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Rubber Band Powered Tugboat

Mark Nutcher constructs a rubber band powered tugboat.

Materials and Tools:

recycled cedar decking board
3/4" cherry dowels
1/4" birch dowels
waterproof wood glue
rubber bands, size 33, 3-1/2" x 1/8"
mineral oil and deep fat fryer
table saw
band saw
drill press with various size bits
belt sander
spindle sander
wood mallet
safety glasses and ear protection
toothpicks, cotton swabs, tongs, pencil
wood clamps
cardboard boat template
wire rack

Step 3


1. Level a piece of cedar lumber to 3/4-inch thickness with a planer.

2. Cut the cedar to a 3-inch width on a table saw.

3. Using a cardboard boat template, trace a pattern of the boat on the cedar board.

Step 5

4. Cut out the shape of the bow and paddle section with a band saw.

5. The piece that gets cut out of the bow (for the paddle area) will be the cabin.

Steps 7-8

6. Drill two 1/4-inch holes in the stern to accept dowels for the rubber band.

7. Drill two 3/4-inch holes in the cabin to accept dowels for the smokestacks.

8. Using a spindle sander and stationary belt sander, sand the boat body and cabin. Make sure to round all the edges.

Step 11

9. Cut two 1-inch pieces of 3/4-inch dowel and two 1-inch pieces of 1/4-inch dowel.

10. Sand the ends of the dowels.

11. Insert the dowels into the holes and set with waterproof glue. Attach the cabin to the boat body with waterproof glue.

Steps 12-14

12. Plane the wood for the paddle to 1/4-inch thickness.

13. Cut two pieces of cedar 3" x 1-1/4" x 1/4" to make the paddle with the band saw.

14. Using a dado cutter set for 1/4 inch, cut slots in the middle of the paddle pieces.

Steps 15-17

15. The notches are cut halfway through one side and halfway through the other side to fit together by sliding the notches together.

16. Sand the paddle pieces.

17. Slide the paddle pieces together and set with waterproof glue.

Step 18

18. Heat mineral oil in a deep fat fryer. Pick up the boat pieces with tongs and dip them in the mineral oil to apply the finish. Let dry on a wire drying rack.

Steps 20-22

19. Thread two rubber bands over the small dowels at the stern of the boat. Slide one blade of the paddle wheel between the two rubber bands.

20. Pull one rubber band strand over the paddle blade, sandwiching the blade in between.

21. Repeat with the second rubber band on the blade opposite the first. The bands will go around the center of the paddle wheel.

22. To operate the rubber band powered tugboat, wind up the paddle wheel holding the boat in your left hand with the stern closest to your body and rotate the paddle wheel in a counterclockwise direction until the rubber bands are tightly twisted. Keep a hold of the paddle wheel, place the boat in a large deep puddle of water or a pool and release the paddle wheel.

Mark Nutcher of Portland, Ore., wore a suit and tie to work everyday as a financial advisor. Nutcher was bored working a monotonous 9-5 job, so he made a big career change and became a flight instructor. When Mark isn't in his toyshop, he loves to cook for his girls and take them on bike adventures.


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