March 11, 2021

Canvas Sailor’s Bucket

We will be continuing our canvas projects today by showing you a step by step tutorial for building your own canvas sailor's bucket.

Written by Kirk Cusic, Education Director

Hi everyone! Today's At Home project is going to bring together many of the skills we have discussed in previous posts. We will be continuing our canvas projects today by showing you a step by step tutorial for building your own canvas sailor's bucket.  This is another project inspired by "The Arts of the Sailor" written by Hervey Garret Smith. In the book he details the design and building of a canvas bucket and discusses its superiority to any other type of bucket that could be used on board a vessel. A proper sailor's bucket fit for any vessel is how he describes today's project!


  • - Duck canvas, no lighter than #12 (I used #8)
  • - 1 square yard will make 2 buckets
  • - Waxed sail thread and sewing needle.
  • - Sail Palm (I only needed it a few times)
  • - About 20' of 1/2 inch, 3 strand line
  • - Short length of light 3 strand line for eyelet grommets
  • - 3/4 inch brass round thimble.

Instructions for a bucket approximately 12"x 9 1/2":

click each image to view larger

Step 1: Cut out the bottom of the bucket in 1/2 inch red or white cedar 9 1/2 inches in diameter. give the bottom 3 coats of varnish or white paint.

Step 2: Cut out a rectangular piece of canvas 15"x  31"

Step 3: Use the wooden bottom as a guide, pace the canvas about it and mark it for a flat seem 1 - 1 1/4 inch with the raw edges turned under by a 1/4 inch.

Step 4: Put the bottom aside and sew up the flat seam using a doubled length of waxed sail thread keeping the stitches close, about 5 to the inch.

Step 5: The top edge of the bucket will need to be stiffened to help it stand up. This is traditionally accomplished by enclosing a mast hoop of the appropriate size in the top seam. If you are unable to source a 9" diameter mast hoop you can make your own hoop by steaming and bending a piece of ash or white oak.  Hervey Garret Smith suggests using a piece 3/8" x 3/4" and riveting the scarphed ends together to form a hoop or in a pinch you can also use a grommet as well, as depicted. Instructions for making grommets were previously discussed here.

Step 6: Place your hoop or grommet at the top of the bucket and turn your canvas down over it to create a 1 1/2 inch seam and secure it with a flat stitch.

Step 7: Once the top seam is finished turn your bucket inside out to place the overlapping seam on the inside of the bucket. 

Step 8: Make a 9 1/2 inch grommet for the bottom of the bucket. Drop the wooden bottom inside the bucket, turn the bottom raw edge under by a 1/4 inch and secure the grommet to the bottom of the bucket using a roping stitch. 

Step 9: Make 2 small grommets about an inch in diameter to take the bail. 

Step 10: Attach them on opposite sides of the bucket under the wooden hoop or grommet using the hitched eyelet techniquepreviously described here).

Step 11: Seat the wooden bottom on the grommet and tack it to the canvas using 1/2 inch copper tacks about every 1/2 inch. 

Step 12: For the bail (or becket) middle a length of line around a 3/4 inch round brass thimble and clap on a round seizing (previously described here) to hold it in place.

Step 13: Attach the ends of the bail with eye splices (previously described here) through the hitched eyelets in the top edge of the bucket.   

Step 14: Attach a heaving line through the brass thimble with another eye splice and finish the end with a wall and crown, manrope or other knob knot.  I used about 8 feet of line which was about 6 feet long once I spliced it and added the knob knot at the end. Make your heaving line long enough to reach the water from the deck of your vessel.

Your Canvas Sailor's Bucket is now complete!

Our Director of Education Kirk Cusic reports: "I tend to agree with Hervey, it is far superior to any commercially available bucket. I can't wait to see it after it has been used a few times as it ages and gathers experience. If you make one for yourself, please remember to post it to our social media. We always love to see your At Home Projects. "

As with all our At Home Activities we would love to hear what you thought of this project! Share your photos with us by emailing us at [email protected], posting on our Facebook page or tagging us on Instagram @herreshoff #HerreshoffFromHome.

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