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What is 'The Cardboard Boat Book'?

The Cardboard Boat Book is a step-by-step instruction manual that teaches you how to build a small kayak style boat with recyclable resources using readily available tools and materials and standard size sheets of corrugated paper cardboard.


What is a Cardboard Boat?


A cardboard boat is a lightweight ‘environmentally-friendly’ boat constructed with 1/4-inch thick, 275-pound test, double-wall corrugated cardboard. The boats simply fold up from cardboard obtaining their strength from the geometry of the component parts. They are 8-feet long, weigh about 25-pounds, and can accommodate a 250-pound person without risking structural damage.


Each boat is constructed with 21 pieces of cardboard that are used to make 7 component parts. The 7 parts are assembled together with ‘environmentally-friendly’ contact cement and paper drywall tape. Once assembled the boats are sealed with an ‘environmentally-friendly’ water-based waterproof coating.


All of the materials used to build a boat can usually be found at ‘do-it-yourself’ home improvement stores. There are no special tools required and the boats are quite easy to build. People as young as 15 years old have built the boats, by themselves, to the specifications outlined in this book.


The boats can be equipped with 12-volt electric fishing motors, although they are normally propelled with traditional kayak style paddles. Cardboard boats make economical replacements for expensive inflatable boats, kayaks, and canoes for fishing, camping, exploring, exercise, and whatever else you may want to do on the water.


Best recommended safety procedures and the use of Coast Guard approved personal-flotation-devices (PFDs) are considered mandatory to ensure a boater’s safety on the water in any watercraft.


There isn’t anything half as much fun as just messing around in a boat on a sunny day. The Cardboard Boat Book teaches you how to build a boat for the price of the paint, glue, and tape that is required to put one together.


How Cardboard Boats Work


Three fundamental engineering requirements must be met in order to design a boat. The design must be,

1) Buoyant and stable.

2) Waterproof, or water resistant.

3) Able to support the load requirements.

The cardboard boat designs in this book meet all three engineering requirements.


The buoyancy and stability of the boats in The Cardboard Boat Book have been validated by applying the theoretical principles of fluid mechanics to the design of the boats and by many hours of practical testing.


Making the boats structurally strong enough to reliably carry a person, and protecting the boats from water damage, were two major engineering design challenges that had to be solved for the boats to be successfully constructed with cardboard.


The strength solution is integrated within the boats in a very simple yet elegant design. The design creates an inner framework which provides the structural strength, and at the same time defines an outer surface that determines the volume and shape required to make the boats buoyant and stable. The design is quite clever when you learn how it works.

To solve the challenge of protecting cardboard from water damage a number of waterproof coatings were tested. The waterproof solution is explained in the 'More Stuff' section of this website.


After testing a number of waterproof coatings, products meeting the requirements for being environmentally-friendly were selected as the most desirable for this application.


To answer the original question, how does a cardboard boat work? A cardboard boat works the same way any boat works. There are unique engineering challenges that required creative solutions and the boat designs presented to you in The Cardboard Boat Book incorporate those solutions so that anyone can easily and successfully build their own cardboard boat.


What is Cardboard?


Cardboard is a generic term for a heavy duty paper based product. It is formed with sheets of unbleached craft paper that are pleated and bonded with wood pulp and adhesives to form a strong structure.


Cardboard has inside and outside layers of flat sheets that can resist puncture up to a certain point. The central layer is made from fluted, short fiber paper that not only provides cushioning, but can also resist a certain amount of crushing force.


Cardboard is fully environmentally-friendly as it is made from natural substances, is recyclable and biodegradable, and does not harm the environment.