Introduction: Recycle Bin Boat on a String

Kids like to throw things in the water and watch them float away.

I told my son he couldn't do this with trash, like Styrofoam paper cups and plastic bags even if they do float great.

Next thing I know he and a friend of his are throwing a piece of Styrofoam attached to a string so it doesn't get lost.

Then a light bulb came on! because you know, trash really does float good.

Step 1: Supplies and Tools


String: a leftover kite string is great (if your kite is still in the tree), but any string will do.

Packing foam (polyethylene): This stuff has all kinds of uses, I hoard it whenever I can find large pieces.

Lid from a plastic container: The stiffer the better, the butter lid shown here was a little soft, I used an ice cream lid.

Plastic straws: I like the flex top for attaching the string to the back but its not a big deal.

1/4" wooden dowel

1 gal ziplock freezer bag


Matt knife with breakoff blade, or a bread knife or an electric carving knife or probably even a sharp steak knife in a pinch.

Hot glue gun


Pencil or Marker

Step 2: Cutting the Hull

This boat is a catamaran, or a two hull sailboat, it is much stabler than a single hull.

Cut a couple long rectangular shapes (This are about 1 1/2" x 2" x 11")

Draw some parallel guide lines and cut the bottom taper of each hull.

Cut the front bow at an angle, think of each hull slicing through the water like a knife, you want them to be symmetrical and parallel with each other when they sit in the water so the boat goes straight.

Step 3: The Rudder

Cut a pair of rudders out of a plastic lid, make them match , cut a slot in the back of the hull and glue them in.

By the way, hot glue melts the foam so you have to use it lightly and quickly, you can drizzle it on from a ways away so it cools for a second or so before hitting the foam or in the case of this plastic rudder, put it on the rudder not the foam before slipping it into the slot.

It is important that the rudders be parallel with each other and perpendicular to the boat (or water)

Step 4: The Deck

Use a back of a notebook or other piece of cardboard as a guide to cut the deck square ( this one is about 8" x 8" x 1 1/4" thick)

Mark the center line, I used a triangular section of foam and glued it down the center to add a little more thickness where the masts are supported.

Glue the Hull to the deck, or deck to the hull, both sides. You can set the deck edge up on a flat surface to make sure the hulls are square to the deck and parallel to each other.

Step 5: Mast Hole

Stab some holes through the deck on the center line with a pencil, dowel rod, screwdriver, drill bit, whatever.

Slip the straws in the holes and fix theme with a drip glue being careful not to melt the foam. I put in three so I could move the mast forward and back depending on how the wind blew and the boat balanced.

The last hole with the flex end of the straw is where the string is tied.

Step 6: Mast and Sale

Cut the top and bottom of a zip-lock freezer bag (1 Gal) turn it 90 degrees so the sides are now the top and bottom of your sail. fold the bag in half to cut a little notch out of the top and bottom where the mast can go through.

Cut your 1/4" dowels, 2 lengths a bit wider than the sail, and one (the mast) 4-6" taller than the sail,

Place the dowels where they would go, see pic and carve a little notch where the sticks intersect, these will interlock when you glue them up, keep them from slipping and add a little strength.

The head and foot beam as well as the mast go inside the bag, the mast sticks out the top and bottom through the small holes you cut.

Join the notches in the dowels and hot glue them together. You can melt a little hole in the bag to get a good glue joint on both the top and bottom of the head and foot beam but a little heat goes a long way.

Stick in the mast and tie on the string, I added a little paper clip at the bottom of the mast so when it does fall over you can drag it back to shore without losing your sail.

Now you can recycle your leftovers knowing that you have put your trash to a better use.

String Challenge

Participated in the
String Challenge