Just about everybody feels the urge to "take off" once the
weather warms up ... and, even if springtime chores are
keeping you tied to the homestead or back yard, you can
still make an escape (although only for a
little vicarious adventure). Using just a few household
materials, you can put together a simple tissue paper hot air balloon, launch it on free "fuel," and watch your
spirits take flight!
To construct your own miniature dirigible, you'll need
seven sheets of 20" X 30" tissue paper, a six-foot length
of 14-gauge wire (or a couple of scavenged wire coat hangers),
some white glue, a pair of scissors, and a roll of Scotch
A Lot of Hot Air
Once you've put the simple flyer together, you'll need to
create a source of heat to send it aloft. That,
too, is a quick-and-easy process. Collect six
large juice cans (the 46-ounce size works fine)
and cut out both ends from five of them. The sixth can will
serve as the base of the "smokestack," so you should remove
only its top. You should also cut a wedge-shaped opening In
one side of that "bottom" can. (You can
start the hole with a triangle can opener, use a pair
of tinsnips to enlarge it, and bend the sharp edges
inward with pliers.)
Next, make three small holes (evenly spaced) around the top
and bottom of each can, and thread short lengths of wire
through those openings to fasten the cylinders together in
a vertical stack. Finally — to prevent cinders from
flying up into the balloon — wire a section of screen
on top of the burner.
Up! Up! and Away!
When you're ready for your balloon launch, grab a couple of
friends or curious youngsters and a generous supply of old
newspapers ... and head for the nearest open area that's
free of trees, utility wires, rooftops, and winds over 5
MPH. (A large field or a big parking lot should do.)
Using crumpled newspaper, build a slow fire in the bottom
of the burner while two people hold the balloon over the
top of the stack. When the tissue walls begin to feel warm
and the ship starts lifting, let it go and watch your
homemade balloon float lazily skyward! The craft will
probably soar to 200 feet or more, and then in a few
minutes (the duration of the flight will depend on the
outside air temperature) it'll begin to descend. Chase the
"ship" down, and it's ready to launch again.
Although this simple hot air balloon is practically
fail-safe, there's always a slight danger that the craft
will catch fire. If the tissue does burst into flame while
the hot air is filling it, don't try to put out the
blaze! Remember, the toy cost only about
50¢ to make! Simply let it float upward to be quickly
consumed by the flames.
After all, you can easily build a replacement in no time.
In fact, "backyard" hot air ballooning is one of the
quickest — and least expensive — cures
for spring fever that I know!