Introduction: Pallet Pirate Ship
This Instructable will show how I built a small pirate ship out of old pallets and left over material. As always use proper safety precautions and always wear eye protection whenever working with tools. There are no plans or measurements as I built this out of whatever I had laying around. The only purchased parts where the captains wheel and the large yellow rope.
Step 1: The Base/keel
I was very lucky to get some large (4'X8') hardwood pallets from my work and after using most of them in another project I found a use for the last one. The large pallet forms the center base for the ship. I then attached two smaller pallets to the front and rear (bow and stern for you nautical folk). This gives the ship three separate areas and makes the ends narrower to match the traditional ship shape.
Step 2: Oops! Almost Forgot the "sea"weed Suppressant.
After I screwed the three pallets together I realized I had forgotten the fabric underneath. A quick capsizing (I just flipped the whole thing over onto the grass) and I put the fabric down and flipped the pallets back over. Then it was on to the decking. A few sheets of random leftover plywood and particle board and its starting to take shape. I was originally planing on painting the whole thing when finished so I wasn't too worried about using the particle board, however if you are not going to paint the wood then use planking or outdoor rated plywood as particle board tends to swell and crumble when exposed to the weather for too long.
Step 3: Planks Ahoy
I next started to collect my wood for the sides. Since this was going to be a pirate ship it doesn't matter if the wood looks great. I was going for a rough and rugged looking ship that looked like it had seen a lot of battles on the high seas. It helped that most of my wood had been sitting out for a couple of years and a lot of it was warped and twisted almost from the start.
Step 4: Starting Up the Sides
As you can see I left the pallet exposed on both sides of the decking. This allowed me to screw the side pieces directly to the main pallets. In the second picture you can see my chief inspector checking if the rope is ok. It did not pass and will need to be replaced.
Step 5: Making an Entrance
After putting the first layer of planks around the side I had to decide on a way to get aboard. I decided a small opening in the main deck wall would be the best for getting on board and getting to the quarter deck (where the steering wheel is). This was a little tricky cutting the angles and across the bottom while the board was vertical but if you are careful it can be done. I used a circular saw for the main straight cuts and didn't go to the corners, I then went in with a jig saw and cut the last of the corners out. The Captain came on board and declared it was good and that she can't wait to go raiding on the high seas.
Step 6: Parts, Parts and More Parts
Here's a view of some of the stuff I collected to use for this project. As you can see there's a lot of warped wood and some weird curly metal things. Sometimes it pays to collect strange things. I like to collect as much of the material I have available for projects like this and lay them out around while I'm working. It never fails that I will find the perfect use for a really strange/warped piece if I can see it as I'm building. Always look at your warped wood and see what it wants to be, not what you want to make it.
Step 7: The Mast
Every pirate ship needs a mast to hang the sails on so... An old 2x4 and a brass sphere and a little cutting. The top of the mast can be a flat cut but I had several of the brass spheres and thought it would look cool. Which it does. You could also use parts for a fence post for the top. They sell lots of different tops at the large home improvement stores like Lowes. Get creative, maybe a plastic skull from halloween or something.
Step 8: Easy Breezy Sail
For the sail I decided to use some leftover lattice. I used two 2x4's with the ends shaved down as cross bars and simply cut the lattice with a jig saw into a curve from one cross bar to the next. Once screwed onto the main mast it looked great. I had to add extra 2x4's to both sides of the mast to keep if from flexing once the sail was on but that just made it look better. As a note, the lower cross bar is only about 5 feet up from the deck so it gave me a couple of smacks to the head as I was working around it. Lesson learned is to save the sail for last. LOL, Oh well it looks cool. At this point I also attached the "dash board", not sure what to call it, but the board that the steering wheel will attach to. The other side of this board will attach to the rear mast later, but for now is just hanging in the breeze.
Step 9: Up the Sides We Go
Next I started up the sides with my planks. I had already decided that the walls would have gaps for air flow/ vision and I used a left over rail post as a spacer but any piece of wood the right size would do. On the starboard (right) side I used a 4" hole saw to make port holes. I measured the spacing out and lined them all up but you could just drill them out randomly for a different look. I'm just a little too OCD for that.
Step 10: Port Side
I attached the rear mast and now it's time to get back to the walls. After cutting out the lower wall board I screwed a couple of 2x4's to the inside even with the top of the opening. These gave me a place to attach the rest of the wall boards. As a trivia fact the right side of a ship is Starboard, named because ancient sailing ships had their rudders on the right side and they were called "stear boards" which over time became starboard. The left side of a ship is called the port side because that is the side that would face the port when loading and unloading to prevent the "stear board" from getting crushed against the docks. So now you know. :D
Step 11: Up Towards the Bow.
The next step was to keep adding side boards. As I worked around the sides I would take each board and check it against the side. As almost all of the wood I was using was warped it really takes some time to find the right spot for some of the pieces. Use the woods twist and bends to your advantage and people will wonder how you got such nice curves. ;) It's starting to look like a ship now.
Step 12: Walking the Plank
Rather than close the ship off and only have one entrance on the side I chose to run a 2x12 out the front and make it into a boarding ramp/plank. I attached some more 2x4's to the front wall boards to tie them into the main structure. The plan is to fill in around the ship with mulch and hide the lower parts.
Step 13: Starting to Look Ship Shaped
Because I put the plank out the front I had to remove the particle board. Now I need to build the fore deck out of 2x planks to make the deck even. It's a good thing I have lots of little pieces left over.
Step 14: Quarter Deck and Fan Tail
I picked up the ships wheel at Lowes for around 20 bucks. Now it's time to build the rear frame and sides. Ah yes those strange curly things. So after several years working at a metal yard I had accumulated more than a few odd parts. These curved metal pieces were originally used for street lights or something. Now they were to be the sides for the quarter (rear) deck. Using the metal parts as a guide for the angle I cut two planks for the rear uprights and two more for the top rails.
Step 15: Captains Seat and Arm Rests
I notched the top rail pieces to fit around the rear uprights and then installed a horizontal cross bar as well as a seat.The seat is a little too far back to steer and sit for a kid but it fits me fine and it gives the kids plenty of room to sit and someone can still stand in front of the wheel.
Step 16: More Rear Views
Here is the starboard side view of the quarter deck and captains seat area. The rear slant really gives it that pirate ship feel.
Step 17: Back to the Front
Now it's time to work on the front a little more. In the pictures you can just see two more curly metal pieces attached to the front of the side walls. These were almost a perfect fit for the front end of the ship, I had to drill a couple of 1/4" holes to be able to screw them on but other than that they fit perfect.
Step 18: Fore Deck Top Rails
I took the curly pieces off so I could work on the top rails first. Again it pays to check your boards against where you need them. My last couple of 2x4's were extremely warped and curvy but with a little help they fit perfectly on top of the sides. In fact a straight board would not have worked.
Step 19: New Wood and Curly Things?
Ok so those are new wood pieces on the front but they are still left overs from another project. The neat little double washers are pieces from my work that were cut wrong and had to be scrapped. The can in the first pic is full of them (1000+) and they are stainless so they won't rust. Lots of ideas for them in the future.
Step 20: A Lattice Tail
A little more scrap lattice cut down to fit and the fan tail is finished off. I still need to cut some for the quarter deck sides to fill in behind the curvy metal pieces.
Step 21: Looking Ship Shape and Ready to Sail
It's almost done and really looking like a pirate ship. At this point I started rounding the corners with an orbital sander and a sanding block. They don't have to be perfect just no sharp edges or jagged bits sticking out anywhere. I paid extra attention to everything that a child would run their hands along or grab on to.
Step 22: Forecastle Decking
Here you can see how I am trimming small pieces to fit into the front deck area, I had to use a couple of newer 2x's to get the right length but the rest are drops off of the rest of the project. I had to attach small bits of 2x's to the inside of the walls just below the deck line to be able to attach and support the deck 2x4's. it was all pretty much trial and error to find the right pieces. The forecastle is the forward part of a ship from the bow to the first mast. It is commonly shortened to fo'c'sle (pronounced Folk Sul). I love nautical trivia.
Step 23: Decked Out and Smooth
I used a piece of 1x6 with the top edges cut at a 45 degree angle to cover the gap down the center of the main deck. I also filled in the wall boards between the fore deck and the main deck. The front railing was attached to the curly metal pieces and then the ends were rounded and sanded smooth.
Step 24: The Captains Second Inspection
The Captain stopped by again and gave her seal of approval on both the quarter deck and the boarding plank. You might notice that there are a few more port holes, again the 4" hole saw made quick work of them.
Step 25: All Hands on Deck, Prepare to Cast Off.
Most of the structure is complete, just a few more top rails and some little fiddly bits. I unfortunately did not get pictures of the final parts of construction. I added a pulley made from a small bike rim on top of the front mast for the new yellow rope to go over. I used a couple of brass brackets (made to hold a foot rail to a bar) to guide the yellow rope and keep it from falling off the pulley wheel. Both ends of the rope were screwed to the mast on either side to help keep it from falling off the pulley. I wrapped a bungie cord around the rope to make a hook. This way my little pirate captain couldn't hoist anything too heavy up the sail as the bungie hook would just slide down the rope. I also put a small pulley on top of the rear mast and used some clothes line and a rectangle of black plastic to make the Jolly Rodger. A quick skull and crossed bones with some white spray paint and it's fit to go raiding. I used an old eye hook at the bottom of the mast and looped the clothes line through so the flag could be raised and lowered. An after thought is that a piece of weed suppressing fabric would have made a better sail.
In the end I never got to fully finish this ship. We had to move across country and it wouldn't fit in the truck. :( However my daughter and her friends had a great time on it and it cost almost nothing to build so... I guess the next person to own our house will get a pirate ship in the deal.
Thanks for checking this instructable out. It's only my second one and I really love this site. Have fun and keep building.
Participated in the
6 years ago
So how well does she handle on the open water? :)
8 years ago on Introduction
Super impressive! You are very creative & handy with wood :)
8 years ago on Introduction
8 years ago on Introduction
Awesome! Coolest playground ever!