LittleMan has inherited his mother’s knack for dreaming up big projects and, while we’re not always keen to jump on board with his time consuming and expensive ideas, we do try to support him when possible.
This plastic bottle Viking longboat was one such idea that we could get behind.
Unlike many of his other project ideas, the costs were more than reasonable (mostly free materials), plus the planning and labor was mostly stuff he could do on his own with only minimal adult supervision.
(That said, the whole family got in on the boat building at one point or another, and it was a great bonding project.)
Break down of supplies and costs:
300 medium sized empty plastic bottles (we used 20oz Gaterade bottles for their durability) – $0
15 rolls of clear packaging tape (purchased from Dollar Tree) – $15
3 large plastic bottles (we used 32oz Gaterade bottles) – $0
2 packs of plastic plates (8 plates total, purchased from Dollar Tree) – $2
1 cloth placemat (purchased from Dollar Tree) – $1
1 broom handle (had around the house) – $0
2 pieces of square wood dowel (left over from another craft project) – $0
a few pieces of duct tape (left over from another craft project) – $0
Sharpie permanent markers in a variety of colors (had around the house) – $0
Kayak oar (borrowed from friend) – $0
Adult and child life jackets (borrowed from friend) – $0
Total costs: $18 +tax and many, many hours
The first big hurdle was collecting the plastic bottles.
We were very grateful that the MSU Recycling Center was willing to help us out with this, we were able to get most of the bottles we needed from them and they were very pleasant to work with.
Besides our local recycling center we also put a notice out to our local homeschool group as well as got some word of mouth going with friends and neighbors. Our request was positively received and everyone was more than happy to help out.
The bottles that we got were often sticky, many had been thrown in recycling bins with un-rinsed yogurt containers and similar so as soon as we collected the bottles, we threw them in the bathtub, removed the labels, and gave them a good scrubbing.
Once we had all the bottles gathered and washed, LittleMan and I sat down with some graph paper and a tape measure to work out the plan for the boat.
I started by having him measure the height and width of a single bottle. Then we measured the length of our legs and the width of our behinds to make sure he made the boat large enough to comfortably seat us both.
He drew out a basic plan on graph paper and we did a couple quick test runs on a small scale.
The first test we ran was to be sure the number of bottles we were using for the boat would hold our combined weight. We rubber banded two bottles together and attached a plastic plate to the top. Then we used CDs as weights and piled them one by one on top of the plate to see how many the bottles could hold.
One CD weighs 0.58 oz. Two bottles were easily able to float 50 CDs, which is just over 1lb.
If two bottles could easily hold 1lb, and our combined weight was about 150lb, then we’d need about (give or take) 300 bottles to keep us afloat.
*Sidenote: CDs were a bit of a pain to balance at a certain point. Going forward I would recommend trying quarters or marbles as weights instead.*
The second test we ran was to be sure that the tape we planned on using wouldn’t fall apart on us in the water. For this we basically just taped a half dozen bottles together and threw them in a rain puddle in our yard on a stormy day, then checked on them periodically to be sure that they were still holding strong.
Once we were sure his plan would be functional, we got to work assembling the boat.
There were 5 main parts of the boat: the base (or bottom) of the boat, the bow (front), the stern (back), starboard (right side), and port (left side). You can see the basic layout of each part below. Every 0 represents a bottle.
The base was two identical layers stacked and secured together by tape.
The above picture was taken after the first layer of the base was complete. The below picture shows the finished base with both layers secure.
Once the base was secure, we added the bow and stern pieces.
Both the bow and stern pieces were made up of three identical layers stacked and secured together by tape.
On the bow piece, LittleMan (with some help) cut up a 32oz plastic bottle to resemble a dragon’s head and colored it with Sharpie permanent marker. On the stern piece he did the same to resemble a dragon’s tail.
Lastly we added the starboard and port (right and left) side pieces. These side pieces were both simply two columns of plastic bottles, 12 rows long. These were the hardest part of the boat to secure, they did not want to stay up and kept drooping down.
Once all the structural parts of the boat were in place and secure, we added the Viking shields and a little sail.
The shields were simply plastic plates that LittleMan drew dragons on. Most of the dragons he drew were based of images he found in his favorite books, the How To Train Your Dragon series. We taped these shields to the sides of the boat.
The sail was a bit of luck. LittleMan requested a red and white striped sail and I was concerned about having to buy fabric and sew a sail together. Thankfully we came across a red and white striped cloth placemat at our local Dollar Tree so we picked that up. I used a Sharpie marker to draw our homeschool logo on the front of the sail.
I scoured the house and managed to find a broom stick handle, two pieces of square dowel rod, and some duct tape. we could use to build a mast.
Admittedly the sail was a bit top heavy and had to keep being re-attached to the boat in between trips around the lake.
To see how a boat built by a six year old fared on the water, be sure to check our part two of this post (click here).