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How to Make a Cardboard Boat for a Stage Prop

Budgetary constraints don't have to mean curtains for your boat prop.
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Whether you are putting on a children's production or community theater piece, it can be difficult to build large wooden props on a small budget. Props made of cardboard are not as durable, but are inexpensive and simple to construct. Transform old cardboard boxes into a boat suitable for your modest production with just a few art supplies. The lightweight cardboard boat will be easy to get on and off stage and to dispose of when the show's run is over.

Things You'll Need:

  • Measuring Tape
  • Large Cardboard Boxes
  • Packing Or Duct Tape
  • Paint Brush
  • Folding Chairs
  • Light And Dark Brown Paint
  • Box Cutter

Measure the dimensions for your boat. Place one or two folding chairs on stage in a row and measure how wide and how tall the boat will need to be to obscure the chairs. Use additional chairs for a large boat that will hold several or many actors at once.

Measure the side panels of your cardboard boxes. Using a pencil and piece of paper, sketch out an outline of a boat that is proportionate in scale to your actual boat. Cut smaller pieces of paper that measure the same size as your box panels using the same scale. Place the pieces of paper over the boat outline to determine how many box panels you will need to construct your boat, including boxes that will need to be cut in shapes to fit the outline.

Cut the number of required box panels from your cardboard boxes with a box cutter. Lay them flat on the ground in the shape desired. Trace the outlines of the narrow pieces of the boat and any angled side pieces in pencil and cut off the excess cardboard.

Tape the pieces together using strong packing tape or duct tape. Reinforce with a second layer of tape.

Turn the boat over so the taped side is facing down. Paint the entire boat light brown with acrylic or other thick art paint. Allow the paint to dry and then paint dark brown or black stripes across the boat to make the boat appear to be made of wooden planks. Allow the boat to dry completely.

Arrange two or more folding chairs on the stage where the boat will go. Lift the boat upright and place the painted side out in front of the chairs. Tape the boat to the chair legs and back using strong packing or duct tape. The boat can then be carried on and off stage by lifting the chairs.


Use other colors of paint for different kinds of boats.

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