Make a Ship in a Bottle

The hobby of making a ship in a bottle is a fun one and not very expensive to get into. You don't need a lot of tools and you can even buy complete kits that have just about everything you need including the bottle. It does take some patience and some arts and crafts skill though. And you can start out small with an easy ship and work your way up to some amazingly complex and beautiful projects.

There are several interesting aspects to this hobby. First, the making of one is a fascinating process and very enjoyable. Secondly there is just something special about the way you make the ship so it all collapses and fits into the bottle then it is raised to life while inside the bottle. People always say "How did you get that ship to fit in the bottle?" That is part of the magic of the hobby, trying to figure out how to fit the ship inside!


An overview of how it is done

There are a few different ways to make a ship in a bottle including cheating! Cheating would be to use a bottle that is cut in half thus making it easy to build your ship then glue the bottle halves around it! While that is a bit of fun it is cheating! The best part of this project is figuring out how to get the ship inside the bottle!

The Technique: It is done by building the whole ship outside the bottle and in such a way so that everything collapses to a small size (small enough to fit through the mouth of the bottle). Various parts of the boat have threads attached to them and once the ship is inside the bottle you pull on these strings to erect the various parts of the ship. Voila! A ship in a bottle. The picture shows me pulling on a string that raises the masts of the ship.


The exact history of this hobby is lost to time. But it is generally known that it started some time in the early 1800's with actual sailors on board seafaring ships. They needed something to fill the time and they came up with this fascinating little hobby. Being sailors I guess it is only fitting that they made little ships to go inside the bottles. And they really did an amazing job with these little pieces of art. They often used fine materials such as scrimshaw and fine hardwoods. By the end of the 1800's blown glass bottles were in abundance and the hobby reached a zenith. Then it went into a long decline and now it is still practiced but on a smaller scale. At least this wonderful hobby wasn't lost.

Getting Started

If you are absolutely new to the hobby of ships in bottles you can buy an inexpensive beginners kit that has just about everything you need including complete instructions on how to build the kit. This is a perfect way to start because you also learn the tips and techniques of how to build the collapsed ship that will fit into the bottle and how to string it up so you can raise it once inside.

Authentic Models Boat in a Bottle Kit boat kit

One of the great mysteries of the world has always been... how do they fit that big boat into that tiny bottle?! Well, now the secret is revealed!This kit contains just about everything you need to make your very own ship in a bottle, including wooden boat parts, black thread, wooden tweezers, bottle, cork, and instructions. All you need to supply is the water and the glue!Amaze your friends with your ship in a bottle. But remember, don't tell the secret!


It can be challenging

You are building a miniature ship so, depending on the complexity of the model it can be challenging especially when it comes to all the various threads needed for the rigging and sails. Just something to think about. I use a desktop magnifier with a lamp for working on stuff like this. It helps me get a real good look at the project.


Learning Nautical Terms

There is a little bit of a pecularity to this hobby that you might find interesting or challenging. It is the use of nautical language and terms. If you are a boater or a fan of sailboating then a lot of this will be familiar to you but if you are absolutely new to boating then there will be some stuff that you will learn as you go. For example an instructional on how to build the boat willl explain to you the jib, mizzen mast, mainsail, fore and aft of a boat as you are building it.

ALSO: There are lots of ships in bottles and kits that are modeled after very specific and famous ships which is a nice aspect to this hobby.

Books, Kits and More


Note: If you browse around various websites looking for kits just be sure that it is a kit! There are also lots of already built ships in bottles that are quite wonderful. I just don't want you to be surprised by thinking you are ordering a kit and you get an already assembled model!


William Sheridan has been making models for 35 years. These include model trains, plastic models, wooden ships and numerous ship-in-the-bottle models. He is a recreational sailor and has crewed for many races on Long Island Sound. He is an engineer by trade and has held the position of engineering manager for 24 years. He holds over 10 patents and has published several technical articles. The unique blend of sailing, model making and engineering background have enabled him to write this book with the first-time ship modeler in mind. Beginner's Guide to Building Ships in Bottles



Book: Build a Ship in a Bottle The complete how to guide to mastering the ancient mariners art of ship in a bottle building. This exciting new text details all the tricks of the trade and secretes involved in building these unique miniature sailing vessels. Capt. Dan teaches builders to understand the basic principals involved in building these tall ship replicas. After reading this heavily illustrated text, readers should have a good understanding of how to design rig and build both square sailed as well as fore and aft rigged vessels. They will then be able to apply these basic principles and techniques to build any type of sailing ship they choose. Please note that there are many different techniques used by different builders in creating their ship models. Some use elaborate mast hinges while others contend with a maze of rigging lines which all run through and under the hull. This book teaches Capt. Dan's basic and the straight forward simple techniques that the authors uses on all of his ship in a bottle models. These basics can be enhanced and modified as model builders become more proficient. Capt. Dan has included a showcase of ship in bottle images from some of the best master model builders in the world. Anyone that is interested in maritime history, sailing or just loves the sea, will enjoy crafting and then displaying their own nautical ship in a bottle. Build a Ship in a Bottle: The complete how to guide to mastering the ancient mariners art of ship in a bottle building.

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