Make a Boat from Recycled Bottles
Updated: Mar 22, 2019
Step 1: Materials
You will need just 2 things:
Plastic bottles with lids tightly in place (about 270). 20 oz. sports drink bottles was used because of their size and durable construction.
Adhesives (Epoxy adhesives or sellotape), fishing line (fishing thread) and/ or rope.
Step 2: The Deck
The design resembles a simple flat-bottomed boat.
A few flat, raft-like layers were made and stacked on top of one another. Start by gluing bottles side by side in neat sections. When working with adhesives, it's advisable to have good ventilation. The glue used did not give off a very strong scent, but it's always a good idea to be safe. A line of adhesive about 3/16” – 1/4" wide is sufficient. You need a total of 12 horizontal sections for the deck of the boat. You can also use the rope or fishing line to tie the neck of the bottles and the middle part strongly together. The sizes of sections are:
6 x 11 bottles
2 x 9 bottles
2 x 5 bottles
2 x 3 bottles
Step 3: The Hull
Once these sections are glued, allow the adhesive to dry according to the instructions on the tube. While you’re waiting for them to dry, you can begin assembling the next layer of the boat, which will act as the hull. It’s going to be slightly smaller than the first layer, but constructed similarly. You need 11 horizontal sections for the second layer. Their sizes are:
5x 10 bottles
2 x 8 bottles
2 x 4 bottles
2 x 2 bottles
Step 4: Assembly
After you have allowed all of the sections to dry, begin gluing them end to end. Place a big glob of adhesive in the bottom of each bottle, and squish the caps of the adjoining section into it. You want the smallest sections at the ends, and the largest sections in the middle, to approximate an ellipse, as in the highly technical diagram above.
Keep the bottle caps facing towards the end of the boat until you get to the 6th section. At the 6th section, glue the 7th section with the bottle caps facing the opposite end of the boat. You want the caps in the back half facing the “stern”, and the caps in the front half facing the “bow”. Allow this layer to dry.
Step 5: Moar Assembly
Once the base layer has dried, begin gluing the second layer on top of it. These bottles should be glued into the shallow “V” between each bottle of the base layer. Additionally, each section of the second layer should be offset, so that it touches 2 sections of the base layer, as shown in the picture. This second layer acts as the bottom of the boat, and gives it a rough “hull” shape.
Press the sections together tightly with heavy books, weights, or slow-moving relatives and allow to dry. When dry you can lay a sac or transparent rubber over it.
Step 6: The Seat
Next, make the seat. You will need to construct a 2 x 11 section of bottles and glue it in position on top of the larger layer of bottles. You may choose to put it in the center of the boat, or just behind the center, depending on your size. It should be noted that this seat is really uncomfortable, so you'll probably want to supplement it with a nice foam cushion, or at least a folded up towel.
Step 7: The Final Step!
Finally, you must construct the gunwales. The gunwales are the railings that go around the edge of the boat. In this project, they are useful for carrying the boat and reducing the amount of water that splashes in. Glue 2 rows of bottles side by side around the edges of the largest layer, being sure to gently curve them to a point at the bow and stern. After you have glued these in place, add one more row of bottles on top of the gunwales, for additional height/splash protection.
Step 8: Completion
Now you're ready to take it out on the water. By far the best method of paddling is a regular kayak paddle. If you're any heavier than 180 pounds you may want to consider adding a third layer of bottles to the hull. This should provide you with enough buoyancy to keep you from getting too too wet.
A note on repair and recycling: If a bottle gets punctured or damaged, its easy to replace. First, carefully cut it out using a utility knife. Next, peel off the old glue. This can usually be done by hand, but you may need to scrape off stubborn bits with the knife or sandpaper. Finally, just glue a new bottle in its place!
If you wish to recycle the bottles used in this project, you'll need to disassemble the boat. The glue must be removed before the plastic can be recycled.
SEE VIDEOS OF OTHER WAYS OF MAKING PLASTIC BOTTLE BOATS