Ship in a Bottle




About: I have always loved the feeling of finishing the construction of an object and if I don't have something I need or want I usually give it a go to build it from what I have. Usually though, I look at a boring...

After finding this instructable:     , I decided to make my very own ship in a bottle. There are a few differences between not only the types of ships used, but also the construction methods. This step-by-step instructable is a little bit different to most, the first page being the entire construction of the ship and putting it into the bottle, and the following steps the changes from Goaly's original ship in a bottle instructable. I made it like this so that you can easily see what's different and still be able to see how it is made. Goaly's instructable was good enough and easy enough for me to follow that I was able to make a decent first-attempt at one of these, so I suggest you also use the link above to see everything I didn't write about here.


Step 1: The Sails

The sails differ from Goaly's instructable in that there are 13 sails instead of 6. Mine uses 6 "rectangular" sails, 6 "triangular" sails and one irregular quadrilateral. The (")s are there because the actual shapes you will cut have to look like fabric being pulled by ropes while catching the wind. My ship is basically a clipper, but most clippers have 3 masts instead of the 2 here. I didn't want to scale a real ship or add too much detail because this is my first ship in a bottle and I wanted it to be more simple. When attatching the booms to the masts, make them hinge with some thread. this is done in a similar way to a chain. Only use flexible glue for these hinging parts. After you have soaked the paper in coffee and drawn parallel pencil lines on it, look at some pictures of classic sailing ships and take note of how the rope structures within the sails look. bend the sails to their final shape after cutting them out (I recommend using some other paper to make stencils for your sails before this) Glue only the top edges of the sails to the horizontal booms on the masts. This is important for fitting the ship through the bottle neck. The staysails (the ones between the 2 masts) are only glued to a horizontal thread connected between both masts. Dummy threads are glued along the top side's edge. These are NOT glued to anything until the rest of the ship is fully "opened" inside the bottle.

                                                                         (     _~ )_>)\        \
                                                                         I    L  ` )_>) \\       \_ _
                                                                         I    \== )_>)_\\\_    _!!I
                                                                         I     L______/`      /
                                                                         ( _*_*_*_*_*_*_* /

Step 2: The Bottle/base

The bottle I used was green at first because it was covered in some sort of paint or plastic layer. After a few hours with a scraper, it was clear. Instead of building the entire ship I wanted to build mine only above the waterline and have it on "water". I first just used acrylic paint to paint the ocean into the bottom of the bottle, but later realised that I wouldn't be able to pull the threads through the bowsprit and the ship would be in a concave ocean. To solve this issue I painted the ocean on a piece of foam rubber and glued a few more layers of foam rubber underneath to make it fit into the side of the bottle. A bit of white paint on the edges of the waves adds to the effect of scale. I then rolled the foam rubber into a tube and pushed it through the bottle neck. A blob of glue secures it.

I would also suggest (especially if you used a round bottle) that you shape a block of wood into a base to be glued under the bottle.                           ___
                      eg:          \    |
                   (Bottle) - > |   |

Step 3: The Shrouds

I made my shrouds in a similar way to Goaly, but instead of making holes through the ship I decided to use a pin to make holes in the sides and glue clipped pins into the holes so that it would better resemble the system used on most ships like this. It also means that you use less thread for the shrouds. One of the key reasons for them on bottle-ships is that they prevent the tops of the masts from moving too far forward.

Step 4: Useful Tips

Practice folding and unfolding the ship before you shove it into the bottle.
To fix the skew sails and glue the bottom-ends to the booms, bend a piece of wire into a long "L" shape.
Using a similar implement, glue some tissue paper around the bent part and dip it into paint for touch-ups.
Plan your rigging carefully before adding glue.
Don't add any glue to the top of the shrouds until the ship is otherwise complete.



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    12 Discussions

    I just had another idea about what to use as the "sea", If blue wax was heated up and poured into the side of the bottle it should fill up the space much better, then thick paint can be applied on top of that for additional colouring and waves. I used the foam rubber because A) I don't have any blue wax and B) I wanted a quick fix because I had already painted the "bottom" of the bottle and then I realised that the ship wouldn't fit properly.

    1 reply

    Another idea! What if the ships from Age of Empires could be made and put into bottles to make a sort of fleet of ships in bottles for a shelf or something...

                                      --_                                                               _--
                                             --_                  _  ---------  _             _-- 
                                                    --_        -                      -   _-- 
                                                               /                          \     
                                       ==========  |        (|((((((((|)      | ========== 
                                                               \        \         /       / 
                                                     _--       \        \  --  /       /   --_  
                                                _--              \       ||   ||      /          --_ 
                                          _--                      |________|                  --_ 
                                                                     (----     __ )  
                                                                     (----     __ )
                                                                     (----     __ ) 


    3 years ago

    I love your final product here! Great tutorial too. I'd love for you to take a look at any of my own ships in bottles builds. these are partially inspired by your work as I saw your Instructable here before I ever started out with this hobby. Lol I always have the method you used for connecting your shroud lines to the hull in the back of my mind as I try to get those connected myself! I'm doing akward drilling and just keep saying "ok next build I'm gonna do it like that guy"!

    2 replies

    Haha, thank you! I was 16 when I made this instructable, but this ship is one of the things I'm still proud of and wonder how the hell I managed to make. I also used another instructable for some direction when I got stuck on mine, but since my ship was different from the one in that instructable, I figured I'd make my own guide, too. I have since only made one ship in a bottle, but I'd like to do more one day when I have more nice bottles and pretty wood offcuts. Another thing I'd love to try out sometime is this, not as intriguing and mystical as ships in bottles but I do love it somehow


    It's funny you posted that. I just finished a project (here if you want to see it) and my 2 year old daughter is obsessed with outer space so I was toying with the idea of putting a space shuttle or the ISS in a bottle. I have an awful lot of details to work out first because I want to avoid building the whole thing inside of the bottle if I can, and I'd rather do something like we do with our ships where we build outside of the bottle and raise the sails once we're inside the bottle. Either way I think it could be pretty cool.

    If you build another I'd love to see it.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I have been putting off making one of these for over 20 years. I have a three sided bottle somewhere in my library just waiting to become a "ship in a bottle". I also have a small book, "Secrets of Ships in Bottles", by Peter Thorne. It shows good step by step way to make a ship in a bottle and other globes too! Nice job mate! Maybe my next project. thanks for sharing.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Wow. This is great! I have always wanted to do this. Amazing that it is your first one attempt. Keep it up.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you! I'm glad you like it. I was thinking of perhaps building a Dias Caravel or a Vasquo da Gama Galleon as they would be a bit more relevant to my country and city (I live in the "Cape of Storms" [Dias' name for it] later referred to as the Cape of Good Hope [Da Gama's name for it]. I read somewhere that there have been about 23 shipwrecks around here, the most famous/infamous being the legendary "Flying Dutchman."