How to Build a Ship in a Bottle

USS Constitution ship in a bottleUSS Constitution ship in a bottle

 Building a ship in a bottle might seem impossible. The novelties are actually considered impossible bottles, a kind of mechanical puzzle. In addition to ships, you will find decks of playing cards, fruits and vegetables, pine cones and coins inside of bottles, even though the items are too large to fit through the bottle’s mouth or neck.  Here’s how these seemingly impossible feats are accomplished.


For fruits and vegetables, the “magic” begins when the plant blossoms or when the fruit is very young. The blossoms or tiny fruits are placed inside of the bottles, which are then secured to the plant in some way. Sometimes, all that is necessary is to sit the bottle on the ground and insert the plant’s hanging branch. While they do make interesting conversation pieces for a short while, there is a drawback.

You cannot remove the fruit to eat it. It will eventually rot inside of the bottle.
The pine cone is a long-lasting plant choice. You can even do this one at home if you have access to a pine tree. You simply choose a bottle with a mouth large enough to accommodate a young pine cone that is still closed up.

You slip the young cone in the mouth of the bottle and wait. As it dries out, the cone will open and become too large to pass through the neck. Dried pine cones can be displayed indefinitely in this way. Bottles containing pennies and other coins are mass produced as souvenirs. You see them at touristy gift shops. There is no real trick to the design. All that is required is a glassblowing technique that is relatively well known.

The coin is placed inside of the glass while it is still soft enough for the neck and opening to be shaped in a way that makes the arrangement seem “impossible”. Other items can be placed inside of bottles in this way but if they are not made of metal, the item must be protected from scorching. The glass is very hot.

 Ship in a Bottle Construction Technique

Hms Surprise ship in a bottleHms Surprise ship in a bottle
Flying Cloud ship in a bottleFlying Cloud ship in a bottle

Constructed in one of two ways. The easiest ones to build have a hull that is small enough to fit through the bottle’s mouth and neck. The masts, sails and spars are attached to the hull with strings and hinges.


Once the hull is inside of the ship, the tall parts are pulled up using the strings and the design is done. Of course, the design still requires a A steady hand and can be a bit tedious. Bottles with slight distortions or a light tint are often chosen to help hide the hinges and other details that would give the secret away.


Some hobbyists actually construct the ship in a bottle. There are special long tools that can be used to accomplish this feat. All of the parts must be small enough to fit inside the mouth. The long tools are to attach the different parts. One hand is used to keep the bottle steady while the other is used to work the tool and attach the parts.  


Both kinds of kits are available. The second type is considered the most difficult. The tools are sold separately. So, this is also a more expensive hobby. But when completed, they are very interesting display pieces. They work well with any nautical decorating theme.

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