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 tape.
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.
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!
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