In 1920’s, these were a big hit. They were originally called “Putt Putt Steam Boats”, and were fascinating toys for adults and kids alike. We’ll be making our own version that will chug along for hours. This is a classic demonstration for learning about heat, energy, and how to get your kids to take a bath.

Here’s what you need to build your own:
Please login or register to read the rest of this content.


12 Responses to “Steamboats”
  1. Aurora says:

    I think it was 3/8″ ID.

  2. jamallwh says:

    What is the diameter of the tubing in the video?

  3. Nora Taylor says:

    I made my first set of coils using 1/4 inch copper tubing. It did not work because the tubing was too thick and acted as a heat sink. This would not let the water boil and thus preventing the boat to make steam. Then I made a second coil, out of 3/16 inch steel tubing. This worked much better and the boat worked well. P.S. the 3/16 steel tubing was much easier to bend.

  4. Aurora says:

    Why not? Let me know how it goes!

  5. Lydia Fancher says:

    can I squish the part that blows out the gas to make it faster?

  6. Aurora says:

    Thanks for the tip! We originally had a 25 foot piece, and made a handful of these, but I didn’t think bending the pipe would be so challenging. I’ll let you know if my team has any more suggestions for those of you who are still working on this one.

  7. Amy Priebe says:

    I am also stuggling with bending the copper. My dad has a tubing bender, so I went to use it. But, coiling it was still difficult with his model. I wish I would have bought longer tubing. I am on my third piece. My first was too thick (said it was 1/4 but seemed more like 3/8) to bend well at all. My second and third were bought at the same time–I had the guy cut them to length for me because I don’t have that small of a pipe cutter at home. So, these were thinner than the first. I got the second one coiled and air/water still passed through but the legs of the unit weren’t long enough. By the time it was all set up, it was impossible to get the candle under the copper. So, I went to my dad’s for the third one. I don’t think it will work any better. I just logged on to see if I was the only one having difficulty with this. My rec. is for people to buy longer lengths so the coil doesn’t have to be so tight.

  8. Rachel Moser says:

    this reminds me of the putput boat on

  9. Aurora says:

    If you have the time, go get a tubing bender in the morning before the kids get there – it’s one of those tools that really does the trick nicely. Here are a few different models that are available at any discount auto parts store:

    Tubing Bender #1
    Tubing Bender #2
    Tubing Bender #3

  10. says:

    We’re using a round dowel that’s larger than a marker size. We did finally get one to coil but there are slight kinks and the whole things is sort of flattened. The water does flow thru but I don’t think it’s as good as it should be. I have 8 kids coming in the morning to do this with me but I’m going to have to make the coils ahead of time since they won’t be able to do it. Would heating or cooling the copper make it stiffer and hold its shape better?

  11. Aurora says:

    You can use a larger pen to make the loops – the loop size doesn’t matter that much if you have a large enough flame heating the pipes. Can you make a larger coil without kinking?

  12. says:

    HELP!!! I can’t wrap my tubing without it kinking. Is there different grades of softness for the copper? This seems just way too soft. We bought the 1/4″ because I couldn’t find 1/8″ but I think the smaller size would work better. There’s no way my kids can do this. Even my husband couldn’t get it while going very slowly.

Have a question?

Tell us what you're thinking...

You must be logged in to post a comment.