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Toy Boats with Helen

Martha Stewart Living Television

If your children have outgrown their old wooden blocks, don't discard or pack them away. As TV stylist Helen Quinn explains, transforming blocks into a virtual marina of toy boats is a simple undertaking, and you can easily embellish them using everyday materials: bottle caps for smokestacks, a sardine can for a dinghy, masts made from chopsticks, and even mailing envelopes for sails.

Tools and Materials
4-inch rectangular wooden blocks
Wood glue
Chopsticks
Drill, with 1/16-inch bit
Large cork
Water-based paint
Polyurethane
Mail envelope, oilcloth, or thin foam
1/6-inch hole punch
Waxed twine
Triangular block
Pencil
Ruler
150-grit sandpaper
Water-based paint
Polyurethane
Styrene plastic, empty plastic cleaning or spray bottle, or balsa wood
Mat knife
Rubber bands
Nails or screw eyes
Dowel
2 cylindrical blocks (optional)

Toy Boats How-To
1. Glue together four 4-inch-long rectangular blocks.

2. Cut a chopstick to 7 inches. Drill two holes in the chopstick, about 1 inch from each end. Drill a 1/4-inch hole about 1/2 inch in from one of the center pieces of the raft. Glue the chopstick into the hole, and glue a large cork to the bottom of the raft.

3. Paint the raft, and let it dry for at least an hour. Add another coat, and allow to dry for an hour. Apply a coat of polyurethane; allow it to dry.

4. To make a sail, cut a triangle from an envelope. Cut so the hypotenuse (long side) is on the fold of the envelope. Punch holes in the sail that correspond with the holes in the chopstick. Attach the mast with waxed twine; tie in double knots, and snip away an excess.

5. Using the pencil, measure and mark the center of a rectangular block. Measure 1 1/4 inches from the top on both of the long sides; you should wind up with two triangles. Saw the triangles off so you have a bow for the boat. Sand the boat.

6. Glue the triangular block to the center of the bottom of the boat.

7. Cut a chopstick to a 7-inch length. Drill two holes in the chopstick about 1 inch from each end. Drill a 1/4-inch hole about 1/2 inch in from one of the center pieces of the boat. Glue the chopstick into the hole, and glue a large cork to the bottom of the boat.

8. Paint the boat, and let it dry for at least an hour. Add another coat, and allow to dry for an hour. Apply a coat of polyurethane; allow it to dry.

9. To make a sail, cut a triangle from an envelope. Cut so the hypotenuse (long side) is on the fold of the envelope. Punch holes in the sail to correspond with the holes in the chopstick. Attach the mast with waxed twine; tie in double knots, and snip away any excess.

10. Arrange your choice of blocks into a tugboat, and sand any rough edges. Glue the blocks together, and allow to dry.

11. Paint the boat, and let it dry for at least an hour. Add another coat, and allow to dry for an hour. Apply a coat of polyurethane; allow it to dry.

12. Punch holes in a sardine can, and attach it to the boat as a dinghy using the waxed twine; glue bottle caps to the top of the smokestack.

13. Use long blocks to form pontoons. Drill a hole large enough to accommodate the dowel into one side of each block, about 1 inch from the end. Join the 2 blocks together with the dowel; glue the dowel in place. Allow to dry.

14. Glue the small blocks in an equidistant position onto the pontoons, about 1 inch from the opposite end with the dowel. Allow to dry. Attach the screw eyes or nails to the center of the small blocks.

15. For the paddle, cut 2 rectangles of equal size from the styrene, empty plastic cleaning or spray bottle, or balsa wood and make an equally sized slit in the center of the rectangle, from the midpoint to the edge. Slide together at the slits. Loop rubber bands around the axis of the paddle, and pull ends around the screws. Wind the paddle up to power the boat.

Resources
We used wooden blocks from Old-Fashioned Blocks.