Children, from about 6 years old on, can make this real steam propelled boat under adult supervision. This pop-pop or put-put steam boat requires neither soldering nor gluing. No drilling or puncturing is needed. It does involve an easy to make bending tool.

I wanted to make a construction manual for a simple pop-pop kit I am making for some friends and colleagues. So I thought: why not make my first instructable?

This instructable is aimed at adults wanting to help children make a pop-pop boat at school, at home or wherever you like. Do take your responsibility in dealing fire and steam and in assessing if and how the children can deal with it safely.

I will not explain how pop-pop steamboats work, as you can find an extensive explanation on The Science Toymaker. Original inspiration for the coil engine came from the Pop-Pop Pages. In the following steps I will explain how to build one real easy.

I have been giving creative workshops for children since several years now, mainly at the school my daughter is attending: Leefschool Klavertje Vier. My workshops almost always involve a scientific or rather technical topic, most often something that rides, sails, flies or at least moves: rockets, mousetrap cars, solar powered vehicles, hovercrafts... If you understand Dutch you can check out my website: http://users.telenet.be/masynmachien

These workshops are open to children from 6 to 12 years old, but as the average age tends to be around seven, I learned to simplify things. My aim is to allow young children to build working things by themselves, with as little help as possible. Very often that involves a good preparation making templates and such. The pop-pop boat I present here is a culmination of that.

Step 1: Materials and tools to make yourself

The essential materials for the boat and engine are:
- a brass or copper tube 3mm or 1/8 inch outside diameter, 2mm inside diameter, 50 cm length. For sources see (1) below;
- a narrow aluminium cake baking form (disposable). I prefer to use a size a type about 19 cm long, 6 cm wide and 5 cm high, easily giving the right shape;
- a binder clip with a base of about 2 cm;
- a small aluminium cup, as from a candle light (or you can make something similar from aluminium foil);
- about 1 square cm of double sided adhesive tape (the type without foam, because I am not sure the foam type is heat resistant enough. The foamless kind is, when one side is cooled by the water).

For the bending tool or coiling mandrel you need:
- a sturdy cylinder shape (e.g. piece of wooden dowel), about 2 cm diameter and 3 cm length;
- a piece of scrap wood minimum 4 cm x 15 cm x 1 cm;
- one screw with a length about equal to the thickness of your piece of wood and one screw 2 to 3 cm longer (for each you will need a matching screwdriver, not shown).
- a piece of sturdy tube with a loose fit over the brass or copper tube and minimum about 20 cm long;

For the optional rudder, you need about one third of an extra aluminium form. For this rudder you can print and cut out a helpfull template from the drawing added to step 6.

For the optional decorating you can use permanent markers, common aluminium foil and some more double sided tape.

(1) You can buy the brass tube at modeling shops or at OPITEC. The article number at OPITEC is 813.716. OPITEC serves Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Spain and Hungary. You can experiment with shorter lengths (e.g. 12 inch), but lesser coils gives a larger chance the pop-pop cycle stops after a while. To my experience any copper or brass tubing with this diameter is bendable with the mandrel and technique described further. I never found the need to soften the material commonly available.
So yeah I made this. I didn't have the dies to make a mandrel. It was quite tough bending copper without simply bending it. I read elsewhere that one could fill it with salt or sand to make it a more solid item to bend. That somehow didn't work with me. The boat I made was without any soldering or clay sealants. I took a tin can and opened it out to form a square tin sheet and hammered it into a &quot;boat&quot; shape. <br><br>The boat weighed 85 grams and carried 400 grams of weight before it started taking on water. I then fixed the coil and candle. I avoided making holes in the boat for the outlet pipes. I attached the copper coil ends to two nylon pipes. These I Just fixed to the boat exiting it backwards. <br><br>The boat looks crude. But it works. And that sound the very first time...nice.
We made these today with our children. They loved it. Copper tubing was not available so we used aluminum, it worked well. After we had built the boats and were nearly done watching them them go around my son came up with the idea to put food coloring into the coil to start with so that at the first put-puts we would be able to see the input and output. It was a great idea, helping them to more clearly understand the process. Thanks for the great instructions. We had a great time while learning. <br> <br>Wendy
Thanks for the feedback.<br><br>Fantastic idea to use coloring! Do you have any images of the result?<br><br>Yvon
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUIrFMorg7s <br> <br>A very short video that shows the blue food coloring coming out of the pipes.
Cool!<br><br>Thank you very much.
Just thought I would stop by and say that I made these today with a group of 7-year-olds from my daughter's class. There were 7 girls in total and they made and spray-painted their boats, and decorated them. We found that half a tablet of fuel lasted 10-15 minutes and was easily long enough.<br> <br> <div class="media_embed"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/4ze1yz4D_sI?rel=0" width="420"></iframe></div>
Great!<br>Thanks for the message and sharing the video.
No problem - it's a great instructable and I always think it's nice to see what other people do with your work.<br> <br> Incidentally, I couldn't get the .pdf file of the rudder shapes to print - it displays on-screen but comes out blank on paper so I did a screen-grab and re-exported it as a .pdf (attached).<br> <br> Thanks for another great project!<br> <br> Ugi.
This a very, very great instructable! <br>I like it and I am just going to grab the parts needed! <br> <br>Thank you for sharing, <br> <br>Horatius Steam
Thanks!<br><br>Keep me posted on your success.<br>
Leuk om eens belgen tegen te komen op instructables ;)
insgelijks ;-)
I remember these in the 50's. My dad would get them for us when we were kids. Your instructable makes me want to make one. I'll have to keep an eye out for &quot;tins&quot; of the proper shape. Peace
Great instructable, 5* any day.
ingenious. what makes it great is it's simplicity. 5*<br>
I just made this with my cub scout group age 8-7 they loved it and all could handle the tube bending great instuctions. thanks.
Glad to be of help with my Ible. Nice to see it is put to use. <br> <br>Thanks.
I love it. 5 stars. Actually your boat is more of a boiler than a pop pop boat. As this one uses a coil to heat the water where as a pop pop boat used a flexible membrane which expands and contracts making the famous pop pop or put put sound.=)
lol..... :D
could you use the engine to help power a mini catamaran
Sure, if it small and light enough. I'd say something of the same size as my boats (about 20cm) up to about 40 cm length.
dunh dunh dunh the plot thickens
i made one, the instructions were forom <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.sciencetoymaker.org/boat/makeBoat4_07.htm">http://www.sciencetoymaker.org/boat/makeBoat4_07.htm</a> the engine actually makes the pop pop sound<br/>
Yah I made one too they're awesome.
Of course, as that one is a "membrane type", not a coil type as in this instructable. The boiler "membrane" makes the sound.
could i make this out of foam instead
Foam and open flames are a dangerous combination. I have seen examples out of wood completly covered with thin alumium. One could consider something similar with foam, but that might even be more dangerous than plain foam. If the heat accidently converts the foam to gasses under the foil, suddenly erupting and possibly igniting.
but where's the pop-pop?
I used the popular name for this type of steam boats, but I admit the coiled engine does not make the sound the "membrane" type engine makes. pop-pop or put-put is commonly used as a name for both types.
right, then can I ask how it works?, because i have never really thought hard about that
I was tempted to say: &quot;no, not before you read the other comments and find the link to the explanation.&quot; ;-)<br/>But I do want to guide you in the right direction: <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.sciencetoymaker.org/boat/howBoatWorksl.html">http://www.sciencetoymaker.org/boat/howBoatWorksl.html</a><br/>I think this is one of the best the explanations among the many you can find on the net.<br/>
thanks, for showing me the link and not being , ehh, mean
i am 13, and i even want to do this!
me too
im gonna make one with a little candle and a long aim n flame candle lighter that will go through the coil to light the candle and then be pulled out
i was unable to locate 1/8 tube so i used a 5 turn coil of 1/4 tube and used sterno in a stainless steel condiment cup to compensate for the larger diameters heating needs. it worked well with the exception of occaisional periods of idling. also the tube can be bent by hand without kinking it if done carefully
Bending thin wall, soft tubing sucks! The best trick I've found is to cap one end, fill it with sand, and cap the other end before bending. Hope this helps people.... It's also possible by hand (SLOWLY!) and you can always break out the torch and heat it up. Good luck people!!!
Please do not discourage people by exaggerating. The difficult does depend on the type of tubes. With the 3mm outside -2 mm inside diameter brass tubes it is very feasible. With the tool described I would even call it easy. No need for sand filling. I had tens of children aged 6 to 7 successfully coil their engine with some supervision. Only a few needed a correction of some minor buckling, which could still be done with pliers (with exception of maybe one less careful little builder).
Like you said, the tube makes the difference! Everyone should try to build one at least for the experience. Just thought I'd throw in some of my years of trial and error for the younger experimenters out there. Learn from other people's mistakes, You won't live long enough to make them all yourself.
When I bend the pipe it just kinks.Why?
Keep the end of the sturdy tube at least a couple of centimeter from the point where the pipe is coiling around the tool. This way you kind of "spread" out the bending over several centimeter. With some practice, you can do the coiling without the outer tube as long as you apply force to the pipe at a good distance from the coiling mandrel / bending tool. You doe really need some coiling mandrel / bending tool however. Also, some pipes are easier than others. If it really does not work, you will need to try other types. Smaller diameters work better.
thanks a lot, a very good morning with my nephews building our pop pop boats. They made their own. They are 7 and 8, the boats made their pop pop sound with no problems at the first try. Again thank you very much
these boats are pretty cool
mine doesnt work :( is there somthing im doing wrong?
Based on the most common problems you should check the following. - Make sure the tube is completely filled with water before you start light the fuel. - Both tube ends should remain under the water surface at all times. Does this help? If not, can you send a picture of what your boat and engine look like?
yes thankyou now iv got it working, i didnt fill the tube completly with water. also my copper tube was a bit to thick. i made another one using a can pouch as a boiler, i found it to be effective. you should do an instructable on that one:)
will 1/4 tube work?
Sure, if you can bend it without collapsing. Copper brakelines for cars can be used in such diameters. Brass 1/4 tube probably won't coil well. One more thing: you might need to make smaller openings at the tube ends. That is wat I have seen in examples with larger diameter tubes: a smaller diameter tube is inserted in each end.

About This Instructable




Bio: Send me a message if you're interested in Technology or Science Workshops in Flanders, Brussels or the Southern of the Netherlands. I have over ... More »
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