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Independence Cardboard boat by FlisKits
The Independence!
Photo essay of my entry in the 2002 Merrimack Library Cardboard Boat Festival!

The Merrimack Library 2002 Cardboard Boat Festival is just around the corner!  This year will be interesting because I've heard more and more people say that they are going to enter this year.  Who knows how many boats we will have! (last year we set a record with 25 entries).

This year several factors lead to my 2002 cardboard boat creation.  First, I was down-sized from my job at Compaq Computer corporation in October of 2001, second, for years I have had a dream of starting my own business based on the hobby of model rocketry.  Many children and parents in Merrimack and surrounding communities know of my passion for model rocketry and, more likely than not, learned the hobby from me personally.  I've taught model rocketry, and given demonstrations for the town of Merrimack as well as Nashua, Candia, Manchester and others, as well as the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts (I also used to be the New Hampshire Scout contact point for the Aerospace badge), Civil Air Patrol, 4-H Clubs of America (having been the Hillsboro County Group Organizer), High Hopes Balloon Fest, Vineyard Project for youths with AIDS, Summit school for troubled youths, and others too numerous to mention.

This change in job status lead me to seriously consider starting this business.  With that in mind I contacted my long time model rocket buddy, Brian McCarthy who was also interested in such a venture.   Together we hammered out many business details, I documented many of my designs to put them into kit form and we started locating and contacting vendors for materials.

As of this writing, we are about 4 weeks away from launching our new endeavor (hoping for an August 1st launch date).   In this light, I decided to enter my first business entry in the cardboard boat race with FlisKits, Inc. being the sponsor of the boat.  With that idea in place, I started searching for cardboard and planning my design.  It just so happens that I obtained 4 large sheets of triple thick corrugated cardboard about 2 weeks before the towns 4th of July celebration.  Around the same time, I completed the structural design of my boat (shaped like a 3 fin rocket, it lays on its side in the water with two paddlers).

I decided to take the gamble and see if I could construct this boat in time for the parade and informed the 4th of July committee (of which I am also a member of sorts) that I will be in the parade.  With that I began cutting and shaping.  You wouldn't know to look at it, but this entire boat was built in 7 days, working about 2 hours each morning and each night.  I'm telling you, it doesn't take a whole lot of time to build one of these things, if you put your mind to it!

With that, for the first time since I've joined this activity, I am presenting my entry long before the event itself.   She cut beautiful lines in the parade, but more than this rocket boat (even with the space suited monkey on top), I believe the fact that my daughter (Jen) and her friend were tossing out frozen freeze pops to the audience was the biggest hit of the day!

Here then is a photo essay of the construction of the Independence (named by my wife, Kathy), from cutting out patterns to forming, gluing, sealing and painting the cardboard.  Quite a lot of fun.  I can't wait to see how she does on the water!

The photo's below can be view in full size by clicking on the picture itself (use your browsers BACK button to return to this album).  Accompanying text to the right describes each photo.


Photo's from Race Day!

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blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) The 5 images here show the construction of the fins used for this boat.  Starting from the upper left, and moving left to right, we have:
  • Fin pattern cut from single layer scrap cardboard
  • Fin formed and glued
  • Close-up of fin tip showing thickness of cardboard
  • Close-up of fin corner showing fold over
  • All 3 fins glued and drying.  Note the fin on the left has bricks on it.  This fin was cut from a section of cardboard that had a fold down the flat part of the fin.  I added a rib to the inside of the fin, in the area of the fold and used the bricks to keep the fin flat till the glue dried.
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p6251078.jpg (41387 bytes)p6251088.jpg (49759 bytes)p6251089.jpg (50639 bytes)p6251090.jpg (40569 bytes) blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) These images show the bulkheads that I cut and glued that allowed easy forming of the body into the proper shape, while providing incredible strength.  Each completed bulkhead was made from gluing two triple layer thick cardboard bulkhead forms together.  One bulkhead (used for connecting the two body tubes) was made from 3 triple layer bulkhead forms.  From Left to right:
  • Bulkhead shape (you can see all the other bulkheads stacked behind this one)
  • Good glue coverage assures a strong bond
  • Tape helps to keep the edges touching as the glue dries
  • Stacking all of the bulkheads and placing weight on top helps assure good surface contact and strong bonds.
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p6251085.jpg (49513 bytes)p6251086.jpg (38052 bytes) blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) The photo's here show the two half nose cone forms.  The close up in the second photo shows the lines drawn that will be the fold lines.  The small tab of cardboard to the right is the glue tab used to connect this half to the other half.
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blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) These 6 photo's show the preparation to the large full sheets of cardboard that are to become the body of this rocket boat.  Starting at the upper left and going left to right:
  • With the sheet flat, I mark off all of the fold lines
  • This close-up shows the fold lines.  I centered the original fold of the cardboard in the center of the bottom of the body, as this worked out best for design.
  • This image shows a bulkhead set in place.  In the final form, the body will be wrapped around this bulkhead.
  • This image shows the tools used to cut the cardboard to allow for folding.  With triple layer cardboard, you need to make V cuts on the inside of the cardboard to allow folding without creating crinkles in the cardboard
  • This image shows the utility knife being used with a straight edge to make a V cut 1/2" on either side of each fold line.
  • This image shows the removal of the waste material after cutting the V cut.
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p6251096.jpg (34681 bytes)p6251097.jpg (29859 bytes)p6251098.jpg (30553 bytes)p6261101.jpg (36990 bytes) blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) Here we have formed the first body tube section.  At this time, I have only applied glue to the lower 3 sides of each bulkhead.  Once dry, I will open up the top, apply glue to the remaining 3 sides then seal the seam at the top.  From left to right we have:
  • Body tube glued with tape holding the unglued top section closed.
  • An end view showing the end bulkhead.  You can see that the top section of the body overlaps the seam.  When dry, I will cut this to be even as I glue the top section in place.
  • Looking down the body tube, from the other end, shows the inner bulkhead.  This will also become one of the crew compartments.
  • Here we see one body tube section standing on end with the other on its side with weight to help keep it tight while drying.
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p6261102.jpg (48090 bytes)p6261103.jpg (32958 bytes)p6271104.jpg (39920 bytes)p6271105.jpg (43425 bytes) blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) At this point, we are ready to connect the two body sections.  From left to right:
  • Gluing the top section of the body tubes required the use of unique placement of weight and pressure due to existing fold lines in the cardboard.
  • This image shows the center (3 bulkhead thick) bulkhead with a 9 inch wrap of flat cardboard.  This will be used as a connector, holding the two body sections together.
  • Here we have the two sections glued together, with weights to hold it flat and stable while drying.
  • Another view of the two joined sections.  In this form, the boat is now 12 feet long.
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p6281118.jpg (25046 bytes)p6281106.jpg (39178 bytes)p6291122.jpg (36436 bytes) blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) We are now ready to attach the nose cone.  Because I have run out of the triple thick card board (having used it all on the body, bulkheads and fins), I will be using single thick cardboard for the nose.  For this reason, I designed the nose to be decorative only and not a real part of the structure of the boat.  To do this, referring to the first image, I sealed the forward bulkhead with several coats of primer.  Now, should the nose become damaged, or even fall off, the boat will still be water tight.

The last two photo's show the nose in place.

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p6281107.jpg (20873 bytes)p6281108.jpg (28506 bytes) blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) One of the problems with this boat design is that I had to construct the body in two sections.  This leaves a natural weak point at the seam.  My first step at strengthening this area was in the construction of the connector that you saw earlier.  To augment the joint further, I added a 9 inch wide strip of thick cardboard to the entire exterior of the seam.  The photo at left shows the exposed seam and the second photo shows this seam covered with the extra strip of cardboard.  The duct tape will be removed when dry.
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p6281109.jpg (35329 bytes)p6281112.jpg (33361 bytes)p6281119.jpg (33433 bytes)p6291123.jpg (37214 bytes) blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) Now we get to the fins.  Starting at the upper left and going left to right:
  • The dorsal (top) fin is glued and held in place with duct tape.
  • Close up showing the fin in place
  • After the dorsal fin was dry, I flipped the boat over so that I could attach the two lower fins.
  • The last photo shows an overall view showing the nose cone and fins in place.
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p6291124.jpg (27219 bytes)p6291125.jpg (22850 bytes) blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) Now, the seams where the fins connect to the body need additional strength and I want to clean up the seam between the body tubes.  The left photo shows how I've taken 4 inch wide strips of cardboard and bent them down the middle, lengthwise.  I then glue these in place connecting the fin to the body much more firmly.  The second photo shows how I use brown craft paper to cover and protect the exposed cardboard around the body tube seam.
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p6291126.jpg (28997 bytes)p6291127.jpg (23184 bytes)p6291129.jpg (21196 bytes) blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) Another problem I encountered with these cardboard sheets are several square holes cut into the cardboard that were used for shipping brackets.  Starting at the upper left and going left to right:
  • Close-up showing typical holes in the cardboard
  • Here you can see where I've cut out a matching square or cardboard and glued it in place, inside the hole.
  • This image shows how it looks after I've covered the patch with brown craft paper.  Very strong.  I apply the craft paper by spraying the area to be repaired, as well as the back of the craft paper with spray adhesive glue.
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p6291133.jpg (24015 bytes)p6291135.jpg (21030 bytes)p6291136.jpg (21975 bytes)p6291137.jpg (73263 bytes) blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) The brown craft paper was working out so well, I expanded its use all over this boat, to protect the seams.   One major advantage of using brown craft paper as opposed to masking or duct tape, is that this paper takes primer and paint just like the cardboard itself.  Painting any kind of tape can create all sorts of problems.  The images to the left show:
  • The fin seams sealed with craft paper
  • All exposed corrugated cardboard edges on the fins sealed.
  • The seam where the nose cone connects to the body, sealed.
  • Front view showing the tip of the nose sealed.


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p6291140.jpg (41858 bytes)p7021292.jpg (32887 bytes)p7021293.jpg (33287 bytes) blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) Ready to take paint, the first image at the left shows a front view just before applying paint.  The next two images show the boat after two coats of primer and two coats of semi-gloss white.

The great part about this?  I had planned a trip to the mountains around this time and my son, Joe, agreed to stop by the barn to paint my boat while I was away.  So I came back from our trip to find the boat completely painted!  Thanx Joe!!

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blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) But, paint alone doesn't make a sharp looking cardboard boat, for my money.  I spent some time with my computer and the many graphic tools I have and created marking for this boat.  I then printed those marking on full sheet label paper so that I could just peel and stick them to the boat.  After that I sealed each decal with spray polyurethane.  From left to right, we can see:
  • Side view showing the beginnings of markings
  • View of the dorsal fin with the FlisKits, Inc. logo in place.   The two angled red strips were spray painted.  I later changed this to a decal.
  • Front view showing the cock pit painted on the nose
  • Quarter profile view of the nose showing the cock pit and some of the air intake vents.  NOTE: Under the cockpit window it says "Aim away from face!"
  • Close-up of the seam between the two body sections showing the many rivets I put down.  The rivets were my wife's (Kathy) idea and a wonderful idea it turned out to be!
  • Close-up of the fin showing the rivets there too.  Also note the "air brake" at the rear of the boat.
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p7031301.jpg (31653 bytes)p7031302.jpg (34556 bytes)p7031305.jpg (30789 bytes)p7031306.jpg (30088 bytes)p7031307.jpg (32122 bytes)p7031308.jpg (37731 bytes) blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) Painting and markings are now complete.  The images at left show many different angles and details.   From left to right we have:
  • Overall view showing the red fin (fins are red, white & Blue) and FlisKits, Inc. corporate slogan "Aim for the sky and try not to miss!"
  • A view from below of the nose showing additional detailing that was put there.
  • Close-up of the dorsal fin showing the FlisKits, Inc. logo and pin striping
  • The blue fin whit its burst of stars
  • Good view of the side of the rear of the boat showing many details.
  • An overall view showing the final touches.
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p7041309.jpg (60747 bytes)p7041310.jpg (56695 bytes)p7041311.jpg (53846 bytes)p7041312.jpg (57318 bytes) blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) Ready for the parade, I have her all loaded up on the truck with signs to inform the public of the upcoming opening of FlisKits, Inc., the scheduled model rocket launch for later in the day and the upcoming Cardboard Boat Festival on September 7th.
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p7041314.jpg (43762 bytes)p7041315.jpg (44409 bytes)p7041316.jpg (37132 bytes) blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) At the beginning of the parade we inspect how well the boat traveled from home to Zyla's parking lot.  A close up of the back of the float shows the America flags we place around the float and my space suited monkey riding shot-gun atop the boat.  The last photo shows Jean Shaheen admiring my creation as we talk about the job market in New Hampshire.
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cardboard_poster.gif (46449 bytes)fliskits_poster.gif (40497 bytes)rocket_launch_poster.jpg (52872 bytes) blank_25x5.gif (824 bytes) These are the three posters I made for the float.
  • Cardboard Boat Festival poster
  • FlisKits, Inc. poster
  • Model Rocket Launch poster


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Copyright, 1998, James M. Flis