How to build a D.I.Y. pirate ship sandpit

kirsty cash
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How to build a D.I.Y. pirate ship sandpit

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Project Overview

The kids will love digging for treasure and hoisting the mainsail in their own D.I.Y. pirate ship sandpit in your backyard. It’s easy to make and will have the kids out of the house, having fun and using their imagination all year round. Continue to step-by-step instructions
steel wool
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How to fix a loose screw

If you’ve got a screw that has come loose in wood and it won’t grip, then wrap it in steel wool before you screw it back in. The steel wool will help the screw grip and also fill the extra space in the hole.

Step by Step Instructions

1 Cut the timber to size
2 Make the basic boat shape
3 Build the front
4 Build the back
5 Build the next levels
6 Measure and cut for the decking
7 Lay the decking
8 Add some pirate touches
9 Add the sand
10 Time to walk the plank
  • Step 1. Cut the timber to size

    To make this project easier, you can have your timber pre-cut to size at your local Bunnings. Here’s our cut list: Cut the 200mm x 50mm treated pine sleepers to the following lengths: 1800mm x 2 (for the long sides) 1200mm x 3 (for the stern) 1100mm x 2 (for the sandpit end boards) 600mm x 6 (for the poop deck walls) 350mm x 3 (poop deck joists) 800mm x 2 (for the bow) 845mm x 2 (for the bow) 720mm x 1 (for the bow floor sub-frame) 785mm x 1 (for the bow floor sub-frame 500mm x 3 (1 for the bowsprit and 2 for the bow top board) 300mm x 2 (for the steering wheel mount and telescope mount) 160mm x 2 (for the short bow/side bits) Cut the 140mm x 19mm merbau decking boards to the following lengths: 1950mm x 1 (with a square finish for the bow) 1650mm x 1 (with both ends mitred for the bow) 760mm x 1 (with both ends mitred for the bow) 465mm x 1 (with both ends mitred for the bow) 1100mm x 4 (lengths for the poop deck)
  • Step 2. Make the basic boat shape

    To make the basic shape of the pirate ship, lay down the 2 x 1800mm lengths for the sides. These are joined by a plank 1200mm long at the back. Inside the 1800mm lengths and flush with the open ends at the front, bolt an 1100mm length across.
  • Step 3. Build the front

    To make the front of the ship, called the bow, cut a 22.5-degree angle at one end of all six bow lengths and the two short 160mm bow side bits. The 840mm and the 800mm lengths are the double-storied outside lengths and the 785mm and 720mm are the inside lengths that the bow floor will eventually be fitted to. Bolt the bottom storey of the bow together with bugle screws. A good tip is to countersink all of the screws on this project so that kids won’t scratch themselves.
  • Step 4. Build the back

    To build the back of the ship, called the stern, start by bolting 2 x 350mm joists into position with bugle screws. Then bolt an 1100mm length to the front of these to create a rectangle. This is the rear board of the sandpit. Now bolt the remaining 350mm joist in position in the centre of the 1100mm and through the back of the stern.
  • Step 5. Build the next levels

    With the basic frame built, it’s time to add the second storey to the bow and the second and third storeys to the stern using the remaining 600mm and 1200mm lengths. When attaching the wood to the timber below, drill the batten screws in on an angle to make it secure.
  • Step 6. Measure and cut for the decking

    With the boat frame built, it’s time to measure the bow area and poop deck for the decking. Transfer these measurements onto the decking timber and cut to size. All but one length of the decking for the bow will need mitre cuts.
  • Step 7. Lay the decking

    Lay the decking in place, and then pre-drill the holes with the countersink drill bit. This will give you a smooth finish as the screws will sit within the timber. Screw all of the decking boards down.
  • Step 8. Add some pirate touches

    Now it’s time to give the boat a pirate feel. For the wheel, take the 300mm length of timber and cut the corners off one of the ends. Bolt this to the inside of the deck wall and fix the steering wheel to it. Bolt a 500mm length to the front at right angles, to make a mount for the telescope and screw the scope in position. Again, cut off the sharp corners. Lastly bolt the 500mm length to the centre of the front and cut off all the corners. You should also cut a 90mm circular hole for the bamboo foremast.
  • Step 9. Add the sand

    Line the bottom of the sandpit with plastic to stop weeds growing through. Pour the bags of sand into the sandpit.
  • Step 10. Time to walk the plank

    With the pirate boat sandpit built, it’s time to get the kids outside and have some fun. They’ll soon be using their imagination and sailing the seven seas.

Tools and Materials


  • 90mm hole cutter
  • Compound mitre saw
  • Cordless screwdriver
  • 2mm pilot twist bit
  • Bugle bolt bit
  • Countersink bit
  • Dust mask
  • Earmuffs
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Power sander
  • Safety glasses
  • Sanding block and/or float
  • T-square
  • Work gloves


  • 140mm x 19mm Merbau decking boards x 10
  • 200mm x 50mm x 2.4m treated pine sleepers x 12
  • 100mm bugle screws
  • 20kg washed sand x 10 bags
  • Bamboo mast
  • Pirates steering wheel and telescope
  • 120 grit sandpaper
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