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from: The Boy Mechanic, Vol. I

copyrighted 1913 by H.H. Windsor

publishers: Popular Mechanics Co., Chicago

There were at least 4 volumes of this series, each several hundred pages long filled with projects large and small. Weird modifications and hints, such as how to convert a motorcycle into what would today be called a snowmobile, and clever project ideas to inspire the boy in you. I suppose I should say the 'child' but back then this was boy's work and play.

I have volumes 1 and 4, and am pleased to offer a couple examples to the public. Perhaps I'll do more in the future. How about a Biplane Hang Glider, or a classic stern steering sailing ice yacht?

Wait, I find that someone else has already put much of this book on line:


Mark Anderson

How to Make a Paper Boat

<> A Light Boat That Can Be Easily Carried <>

Now you might think it absurd to advise making a paper boat, but it is not, and you will find it in some respects and for some purposes better than the wooden boat. When it is completed you will have a canoe, probably equal to the Indian's bark canoe. Not only will it serve as an ideal fishing boat, but when you want to combine hunting and fishing you can put your boat on your shoulders and carry it from place to place wherever you want to go and at the same time carry your gun in your hand. The material used in its construction is inexpensive and can be purchased for a few dollars.


Make a frame (Fig. 1) on which to stretch the paper.

A board 1 in. thick and about 1 ft. wide and 11-1/2 ft. long is used for a keel, or backbone, and is cut tapering for about a third of its length, toward each end, and beveled on the outer edges (A, Fig. 2).

The cross-boards (B, B, Fig. 2) are next sawed from a pine board 1 in. thick. Shape these as shown by A, Fig. 4, 13 in. wide by 26 in. long, and cut away in the center to avoid useless weight. Fasten them cross-wise to the bottom-board as shown in Fig. 1 and 2, with long stout screws, so as to divide the keel into three nearly equal parts.

Then add the stem and stern pieces (C, C, Fig. 2). These are better, probably, when made of green elm. Screw the pieces to the bottom-board and bend them, as shown in Fig. 2, by means of a string or wire, fastened to a nail driven into the bottom. Any tough, light wood that is not easily broken when bending will do. Green wood is preferable, because it will retain the shape in which it has been bent better after drying.

For the gunwales (a, a, Fig. 3), procure at a carriage factory, or other place, some light strips of ash, 3/8 in. thick. Nail them to the cross-boards and fasten to the end pieces (C, C) in notches, by several wrappings of annealed iron wire or copper wire, as shown in Fig. 3. Copper wire is better because it is less apt to rust.

For fastening the gunwales to the crossboards use nails instead of screws, because the nails are not apt to loosen and come out.


The ribs, which are easily made of long, slender switches of osier willow, or similar material, are next put in, but before doing this, two strips of wood (b, b, Fig. 3) should be bent and placed as in Fig. 3. They are used only temporarily as a guide in putting in the ribs, and are not fastened, the elasticity of the wood being sufficient to cause them to retain their position. The osiers may average a little more than 1/2 in. in thickness and should be cut, stripped of leaves and bark and put in place while green and fresh.

They are attached to the bottom by means of shingle nails driven through holes previously made in them with an awl, and are then bent down until they touch the strips of ash (b, b, Fig. 3), and finally cut off even with the tops of the gunwales, and notched at the end to receive them (B, Fig. 4). Between the cross-boards the ribs are placed at intervals of 2 or 3 in., while in other parts they are as much as 5 or 6 in. apart.

The ribs having all been fastened in place as described, the loose strips of ash (b, b, Fig. 3) are withdrawn and the framework will appear somewhat as in Fig. 1. In order to make all firm and to prevent the ribs from changing position, as they are apt to do, buy some split cane or rattan, such as is used for making chair-bottoms, and, after soaking it in water for a short time to render it soft and pliable, wind it tightly around the gunwales and ribs where they join, and also interweave it among the ribs in other places, winding it about them and forming an irregular network over the whole frame.

Osiers probably make the best ribs, but twigs of some other trees, such as hazel or birch, will answer nearly as well. For the ribs near the middle of the boat, twigs 5 or 6 ft. long are required. It is often quite difficult to get these of sufficient thickness throughout, and so, in such cases, two twigs may be used to make fastening the butt side by the bottom-board, and the smaller ends to the gunwales, as before described.

In drying, the rattan becomes very tight and the twigs hard and stiff. The framework is now complete and ready to be covered. For this purpose buy about 18 yd. of very strong wrapping paper. It should be smooth on the surface, and very tough, but neither stiff nor very thick. Being made in long rolls, it can be obtained in almost any length desired.

If the paper be 1 yd. wide, it will require about two breadths to reach around the frame in the widest part. Cut enough of the roll to cover the frame and then soak it for a few minutes in water. Then turn the frame upside down and fasten the edges of the two strips of paper to it, by lapping them carefully on the under side of the bottom-board and tacking them to it so that the paper hangs down loosely on all sides. The paper is then trimmed, lapped and doubled over as smoothly as possible at the ends of the frame, and held in place by means of small clamps.

It should be drawn tight along the edges, trimmed and doubled down over the gunwale, where it is firmly held by slipping the strips of ash (b, b, Fig. 3) just inside of the gunwales into notches which should have been cut at the ends of the cross-boards. The shrinkage caused by the drying will stretch the paper tightly over the framework.

When thoroughly dry, varnish inside and out with asphaltum varnish thinned with turpentine, and as soon as that has soaked in, apply a second coat of the same varnish, but with less turpentine; and finally cover the laps or joints of the paper with pieces of muslin stuck on with thick varnish. Now remove the loose strips of ash and put on another layer of paper, fastening it along the edge of the boat by replacing the strips as before.

When the paper is dry, cover the laps with muslin as was done with the first covering. Then varnish the whole outside of the boat several times until it presents a smooth shining surface. Then take some of the split rattan and, after wetting it, wind it firmly around both gunwales and inside strip, passing it through small holes punched in the paper just below the gunwale, until the inside and outside strips are bound together into one strong gunwale. Then put a piece of oil-cloth in the boat between the cross-boards, tacking it to the bottom-board. This is done to protect the bottom of the boat.


Now you may already have a canoe that is perfectly water-tight, and steady in the water, if it has been properly constructed of good material. If not, however, in a few days you may be disappointed to find that it is becoming leaky. Then the best remedy is to cover the whole boat with unbleached muslin, sewed at the ends and tacked along the gunwales. Then tighten it by shrinking and finally give it at least three coats of a mixture of varnish and paint. This will doubtless stop the leaking entirely and will add but little to either the weight or cost.

Rig the boat with wooden or iron rowlocks (B, B, Fig. 5), preferably iron, and light oars. You may put in several extra thwarts or cross-sticks, fore and aft, and make a movable seat (A, Fig. 5.) With this you will doubtless find your boat so satisfactory that you will make no more changes.

For carrying the boat it is convenient to make a sort of short yoke (C, Fig, 5), which brings all the weight upon the shoulders, and thus lightens the labor and makes it very handy to carry.

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