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For a quick update on the floating paper boats, the yellow legal pad boats lasted for five days before they got soggy and sunk. The gum wrapper boat was still going strong. I tried to find out if there was anything special about yellow legal pad paper, but other than the yellow dye that is added, I wasn't able to come up with much. Do you have any ideas?

Are you ready for the results of the floating experiment for paper boats? (See "How Long Can a Paper Boat Float?" post)

A friend did this test, although she didn’t say what kind of boats or for how long. Our friend found “the one that lasted the longest was made from a wax paper sandwich bag.” Thanks M!

We folded 5 different boats out of various papers and then floated them in plastic bins filled with water. We left the boats in the bins outside for 24 hours.

paper boats

Here are our results:

1. We made a newspaper boat, inspired by the “Curious George” book. How did it do?

paper boats

The newspaper boat was getting soggy after about ten minutes and went down in half an hour.

2. Paper boat number two was a piece of computer/laser printer paper rescued from the trash.

paper boats

How did it do?

paper boats

It actually sunk right before the newspaper boat, although in the past I have had computer paper boats make it over night. Perhaps it was folded more tightly than this one or the paper was a different brand.

3. Number three was a small piece of bubble gum wrapper.

paper boats

It floated 24 hours. Go, gum wrapper, go.

4. The fourth paper boat was a folded piece of yellow legal paper.

paper boats

It was still going strong after 24 hours, although its bottom was a bit soggy.

5. Paper boat number five was also made of yellow legal paper, but it had a fancy wing design.

paper boats

It was also floating after 24 hours.

We didn’t try any coatings or finishes, which would probably have allowed our boats to float even longer.

Edit: See our final results

If you want to be inspired to make a paper boat, try reading:

Curious George Rides a Bike
by H.A. and Margret Rey
In this book, Curious George makes a paper boat regatta. The instructions for folding the boats are included.

The Complete Adventures of Curious George: 70th Anniversary Edition
by Margret and H. A. Rey

The Amazing Book of Paper Boats: 18 Boats to Fold and Float by Jerry Roberts, Melcher Media, Willy Bullock, Melcher Media

For more advanced boat builders (although you wouldn’t want to float them when you are finished). Assembly trick: investigate some of the tape adhesives used for scrapbooking.

Disclosure: The books above were from our local library. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

How Long Can a Paper Boat Float?

Are you ready for another boat building and floating challenge? Let’s see how long you can get a paper boat to float in water before it turns mushy and/or sinks. Although this is called “Bathtub Buoyancy,” I expect you probably would want to carry out the experiment in a bowl of water or other container that could be easily set aside. This might tie up your bathtub for a day or two 🙂

Gather:

  • Variety of paper products, such as oaktag, printer paper, construction paper, even newsprint
  • Test container to hold water, big enough to accommodate your floating boats (Note:  I’m sure you know to always watch small children around water, even little amounts.)
  • Optional:  clock, paper and pencil to record results

Instructions: Build some paper boats of different materials, using roughly similar designs. Set them in water and then watch how long they float. You may want to check back every hour or so for boats that are well crafted, others may go down in minutes. Think of ways to make paper boats that float even longer. Yes, you may coat the boats with paint or other waterproof coatings, but not aluminum foil. Then let me know what you find out from your experiments and once again, I’ll post the results in a week or so.

Actually, making a boat out of paper isn’t as crazy as it sounds. For an absolutely fascinating history of paper boats, check out The American Boats... It's dense reading, but well worth the effort. I'll talk more about it in the upcoming results post. Hope you have fun.

For a more modern take on paper boats, see this giant paper boat made by an artist at the DailyMail. (You might want to check this website for appropriateness before showing children).

Resource:
Example of Paper Boat Folding Instructions

Edit: For results

canoe