I had been wanting to turn my hand to making a
toy boat for my girls for a while, but had never seemed
to find the right time. The other day I was rummaging
through some file folders and came upon plans for
a steam powered “pop
pop boat” that I had downloaded
from Duckworks, and since I hadn’t made a pile
of sawdust in a while, decided now was a good time
to have a go at a little boat.
I went out and got a package of some 4mm poplar plywood
they sell here in Germany for craft projects and toy
making. It comes in packages of 5 in different sizes,
is pretty inexpensive, and can be cut with a utility
knife and a straight edge.
I decided on a dory hull for simplicity. At first
I was thinking to make a pop pop boat, but one morning,
after I had the hull mostly together, my daughter
Rachel found the boat on the workbench and was so
happy with it that I decided to ditch the pop pop
idea and just make her a nice little toy that she
and her sister Maia could play with.
Sides waiting for chine
logs and a bottom. I cut two strips of the plywood
24” long by 4” wide and then cut a
45 degree angle to form the stem. The bulkhead
and transom sides were cut at 100 degrees to form
the hull’s flare, and the slope of the transom
was also just eyeballed. After the basic hull
was together, I just sort of started filling in
the gaps, adding a removable deck up front and
a fixed in poop deck. I also reinforced the sides
and gunwales with strips of plywood and pine to
try to make the thing as sturdy as possible.
The sails are made from
courtesy flags. They are colorful and since they
are made to flap in the breeze for long periods
of time, the stitching on the edges and attachment
points is very well made and strong.
The sprit mainsail is the flag of the city of Cologne.
The three crowns are for the Three Kings who brought
gifts to the infant Jesus, and whose bones lie in
a golden sarcophagus in Cologne Cathedral. The 11
flames are for St. Ursula’s 11 virgins (or 11,000
-- apparently some scribe in the 11th century made
a typo and added the three extra 000s and later versions
of the story keep the 11,000 number) who were martyred
after refusing to marry a 5th century Visigothic king
and his retainers. The king was besieging Cologne
and captured the young women on their way back to
England after a pilgrimage to Rome.
The jib is the Polish flag. Not the best job of resewing
the luff, but it works and it is strong enough to
stand some abuse.
The masts are beech dowels -- 1/2” and 3/8”.
The boat is about 23” LOA, with a beam of 7”.
She went together pretty easily -- I figure about
8 - 10 hours over a week or so, and all told less
than $20 in materials, including the flags, which
were easily the most expensive bits at maybe $10.
I wanted there to be enough little pieces of string
and other fittings to give it the feel of a real model
boat, but not enough so that I would be constantly
replacing broken bits.
I had some linen string
left over from making bow strings, some 4 mm grommets
from my skin-on-frame kayak, and some eye-screws
for hanging pictures, and figured they would be
perfect for this project. Aside from the plywood,
I used a few bits of meranti and some pine lath
I had laying around. I glued and screwed the thing
together and later took out most of the screws
and filled the holes. But here and there I left
some screws in places where I figured there might
be some stress during use.
Some copper boat nails left
over from another project worked well enough for
belaying pins and on the Samson post.
The "fish hold."
Maia puts the whole gang
All in all it was a pleasant little project, and
with Christmas coming up, a nice, very personal alternative
to the overpriced and generic plastic crap one finds
in the toy stores.
The only slight hitch was that after I painted her,
my oldest, Rachel, 3, told me she liked it better
with the hull finished bright, and was also generally
feeling a little cheated because when Papa told her
he was building her a boat, she figured it was going
to be a boat. For her, not her dolls. One that you
could sit in and paddle around in. So, maybe next
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