Elastic-Powered Wood Boat

Length of Project:
Project theme:
Suitable for grades:
Tools & Materials
Material List
  • SPF or scrap wood approximately 6”x 3” x 1”
  • Scrap wood 1/8” thick, two pieces 2-½" by 1-½"
  • Elastic band
  • Two ½"-¾" wood screws
  • Sandpaper, various grits
  • Wood glue (optional)
  • Water-based stain or paint
Tool list
  • Band saw
  • Jig saw or scroll saw
  • Drill press or hand drill with ¼" bit
  • Optional: sander, router with a corner rounding bit
  1. Draw the outline of your boat and the internal rectangle on the 6” x 3” x 1” piece of SPF (helpful hint: if you’re designing your own shape and want to make your boat is symmetrical along the length, sketch it on a piece of paper, then fold it in half and cut along one of your curved lines, then unfold it and use it as a stencil).
  2. Cut out the rectangle first using the jig saw or coping saw, and clean up the edges with sandpaper (or a chisel, if needed). Cut out the exterior curved lines of your boat and tidy with sand paper.
  3. With a pencil, mark points on the sides of the boat where you want the centre of your holes to be, making sure that they line up exactly halfway along the rectangular cut out and halfway down the sides of the boat. Carefully drill out the holes.
  4. Mark the deck of your boat where the screws will go (this is what you will hook your elastic band to). Drill pilot holes, and screw your screws in (make sure you don’t screw them in all the way; leave them sticking up about ¼" so you can fit your elastics around them).
  5. Cut out the paddle wheel pieces, and carefully cut out the 1/8” slot halfway down each piece. Clean the edges up with sand paper, if needed. Slide the two pieces together so you have an “x” shape. If your pieces are loose, you may choose to apply some wood glue to the inside slots and clamping them at right angles to dry.
  6. Paint or stain your boat and let dry according to finish instructions.
  7. Attach elastic band – hook it over one screw, then pass the other end through the hole (from outside edge to inside rectangle) and carefully fit the elastic over two of your paddle wheel’s blades before passing the elastic through the next hole and up around the other screw.
Extension Challenges
  1. Experiment with different types and sizes of elastic bands and the number of wraps to see what makes your boat go fastest or furthest.
  2. Experiment with different designs to see if you can make a faster boat. You could try different shapes or curves on the outline or shape the lower edges of the bow by adding a bevel (with a sander) or a curve (with a router).
  3. Organize a race with your classmates to find out which boat shape is the fastest (make sure to control your variables, such as the types of elastics used, the number of twists in the elastic, etc)
Suggest an Edit