10 Tips For Building a Cardboard Pirate Ship (DIY Guide)

I finally posted this… four months later.

James’s first birthday was upon us. His theme had to be nautical; his middle name is Saylor. So pirates, of course!

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate birthday party!

A quick Pinterest search yielded all these creative people who made giant cardboard pirate ships, so we decided we needed one, too!

Noah joined in and got some huge pieces of cardboard from work, a few sketches, and a scale model later, and we had our design. About a week of building, and here’s the final ship!


Here are my top 10 tips for making your own!

1. Have a plan! 

Cutting that kind of cardboard is very difficult; you don’t want to have to redo pieces. Sketch and then try out your design. We significantly improved our sketch, model, and the final ship.

Tips For Building a Cardboard Pirate Ship
Tips For Building a Cardboard Pirate Ship

2. Gather the right tools

We used box knives, sharpies, packing and duct tape (for decoration), a yard yardstick ember, and extra blades for your knife; you’ll need them.

3. Let the pieces of cardboard be your guide

We immediately discovered how hard it was to cut the cardboard, so we let the pieces we had help decide the final size of the ship. For example, we just embraced that extra foot rather than cutting a foot off the length.

4. Work as a team

This project would have been too challenging to tackle on my own. A second brain, pair of hands, and muscles came in handy.

5. Packing tape is your friend

The duct tape was fun to decorate, but the packing tape was the true hero in keeping things together. We often taped both sides of a seam to help reinforce the ship.

6. Build on site

We had planned to build the ship in the garage and then transfer it to the house on the day of the party. Boy, we would have been sorry. Think through the finished size and build accordingly.

7. Make sure to add supports across the ship

Our plan had both a cabin and a front deck. These were not only super fun for the kids but also said necessary support to the boat. Support and style, right?!! The kids LOVED the cabin.

8. Decorate

When we started, I thought we’d keep the decor pretty simple. Haha, that doesn’t sound like me at all.

  • As I mentioned, we used brown duct tape to decorate. I also added it to the exposed edges for safety.
  • I used the yardstick and brown Sharpies to create a planking effect. Mistakes became imperfections in the wood, adding to the authenticity of the ship. 
  • Cardboard tubes and black spray paint made cannons, a mast, and a boom.
  • I made the sail from some inexpensive muslin and rope.
  • We added a wooden captain’s wheel and anchor as well.
  • We traced dinner plates for the portholes, and I had the kids stand next to the ship to determine a good height they could peek through.
  • We made a crawl-through door on the stern of the ship. James was particularly fond of this feature.
  • A pirate flag on the bow completed the look. Argh!

9. Embellish

As if all the previous items weren’t enough, we blew up blue balloons to look like water. And I cut out shark fins to place in the water (more cardboard, yes more, and some silver paint). The kids even made up a fun game of trying to sink the ship with all the balloons.

10. Enjoy!

We made the ship big enough that adults could get in there, too. Noah and I both enjoyed crawling in and playing in the boat. The kids loved it even more when we were all pirates together. Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!

Good luck, and just for fun!


In conclusion, embarking on the adventure of building a cardboard pirate ship is not just a craft project; it’s a journey filled with creativity, imagination, and endless possibilities.

As we’ve navigated the seas of cardboard, we’ve discovered that anyone can construct their seafaring masterpiece with simple materials and a dash of pirate spirit.

From planning the design to adding those final details that make the ship uniquely yours, this DIY project is a fantastic way to unleash your inner buccaneer and create lasting memories.

Remember, whether crafting with your little ones or channeling your inner pirate captain solo, the key is to have fun and let your creativity run wild. These ten tips are merely a compass to guide you on your cardboard shipbuilding voyage, but the true treasure lies in the joy of the journey itself.

So, grab your scissors, gather your cardboard crew, and set sail into imaginative crafting.

May your cardboard pirate ship bring endless joy, imaginative play, and perhaps a swashbuckling adventure to your home. Fair winds and happy crafting, fellow shipbuilders!


How long does it take to build a cardboard pirate ship?

The time it takes to build a cardboard pirate ship varies based on complexity, size, and individual crafting speed. On average, it could take a few hours to a day, depending on your project’s scale.

What materials do I need to build a cardboard pirate ship?

You’ll need cardboard boxes, a utility knife or scissors, markers or paint for decorating, glue or tape for assembly, and any additional embellishments you desire, such as colored paper or fabric.

Can I involve my kids in building a cardboard pirate ship?

Absolutely! Crafting a cardboard pirate ship is an excellent family activity. Children of different ages can participate in age-appropriate tasks, making it a fun and educational experience for the whole family.

Do I need prior crafting experience to build a cardboard pirate ship?

No prior crafting experience is necessary. The simplicity of cardboard makes it a beginner-friendly material, and the joy of this project lies in the creative process. Just follow the tips and let your imagination guide you.

How can I ensure the structural integrity of my cardboard pirate ship?

Reinforce key areas with additional layers of cardboard, especially at joints and stress points. Additionally, consider using a sturdy base and internal support structures to enhance stability.

Can I make a smaller version of a cardboard pirate ship?

Certainly! Adjust the size according to your preference and available materials. Smaller versions can be equally charming and may better suit your space or crafting capabilities.

What can I do to make my cardboard pirate ship more realistic?

Add details like masts, sails, and flags. Paint or decorate the ship with realistic pirate symbols, and consider incorporating recycled materials like bottle caps or corks for added authenticity.

Is there a way to make my cardboard pirate ship more durable?

You can apply a clear sealant or varnish layer to protect the cardboard from wear and tear. This not only increases durability but also gives a polished finish to your creation.

I’m Willie, the passionate mind behind this blog, and I’m thrilled to share my love for crafting beautiful and functional spaces with you. I started this journey with a simple belief – that everyone deserves a home that reflects their personality, style, and, most importantly, creativity.

2 thoughts on “10 Tips For Building a Cardboard Pirate Ship (DIY Guide)”

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  2. Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you may be a great
    author. I will always bookmark your blog and will often come back later in life.

    I want to encourage you to ultimately continue your
    great work, have a nice morning!


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