How to make a paper boat

Si’s now produced a flat packed kit of our boat; the frames, transom, keel, everything apart from the strip planking which will form the outside skin of the boat. As soon as we’re ready to start building, we’ll send the kit to be cut from plywood at full size. In the meantime, we’re using it to make test scale models out of card before we commit to buying and cutting large sheets of material. And, of course, to provide you with endless hours of entertainment. I know, we are too kind.


So, below you will find a PDF document containing two A4 sheets with the necessary shapes to make our boat. If you click on the link, your computer will download the document so that you can save it, open it and print it as many times as you like. Sheet 1 forms the skeleton of the boat; 3 stations, 1 keel, 1 transom and 4 diagonals. The second sheet contains 2 shapes that make up a skin for the model and provide the same shape that we will eventually achieve in practice with planking. This is just for the purpose of the model, but means it stands more chance of floating and looks prettier too. One quick note about the PDF: make sure when you print that the page scaling option in the print dialogue box is set to ‘None’. This ensures the kit prints out at actual size rather than being shrunk to fit the printer’s margins.

PDF kit

You will need the following:

–         card

–         scissors

–         glue

–         sellotape

I sat down yesterday afternoon and made a model from the PDF while Si was at his course in Newlyn. Being a survivor of left handed (i.e. blunt) primary school scissors, and innately clumsy, I can assure you that this works. If I can do it, you definitely can.

1. Take the first sheet of card.

2. Cut out the shapes. Cut along dashed lines, score and fold along dotted lines.

3. Cut out the Teach a Man to Fish business card. Pin it to your noticeboard. Pass it onto friends or influential acquaintances. Revel in our shameless advertising.

4. Cut slits between the lines on each shape.

5. Score along the centre line of the keel and fold it in half to make it double thickness.

6. Stand up the numbered stations on the keel and slot them into place. ‘1” goes nearest the bow. Leave the piece labelled ‘T’ for later.

7. I lost the will to live a little at this point the first time I tried this and went off and ate some leftover Christmas cake. Since then Si’s modified the kit design to make it better, but I can still recommend doing that.

8. Turn the boat upside down. If it feels a bit wobbly use some sellotape to keep everything in place. There’s no shame in doing this, especially if the only Pritt Stick you own is a bit fluffy and dried up.

9. Fit the diagonals to the stations. The two pieces labelled D2 go nearest the keel. The ends with rounded tabs go nearest the stern, and the bits labelled ‘glue’ go towards the bow.

10. Slot the diagonals together like this, and don’t worry if it looks a bit wonky to start with. You can straighten it out later. If it’s really dreadful you might need to get some thicker card or make the slots on the stations a bit bigger.

11. Fit the transom by slotting the tabs together, folding them back on themselves and sticking them in place.

12. Glue together the tabbed and labelled triangles at bow by laying one over the other. Slot into frame at stem.

13. That’s the frame finished! Take a few minutes to check everything’s in the right place, straighten out any wonky bits and put sellotape strategically in places so it can’t fall apart. If you’re not sure, pick it up and drop it. If it falls apart put more tape on it.

14. Take the second sheet and cut out the two pieces. Score along the lines and fold, then sellotape the cut edges together to form two curved shapes. If you score and tape on the labelled side of the pieces, you can then turn it over and pop it into shape so that the blank side will be the one showing when you fix it to your frame. You can colour in or decorate the blank side if you like, and make an even prettier boat.

15. Use the tabs on the skin pieces to fit to the frames as labelled, matching up the tabs on the skin with the shaded tabs on the keel.

It might be helpful to glue the tabs a few at a time, using clothes pegs to hold them in place.

16. You’ll find some other small rounded tabs on the uprights stations fixed to the keel. Use these to glue or tape the skin to the frame, and keel. Repeat for the other side. And that’s it!

Have a go and send us your photos of your finished boats; especially decorated, colourful and floating ones! We’ll post them up here as they come in.

3 thoughts on “How to make a paper boat

  1. jeanniethemum in law says:

    I’ve just got to try it!
    If only for the excitement of having it shown here.
    jeannie XX

  2. […] The weblog describes their activities, which have included learning about fishing and the fishing trade, and their studies of examples of sustainable fishing. Simon Holman happens to be a marine designer, and the couple are now building a boat he drew up for the purpose – a pdf kit for making up a rather nice paper model of the proposed boat can be found here. […]

  3. chris says:

    looks nice. is there a sail plan for it?

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