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Build a ship in a bottle

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.

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 (
  • 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 blue rectangular section (long ways) about 2 1⁄2 inches by 7 inches on the inside. This will be the water.


step_2.jpgSTEP 2: If you are using the traditional Raingutter Regatta hull, trim it so it is about 1 inch wide. Glue the discarded pieces to the outside of the bottle as a base.

For the new Raingutter Regatta Trimaran hull, glue the two balsa wood outriggers together. Trim it to 1-inch wide and shape to match the illustration.


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_14.jpgSTEP 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_15.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_16.jpgSTEP 15: Glue the main sail and gaff sail in place. Tie the jib to the stay. Let dry overnight.


step_17.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: 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.

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58 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

  11. How long did it take you to build it

  12. epicest thing ever

  13. very cool

  14. so thats how people do it now i know the secret

  15. cool i will surely make it

  16. rocket glyder // April 24, 2013 at 6:49 pm // Reply

    this is cool i will make it next year

  17. awesome all ways wonderd how

  18. very well presented with good sketches.

  19. I have got to make this!

  20. i so want to make it!

  21. // June 28, 2012 at 4:53 am // Reply

    whoa.. finally i know how to put ship inside bottle, thank you ^_^ i’ll make it one

  22. I LOVE IT!!!!!!!

  23. good’

  24. it can not flout.

  25. Nice, iam gonna try this.

  26. I hope I try this someday. It looks and sounds amazing.

  27. nice model

  28. THIS IS SO COOL!!!!!!!!!!

  29. where can we buy the kit for this?

  30. how long does it take
    is it hard to build

  31. The convict way is to use a clothes hanger and use it to set each peice one by one through the opening of the bottle.

  32. I just made mine 🙂 luckily I had the kit so everything was ready made, just had to put it together. The hardest part is gluing the sails to the mast.

  33. can it make a real boat?

  34. Anonymous // July 2, 2011 at 2:00 pm // Reply

    very cool and good

  35. it is so cool& hard

  36. i think thats cool but a littel hard nice job lol

  37. cool,but hard to make

  38. Perfect… Just what I was looking for

  39. WOW so awsome

  40. is it hard/does it takes a long time?

  41. yes, very nice, plus pretty nifty

  42. Nice one dude, please make some more

  43. wow, your so great at making fun activities for me to do!

  44. I`m surprised many of you think this was invented yesterday. I learned how to do this over 60 years ago. Boats in bottles have been made this way for over 500 years.

  45. wow! dude this is AMAZING!!!
    you are truly a genius!!
    whoever invented this knows a LOT of things about ships!

  46. so that’s how it’s made

  47. The Man with the Banjo // August 16, 2010 at 5:59 pm // Reply

    If you use a glass soda bottle it will look more old fashion 🙂 . but you might have to size it down. 🙁

    • I build these all the time they’re way fun. Try using a teriyaki bottle they have good space in them and the opening is nice and wide and still glass which makes it cool.

  48. shasi....... // July 8, 2010 at 10:59 am // Reply

    well if the body of the ship is very wide it will look amazing

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