Build a Cardboard Pirate Ship

Build a cardboard pirate ship and you'll discover store-bought toys aren't nearly as much fun as the ones you and your children make together, includes pirate ship diagram and instructions.

| September/October 1982

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    Diagram of cardboard pirate ship.
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    Store-bought toys aren't nearly as much fun as the ones you and your children make together!

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Build a cardboard pirate ship with your child and you'll discover how fun homemade toys can be. (See the pirate ship diagram in the image gallery.)

How to Build a Cardboard Pirate Ship

When your young'uns are housebound on a rainy Saturday morning and near to bursting with ( mostly ) suppressed youthful energy — or, say, when the children are invited to a birthday party but there's not even a bit of extra room in your budget to buy a gift for them to give — that's the time to put on your very best Long John Silver-like "aye, me hearties" accent and call all hands on deck to help build the finest little cardboard pirate ship ever to sail the Sea of Imagination.

First, keeping in mind the fact that young crew members tend to have relatively short attention spans, quickly gather together a few basic supplies — a utility knife, scissors, white glue, masking tape, and some flat sheets of cardboard cut from an old carton or two — then hurry back to your fledgling shipbuilders, before they begin to plan a mutiny, and establish yourself firmly as the skipper on this project. (Of course, an adult should always supervise when youngsters are using scissors.)


First, obviously, you need to manufacture the parts for your man-of-wars. The accompanying illustration in the image gallery shows all the components on a scale of one square per inch . . . so in order to draw the pieces to true size, just count the squares along any given dimension and — using a ruler — pencil the actual measurement directly onto the cardboard. Or make a traceable pattern for each component by sketching the parts to full size on graph paper that's divided into one-inch blocks . . . then cut out and draw around the templates to transfer the outlines to the corrugated panels.

With that task accomplished, you can put your crew to work snipping out the vessel's various elements. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Corrugated carton sides are very difficult to cut with scissors, so you may need to carve out the components yourself, using a utility knife. If you have young children who are determined to do more than watch, however, you might want to score (cut partly through) the outlines first, then let the youngsters go at the parts with their scissors. Or you could try constructing the ship from lighter cardboard (posterboard, the salvaged backs of drawing tablets, or what have you) to make the job easier on small fingers . . . although the finished toy will, of course, be less sturdy.] 


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