How to Construct a Hot Air Balloon

Three Methods:With Tissue PaperWith a Garbage Bag and Hair DryerWith a Garbage Bag and Fire Starters

While making a hot air balloon that can hold 18 people probably isn't realistic to complete in your garage, that doesn't mean you can't create a smaller one to experiment with and watch fly. With some basic household materials, you can spend the afternoon with your eyes on the skies.

Method 1
With Tissue Paper

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    Gather your materials. You'll need a large space to work in, so clear a decent-sized area--you'll be working with panels that are 5 feet (1.5 m) long. You'll need:
    • Tissue paper (24" by 30" (61 cm by 76 cm)
    • Cutting pattern (available at Web Weather for Kids[1])
    • Scissors
    • Straight pins
    • Rubber cement or glue sticks
    • Pipe cleaners
    • Propane stove or other high-heat apparatus
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    Overlap two pieces of tissue paper. This will make one 5 foot (1.5 m) long panel (1.5 m). Use your glue stick or rubber cement to keep the two pieces together. Make sure it's secure! If air escapes, the balloon won't fly.
    • Do this for seven more panels, for a total of 8 5-foot long panels.
    • Plan out the order of the colors for the look of your balloon, but don't glue them together just yet.
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    Place the long panels in a stack and cut out according to your pattern. Make sure they are straight, so each panel is the same as the others.
    • Pin the panels together with your straight pins to ensure the tissue doesn't move as you're cutting. This will help prevent rips and tears, which are detrimental to the success of your balloon.
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    Glue the panels together. Use 1 inch (2.5 cm) of overlap on each panel, gluing on opposite sides as you go. After you glue all the sides together, it should fold out like a fan.
    • After you have formed a line of panels, glue the first and last panel together with their open sides. This will form a ring. Make sure glue is placed up and down the entire line of each panel.
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    Cut a circle of tissue to cover the top opening. It's easiest to do this with the balloon flat. Glue it over the top hole in the balloon.
    • It's much better to make this circle too big than just barely big enough. Tissue paper is light enough that an extra inch or two won't affect the weight of your balloon and thus its ability to fly.
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    Hold the bottom of the balloon open. You're going to start with your pipe cleaners to give it permanent structure.
    • Form the pipe cleaners into a circle the size of the bottom opening.
    • Position the pipe cleaners on the inside about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the edge.
    • Fold the tissue over the pipe cleaners and glue it into place.
      • If you don't have pipe cleaners, you can use wire. It should be at least 24 inches long (61 cm) and 16 gauge. You will also need wire cutters.
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    Check for holes. If there are any precarious spots, fix them now. Patch them with pieces of tissue paper cut to fit.
    • If you'd like, you can attach a small tag with your name and address now. Tether it to the bottom with fishing line.
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    Hold the bottom of your air balloon over a high-heat source, like an outside burning camp stove. Take a minute to fully allow the hot air balloon to fill with hot air.
    • A couple of hair dryers will also work, among other things.
    • You'll feel it start to resist being held down. When it reaches that point, give it a gentle push and watch it fly.
      • You may find more success in the morning, night, or during winter, depending on your location. Cold weather makes the difference in temperature more stark and thus more effective.

Method 2
With a Garbage Bag and Hair Dryer

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    Get organized. The process will go a lot faster and smoother if you grab everything you need before you get started. Clear the table to get the process rolling. Have the following items handy:
    • Plastic bag ("dry cleaners" bag or 5-gallon trash bag)
    • Paper clips (used for weight)
    • Small pieces of paper or stickers (decorations)
    • String
    • Scissors
    • Hair dryer
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    Decorate the plastic bag. It's best to use small pieces of paper or stickers--anything that's lightweight. Glitter is okay, too, though a bit messy.
    • This part is great for kids. Each child can make their own hot air balloon and design it to uniquely represent them.
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    Tie a string around the top of the plastic bag. It should resemble the bottom of a standard balloon. Once knotted well and tied, cut off any extra string.
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    Add paper clips around the bottom of the bag. This may seem counter-intuitive (you need less weight to fly, right?), but it's good for balance and stability.
    • Don't go overboard. 6 or so per balloon (again, evenly spaced) is a solid number.
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    Hold the plastic bag over the hair dryer. Blast the dryer on high and give it a minute to warm up and fill completely with air.
    • The bag will start to become buoyant. When it begins tugging, release the bag. The hot air inside the balloon is lighter, causing it to float.
    • Give the balloon another blast as it begins to fall.

Method 3
With a Garbage Bag and Fire Starters

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    Assemble your work station. You'll need an open area (with nothing flammable nearby) and your materials:
    • Plastic garbage bag (The cheaper the better--they should be very lightweight. 20 liters is not too big, either.)
    • Fire starters (Original Zip works very well[2])
    • Mechanical wire (around 18 gauge)
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    Cut three pieces of wire. One should be much shorter than the others--about 4 inches long (10 cm). The other two should be 24 inches long (61 cm).
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    Twist the wires together. Using the long wires, form an "X," twisting them around each other like you would a twist tie. 5 or 6 times should do the trick. This structure will keep the bag open as it flies.
    • Twist the short wire around the center of the X. Leave the ends exposed; they'll carry the fire starters. They should be pointing up towards the balloon when you put it in place.
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    Poke the edges of the wire through the bottom of the bag. Bend the end of the wire over to secure. Do this for each side, using the full width of the bag. You should have a loose square shape.
    • Are the ends of your short wire pointing toward the balloon? If not, adjust them now.
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    Attach your fire starters. Most fire starters come in a big block. You may have to experiment a couple times to find what works as one package is far too much. Break off two medium-sized pieces and attach one to each end.
    • If they are too big, the bag will melt. If they are too small, the bag won't fly. A couple inches each (5 cm) in diameter is about right, for a lightweight 20 liter (5.3 US gal) bag.
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    Hold the bag open from the top and light the fire starters. Adjust the bag as necessary to allow the bag to inflate completely. It will start to become buoyant and seem to want to fly. When you being to exert effort to keep it down, give it a gentle push and let it wander into the sky.
    • Be careful! If your fire starters are too big, the bag may melt. Stay alert.
    • For this method, it works best to do it in cold weather. The difference in temperature allows the heat to work more efficiently.

Tips

  • When the balloon is flying, watch to see if it tilts to one side. This can be fixed by putting a very small weight on the other side. Make sure you use something like a paper clip or it will drastically affect the tilt.
  • Tissue paper is good because it is light and will fly easily, but be careful when you're gluing; it rips easily.

Things You'll Need

Tissue Paper Balloon

  • Tissue paper (24" by 30" (61 cm by 76 cm)
  • Cutting pattern
  • Scissors
  • Straight pins
  • Rubber cement or glue sticks
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Propane stove or other high-heat apparatus

Garbage Bag and Hair Dryer Balloon

  • Lightweight garbage bag
  • Stickers or other decorations
  • Paper clips (6 per bag)
  • String
  • Scissors
  • Hair dryer

Garbage Bag and Fire Starters Balloon

  • Lightweight garbage bag
  • Wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Fire starters

Article Info

Categories: Balloon Crafts