Man Builds and Burns Cardboard Viking Ship as Rite of Passage

Art & Sculpture Craft & Design Paper Crafts
Man Builds and Burns Cardboard Viking Ship as Rite of Passage

Kyle Scheele wanted to do something special to mark his 30th birthday and the rite of passage from his twenties into his thirties. Where others might have, say, had a special cake made, or toasted the transition with a small group of family and friends, or something else meaningful, but modest, Kyle doesn’t like to think small. He wanted to do something truly significant, dramatic, and special. So, he decided to build a life-size Viking ship out of cardboard and hold a fiery viking funeral to mark the blessed occasion.

After talking to his wife about his crazy idea and deciding to go through with it, Kyle began to spec out his design by building a small model. In a blog post about the build, he explains:

I got to work building a maquette (basically a smaller scale model of a sculpture to help you work out proportions and all that). I knew I wanted to make the ship 8 feet tall (because that’s the size of the cardboard sheets I’d be using to build it, and I wanted to make it as big as I could without splicing sheets together for height), but I didn’t know how long it would need to be. Originally I was hoping that 12 feet would be long enough, but an 8′ x 12′ ship just didn’t look right. Ryan agreed, saying it looked “like a viking paddleboat”.

I showed my wife, and she reluctantly agreed that the ship didn’t look long enough. I told her “This way it would be 12′. I think it needs to be at least 14′, maybe 16′.” She said “Try to keep it at 14′ if you can, since you’re building this in our garage.”

So naturally, it ended up being 16′ long. Above is the final maquette that I made (that little dude represents a 6′ tall person).

firstcut_1024x1024The prow of the ship, the first piece Kyle cut out.

This picture sums up how I felt once I stood that thing up for the first time. It really hit me: “Oh man, this thing is gonna be huge.”

alltogetheroutside_1024x1024The full-size, roughed-out ship with the scales starting to go on. Kyle quickly realized he was going to need A LOT of scales, so rather than hand-cutting them, he borrowed a friend’s band saw, cut strips of card, and then used a scroll saw to cut in the scale pattern.


Kyle’s friends at Locke and Stache, a Springfield, MO marketing firm, put together this little documentary about the ship build and the resulting birthday party/viking funeral.

YouTube player

Kyle was so inspired by this whole experience that he decided to launch a project, called Never Grow Up, to help spread the messages of creativity, whimsy, wonder, and joy. The project sports such great mottoes as: “Artisanal Nonsense” and “Growing old is inevitable. Growing up doesn’t have to be.” You can visit the Never Grow Up site here.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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