How to Make a Boat in a Nutshell

Walnut shell boats are quaint little models to make at home with the kids or just for your own amusement. They actually float, making it possible to have races with friends when you've made a few. For young and old alike, walnut boats are super fun.


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    Assemble the items needed. These are listed below under "Things You'll Need." Walnuts still in their shells can be purchased from farmers markets, fruit and vegetable grocers, Asian markets and some supermarkets. Or perhaps you have some growing on your backyard tree if you're lucky!
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    Crack the walnut as carefully as you can. Make sure that it is in two perfect halves. A hammer would be the best tool to use, but with a bit of patience you might be able to use a knife. Don't forget to take the nut out!
    • Keep a few walnuts with you just in case you make some mistakes. In fact, if you're aiming to make a few, have a little production line ready to go.
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    Cut a small shape out of the paper to create a sail. It can be a rectangle or a few triangles; get creative, although you might like to try different shapes to see which sail best.
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    Decorate the little paper sail in any way you like. You can put a pirate sticker on the sail or you can color it with colored pencils. If you're racing with friends, think of numbers or symbols to make calling the race a little easier.
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    Thread the cocktail stick or matchstick through the top and bottom of the paper sail to form a mast. You can substitute threading with gluing it into place, if you find doing so easier. Keep in mind that if you use glue, you'll have to wait for it to dry.
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    Push a small lump of clay, plasticine, post tack or chewed gum into the middle of the walnut half. Push one end of the cocktail stick or matchstick into the modelling clay. Adjust to ensure that the sail sits straight and even.
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    Grab a friend and head off to the nearest stream. Launch your boats and see which one sails into the sunset the fastest!
    • If you don't have a local stream or pond, try a large bowl, a barrel of water, or even the bathtub.
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  • A boat can also be made using a cork inserted in a bottle cap with the sail stuck into the cork.
  • Experiment with other types of nut shells.
  • If using glue instead of plasticine, gum or tack, use waterproof glue.
  • These are a great rainy day craft, then race in the gutters and freshets.
  • If wax is used to fill the boat, it can be remelted or scraped to adjust sails. Pebbles, BBs or shot may be added for ballast and trim.
  • Experiment with superglue for adding keels and out rigging.
  • You could paint the walnut your favourite colour. If painting, do so before adding the sail and allow it to dry first.


  • This model is unsuitable for use by those under the age of three, due to small parts.
  • Cracking walnuts is fairly straightforward but watch your fingers and knuckles.

Things You'll Need

  • A walnut
  • A piece of paper
  • Scissors
  • A pirate sticker or other stickers or markers for drawings
  • A cocktail stick, matchstick, or toothpick
  • A small piece of modelling clay, plasticine, poster tack or chewing gum
  • Paint

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