Building a raft – Practical instructions for an exciting DIY project with your children

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Floating on the water in the summer months is bliss, especially if you want to build a raft yourself. You can drift and leave the worries of life behind for a while. Take advantage of the opportunity to keep your children busy with adventurous activities during the warm days. Thor Heyerdahl did it when he built Kon Tiki, and Huck Finn did it when he floated down the Mississippi with Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This guide is for anyone looking to create their own summer adventure.

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So much of our daily life has no tangible end product. Watching an episode of Game of Thrones can be a fun way to pass the time. However, if you were to build a raft, on the other hand, it could lead to both a sense of achievement and a lot of laughter and good vibes. And there’s always an opportunity to practice swimming once you’re in the water. As strange as it may sound, it’s hard not to envy Tom Hanks as an islander while he had to build a raft in the Castaway movie. Perhaps not his exact situation, but the experience on the open sea.

Building your own raft – a real challenge

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Building a functioning, floating raft requires both rudimentary skills and lateral thinking. If you want to build a raft in your yard, it will not only revive your children, but also test your much-touted DIY skills in a physical and mental training session.

The challenge is to construct a waterproof raft using only basic needs and your initiative. While this is worthwhile on its own, it is better to plan the project well in advance with family or friends first. Regardless of whether you build a small raft, or prefer a larger model with barrels or barrels, you can use simple materials like nails to finally tie everything together with a rope. Indeed, if you scour YouTube you can find both one online American 10-minute building instructions as well as a Time lapse video from Great Britain showing the formation of a team for an annual raft trip. The materials shouldn’t cost too much and you only need simple tools to build.

The platform

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The raft can consist of three main parts: the platform, the pipes (or barrels made of plastic) and the deck, which is also known as the “house”. In addition, there are various accessories that are necessary for a fun, safe and successful raft trip. Building a floating structure requires space and some instruments.

Assemble the top layer of the platform

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The first thing you need to do is lay out the main part of the raft. You can use a sheet of plywood for this, which you will work on first. This is the heaviest part of the raft and needs to be really stable to withstand the weight of a few people plus luggage while riding waves or currents. You can start with two layers of bolted panels of plywood. You can lay out the bottom layer lengthways with most boards and use it to join the top layer together horizontally. This cross-directional fit creates greater stability, but you can use longer screws to secure the two layers together. This basically means the platform won’t fall apart when you first load the raft. This means that you can save yourself any repairs at a later date.

Attach support struts to the underside of the platform

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First you attach ten 2 x 4 cm thick wooden slats, which you should not attach to the broad side, but drill through the narrow edge and screw in again with long screws across the width of the platform.

Then it’s time to attach the guide rails to the bottom. One problem that can arise is that the pipes are pushed to the side of the raft by the water flowing underneath. This can lead to instability in the middle and pulling on the platform. To prevent this from happening, you can create guide rails on the underside of the main part where you screw the boards along the length of the raft to a second rail about 50 cm away from it. The pipes, respectively the barrels or barrels, would sit in this area, while the rails will also give you much better attachment points for the straps. You may be surprised at how well this system can actually work.

Securing the engine

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Of course, if you build a simple and small raft, you can paddle around in the water. However, the larger version will likely require a more powerful machine that can take you to the destinations you want on longer raft trips. You will need to reinforce the back of the raft in this case, as this would support the weight and power of the outboard motor. A 10 x 10 cm wooden slat can be attached to the top of the platform. You will clamp the motor onto it. Under the platform, reinforce the area with a few sturdy pieces of wood and some very long screws.

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Round off the top with a set of 2 x 4 cm wide slats. You can screw these flat around the edge of the platform and accordingly ensure additional reinforcement for fastening the cleats. This is important if you want to take your raft up somewhere and want to keep your belongings on board. So you have more or less completed the platform.

Keep the raft on the surface

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If you want to build a raft, you need something that will keep it above the water. A common option is to use sealed barrels or barrels made of plastic. For a professional version, you can buy two new or used rubber hoses. When these are new, each pipe can hold 1.8 tons before being completely submerged. This means that although the tubes are a few years old, they can provide more than enough buoyancy for your purposes.

Inflating the rubber hoses

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The tubes usually have three internal chambers that can be inflated separately. This means that if a puncture occurs, the whole thing won’t collapse immediately. Allegedly Titanic was based on a similar principle and we all know what happened to it, so the decision is yours to make. If you de-embroider the tubes they can be bagged for shipping, although they will still be heavy. Thus the tubes are unfolded and ready for storage.

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You can fasten each tube with tension belts by guiding the belts in different directions in order to pull the tubes straight forwards and backwards instead of upwards. This gives you a much better hold and fixes the pipes in a more stable way.

Build the canopy of the raft

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The main purpose of this element is to serve as protection from the sun or rain. With small tweaks, you can create a porch on the raft to make the most of the trip. Perhaps this won’t stop a storm, but if it doesn’t happen too often, such an additional construction can be of use. This structure is essentially the frame of the five sides of a cube that you can attach to the base with metal brackets and diagonal braces. In addition, you can add more struts on the back, which will significantly improve the stability of the construction as a whole. The sides can be made from chipboard. You can cut these in half the length and screw them to the diagonal struts to prevent your things from falling overboard. The whole thing can be provided with side walls and compartments.

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You can cover the roof with a normal tarpaulin that you attach to the frame. In this example, around half of the raft has been converted into a rolling parasol with two additional pieces of wood and some straps, which covers most of the raft if necessary. This also allows you to fully extend the roof.

Useful tips when building a raft

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If you want to build a weatherproof raft, we recommend that you have a low, sloping roof and an option to allow it to be covered. However, you also need to keep in mind that the operator needs a clear 360 ° view at all times, not to mention access to the engine on the back of the raft.

Note on raft trips

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In some of the main rivers in Europe, an idyllic raft trip is not possible. Due to the heavy river traffic with huge cargo ships, cruise ships and many small motor boats, it is necessary to equip all ships larger than a canoe with a motor. On parts of the Danube towards Vienna, the number of boats can decrease and you can spend a long time in wonderful silence. If you want to go on a non-motorized raft adventure then you have to do it on a much smaller, calmer river. In Germany there are enough travel offers for this, for example even possible as a team building or company outing.

Luggage storage

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Another thing that you will likely realize very quickly is the limited luggage space on the platform. The more passengers there are, the less space there is for personal items on the raft. In addition to large and small rucksacks and bags for valuables, you can also bring cooking and camping equipment, as well as food and water for some people. On long raft trips there are a number of items that you must have on board, such as life jackets, fire extinguishers, life preserver, first aid kit, ropes, paddles, etc. When you cross the border, the authorities in each country will check that you have them Have the necessary equipment and papers with you for the trip.

It’s surprising how quickly all of these utensils can get mixed up in spite of your best efforts to keep everything in order. For this reason, you can read a few more tips in the next few lines.

  • Bring boxes – all cooking utensils and groceries can be stored in a large plastic box with a lid. We also recommend that you take two other hinged boxes with you for general equipment that needs to stay dry. As an alternative, you can use a chipboard to create compartments in which you can store tents, small bags and other items.
  • A good idea in this case would also be a storage net that you can hang from the roof and store small items such as sunglasses, sunscreen, cameras, towels, etc. for quick access.
  • Hooks and Clothesline – From hanging laundry to securing the shower curtain, you can use straps and hooks to help.

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If you want to build a raft like this, it can be a difficult task. So we hope you found some useful information on how to do this in this guide. Plan your next trip on a homemade raft for an unforgettable summer vacation.