Your Boat in a Contest! Preferrably Ours!

Picture of Enter Your Boat in a Contest! Preferrably Ours!

Now that your boat has been tested and you are happy its time to show it off to your friends, family and prospective employers! Everyone will be so happy to hear of your success! Don't keep it to yourself my friend! Enter your boat in Saluda Shoals Park's first annual Recycled Regatta that will be held May Tenth in Columbia SC!

Email Park Ranger Jay for registration info and more!


cdltpx (author)2014-06-25

I know your boat is for fun but homeless people need places to sleep and if they can build a hammock raft they could get a decent place to sleep away from brain dead teens or cops. I saw some cool projects where they made nice structures that would serve a HL person perfectly.

JesseO12 (author)cdltpx2016-05-05

Brain dead teens? Wth? This post has ZERO to do with homeless people. It's honorable that you are a voice for others, but why force it down our throats? If I missed something here please tell me but, again why are you using this post to promote your agenda?

buck2217 (author)2015-07-01

Great Idea

How did you build it?
What did you use for pontoons?
It should gtet an Instructable of it's own.

SIRJAMES09 (author)marine-dog2011-06-26

I LOVE IT!!!!!!! 8-D

I think I'll build me one & maybe live in it!! 8=D

temp (author)marine-dog2009-04-22

that's beast

crayzclown1 (author)marine-dog2009-04-21


candyman3669 (author)2011-09-30

it's wierd(sorry) but awesome!

FunkNattidelic (author)2008-02-17

Heres a tip, dont use so many exclamation marks. it makes you look waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too overly annoyingly enthusiastic and, i for one, find it annoying. Exclamation marks are meant for certain purposes, not to be used after almost every sentence.

*gets out my fiddle & starts playin funeral music...*

Some people like me are just that way...DEAL WITH IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

jtfulmer3 (author)2011-06-26

A friend and I made a boat out of an old barn door and some milk gallons. We saved up gallon milk jugs for a while, then roped them in lines around the door. We stapled the ropes down, grabbed some lawn chairs and a snow shovel, and paddled off into the local creek. :) It was a blast. The first time it would only hold me, but the next time we added more gallon jugs. Right now we have 44 jugs on there and we're ready to hit the creek for the summer! Each gallon supports 8.33 pounds, and our boat probably holds 325 pounds. This picture was from the maiden voyage of the original.

jtfulmer3 (author)jtfulmer32011-06-26

oops the photo didn't upload I guess.

hawgrider1200 (author)2011-05-15

backin the late 70s some fellas made a raft out of 6 ea 55 gal barrels and a vw bug body

Hollabaloo (author)2010-05-08

 This is awesome- may I ask where you got your 'flagpole' from? 

czak007 (author)2009-11-25

I have seen boats like these hold 6 or 8 passengers on the local news here in Miami FL. Usually intercepted by the US Coast Guard or abandoned along the Miami River! Keep your passports ready LOL!

pandaboy292 (author)2009-11-25

You can find barrels like that along a river. I live near the ohio river and i saw about 8 the last time i was there.

sulis96 (author)2009-11-23

how many people can fit on this boat? like have you ever tried punting three board like this B==B like that or can it like hold a certain ammout of pound`z

dla888 (author)2009-11-22

I used to make barrel pallet rafts as a kid. I grew up with no neighbors or siblings. I'd launch em in an old gravel pit that had turned into a pond. They were great fun. They never sank. Thanks for bringing back memories.

geeklord (author)2009-05-28

(This instructable+this+this)2+this=Lots 'o fun

iPodGuy (author)2009-05-27

This is neat. I added it to the 55 gallon drum guide.

SdaMaster (author)2009-04-23

heads up i can see your tether in this picture PHOTOSHOP im just kidding i love the idea

bowhunterhall (author)2008-11-04

i am so going to make one out of 5 gallon water jugs. thanx for the blog.

yiumanwan (author)2008-09-08

nice and cool idea i think police and other lifeguards use this too

moplate2003 (author)2008-08-11

you did good !!!!! i like it

Thunderexpress (author)2008-02-03

I'd really love to do this but I can't find any of these big plastic drums.

do not fret my friend! What about those large 5 gallon jugs that offices use at their water coolers? Those would make great pontoons! You just have to looks around you! Did you know that corrugated cardboard has air holes and is quite durable. Maybe you could duct tape some together and start there! Use your imagination. Old coolers, 3 liter cola bottles, Styrofoam the possibilities are nearly endless!

don't use Styrofoam it brakes down in water and reseal the toxic chemicals that don't.

There's usually a deposit on those 5g jugs. The deposit at my local grocery store is $7. I could buy a jug (when I could find them) for $10 though. Neat boat though.

There be newfangled jugs made of PET (like Coke bottles), rather than polycarbonate (like compact discs) that are non-refillable. Hence, no deposit. I have about 20 of the damn things lying around at work. (Someday, I'm gonna make one of them water rockets. Or maybe 20 of them) Perhaps even a boat...

Damn man, corrugated cardboard :D you could also turn a bathtub upside down and as long as your light enough, it can hold u (Found that out through trial and error :)

Try a brew-yer-own beer place. Ask if they have any malt drums. I procured one for $10. Bonus: swish 'er out with water for a light, refreshing beverage. Mmmm, buoyant.

PKM (author)Thunderexpress2008-02-04

Sadly, life isn't like GMod, and you can't conjure an infinite supply of barrels and pallets out of thin air just by pressing Q. You can, however, ask at farms, warehouses, restaurants, small factories and other places that get through industrial quantities of stuff that comes in plastic containers. They often have empty barrels that they used to buy fertiliser/oil/Soylent Green/other liquid stuff in that they are happy for you to take off their hands. Make sure they aren't still full of chemical nasties, though. If you are close to the coast, try beachcombing- flotsam is by nature good at floating, and once we found one of those big orange fibreglass life rafts washed up but the coastguard told us we could have it because it was too damaged to go back on a boat. You would get unbelievable trash boat kudos for building a boat entirely out of driftwood.

I agree! A driftwood boat would be out of this world. Challenge all conventional wisdom and build a boat!

infernisdiem (author)2008-07-07

You can use the cart for transport, some how attach the wheels under the thing, and go from land to water with ease.

Gyrine 77 (author)2008-06-15

Hey J, I like your funky floatation creation. Do you live anywhere near Carbondale, IL? During one of my class projects sponsored by the Southern Illinois University Department of Design(my major)in 1970 we built a cardboard boat. That project turned into an every Spring event in April. Everyone is welcome to participate. Current students, alumni, and people unknown in academic circles are invited to attend. The competition rules are simple. The boat must be made of cardboard using glue to hold it together, it must be sturdy enough to hold two normal sized people who navigate twice around the campus lake and through the finish line without the boat disintegrating. Loads of fun, funny costumes, outrageous designs. Winners and runner-ups receive awards for best time, best designs and frameable certificates. Call the S.I.U Art Department for further details. S.I.U. Design Department has been integrated into the Art Department. Ask for Prof. Richard Archer. My name is Wayne Johnson and I'll see you there next spring. Happy Boating!

qualitysy (author)2008-06-02

I will be building one with two drums on each side. I want to put a drop platform between so two of us can fish. I intend to mount a trolling motor. Any ideas on how to build the platform so it is stable. I want to cruise around a large pond.

derttiej (author)2008-06-02

if you turned this into a foot paddle boat type of some sort it would be great for fishing..

Lego man (author)2008-05-05

Sounds like something Tim Anderson would make.

iamthemargerineman (author)2008-04-19

this. is hot.

eeeXsmart (author)2008-04-16

sweet instructable!!!!! i made one similar to yours (sorry no photos)

Dim-1 (author)2008-03-31

NICE INSTRUCTABLE!!!! Can one put beer in that cooler?

splatman (author)2008-03-14

Another plentiful item for pontoons, are 5gal buckets. Search this site for Instructables on how to secure a load of em.

freshnessninja (author)2008-03-11

meh i wouldn't worry about it. i may be out of line saying this but have you read the instructable on how to date way out of your league? it includes a link to how not to be annoying. the last piece of advice is that some people are just anoyed to easily. granted a self fulfilling prophesy to be sure, but still...

animal0307 (author)2008-03-08

Yes I realize you are all about the recycling, no pollution part of this project but I can't help but think you should put and old weed eater motor in the cooler

FunkNattidelic (author)2008-02-18

Thats a great idea. It may take a while but i will try to do something Zelda related again. Maybe i will do the boat. I will probably do one on how to make the actual wind-waker baton seeing as though i am sticking to the Zelda theme...

FunkNattidelic (author)2008-02-17

I understand that periods are boring but seriously, exclamation marks can be boring too when used that frequently. Didnt your mother ever tell you " everything in moderation..." or something like that? Well, if i offended you, i apologize, but im just letting you know, it seems much to over exaggerative.

Oh, i almost forgot, i like the instructable, you did a good job. I might use this some time soon...

fancypenguin845 (author)2008-02-15

you could rig up an old bicycle with new wheels w/ paddles on them and secure it in place so the paddles dip into water and you can pedal and steer it like a regular bike!

fancypenguin845 (author)2008-02-15

i have been thinking about building one for months. Good instructable! you can usually find the drums at a junkyard or go to an oil changing place and ask for some empty oil drums.

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