Picture of Aluminium Aeroplane

A simple paper aeroplane became the most dangerous Instructable I've published for some time.

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Step 1: Requirements & part 1 of Safety

Picture of Requirements & part 1 of Safety

I made this plane from an aluminium drinks can, using a heavy craft knife, scissors, a piece of scrap timber and a mallet.

There are serious risks during this Make, because the cut edges are very sharp.  You may want to consider wearing gardening gloves to protect your hands, and make sure you know where your first aid kit is, because cuts from jagged metal can bleed quite profusely.

Step 2: Cutting

Picture of Cutting

With the sharp knife (in the UK we'd call it a "Stanley" knife, in the US I think it's a carpet knife), cut the top and bottom off the can, then cut vertically with scissors.

Open out the can and press flat with the scrap timber.

I wanted to make a "standard" aeroplane, so I trimmed the can to the same proportions as A-series paper  - since the metal was 9cm wide, I trimmed it to about 13cm long.

Step 3: Folding

Picture of Folding

I folded the plane in the same manner as making a simple paper dart, but it takes a bit of extra effort to make the important sharp creases.

That is, I laid the scrap timber on the bends and smacked it with a mallet.

As you go through the Make, the bends get harder to do neatly.  This is mainly because you're folding more metal, but also because the aluminium "work hardens".  If you fold and unfold at the same point too often, the metal may split.

A pair of narrow-nosed pliers is useful in folding at the pointed end.

Step 4: Flying and part 2 of Safety

Picture of Flying and part 2 of Safety
The plane does fly, and just as successfully as the same shape of dart made from paper.

However, this thing has a wicked point on it, which does not crumple on impact.

Do not throw it at or near friends, children or pets.  Do not throw it indoors. If somebody throws one towards you, do not try and catch it with bare hands.  It only weighs a few grammes, but look how deeply it embedded itself in the lawn when I threw it down the garden.

But, having said that, it would be cool to take this into an open field to see how far it will really go...
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ToryDidIT4 months ago


ToryDidIT4 months ago

Try this canpeeler

Hey, nice simple instructable. I just posted one similar to this, but I think mine won't be able to work if made out of non-aluminium cans. Here is the link:

And here is the "sequel - sequel" of it:

Appood19882 years ago
Cool, i'm doing a few to my little brother!
Kiteman (author)  Appood19882 years ago
Watch where he throws them!
i have a feeling that at some point, someone will make one of these out of titanium...
Xthinker2 years ago
I just made two, the first, smaller out of a Sierra Mist can, the second out of a Red Bull. They fly just like a paper airplane, but you have to throw them harder. The reason why the tips are broken is because they hit the concrete more than a few tines :)...
Kiteman (author)  Xthinker2 years ago
Cool, thanks for posting those!
DaProject3 years ago
Here you go, my Coca-Cola aeroplane ;)
2012-07-09 11.10.00.jpg
Kiteman (author)  DaProject3 years ago
Oh, that is awesome!

Keep an eye on your PMs over the next 24 hours...
I'll do!
I love how it sticks in the dirt :-)
Kiteman (author)  DaProject3 years ago
Seriously, though, be careful - this is a genuine "it'll put your eye out" toy.
Yes, I keep an eye out for it ;-)

Keep up the good work!
Kiteman (author)  DaProject3 years ago
Thanks - as a thank you for posting the photo, I've sent you a Pro code.
DaProject3 years ago
Nice work, i'm making one today :)
Kiteman (author)  DaProject3 years ago
Cool - post a picture when you do.

(These can also be made from steel drinks cans, possibly with more successful results.)
To anneal the aluminium, rub a piece of it with a bit of soap. Heat in a gas flame until the soap turns black - its now annealed again.

Coolcody83 years ago
Kiteman (author)  Coolcody83 years ago
Thank you!
CamoBedding3 years ago
This is to cool. I am going to go try and make this now.
Kiteman (author)  CamoBedding3 years ago
Post a picture?
xinistrom3 years ago
Great idea! i cut cans open all the time but this never occurred to me xD
Mutantflame3 years ago

But first throw it in a hot fire for a few minutes before throwing if you happen to be aiming at people...
Kiteman (author)  Mutantflame3 years ago
Quick science lesson - aluminium is a very good conductor of heat.

If you want to throw a hot-nosed plane, use a thin sheet of steel.
Hmmm, that didn't come to mind at the time. Probably because the cans from what I drink are already made of steel (and plated with a non corrody metal).

Steel would still burn you too, If you were to throw it with bare hands.
Kiteman (author)  Mutantflame3 years ago
It's a poorer conductor than aluminium - you could heat the nose to red heat, and still be able to hold the tail with your hands, if you're quick.
sunshiine3 years ago
I should have guessed! Very good! How about using silicone to cover the raw edges? Too heavy? Duct tape? Bending the edges over maybe? Liquid rubber? You know the stuff on handles of tools. I don't know what they call it. I wonder if one might do this with tin foil? Fabric? It could work, using interfacing. There are a lot of wonderful fabrics that would look super on a plane!
Kiteman (author)  sunshiine3 years ago

Maybe soak fabric in PVA to make it stiff enough to hold the shape?
Not sure what PVA is but a starch yes. Would it make it too heavy? What about tin foil? Has that been done?
Kiteman (author)  sunshiine3 years ago
PVA is glue - wood glue, craft glue. It's mostly water, and dries to a clear plastic film.
I believe that PVA is known as Elmers glue in the US. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyvinyl_acetate
rimar20003 years ago
Good idea, Kiteman, I will made one of these.
iceng3 years ago
Fun Idea, well executed ( death dart :-)
I was thinking the wing area would probably need to be expanded in proportion
to the weight ratio of the Al / Paper.
Intriguing concept, this one would drive me to try and try and try if I try it ;-D


Kiteman (author)  iceng3 years ago
Darts don't really have "lift" - their wings are more like guidance fins.

If anybody else makes one, I hope they post a picture.
Not necessarily, some darts rely on lift, like the Raven pictured below.
A38-1 Raven.JPG
Kiteman (author)  OrigamiAirEnforcer3 years ago
Show off!
Hopefully someone may try this process out on other models like the Raven and others on here. I'm quite interested in seeing an aluminum paper airplane. I haven't made one myself in about two years.
Just a thought - There's a lot of interest on the RC aircraft forums in Klein-Fogleman aerofoils, especially the KFM2 on smaller models.  In its simplest form the KFM2 is a thicker section of wing for the first 40% of the chord which provides a low-pressure pocket behind the step and therefore, lift.
Quite easy to do on your tin can dart, Kiteman, and quite probably on paper aircraft (with OAE's skills).

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