Traditional Origami Boat – with instructions

Traditional Boat

“Better drowned than duffers, if not duffers won’t drown.”
― Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons

About the Traditional Boat

This is the fourth origami boat I’ve included on this blog! The others have been the Full-rigged Ship, the Sailboat and the Sampan – two other traditional boat models.

I was inspired to post this after a visit to the Maritime Museum in San Sebastian last week, where they had an exhibition entitled Women and the Sea. One of the exhibits was a diorama made up of several of these origami boats (picture below), each representing a woman that played a key role in maritime history.

boats diarama

This traditional origami boat is one of the most well-known origami models, and one that a lot of people will remember making as a child. It is very simple to make and it will actually float – at least for a few seconds or so before the paper gets wet. Several people have actually taken to the water in one of these large enough to take a human being, as this BBC article shows. I wouldn’t recommend this – at least, not without a lifejacket!

Folding the Traditional Boat

This is easy to make and only takes a couple of minutes. Using a 2:1 rectangle (half a square) will produce a boat with the middle point about the same height as the sides. Any paper will do. I made the one in the picture above using a 7.5cm x 15cm (3.5in x 6in) piece of kami.

If you have time, you could make an origami flotilla. If you happen to have a sheet of the stuff they use to make tetrabrik packs that measures 1884 square feet, you could make yourself a boat that is 30 ft long and sail it up the local river – like the artist Frank Boelter.

Why not try folding a whole flotilla of boats like the ones in the diorama? You could make them several different colours:

Flotilla of traditional boats

Instructions for Folding the Traditional Origami Boat

1. Start with a 2:1 rectangle – cut a square of paper in halfCut a rectangle in half to get a 2:1 rectangle
2. Fold the paper in half from side to side and unfoldFold in half an unfold
3. Fold the paper in half from top to bottomFold paper in half
4. Fold the top two triangles to the centre lineFold two triangles down
5. Fold the bottom edge up. Repeat behindFold Bottom Edge up
6. Open the paper out at the bottom and squash flat as a squareOpen up
7. Fold the bottom point to the top. Repeat behindFold bottom point up
8. Open the paper up to form a square, like you did beforeOpen out to a square
9. Pull the two points apart at the top and allow the sides to fold up to make the sides of the boat. Be careful not to rip the paper.Open up the points at the top
10. The completed boatThe completed Boat

Get Involved

I’d love to hear your views on this traditional origami boat. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below, or you find can me on Instagram or Twitter. Check out my Pinterest boards too!

If you enjoyed this post, here are some more to check out:

About the Author


Russell has been folding origami since he was 8 years old and has recently written the book, Origami Made Simple. He is on the Council for the British Origami Society and a member of OrigamiUSA. When he is not folding, he enjoys photography and traveling.

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