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Build a ship in a bottle

Building a ship in a bottle only looks mysterious. With patience, skill and a few tools, you can finish a bottle craft while your friends wonder, “How’d he do that?”

Construct the ship outside the bottle and attach the sails face down with hinges. Slip the ship inside the bottle. With a pull of a string, the ship’s sails pop up.


  • Raingutter Regatta kit (BSA Supply No. 17090, 1-800-323-0732,
  • Plastic 3-liter soft drink container
  • Bamboo skewer or 1⁄8-inch dowel
  • Hobby basswood
  • Black and tan quilting thread
  • Florist’s wire
  • Tissue paper
  • Straight pins
  • Shellac
  • Blue paint
  • White glue
  • Epoxy
  • Sandpaper


  • Knife
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Pin vise drill
  • Nail clippers
  • Paintbrush
  • Cotton swabs
  • Steel ruler
  • Pencil


step_1.jpgSTEP 1: Remove the label from the 3-liter bottle. Clean it inside and out. Paint a rectangular section (long ways) about 2 1⁄2 inches by 7 inches on the inside. This will be the water.

step_2.jpgSTEP 2: Cut the sides off the raingutter regatta hull so the remaining hull is 1 inch wide. Glue the discarded pieces to the outside of the bottle as a base.

step_3.jpgSTEP 3: Cut the bottom off the hull so it is 1⁄2 inch deep. It should now fit through the mouth of the bottle. Cut off the hull in front of the mast hole, and shape the hull so that it looks like a ship above the waterline. Round the bottom corners of the hull. Sand and seal with shellac.

step_4.jpgSTEP 4: Cut the mast from your raingutter regatta kit so that one piece is 3 3⁄4 inches long. This will be your model’s mast. Use the rest for the bowsprit (the thing that sticks out in front of the ship). Drill a small hole near the bottom of the mast and near the end of the bowsprit.

step_5.jpgSTEP 5: To get your model into the bottle, the mast has to be hinged. Take a 2-inch piece of florist’s wire and put it through the hole in the mast. Bend it into a U to make a hinge. Drill two holes in the hull, and put the wires through the holes. (Try swinging the mast up and down.) Bend any excess wire against the bottom of the hull.

step_6.jpgSTEP 6: Epoxy the bowsprit to the hull with the hole on the far end. Let it dry overnight.

STEP 7: Cut three pieces — 3 1⁄2, 2 1⁄2 and 1 1⁄2 inches — from the bamboo skewer or dowel. These sticks hold the sails. The long one (the spar) holds the main sail. The short one (the gaff) holds the top of the gaff sail. The middle one (the boom) holds the bottom of the gaff sail. Drill holes through the base of the shortest sticks.

step_8.jpgSTEP 8: Make the sails using these patterns. Make a 1⁄8-inch seam on each edge. Fold over each seam and glue. Fold the long edge of the triangular sail (the jib) over a 10-inch length of tan thread. Glue the thread inside the seam with 3 inches at either end.

step_9.jpgSTEP 9: Tie three black threads 1⁄2 inch from the mast top. Three lines will hang down on each side

(shrouds). Tie one end of a 2-foot length of black thread near the mast top (the stay).

step_10.jpgSTEP 10: Tie the long stick to the front of the mast, the shortest one to the back of the mast near the shrouds and the remaining stick to the back of the mast about 3⁄8 inch from the base. Tie a loop through the hole in the base of the two backwardpointing pieces, then tie that loop to the mast. All three sticks should swing freely.

step_11.jpgSTEP 11: Push three pins into each side of the hull behind the mast, 1⁄8 inch apart. Push a pin into each side of the hull near the stern.

step_12.jpgSTEP 12: Thread the stay through the bowsprit end hole. Pull the mast until almost upright. Wrap the thread around the end of the bowsprit 20 turns. Do not tie!

STEP 13: Tie the shrouds to the pins. Alternate sides. Make sure that the mast does not lean to one side. All lines should be taut. The mast cannot move.

step_14.jpgSTEP 14: Tie the tan thread to the sticks to keep them from moving. The piece in front of the mast, the spar, has a line running from the end of the spar to the pin at the back of the boat. The two pieces behind the mast have three lines that hold them in place. One line runs from the tip of the piece to the top of the mast. Two other lines run from the end of the stick to the sides. Tie one line on each side. Once all three lines are tied, the piece cannot move.

step_15.jpgSTEP 15: Glue the main sail and gaff sail in place. Tie the jib to the stay. Let dry overnight.

step_16.jpgSTEP 16: Unwrap the stay, and loosen it. Push the mast back. Gently fold everything along the mast. When everything is pointing straight back, your model should fit into the mouth of the bottle.

step_17.jpgSTEP 17: Spread epoxy in the bottle in the middle of the “water.” Slide the ship into the bottle and onto the epoxy. Position it with a rod. The end of the stay hangs out of the bottle. Let the glue dry.

step_18.jpgSTEP 18: Pull the stay. Watch the mast come up, and the mainsail swing out. Once the stay is taut, glue it at the bowsprit. Let dry. Cut off excess.


Improve your boat’s appearance with a few tweaks.

First, taper all of the sticks. Real masts, booms, bowsprits and gaffs are thinner at the end than at the base. The spar is thinner at the end than at the middle.

Next, add detail to the hull. Most ships have a wall—called a bulwark—around the edge to keep people from falling overboard. Use cardstock, cardboard or small wooden strips to make the bulwark.

Finally, add details to the hull. Ships like this steer with a tiller. They have hatches and skylights so you can load stuff and get light below decks.

110 Comments on Build a ship in a bottle

  1. SHHHHHHHHH! Don’t tell my Dad!

  2. I’m using this same idea for a present for my dad. I’m just sizing it up allot and not putting it in a bottle. Don’t use Balsa Wood though. It’s more like smashing through it…DON’T USE BALSA WOOD! And since it’s bigger I can add more details. I put a little table in the cabin, made the door be able to open and put a door knob on it

  3. pretty good

  4. winchester 66' // September 27, 2014 at 4:32 pm // Reply


  5. where do you get a 3 liter bottle

    • It was kinda cool, but it was confusing in step 10-11. I give it a 4.5 star rating.

  6. Cool! I’ll have to build some!

  7. That’s easy method

  8. Nice I want to make one

  9. Tankz 2 master // January 24, 2014 at 10:11 pm // Reply

    Can you not do step three and just cut off the sides and bottom, not the front?

  10. I will make it . Thhank u

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