Introduction: The Incredible Paper Canoe
Runner Up in the
Summer Camping Challenge
I had the (perhaps) dumb idea about making paper mache boats after doing some research on paper mache racing shells (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papier-m%C3%A2ch%C3%A9).
From the first couple of experiments with paper, I found that the material was pretty strong and light, so I made a canoe out of it!
Using several pounds of homework from last semester school, I created a super awesome canoe!
Since it's light, cheap, and flammable (but don't light it)!
Step 1: How the Boat Works
The canoe is basically super strong paper mache that was shaped by a mold.
I built a mold first and put paper on top.
What you need:
Lots of paper (stuff that soaks up water)
Waterproof glue and flour
Scrap wood (more on what kind on the next step)
Mesh or strips of something flexible
Epoxy, glue, or paint for waterproofing
Sorry no pic.
Step 2: The Mold
A mold is basically the mirror image of the canoe.
You can build one (like I did) or use a different canoe and use that.
I hammered together a 10ft long 2 by 4 with 1.8ft bars coming out horozontally and 1.5ft bars coming out vertically like in the picture below.
Then I bent "U" shapes where the "T" is (diagram on the second picture.
All that was left was screwing or stapling the rest of the wooden strips so that it looked more like a boat.
Another way of making a mold, which may be easier is using mesh for window screens and such and make a canoe shape out of that and some wood.
If you have a spare kayak or canoe you can borrow for perhaps a week, it would save you the trouble of making a mold. However, you will need to dry the outer side of the paper mache and flip it over to dry on the other side. This is sort of risky.
Your best bet on building a mold would probably come from a different websource or you can check out some boatbuilding books at the library.
Remember, since the final result is the mirror image of the mold, it has to be close to perfect.
Step 3: Paper Mache
The shell of the canoe will be made of paper layered and glued together by a mixture of glue, flour, and water.
I made a crude mixture of Weldbond adhesive, flour, water, and a dash of vinegar (mold growth prevention) to make a non-toxic paper mache paste. I would suggest making the consistancy of the paste a little thicker than heavy cream.
I didn't really measure my ingredients but just dumped them into a blue container from Ikea.
Some people may want to use wallpaper paste or something else but a flour paste should work. If you want ideas on the best paste for the boat, go on google and search "paper mache paste recipe."
Step 4: Putting Paper on the Mold
This the most exciting part of building the canoe (not)!
All you have to do is wet the paper and layer it onto the mold. Before you start, I suggest making one layer of paper with just water (not paste) since the glue in the paste will probably stick to the mold and make it nearly impossible to get it off after. I learned that the hard way. At the end, you can just put some paste on the boat where you didn't put paste on to strengthen it or you can remove it while it's damp.
I didn't cut the paper into strips since it takes too long, but it probably would have made the boat stronger and less likely to fall apart, but i was too lazy.
I started from the front of the boat and worked my way back with the paper. If you have a hose, you can wet the first, not pasted layer so that it doesn't dry out and fly off the mold. Once you get the paper with paste on it, it should stay on. If not, the paste isn't working very well.
Make sure to remove all the air bubbles from undernieth the paper so that the paper all sticks together properly.
If you wear gloves while working with newspaper, you won't get ink all over your hands.
You don't need much paste when layering the paper so take some off by running the sheet on the rim of the bucket or container with the paste in it.
Don't let the paper mache dry off more than once since it makes it all wrinkly I think. It might be the reason why my boat is all wrinkly.
Step 5: Waterproofing
I used epoxy from Home Depot and painted a layer of it on the boat. Make sure you use plenty and cover ALL EXPOSED SURFACES.
Tip: Buy some paintbrushes from the dollar store so you don't have to clean them after you use them but can just throw them out when they're hardened. Also, milk jugs (not cartons) work well to put the epoxy in, but too much epoxy in it at once can melt the plastic.
I was talking to some people in the states and they said that I should paint it with a thick layer of waterproof paint. I insisted that epoxy would work. Well, both would probably work, but epoxy is clear and kinda like a shell. You can see the paper underneath, which is cool. It's your choice. I hear people use shellac as well.
By the way, if your boat gets wet, it'll disintegrate, so waterproof it well.
Step 6: Wood Bracing
Although, if i put more layers of homework on my boat, wood bracing wouldn't be needed, I put some in 'cuz I was low on homework and I was lazy. Anyway, I put in a wood bar along the bottom of the boat to keep it from "taco'ing" A crossbar acts to keep the sides from bending in and as a handle.
Tip: Careful when putting screws into your boat because sometimes they rip out. Using washers and doing it after the epoxy/paint waterproofing will probably help.
Choosing how much bracing you need is your choice.
Step 7: Done!
When everything's sturdy and waterproof, it's time to hit the water!
Sadly, I didn't have the time to go paddle it, but I will sooner or later.
I see my boat as a piece of art, representing the ridiculous amount of paper I went through in a school year, but also as transforming it into something fun. For homework haters, perhaps this will encourage you to do something in school.
My final product is light enough to easily carry with one hand (est. 10-15 pounds) and kind of rickety. It's also a bit wrinkly too. anyway. Paper mache is a great material to build random things (like boats) with!
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