DIY Cardboard Ship for Home Decor and School Projects

A cardboard ship is a neat decoration for your home, classroom, or office. Add some imagination, and with a cardboard ship you can leave the landlubber life behind. Aspiring sailors can make a Spanish sail ship with cardboard relatively easily and inexpensively. If you have all the supplies on hand, you could be setting sail in roughly an hour.

Cutting the Cardboard Hull

Cut three same-sized strips of cardboard. Each strip should be the same length and width, but these measurements can be adjusted to make smaller or larger ships. To make a standard sized ship, cut both strips 10 inches (25 cm) long and 3 inches (7.6 cm) wide. Smaller ships can be made by halving the suggested measurements, and larger ships can be made similarly by doubling.

Draw the curve of the boat’s hull on one strip in pencil. The curve should arc from one corner of the strip to the opposite side. The curve should be gradual enough that it meets the opposite side about 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) from the strip’s end.

Cut two strips along the curve at one end. Hold two strips together so they’re aligned evenly. The strip with the drawn curve line should be on top. Move your scissors so they cut along this line so that both strips have a curve at one end.

Use the cut strips as templates for their uncut ends. Hold the cut strips evenly aligned, together. Flip the top cut strip lengthwise, then realign the strips. Follow the cut end of the top strip with your scissors to remove the uncut end of the bottom strip. Repeat this process for both strips.

Remove the tip from both curved strips at one end. Realign the strips so they’re even and hold them together. Cut off the pointed end of both of these cardboard pieces with your scissors. The pointed end will be the front of your ship, the cut end will be its back.

Gluing the Hull and Masts

Glue the curved strips to the uncut one. The curved strips will form the sides of your boat, and the bottom uncut strip the bottom. Use hot glue to join the sides of the ship to the bottom. Hold the strips together for about 30 seconds while the glue hardens.

Make three masts for your ship with wooden skewers. Hold three wooden skewers together so their ends are evenly aligned. Take your scissors and carefully cut off the top third of each skewer. Keep two of the cut off ends for later..


Push the skewers into the bottom of the boat.
 The masts will be evenly spaced along the middle of the boat. Use gentle but firm pressure to push the sticks into the base of the boat. Try not to punch the masts all the way through the cardboard.

Create a prow and stern with the saved skewer pieces. Take two of the smaller pieces of skewers that you saved earlier and stick one into the front of the ship at an angle. Position the second piece similarly at the back.

Finishing the Ship

Mix a thinned PVA glue solution with water. Combine some PVA glue with a small amount of water in a shallow dish or bowl. Stir the solution with the handle of your paintbrush until it is somewhat runny, but still sticky.

Smooth glued edges by pasting on tissue paper with the glue solution. At this point, the glued edges of your ship will likely be a little rough. Dip thin strips of tissue paper into the glue solution and layer them smoothly over all glued edges.


Paint your ship, if desired.
 When the tissue paper has dried, it’s time to break out the paint. Use your paintbrush to apply the paint evenly to all visible surfaces of your ship. Feel free to get creative and add unique designs, like a skull and crossbones.

Fashion five sails from white paper. Cut two triangles that are roughly two-thirds the height of your masts. Next, cut a triangle that’s as tall as your masts. The final two sails you’ll cut will be roughly the size of your thumb.

Attach the sails to your masts, prow, and stern. PVA glue or tape both work well for attaching sales to the masts, prow, and stern of your ship. The middle mast gets the largest sail, the outside two masts get the two medium sails, and the prow and stern get the small sails.

Give your ship a figurehead. This is a cool way of personalizing your ship. Lego pieces, knickknacks, ornate buttons, figurines, and more can be hot glued to the front of your ship as a figurehead. You can also make your own figurehead from spare cardboard.


Add rigging to your ship with yarn and enjoy your ship.
 Rigging refers to the ropes used on ships. Fasten thread along the sides of your ship with PVA glue. When the glue dries, your ship is finished.

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