In honour of our feature exhibition Steaming Ahead: SS Master and the Tug that Built the Coast, let’s build a miniature SS Master tugboat. The best part about this boat? It actually moves!


  • 1 rectangular plastic tub (like a margarine Tupperware container)
  • 1 round plastic tub (like a yogurt container)
  • green, red, black, white and brown paints (acrylic works best, but any will do)
  • 1 elastic band
  • 1 square of plastic (cut from another plastic container or container lid)
  • 2 Popsicle sticks
  • duct tape or masking tape
  • scissors
  • 1 sheet of construction paper
Art supplies on a table.
Plastic tub with Popsicle sticks taped to it.

Step 1

Use your tape to attach one Popsicle stick to either side of your rectangular plastic tub. These Popsicle sticks will be used to make the tugboat’s propeller, which will make it move!

Two plastic tubs taped together.

Step 2

Now it’s time to put the pieces together. With your tape, attach the circular tub to the top of the rectangular tub. The rectangular tub is the hull and main deck. The circular tub forms the bridge or wheelhouse.

Craft project stages.

Step 3

We can’t forget about the Master’s signature funnel! Use your scissors to cut a piece of construction paper to the height you want your funnel to be. Roll the paper up into a tight roll and glue or tape the ends together to make a long, thin funnel. Attach it to the back of your boat, behind the circular tub.

Plastic tubs painted.

Step 4

Now it’s time to paint the plastic tubs and the funnel to make them look like SS Master. The Master’s main colours are dark green, red, and white, so we painted our rectangular tub green and red and our circular tub white. For the funnel, we used the Master’s tri-coloured red, white, and black. Allow your base layer of paint to dry.

Plastic tubs with doors painted on.

Step 5

Once the base layer of paint has dried, you can add extra decoration. We painted the Master’s brown doors along the sides of circular tub, and added smaller details like the white line between the Master’s green and red hull. Don’t forget the black diamonds on the funnel!

Scissors and a cut piece of plastic.

Step 6

Once the boat is dry, it’s time to add the propeller. The Master used a steam engine to operate, but it also has a propeller attached to the aft  (back) of the boat. Use your scissors to cut two slits halfway into your square piece of plastic.

Plastic tub with elastic bands on popsicle sticks

Step 7

Carefully stretch your elastic band over the two popsicle sticks attached to the Master’s hull. Thread the plastic square through the elastic band like in the photo above..

Plastic boat floating in a sink.

Step 8 

To use your tugboat, wind up the propeller by twisting the elastic band. Place your tugboat in some water, release the propeller and watch it go!