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Newspaper Boat

  1. May 11, 2008 #1
    My physics teacher gave us kind of a cool end of the year project: To construct a boat made entirely out of newspaper, masking tape, and shellack (I think this is the proper spelling). The boat will then have to go from end to end in a pool and the first person who does so wins.

    My idea is basically to take chicken wire and bend it into the shape of a kayak, then layering the newspaper sheet by sheet using shellack as a bonding agent. My main concern will be that when the person sits in the boat, the newspaper will rip!

    Any ideas on alternate designs or suggestions on how to improve my present design? Any advice is much appreciated! Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 11, 2008 #2


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    It sounds like a good design to me. The wire should prevent ripping, and the shellac will make the paper water-proof.
  4. May 11, 2008 #3


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    Yep! Don't take it upon yourself to design a hull, etc. Borrow a nice kayak, flip it upside-down and coat the bottom with Ivory bar soap. Wrap the bottom with wet newspaper, and let it dry. Coat with shellac and repeat until you have a nice stiff shell. Pull off the shell (your boat) and use the duct tape to keep the sides of the shell supported and aligned (imagine a skeletal "deck" of duct tape) and you should be in pretty good shape.
  5. May 11, 2008 #4


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    But are you allowed to use chicken wire?

    And how does the teacher expect you to propel the boat? :confused:
  6. May 12, 2008 #5

    I'm going to use the chicken wire as a mold to shape the newspaper and will be removed after the newspaper has dried.

    We have to propel it by our hands! I really don't know how it's going to work. I was thinking of making oars out of rolled up newspaper, but haha I don't know how well that would work...
  7. May 13, 2008 #6


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    Hi hamburgler! :smile:

    A few thoughts … :rolleyes:

    How are you going to make it stable? :smile:

    You have to sit up in a kayak … do you know what stops a kayak from rolling over (and can you right it without a paddle)? :redface:

    Will any part of the hull be sealed?

    Longer is faster, but less manoeuvrable.

    Narrower is faster, but less stable.

    A round hull has better secondary stability.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kayak#Design_of_traditional_style_kayaks for some tips. :smile:

    And …
    :rofl: … can you swim … ? :rofl:​
  8. May 13, 2008 #7

    I did some prototypes with the kayak shape and they epically failed, so now I am thinking of a square shape.

    Also, I was thinking about interlacing rolled up newspaper as a strong base for the boat. I'm really hoping this will work because it is during in a little over a week!
  9. May 13, 2008 #8


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    Rolling up newspaper won't make it any stronger, since newsprint is essentially fine ground-wood with little or no long fiber in it. In this case the binding has to come from the shellac or other binding agent that you use. If you are allowed to use epoxy to bond the newspaper, that would be a stronger (though more expensive) option.
  10. May 13, 2008 #9


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    What about a surfboard like shape that you lie down on? This would be easy to paddle across the pool with, and wouldn't require as much strength as a conventional "boat".
  11. May 13, 2008 #10
    I figured I could use the masking tape to hold the rolls together...?
  12. May 13, 2008 #11
    Haha, unfortunately the rules specifically state no surfboard boats :(
  13. Jun 29, 2009 #12
    Hi Hamburgler; Saw your plight and would like to encourage your efforts. I've read that before the advent of fiberglass there were several rowing shells made from paper and varnish. I've also recently read about a dory made from newspaper
    So it looks like it's definitely possible.
    Good luck!
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