How to build a durable cardboard boat

How to build a durable cardboard boat

One of the most effective ways of
convincing everybody you’re crazy is to tell them you’re going to build a boat out of
cardboard. I got the idea of a cardboard boat
from the Internet – I was looking for some cardboard projects and I
found that people were building cardboard boats and usually they were building them to compete
in races – there’s cardboard boat races where you have a certain amount of time to
build a boat and then you race it across a lake and whoever doesn’t sink and gets there
first wins and uh… since i was gonna put the
effort in to building a boat and I wasn’t really gonna put it in a
competition my goal was to make something that was a little
more durable so i took a few ideas from from certain plans and added a few ideas of my own to build
something that’s actually pretty durable. I’ve had it out on the water several times over the last
two three years. This boat doesn’t have any rigid
materials like metal or plastic or wood it’s made almost entirely out of cardboard as you can see, I also used some paint I used some varnish here on the bottom, I used some newspaper, and I hold it together with glue and tape. These duct tape patches you see here are
not part of the original construction I found that duct tape is a quick
way to patch a hole if you find a hole just before you’re
ready to put on the lake or something this is a quick way to make sure it
doesn’t leak typically if i have the time the best
way to patch this would be to actually use varnish and a small piece of newspaper – give it
several coats of varnish to seal it up. When I build this boat I started with one
big piece of cardboard it was about eleven and a half feet long
and about forty two inches wide and I found this piece of cardboard at the local appliance store. You’ll find
that appliance stores have lots of cardboard
that they need to dispose of so that was a good resource for me you
get the cardboard to build this. Now what I did with the big piece of cardboard
is, I just laid it out and i folded up nine inches of each side all the way along to make the shape of the boat. now on the front and the back I had to cut along the corner of the bottom, the bottom part of the U then I folded in the sides and I cut off the extra there was a triangle of cardboard here and one
over there that I cut off. On the front of the boat I did it just a
little different than the back once I folded in those side pieces
I also cut a wedge out of here that way the bottom would actually fold up a
little bit that way it stays above the waves a
little better as you’re moving forward. Now any place where there were seems in the
cardboard and here along the front of the boat would’ve
been one of them I used this water activated paper tape to hold those pieces together. Basically with this tape all you do is get it wet – use a foam brush or something
to brush just a little bit of water on there to
moisten in the whole thing and then you put that on there and sticks very quickly and it sticks
very well. You do have to be careful if you get too much water on here it
doesn’t stick too well. Don’t actually dunk it in water before you put it on – I found
that that doesn’t work very well. Once I had the outer hull of the boat complete from that single sheet of cardboard then I had to make its sturdy. So to do
that I simply laminated more and more sheets of cardboard on the sides and the bottom. And these peices weren’t always real big – just
as big as I could get. I made sure they were wedged in there tightly and made
sure the other sheets fit tightly against it. And this process took time because what I had
to do is take some Elmer’s glue either wood glue or regular white blue and dilute it with water and then use a foam brush to just brush
it over top the bottom of the boat and then I took a piece of cardboard put
on top of that and then I’d have to take heavy objects and
put it on top of that piece of cardboard to allow it to dry and to get sturdy. So obviously it took some time because I
had to wait for it to dry and then I had to put another piece on and them maybe put a piece on the side, a piece toward the back and so forth. So it took a few days to get so pretty much all the boat – both the bottom and the sides were about four pieces of cardboard thick so at that point the boat became pretty sturdy. You can see right in the middle here there’s
something that looks like a beam and what I did with that is to just laminate a bunch of pieces of cardboard
together, use that water activated paper tape to wrap
it so it became a real sturdy beam, and almost felt like a 2×4 except obviously it was lighter and not as
strong and I put this clear from the front of the
boat the back of the boat. The reason I did that is, if you actually look up a couple
videos on cardboard boat races and you find the people that built little canoes or kayaks like this one
you’ll find that, as they ride in it, what would happen is
their weight would push down and the water would push up on the ends
and soon the boat would buckle in the middle that seemed to be a recurring problem
that I saw. So the purpose of this is to keep that
from happening and then as you noticed I used cardboard to make a seat here and again I used several pieces of cardboard laminated together to make the seat nice
and sturdy but the seat is sitting right on this beam and so the idea there is when i’m sitting
in there my weight is distributed along the whole bottom of the boat as long as this beam holds up and hopefully that’ll keep it from buckling in the middle. To finish the inside of the boat I used
that textured latex Dry Lock paint that
you use in your basement to cover blocks with. This is designed to be water resistant and that texture makes so things don’t get
slippery when it gets wet on the inside of the boat. What I did to finish the boat is coat
the entire outside with spar varnish and then I laid a piece of newspaper, just a
single sheet over top of that and made sure I smooth out
all the bubbles and of course that stuck fast to the wet
varnish and then once that was dry I put yet another
coat on and again put another piece of newspaper and I did that about six times. There was a layer of varnish, then a layer of newspaper, and so forth. and that makes a really tough coat – it kind of
feels like plastic but it is just newspaper and varnish. If there’s anything that isn’t clear in
this video or if you have questions about my cardboard boat, feel free to leave a
comment. As always, thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next time!


  • Logan F says:

    Thanks your a huge help!!

  • BernardoTech says:

    no problem.. good luck!

  • cwebb07 says:

    How long can you keep it on the water?? I need a cheap lightweight boat for fishing,

  • BernardoTech says:

    I've had it in the water for as long as 30 minutes or so at a time, although I don't think there is really a limit. The biggest thing is that I have to be sure to keep the inside of the boat dry. The dry lock coating has a few cracks that allow the water that splashes inside to penetrate into the layers of cardboard. This boat was a lot of work, though. If I wanted a cheap and light boat for fishing, I'd consider searching the classifieds for an old rowboat or kayak.

  • RAT1969 says:

    Instead of the water activated tape you could use duct tape and on the inside to build up the thickness u could use polystyrene tiles , offcuts and bits of packing you find in parcels and appliances for other areas.
    obviously with this the key is to use LOADS of varnish and let all the coats of varnish dry thoroughly outside on a warm sunny day !

  • BernardoTech says:

    Thanks for the tips!


    By laminating the cardboard, you mean carefully gluing several layers together to form a stronger piece, correct? Or is it something else?

  • BernardoTech says:

    You are correct – just glue the pieces together.

  • Gary Briggs says:

    Well done sir, looks like a fun project

  • BernardoTech says:

    Thanks! Yes, it was fun. But my wife was ready for the garage to be available again by the time I finished building it!

  • Fred Karcher says:

    How long did it take to complete the boat?

  • BernardoTech says:

    The process took about two or three weeks, but I'd estimate about 8 or 10 hours of work. There's a lot of drying time involved.

  • BernardoTech says:

    A little tough to explain, but I'll try. Like the back of the boat, you first cut along both bottom corners and then fold in the sides to make a point. Then, on the very point, make a mark about 3 inches up from the bottom(or however much you want the bottom to slope up). Now on each side, make a line from that mark back to the bottom of the hull where the sides bend inward. Cut along the lines on both sides (you'll be cutting out a wedge shaped piece), and then bend up the bottom to meet.


    I wiil need to build a boat with just cardboard, duct tape and bubble wrap..
    any ideas?

  • Ralph & Sharon says:

    Can Give me a list of what to buy for this please

  • BernardoTech says:

    lots of white glue
    water-activated paper tape
    drylock textured paint
    spar varnish
    kayak paddle
    lots of cardboard (I got mine free at a appliance store)

  • Jared Thao says:

    Does it work good

  • BernardoTech says:

    I built it more than three years ago and it is still going strong, although I usually only take it out two or three times each year. I plan to take it out this year and do some catfishing. I plan to make a video of that and uploading it to my outdoor sports channel (youtube user GreatCoveMedia)

  • ShadowsOfDust says:

    Are the front and the back parts empty inside? Or are they made of a lot of cardboard inside?

  • BernardoTech says:

    They are empty.

  • Kyle Metzger says:

    What was the water to glue ration you used to cover everything?

  • BernardoTech says:

    I think about 50/50, but it's been a few years, so I'm not sure anymore.

  • Paul Price says:

    Thanks for this. Only found out today that the race is on the 30th of this month so I doubt I will be laminating it more than a couple of times. Great tips.

  • BernardoTech says:

    Thanks for the feedback – good luck at the race!

  • hooplan77 says:

    If its lightit would be good for portaging

  • BernardoTech says:

    It is plenty light enough for one person to carry, although I'm not sure how it compares to a kayak.

  • hilmur leaf says:

    you did a really nice job on that! i tried this after watching the video and it looks like crap. this is a lot harder than it appears.

  • BernardoTech says:

    Thank you. I did spend a good deal of time on it. I hope to take it out soon and do some fishing with it and try to catch it all on video. If it works out, I'll be posting it in my other YouTube channel "Great Cove Adventure Films". Thanks for the comment.

  • hilmur leaf says:

    so it took mine out today and it was stable and everything like that but in a minute or two there was a lea. and so water turned it soggy from the inside out and it cave in and sunk. i'm trying it again though. i just got a big load of cardboard and newspaper.

  • BernardoTech says:

    Ouch! Not good to see a lot of work slide under the water. I took mine out on my pool for about 5 minutes the first time, then I examined the bottom and found a couple of spots where the water was seeping between the layers of newspaper. So I patch those holes with more newspaper and varnish, and I haven't had a leak since. Hope it goes better for you next time. Good luck!

  • AnswerMan69 says:

    We cannot use varnish on our boats. Only latex paint. And we can't use newspaper either. We need to use only corrugated cardboard, and tape, and tape can only be used on the seams.

  • JKearton98 says:

    This is exactly what I have been looking for, Is it very stable? What was the overalll time to build this

  • BernardoTech says:

    Construction took about 8 hours or so spread over the course of 2 weeks.

  • BernardoTech says:

    It is pretty stable. It really feels much like a kayak.

  • MrBrodyBeaver says:

    So, I'm guessing you made the cardboard boat and then you glued the news paper to the cardboard boat and then put tarnish over the new paper?

  • BernardoTech says:

    As I remember, I put varnish on the cardboard, and then put the newspaper over the varnish before it was dry. Then after the varnish was dry, I put more coats of varnish and newspaper on top.

  • MrBrodyBeaver says:

    May I know exactly what type of varnish I should use? And what was the glue used for?

  • MrBrodyBeaver says:

    Oh and where did you get the paper tape.

  • BernardoTech says:

    That is one of the questions I've addressed in my blog post concerning this. The link at the beginning of the video description will get you there.

  • BernardoTech says:

    The glue is used to fasten the cardboard pieces to each other.

  • BernardoTech says:

    The blog post answers your varnish question as well. 🙂

  • Larkin Staff says:

    Great job! We lost our race Monday, catastrophic failure involving cheap duct tape and vessel broke in half. I will use some of your ideas for next year's boat! Thanks.

  • BernardoTech says:

    Sounds like an epic fail. Did you catch it on video? Best of luck next year!

  • ThePearsch says:

    Well, after a Google search, yours is the only one that looks like it'll work.

  • BernardoTech says:

    Hmm.. lets see. Start by making the hull with larges pieces of cardboard. Then put more cardboard layers on the inside or outside to add strength. Glue the layers together with liquid nails. Make sure the seams of the different layers are not at the same spot. Put on several coats of the primer. If you're really paranoid, you could even cover the entire below water portion with duck tape.

  • mark chiley says:

    Can you say how long each of the triangles on the ends were from base to tip?

  • Queen Day says:

    How much you charge to make me one

  • Queen Day says:

    Ok let me know

  • Haleene Williams says:

    Was there a reason why you made the back end pointed rather then stright across?
    How much does this boat all finished weigh?

  • Catwow says:

    Wow, Tina Welsh got a 3.8 GPA at Penn State.

  • Sarah Cody says:

    Do you go fishing with this boat & if so where do you put your live well, bait bucket, & how do you hold your ore when you use your fishing pole. I'm very much interested in making this for my future fishing.

  • gregoryf78961 says:

    Do the bigger cardboard boats tend to float easier? 

  • Ben Brittan says:

    im building a boat. i need tips

  • Tim O'Brien says:

    Thanks for your video showing us to make a boat out of recycled materials… I like your barge type design… The stern should of been square for more surface floatation… I'm planning to make a 15.5'x2'x16" 3 section nested motor-sailing canoe out of a box I had on my truck…Very similar to your design but in 3 sections and bolted together with 4 bolts… Just box it up and wheel it home…

  • Kiyan Haider says:

    what kind of varnish did you use

  • boomshakalaka says:

    Can two people fit in it? And if not, what should I do to make it so that two people can fit?

  • Official GeekyGiraffe says:

    I'm The 2000th Subscriber for him!

  • Joe Childers says:

    This is very interesting.  I'm curious about building a semi-permanent boat and your method seems feasible for me (I don't have woodworking tools or expertise).  You seem to me to be halfway between the plywood stitch-and-glue where all the strength comes from the wood instead of the waterproofing and Elisha Waters' paper rowing shells where all of the strength came from a laminated paper shell shaped around a mold (many more layers than you used, and using purpose-made paper).  How much would you estimate the strength of your finished boat is from the cardboard itself and how much from the laminated paper?  Is the paper adding any structural integrity, or just waterproofing?  Thanks!

  • CypyCup says:

    Wow. that's rad as hell. bravo. Always like the idea of well done cardboard furniture, but it's even more nice to see utility put to recycling.

  • Linda G says:

    WOW! That was a terrific video. Thanks. 

  • jason paul says:

    Do you know any way to make an engone out of cardboard or something to increase the speed

  • Slop Plop says:

    hi wow im going to build a carboard boat as well

  • Dust Wizard Gaming says:

    Could you send a visual blueprint of this design?
    My goal is to paddle across Hamilton Harbour with a friend of mine, and I do not wanna look like a fool trying

  • Zack Whitcomb says:

    Me and my cousin are making two cardboard kayaks. This video was very helpful.

  • MikeYac66 says:

    At what point do you show how to make it?

  • Chris M says:

    Thanks for the video, we just made cardboard chairs in my engineering class, and I enjoyed it so much I decided to create a cardboard canoe and see if we could brave the local creek. Are there any other attachments that you wish you could have added to the canoe to prolong durability or increase it's overall utility? Thanks again for this great video!

  • Nurizzati Roslan says:

    Hello, may I ask about the total weight of the boat. I need to design a cardboard boat and present the report as well. I need to calculate the draft which is the height of the boat that is submerge on the water. I've found that your video give a better explanation. really hope to see your response. Thank you.

  • Johan Combrinck says:

    Great project, from what i see you corrected a lot of mistakes that other people let slide, and the result is this super piece you built. This definitely has more applications, like a catamaran-type canoe which can be done in the same way.

  • God of Dusty Depot says:

    congratulations tina welsh

  • Tarxan Too says:

    Build one more better design

  • Muthi Reed says:

    You are dope. Thanks for this!

  • kaminaridragon66 says:

    Nice work on the boat.. The laminated beam sounds like the business..
    Hiw much time did you spend building it..? Just curious.

  • uncletomsrice says:

    Imagine trying to explain to people you are making a pontoon out of buckets, landscaping fabric, gorilla glue, marine plywood, epoxy resin, and a few 2×4's.

  • Vishvendra Chary Tharani says:

    Good but write things name

  • :)VideoBuddyBoy says:

    Just for tips tape is plastic and you said that there is no plastic or wood

  • Mitchellman says:

    You could use tyvec and card board glued together

  • Tengalirish says:

    Nice video! It helped with my school project for my science class!

  • Chandresh Gauns says:

    How did make it water Proof.?

  • MIND MILK says:

    Is it still working today?

  • AK407 TANGAROA People says:

    Thanks for the idea. lol

  • James C says:

    @BernardoTech can you tell me the dimensions of this boat?

  • Johnny Faber says:

    Great idea! Cool boat! Thanks for taking the time to show it.

  • Jacob P says:

    How much glue did you use?

  • Ally Khan says:

    I want one please

  • J Dav says:

    The odd1sout

  • Ben Hughes says:

    How did you make it water proof

  • Matthew Lavergne says:

    I will make it myself this week I think. Just got instructions from woodprix website and I'm ready for do it 😀

  • Tim Pierson says:

    My daughter wants to let you know that she thinks this is great. She is going to try to make one for our local pool race

  • Rainbow Playz says:

    I might make a mini cardboard boat for my toys thanks for the inspiration!

  • Dylan - says:

    Cover it in fLeX spray

  • Alex Polouchine says:

    stupid video lol

  • BOTSLAYER _69 says:

    ur a total lad

  • BOTSLAYER _69 says:

    ur a god

  • BOTSLAYER _69 says:

    this is dog shit

  • BOTSLAYER _69 says:

    u dont show how TO MAKE it

    im infurited

  • BOTSLAYER _69 says:

    0 stars

  • Matthew Villanueva says:

    Thanks for the video, Bernardo!

  • Delaney Alejandro says:

    This video was very helpful. We had to make a cardboard boat for school and we managed to win the boat race! Thank you

  • dj engstrom says:

    congratulations! Great job! Please, I'm from the interior of Brazil, I'm a locksmith for passion! I live in the state of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, here the Rio Grande ( ") is 5 km wide, I live in (Indiaporã) for curiosity, paste this name into google maps and you'll see how beautiful it is here. well returning my passion: I would like to if possible, send me project files of this boat in question, which I loved. and I want to build one for myself on a smaller scale. and if not ask too much

  • Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow says:

    This is so awesome!

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