Picture of Candle Powered Hot Air Balloon
Build a candle powered hot air balloon using painter's plastic, balsa wood, and birthday candles.

Step 1:

Picture of
Cut the plastic and heat-seal the edges.

Layout your materials on a large sheet cardboard.

Pull out approximately 6 feet of the painter's plastic and cut it forming a sheet 9 x 6 ft. It's important to have plastic that is 1/2 mil (12 microns) or thinner. Thicker plastic is too heavy to fly.

Fold the sheet in half along the 9 ft side forming a two-ply sheet 4.5 x 6 ft. Use a hot knife to seal the two 4.5 ft edges. An electric hot knife makes this really easy, but it can also be done with an old metal knife heated over a flame.

Check your edges and correct any large holes. A few small holes won't cause problems.
milesnorth8 months ago

I found a "xmas tree bag" and its got me thinking :-) Extra big, white, and infinitely inflatable :-) I can see myself out in sub zero temperatures making a hot air balloon already! Fun Fun Fun!

milesnorth8 months ago


imrational3 years ago
I use to make these out of tissue paper and balsa (with an aluminum foil cup to hold the fuel) when doing science lessons for elementary school kids. For the fuel, I'd recommend melting some vaseline and soaking a cottonball in it. Then put the cottonball in your fuel chamber/gondola. Inflate the balloon with a hair dryer and then light your cotton ball.
ali reza3 years ago
I'm a High school student .I'm work About the physics of Paper (lanterns)hot air balloon
Please Help me for physics and make a Paper hot air balloon.
Especially About (physics of) Form this Paper hot air balloon.

Oh, you can calculate the difference directly by PVM/R(1/T1-1/T2)=m1-m2
Hi! If you google Ideal gas law. That will tell you that PV=nRT. Where P is pressure, V is volume, n is number of moles, R is the gas constant and T is the temperature. All units in the SI-system. You can rewrite it to PV=m/M*RT. Where m is mass and M is the mole mass. Calculate how much a given volume weighs at the ambient condition. Normal values for P is 1.013 KPa and R=8.314 J/(K*mol). Next, estimate how hot the air can be (this could be quite tricky) and then calculate the weight of that air. The difference in mass should tell you how much lift there is
Dr.Bill3 years ago
We did this in 6th grade some 40 years ago. We used crossed kite sticks, Sterno in tinfoil cups one cup for each stick, and a black plastic garbage bag.
We flew it on an almost windless day. It went up and drifted away.
I am glad it didn't start a fire in the woods.
To make this, do you have to use painters plastic ? Can't it be anything else other than painters plastic ? Can someone answer before Friday 16th, i need this for my science Project ! Tnx :D
How easy would it be to make a longer tube and power it with a Sterno can? I'm looking to build a hot-air airship for a steampunk design.
modded dollar store lighters would work i think. take off the metal cover and set the flame real high. tape it to the frame, tape the button down, then light it with another lighter. light fuel source and would go for a while. not very wind resistant tho, and probably a fire hazard......
yea it is a fire hazard cause if the flame is BIG and it burns for a while the valve starts to melt then it kinda just explodes.... its actually pretty cool to watch
njoneer5 years ago
A common dry-cleaning bag also works. It would let you skip this step.
yea my step mom is the manager of a dry cleaners so i can get thoes bags... but the problem is sealing the hole in the top of thoes bags because of where the hanger hook goes.
sbridges14 years ago
Hey thanks for the advise guys!! I wanted to do thease at my guide camp but i think we will but we'll teather them to the ground - on a long bit of string so we dont burn the site down!!

Also we'll do them on a 'small' scale with swing bin liners.

palog6 years ago
wouldn't birthday candles just melt really fast
thats the point. they burn fast. if you usedd a slower burning candel, it wouldnt generate enough heat to keep its own weight in the air
you could possibly use some jellied alcohol fuel like William Gurstelle suggests in Backyard Ballistics (only the best book ever)
ilpug4 years ago
would it be possible to put a bit of aluminum foil between or around the balsa wood and the candles to prevent the candles from burning the wood? or would that be too heavy?
hogey744 years ago
In Australia we call these UFOs and make em out of big garbage bags. I hear what people are saying about the fire risk so common sense is obviously needed. The answer is to only release em just after rain when the whole landscape is wet. Maybe not upwind of an oil refinery though. Some would say never do it but I say: let those UFOs fly!
wbsbadboy5 years ago
A word to the wise here. I think it was around 1989 when a close friend was launching these about once a week or so just to hear the reaction on his police scanner. Well one night he launched one and it started a fire on a wood shake shingle roof about a mile away. He had no idea that this had happened as he didn't listen to the fire department frequencies. Just the police. Two more launches and they had his general area down to a three block radius. Two weeks later he was arrested and charged with Arson. He was sentenced to 4 years in prison. Police said that he was lucky that no one was killed or injured. If someone would have been killed he would have faced premeditated murder charges. If injured he would have faced attempted murder charges. Please do not launch these things as "UFOs". Keep them teathered or inside. Here in California it is illegal to release anything that is burning that is not short lived (like a bottle rocket or fireworks that leave the ground). These balloons are easily carried miles away still burning. If you are caught you could face up to a year in jail, and/or fines up to 5,000.00 for the first offence. Be Safe, Be Sure, and Be Happy Best, Smitty
How did your friend get 4 years in prison when towards the end, you said you could face up to 1 year in prison?

He was convicted of arson. Just getting cought doing this without burning something down can get you a year
haha wow thanks for the info
nerfer1924 years ago
we built these in my science club with trash bags, wire, and alcohol soaked cotton balls
Anyone Remer the a-team Episode where Murdock and Hannibal used TARASSH BAGS, hair dryers, and lawnchairs to escape from prison.. Id liek to see someone do somethign similar :D
flamesami4 years ago
hmm...maybe you could make a "kid-safe", indoor version....
If you substituted the candles for a VERY small weight, and used a non-attached hair-dryer as a heat source, you could have several on the go at once, with no fire hazard...not as fun without fire though...
zilcho4 years ago
This could be an awesome windless kite
Can't you just suspend the candles with steel wire? Then suspend cardboard under the candles so that you won't need a large piece of cardboard lying around on the floor of your warehouse.
how i can attach candel to that........
Uh, it's wire, you can bend it everywhere. You can make a basket out of it or whatnot.
If you didn't want to worry about it floating away, you could probably tie some fishing line on it.
I recently got inrested in rigid zepplins, and wanted to build an RC non-rigid blimp< however, found myself lacking any helium. I figured i coul make a mini hot air balloon and put RC fans on it... i would have a flap controled by a servo to redirect heat from the flame to lift of lower the balloon...
So will one big candle jack up the ba
others may not have gotten this but I did good sir! +10 Internets for you!
hammertong5 years ago
I actually spotted and shot down (with a bb gun) one of these. Me & my brother thought we were crazy because we saw a fire just floating in the sky as the balloon slowly made its way towards us. Finally it got close enough to tell what it was, and to keep it from lighting anyone's house on fire we shot enough holes in it to bring it safely to the ground.
tech535 years ago
How about using chemical hand warmers in an aluminum pie tin or something? That should provide sufficient heat, and if you don't want to wait on the hot air you could fill the balloon with air using a hair dryer or a candle or something.
desotojohn5 years ago
This is DANGEROUS. In the 1960's, I remember newspaper accounts of this type of hot air baloon causing roof fires. Don't do this!
Whales5 years ago
I saw this a long time ago on one of those 90's kids science shows. That guy was crazy, but it oddly made me want to make it. good chance now. I'll let you know how things go!
ac1D5 years ago
You should try to power them with a wax fuel, I Don't know where to get them, but there is two include with this product: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.23486 and it make it fly really well.
I saw this done before from the American Boys Handy Book, by Neally Croft just different materials. I like the new materials being used. BIG Caution is Balloons can start fires easly, carefull where you fly them!
what do u need to make it
I'm pretty sure the american boys handy book is by Dan beard.
Yeah its Daniel Carter Beard. Also that's a paper balloon and a ball of twine soaked in alcohol
Probably not a good idea, but maybe not.. If your baloon is big enough and you use a material not so suceptible to heat how about experimenting with something like a warning flare? Of course your balloon is going top have to be much bigger than what is pictured here and flares do give of ash and embers.. Another idea if you have a big enough balooon is how about a semi-remote fuel source from the ground using a very thin plastic tube? That way you can cut off the fuel source and heat when needed. Or with micro electronics I'm sure someone could figure a way to use a model airplane remote controller to control a heat source from the ground and maybe even a remote control vent to let heat escape instantly in the event of a run away wind gust carrying your flying arson package over a crowded populated area...just a thought. I'm not smart enough to do the details, but the ideas i can cook up all day long. ;)
 u could use butane
I have a cheap painters sheet in the workshop Hmm ill have to drag it out !

 that's what i used....i think it's 4mil...anyhow the thinner (cheaper) the better. also, you can use a light to melt the seams together...i used a woodburning tool
SPININSPUR5 years ago
what about an oil lamp wick with wicks on the the long axis for more flame area and a contained tank for fuel?not sure right now what kind of tank.suggestions?
 You gotta remember that weight is the most important factor here...
What i was thinking . Maybe a Tupperware rectangular box with 4 or more wicks in with methalated spirits as a fuel ??
kcls5 years ago
We made these in shop in school, but out of tissue paper, and for the lift the teacher used a hair dryer. They would fill up and fly, even when the hot air wasn't under them.... I wonder why?
batman96 kcls5 years ago
it still had hot air in it, it will fall when it has cooled
Dr.Bill5 years ago
We used 4 foil cups with sterno on X ed sticks under a black garbage bag some 40 years ago and set it off at night just to screw with people.
We did this in Darien,Ct. ca; 1970
Nykus795 years ago
Look! It's Balloon boy!
throttlehog5 years ago
I built this using a wad of Neverdull instead of the candles. No hot wax dripping and it burns much longer. Also, I did mine at night - the colder temperature gives it an incredible amount of lift and it's more visible too.  

One VERY important piece of advice: make sure you have a chase vehicle to follow it's path because you'll want to put out any fires it might ignite upon landing.
robotguy45 years ago
What about a sterno can?
Too heavy for the lift it provides.
msw1005 years ago
How about tea light light candles they burn for hours and come in a self contained aluminium case, may be called something else in US.They are very cheap in the UK, about £1.40 for 30.
Wow Great!
beehard445 years ago
i was wondering if i can use a very thin sandwich bag as plastic and using a tealight candle as the heat source and having a piece of cardboard below the candle to catch drips.......
....... gotta try this after i bake this
dalecarlile5 years ago
Back when I was in college we used to make these and connect several together with thread into a large circle. We would launch them up wind from an evening event and then call in the "UFO" to the radio station covering the event. A little chrome paint or reflective paint in top makes interesting night lights in the sky.
anus199985 years ago
This makes me laugh cuz back then, my pop and his friends would use drycleaning bags and tape them to the tops of pie tins which held candles inside. Then theyd let em hover outside and everyone in town thought there were UFOs. My pops friend's dad was the town cop and didnt think it was funny when all the calls kept pouring in to the pd about UFO sightings. lol
I don't know... Your story sounds suspiciously similar to a story from the Mad Scientists' Club http://www.madscientistsclub.com/. Next thing you will be telling us how you fooled everyone with a canvas sea monster you made out of a canoe. ;-)
THANKS!! I have been trying to remember the name of that book series for DECADES! It may be a bit late for these books to influence my kids, but I'd have to say that The Mad Scientist Club was the most enjoyable books I've ever read. - Steve
When I was a kid, WAAAAAY back in the 60's we used to do the same thing and let them loose as UFO's.

We used those really thin, plastic dry cleaning bags. Taped close the opening where the hanger went through and then we glued a big cross together out of drinking straws across the bottom opening.

At the center of the cross, we epoxied a peanut bar lid and filled it with sterno. The sterno gave off this eerie purple glow that the bag reflected in a horrific manner! These things on a windless night would just drift over our big housing development and cause general pandemonium. It was really pretty stupid and a wonder we never burned down anybody;s house. Sure was fun though!

Edgar5 years ago
Now, if only you guys could convince this Japanese Genius to make an Instructable of this:
jdezwaan Edgar5 years ago
nice! slightly off topic..but nice. I actually started making this gun out of wood. I used the blueprints in the video and blew them up and edited them. I nearly did finish it but I got sidetracked and never went back to it.
look at this! a rubber band machine gun that fires 1200 rpm! looks a string unhooks the rubber bands as it goes around
Edgar mrdepo965 years ago
Also a masterpiece!
Edgar jdezwaan5 years ago
You should finish it- It looks like a stress killer!
Did this with dry cleaner bags, straws and b-day candles when I was young. It's amazing we didn't burn a house down. Gave off a really nice glow and it went way up.
knektek5 years ago
srry for the spelling mistakes
knektek5 years ago
I would just get those cheap-mini-candles that you get for 50 for a pound,(i've experimented with those and they last for about 6 hours) and put aboul 10 or 20 of thoes on the balsa wood and then light them, that will mean that it is cheap(er), slower and neater ( because of the metal plate at the bottom.
biospot5 years ago
Another thing... the dripping wax? Is fuel. Any wax that drips is lost fuel. I would think the pie plate with melted candle wax, and a variable number of candle wicks would work better/longer. I would take some super fine wire, build a tiny "stand" to hold the candle wicks upright, then set it in the pie pan, and melt candle wax over everything. When you lite the candle wicks, they will melt the candle wax and burn it all up very slowly. If you need more heat, simply increase the number of candle wicks in the plate. More wicks, more heat, faster fuel useage. Lastly for the support, I would use a hoop of stiff (but light) wire. A circle will be strong against deformation, then attach the painters plastic to the wire to form a cylinder, or even a standard balloon shape. Attach your candle plate to the center with very fine (light) wire, in an x pattern and you should be able to fly it . This is the basic structure of the old hot air balloons and was found by trial and error to work best I think... I have never tried this, but I have seen the candle wick in a plate burning for hours with a lot of heat.
biospot5 years ago
I think if you used an X for the balsa wood frame instead of an I, you would only need 2 pieces of wood, you would double the strength of the support for your candles, and lighten the load. Since 2 sides of your balloon envelope bottom is not supported by wood, you could do it on 4 sides, and increase your endurance and strength.
unclejoe5 years ago
An associate in the Army told me that he and some of his friends in Oklahoma used magnesium wire to hold the candles in place across the opening of drycleaners' bags, sending a couple of dozen of them aloft on a clear summer evening sometime during the late sixties near Tinker AFB. There were 'UFO's sighted that evening. ; )
electro5 years ago
I use a black bin (refuse) bag with led throwies, without the magnets, taped to the outside. Also tape on a few glowsticks for good measure and inflate with helium.......that looks good at night, and must have a few people in UFO mode !!
tlinget5 years ago
Walmart's 66 gallon trash bags that the maintenance uses should work well. It is extremely thin.
Commsman5 years ago
Try inflating the balloon using a hair dryer first - then it will only need a small slow burning device to keep it aloft.
or a hot air gun, commonly used to shrink monocote on model aircraft. 500 deg F heat will also melt the plastic used, so caution is advised.
jwhitt5 years ago
Maybe if you wrapped the wood in aluminum foil before attaching the candles, the wood would not catch fire. Also use a fishing rod with line tied to the balloon for out door use.
TechnoDave9 years ago
I just found this site today but remarkably I made one of these just yesterday! I use dry cleaning bags but the principle is the same. I also tie fishing line to mine so they don't fly off and start a forest or house fire. When I was a kid we made one that flew forever - people called in to the radio station saying it was a UFO - very funny.
Technically yes it was an Unidentified Flying Object. Don't let Hollywood muddy the water between UFO's and ET. The two are completely separate topics. Most UFO's are military test vehicles.
Made a bunch of these when in college. We'd use colored cellophane, a different color on each side (4 or 6) and a small vent to one side at the top to encourage them to rotate slowly while flying. On a cold clear winter's night the UFO calls would go on for hours... When starting them out, use a hair dryer for the initial inflation.
pocketspy5 years ago
My oldest brother had us make these back in '76, out in the desert. He called them UFO's also, especially because when the bag was high enough, pressure would force the plastic inward and the heated bag would burst into flames. So from a distance you would see the light(s) moving slowly up in the night sky , then a big flash. I elementary school we make paper hot air balloon and they used a gas burner and fan to force the hot air into the bag. We released them and they would go up until they cooled down and would land several miles away.
TJH545 years ago
I did a similar hot air balloon in High School. I used a thin plastic trash bag, Four single strands of copper wire taken from speaker wire. I used aluminum foil to make a gondola to hold a small amount of sterno for the fuel.
Add some radio-controlled propellers and figure out some method for controlling lift and you've got yourself sumthin' supah-cool!
Sandisk1duo5 years ago
Very cool! i might use that form my science fair project!
dbguettl6 years ago
I remember doing this years ago. We took a slightly different approach. 1. We used a really big trash bag made from very thin plastic. I don't remember the size or the thickness. 2. We took some really thin music wire and made an x. 3. Then we cut the bottom off of a coke can and mounted it in the center of the x. We mounted it with copper wire. You have to mount it so the bottom of the can faces up to make a "bowl" for the fuel. 4. Using tape, we taped the music wire/coke can assembly to the bottom of the trash bag. (similar to how you used he balsa 5. For the fuel, we made a tee pee with some scrap balsa, superglued it in place, and doused it with model airplane fuel (this just happened to be what we had lying around). Other flamable fluid such as alcohol should work too. 6. We had to light a piece of wood and hold it under the bag to pre-inflate the bag with hot air, then we set off the fuel/wood and let it go. It was great to do in the evenings when the wind was calm. It would fly 100-200 feet before coming down. Just be careful. On one flight, it got knocked around by a gust of wind and the fuel fell out and fell to the ground. I've always wanted to do it again and try using sterno as fuel.
I've done this using sterno and it works really well.
El-Butchio8 years ago
if you made the baloon bigger it would be able to carry much heavier weights, as long as you incresed the heat produced. this is easily done by soaking cotton wool in spirits or meths, however i do not know how this could be efficiently contained without embers from the cotton floating upwards into the baloon and burning a hole in it. Also, DO NOT use petrol as fuel in this projest as it has a tendency to make the air too hot for the balloon to withstand and melts it, causing burning petrol to spill onto you from above which may hurt you a bit.
OR if you have a tiki-torch you could use the oil-wick from that
We have a product in the Czech Republic called "PEPO", which looks like white chalk and is used to start campfires(and power hot air balloons 8-] ). I don't know if you can get it elsewhere but it is perfect, light, will not blow out or drip and has a good hot flames. Look it up at Google and try to order it, it is cheap and u will be satisfied.
It's possible octane blocks...we have those in the UK under the gereal term "firelighting blocks". Their white, waxy and crumbly but burn really well for a long period if you don;t crumble them up. The finer dust you make, the hotter theflame and shorter the burn time
i couldnt find it on google
Yokel samando7 years ago
Nah, what he's describing is Barbecue lighter (in solid form). I'm sure we had it in N. America
gregr Yokel6 years ago
I'm pretty sure that GladBagCosmonaut is talking about Esbit. You can find it in good camping/backpacking stores or online.
samando gregr6 years ago
Oh, right, Esbit. I use that to fuel my model steam engine. Compared with other brands, it's brilliant, it's just a little bit expensive.
Psyzygy samando6 years ago
Zip BBQ lighters! Great idea; put half of one in a cup-cake cup. One tea-light doesn't produce enough heat to carry it's own weight. I like the idea of a re-lighting candle too - tape several together and set them in a tea-light cup. Nah! maybe not... it'd be a bit too incendiary. One surrounded by normal ones would probably be safer. Bin-bag looks good too. I'll do it!
this sounds abit like flash powder...is there alot of smoke produced when lit?
Ribs El-Butchio8 years ago
Me and my dad id that once using mehs. and it worked quite well. we put the meths and cotton wool in a tinfoil dish.
Ssiatha5 years ago
could I suggest some alfoil wrapped cardboard under the candles? it'd stop wax drips and you need not worry about candles burning down. attach /w glue obviousley
I'm unable to do this though I'd love to. If I could I would try using a Mylar emergency blanket. Although they (Mylar blankets) are not translucent, but you might be able to cut holes into the Mylar and cover them with the painters plastic, different shaped windows etc. I have no idea if the light would shine through. Also I don't know if the Mylar could be melded together or not. Perhaps glue or a fold/ light tape combination could be used. Just don't light the forest on fire. That's why I can't do it...Run forest run!
svfox695 years ago
I would burn the building down.
I will stick to absolute safe endeavors.

Gonazar5 years ago
Mud Stuffin5 years ago
For the lightest material, try to find "Bin Liners" that are used in grocery stores to cover the inside of barrels of produce.
thats what i use with a skewer broken in half and 4 candles broken in half with long wicks
freakmonkey7 years ago
You could cut out the fire all together (I know it kills some of the fun, but it's much safer) by making it out of a couple of black garbage bags taped together and sealed air tight. Take it out in the sun and it will float for miles.
I tried this with one industrial-sized garbage bag, sealed with duct tape, today. I left it out in the hot Texas sun for hours, and it didn't work. Did I do something wrong?
Besides losing weight, try to do it in the morning or evening when there's a lot of sun but the outside air temperature is still cool. That way, there will be a greater difference between the temperature of the air inside the bag and out. You'll get a lot more lift.
you need to use several garbage bags to have enough surface area. tape two or three into a cylinder shape and try it
you used duct tape - that stuff is heavy! also, industrial sized also means heavy weight. Get the thinnest material possible.
UberNoober5 years ago
Instead of using balsa, you could make one of these with wire hangers bent into a frame. Then wrap about half a roll of twine into a ball in the middle of the crossbar, in place of the candles, and soak it in kerosene, lamp oil, etc. It'll last a lot longer. :)
ANDY!5 years ago
I tried something similar but the plastic melted. BUT, im thinking if another attempt.
Cpt. Caleb5 years ago
Very cool, it reminds me of the Vesak celebrations in Magelang, Indonesia,
cutesun5 years ago
孔明灯而已 - -"
This a great project but bottom line it is just too dangerous. The risk of setting fires is very high. They are tons of fun but unless you use a lead line like a kite please don't risk it.
Pooh, you're no fun!

(These things cause so many UFO reports...)
Long ago I built a similar project using dry cleaner bags (Very thin), wire and a cotton ball soaked in alcohol. There is less fire hazard than you might think, since the baloon won't come down until the fuel is used and the air inside cools. It is a fun project.
skimmo5 years ago
i had great success with one of these that someone else made but my always bursts into flame like a tocix fire ball spewing fumes and moltent plastic before lighting my grass on fire, what do i do about it?
foo now i can fly away when my parents try to hit me with a chankla foo ima fly to mexico foo nice though can it pick someone up? ima fly foo
Painkilla055 years ago
I once tried something similar using a Kleenex and a candle. Suffice to say I almost burned by desk down.
cepartin5 years ago
Cool post! This brings back memories. Back in the 70s, when I was a little tyke, my dad and his buddies would launch these things after rainstorms (they used drycleaning bags, balsa wood, and tons of birthday candles). They called them "ghosts," and it was kind of a neighborhood event when the dads would get ripped on Miller High Life and set these things loose on our town. IIRC, the goal was to cause a UFO sighting.
juanvi5 years ago
really nice, the other day I thought of building one of this because I remembered that scene in James and the Gigantic Peach, where he does that with a little box very nice, tanx
Haha, finally featured...better late than never I suppose. :P

And does anyone else think that's a vaguely 17th century style 'do Eric's sporting in the first picture? :P
heleena7127 years ago
Nothing Special, I saw this on Mr.Wizards world, back in the early 1980's. He used a dry-cleaners plastic bag. And the frame was made from sipping straws. Mr.wizard had a better idea for fire. He had an aluminum cupcake try. with cooking oil in the tray. His wick was made if 4 peices of twine. The twine ran through a small bolt. The twine laid in the cooking oil and soaked up the wick for fuel. Your wood frame seems to be a good idea. Just add Mr.Wizards cupcake tray and oil and wick. Then you'll have a winner.
reading ur comment is like reading a poem!!!
ewilhelm (author)  heleena7127 years ago
How about posting an Instructable with that version?
I believe there is an Instructable for the "metal candle" part of this; however it uses toilet paper as a wick.
Triple O6 years ago
VERY COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
wildy6 years ago
your a genius. you are the man. Now I have an idea of what fun thing I can do when I want. Are you famous cause you blowing my mind. I give you 5 golden stars.
saum6 years ago
i wanted to ask u if i could put a small box at the bootom. like a real hot air balloon
JellyWoo7 years ago
can you just use a trash bag(the white ones) to make a smaller version?
ewilhelm (author)  JellyWoo7 years ago
I found normal trash bags to be too heavy. Painter's plastic is the way to go.
what about the plastic fruit bags from grocery stores
ewilhelm (author)  budsiskos6 years ago
The ones I get are too thick, and so too heavy.
okay, thanks
evanwehrer6 years ago
Could I make a miniature version of a hot air balloon tHAT looks like a real one if I used a blowtorch instead of candles?
no it might burn the plastic
I never said I would use plastic.
is it safe to do this in a park or open field?
Slayer77 years ago
hi, do you think if i used a plastic sandwich bag. How many candles would a need?
ewilhelm (author)  Slayer77 years ago
A sandwich bag isn't big enough.
plus if it was a sandwich bag the candles would melt it anyway lol.
big-jamie8 years ago
the poster of the instructable said 'i am currently experimenting with other candles to prevent this' meaning the dripping wax, could you not use the tea lights with the metal cup, that would hold all the wax, would it not ?
ewilhelm (author)  big-jamie8 years ago
Yes, I've been trying tea lights and aluminum baking pans to catch the hot wax.
is that your workshop or the "instructables" workshop? and could i use fishing line or very thing wire to hand off the bag?
Yokel ewilhelm7 years ago
Yup, that's what mum did in the 60's; drycleaner bag with tea lights.
starbucks6 years ago
can i use wire instead of balsa wood?
Balsa wood is very light wood. Wire would weigh it down.
Cool! :-) Cheap, simple and effective - my three favourite things! And I just have to say, your workshop is awesome! I wish I had so much space! :-)
could you just use a single tea light candle?
L8157 years ago
I used straws tapped together to form an X for the opening. In the center, I added a quarter part of an aluminum soda can and tapped it securely. Fill the aluminum bottom with some sort of alcohol (the one in clear bottles), and light it up! Worked well for me.
jkinrade7 years ago
Cool instructable. My friends and I used to do this with coat hangers, big trash bags, and a can of Sterno.
Slayer77 years ago
why wouldn't it because if you put enough heat into it would lift ?
5Toes7 years ago
So I was just thinking... You could make a good heat source using gasoline. You could add two tanks to the frame.. that are small. So about 10 fluid ounces all together. Add a fuel line to each and make a it very small, so the flame wont get out of control, or too big!!! Take the two fuel lines, and add a small flame resistant plate above. The plate should be about 2 inches in diameter. Add a flame source to the middle of this plate and the gasoline lines directly under it. With some experimentation the tubes with gas should act much like a lighter!!
Alfredo267 years ago

Hi, take a look at what the people do in São Paulo, Brazil at:


The balloons size range from about 10 to 50 yards and they carry clusters of fireworks and panels with images made of light fabric for daytime or lamps (made of color paper and candles) that are beautiful at night.
To launch these balloons is illegal, but they manage to have even some tournaments every year.
cj3807 years ago
i attached two medidium size bags but when i lit the candles it was filled with hot air but wasnt getting off the ground is that because i was using thin plastic bags i used the x thingie and sticked 4 candles on it.one last thing is that when my hot air balloons are filled with hot air it starts melting i even used 2 bags but didnt work and my bags are nearly ten inch long.please help me somebody i like this stuff too much.
CapnChkn7 years ago
It was fairly common in the 19th century to get the kids together, cut and paste different shapes of paper into balloons that were fastened to wire circles with a cross of wire in the middle. Wire was then fashioned with hooks at the end, wrapped loosely with cotton yarn, or strips of rag. These were dropped in a jar of alcohol and allowed to soak until about to be used. The paper balloons were then held over a fire until filled with hot air, the ball of alcohol soaked yarn attached to the wire cross and set alight, let go to fly into the air, the whole thing glowing as it rose. Eventually the balloon would catch fire and burn up I think we have enough plastic in the oceans now. I suppose a thin iron wire and paper would be a little more Eco-friendly.
ewilhelm (author)  CapnChkn7 years ago
Post an Instructable showing what you've described! It sounds great!
marc927 years ago
This would be cool to do at the beach (except if the wind was blowing towards the water) You could attach a kite string to it so you can retrieve it and use it again. Also, for an alternative fuel you could use match books with the covers ripped off.
xeroxmop18 years ago
What about Sterno? That stuff burns for hours.
I would be concerned about sending something that burns that long up into the air where I would have no control over where it lands ( while still burning) like on the roof of a house or a dry California hill side!
shilohjim7 years ago
How about using a dry cleaners bag?
pixelerate7 years ago
Nice instructions! I've tried this with a plastic bag but never got it light enough to try. I'll try the painter's plastic.
I like these simple, elegant paper crafts. Anyone know how these are built?

now i remember where i first saw these things...from an asian movie :) i wonder if they're using japanese paper on this :D
grenadier7 years ago
ive tried this a while back. didnt work, but i'll try again.

Check out my instructable! MiniTV
Instead of candles as a heat source, I'd recommend getting some waxed corrugated cardboard boxes, of the sort that rutabagas come in. Lacking these, you could just dip cardboard in melted wax, but this denies the rutabaga experience... Anyhow, take a piece of cardboard and roll it up parallel to the corrugations. Affix this to your structure and light the top. The cardboard acts like a big wick, sucking up wax and burning it. Each corrugation acts like a chimney, pulling up more combustion air. It burns like a thing possessed.
spencer0127 years ago
I cut the bottom off a plastic cup, about an inch up. I placed eight candles in a circular pattern around one "magic" relighting candle. I then placed them under a plastic Kohls bag.
Great job Eric! That looks like a lot of fun there at Squid Labs! (added to favorites)
just mike7 years ago
Dry cleaning bags work good and are quick and easy. but you have to be careful anything with an on board heat source is a real fire hazard. my favorite was the tissue paper design. we would heat them with a propane weed burner and just let them go. if you get them hot enough they can go pretty high and they come back down within sight, so you can catch them and reuse them. plus you wont get a ticket for sending burning things aloft.
ilmawi7 years ago
we used toilet paper-wax-combination successfully. just roll one round of tp around metal wire, then drop some hot wax from candle on tp. Squeeze it a little then some more tp and wax and squeeze. until u have a tight lump about size of a grape. with a right amount of ingredients that will burn for like 5 min and won't drop a single drop of hot wax.
ewilhelm (author)  ilmawi7 years ago
Can you post a picture?
legobrick557 years ago
you could put some card board or some sheet metal under the candles to catch wax :-)
Gun Maniac8 years ago
If you wanted to yet it fly indoors i thought about using a high wattage output hairdryer!! My mate did that and it worked quite well. My Grand-father tried to make a ballon from wire, candles and catering or "cling film" but, it took off, some wind caught it and it hit the garage roof and literally EXPLODED on top of his car. So we spent the rest of the day getting the wax off the top of his car!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Gun Maniac8 years ago
In England we have something called MAMOD FUEL TABLETS they are £5 a box but last for 20 to 30 minutes and there are about 30 in one box.
What about hot gluing a cigarette lighter to the balsa and then taping the button down so that is stays lit?
nz space prog preheated with cans over fire for max range
I:\Picture 116.jpgI:\Picture 117.jpgI:\Picture 118.jpg
way cool man me and my 8 year old just made one out of 2 bin liners taped together for longer envolope and used a row of fire lighters for heat. used a few cans taped togther to direct heat from small fire b4 lighting fuel on ballon for max life and tied flashing toy L
ewilhelm (author)  glassspider21428 years ago
Awesome! Next time snap a few pictures and post them as a comment (or a new Instructable)!
if you get fire lighters and stack about 6 on a bit of wire or a paper clip and light the top lighter (they should burn one by one) it works really well. i did this using a 60 gallon bin bag over a cliff with fire lighters. it flew... i had a 600ft length of kite string and i ran out and was straning very hard for a while.. ive done this since at the top of ben nevis (with a decent cross wind) with a note attached asking for people to give me a ring and tell me where they found it. i got a call three days later saying that someone had found it in a tree 200 miles away! with this method i find you can (on a good day) get about an hour from takeoff to touch down. be warned though ive had the bag catch light a few times.
ewilhelm (author)  Edd.roadrunner8 years ago
That sounds awesome! Can you post an Instructable showing how you do it?
just follow what i said in the comment and go for it!
aiden1200008 years ago
in the british army (i dont know about others) they use hexi blocks, they are like small bricks of soap. They burn for a long time http://www.surplusandadventure.com/shopscr2155.html
why not an X?
ewilhelm (author)  instructa-fan8 years ago
An X can also work. I was trying to keep the edges of the painter's plastic away from the flame.
oh OK, by the way,is that you holding the string or a buddy
ewilhelm (author)  instructa-fan8 years ago
In step 6, that's me.
pluish9 years ago
why not use a big plastic garbage bag?
i just did, and it flew! :P you MAY use plastic garbage bags! :) even though i only used candles that are not attached to the setup, it flew! ofcourse, it was only for a while since there was no flame to keep the air hot. ö all the same, it flew! if i were to improve my set up, my balloon will be up in the sky! ahaha.. ü
Too heavy.
i used 1mil plastic but made it slightly bigger and it worked just fine. All that matters is (of course, under 1mil i wouldnt go any higher) the volume. The thicker your plastic, the bigger u need to make the balloon. I also used a cylindrical shape, that holds the hot air in better than the more square shape you used
hot glue is too heavy, by melting the candles together you dont gain any weight
ODC8 years ago
Some kids were making some of these around where I live and letting them lose at night. People started calling the news about UFOs and unexplained lights in the night sky, it made the papers for a while until the fire department caught the kids one night and gave them all a smack on the bum (it was the dry season up here in northern australia)
Mr.Jowee8 years ago
I believe a better design would be a triangle rather than an "H" shape. You can use three pieces of balsa wood (Iused 1/8" dowels, sinceeverything else I needed was at the hardware store) at about 28" each rather than two at 30 and one at 36 (84" instead of 96"; save a little weight, though I dn't think it would make the much difference). Also, the triangle has three rigid sides rather than two. I don't think this would really help much when it's flying, but it does make it a bit easier to avoid burning the plasitc while filling it with air. A peice of wire (I used 20awg galv steel) can be run from one tip of the trianlge frame across the center. Hanging from that, two cotton balls soaked in lamp oil.

I just made one of these a few hours ago. I was at first a little skepticle, but it worked surprisingly well. It didn't just kind of float off; while I was holding it down, I could feel it pulling away. I mean it really wanted to get away. I cut the line before it took off, droping the "engine" so as to not burn something (or someone!). It still floated up a good 20 feet, and disapeared into the neighborhood sky!

This is definetly a unique, must do project.
ewilhelm (author)  Mr.Jowee8 years ago
Were you able to snap any pictures?
No. I didn't even know if it would work, plus I dind't want any evidence of me starting a structure fire. I'll take some video of the next one.
Gibsorz8 years ago
P.S... I dont wanna set my school on a total chaos fire
Gibsorz8 years ago
Hey im making a hot air baloon for a school project. I'm Using the candle dry-cleaner bag idea...got ne tips that could help me get 100%??? thanks
Wario8 years ago
Don't use a garbage bag unless you are creating a fire hell ball to burn your house down or to have a nice burn mark on your lawn and instead of candles you can twist a paper clip into a hook and have two wires running cris-cross on a square wood frame where the hook can be held then attach a cottonball to it then dip the "engine" in keroscene.
hotair9 years ago
We do this cold nights with long dry cleaner bags, only we let them float away into the sky. It is a thing of beauty to see them take off, and fly away.
CanDo hotair8 years ago
If I were an econut, I could tell you about all the animals killed by this evil practice :-p....?
Apache8 years ago
How about tinfoil on the balsa wood to keep it from burning
ewilhelm (author)  Apache8 years ago
Foil might do the trick, although the aluminum pie plate I mentioned in response to robotix, I think, works better.
zofo3008 years ago
sorry for not talkin about this awsum project but how do people get picture icons?
Domo8 years ago
I have to build a hot air balloon for my physics class and one of the requirements for it is that it has to lift up a 100 gram wheight, if any of you know of a hot air balloon that can do this and isn't too hard to make PLEASE let me know! Thanks.
Kronaxi8 years ago
A mini 1-candle version would be cool, especially if you make a lot of them. My concern though is when these eventually land, couldn't they start a fire? Maybe there's a way to rig them so the flame goes out when they land?
zachninme8 years ago
If my memory serves me correctly, neather an X, or an I shape uses the least amount of wood. It would be a shape like...

Although it was very hard to draw...

Also, why not hang the candle up inside the bad. *Maybe* the falling CO2 would provide a *bit* of propulsion.
robotix9 years ago
This is cool, but for the dripping wax and burning the balsa wood couldn't you just use a tea candle in the little medal cups or glass candles?
ewilhelm (author)  robotix8 years ago
I've experimented with tea candles, but they're simply too heavy. You really need a high flame area / total candle area to make this work. I tried putting multiple wicks into a single tea candle, but that really didn't work all that well because the wax would melt and the wick fell over. Putting birthday candles in a small aluminum pie plate has worked pretty well to contain the dripping wax. I'll post my current design when I get a chance.
it might not generate enough heat or it might be too heavy
Beard19 years ago
We used to make rather large ones using tissue paper glued into a large envelope. then we built a wire frame, and used fiberglass insulation soaked in parafin for our heat source. Lots of fun to watch, but we were always aware of wind direction and velocity. Also tried to avoid launching during draughts. Still kinda surprised we didn't burn something down.
Zulubar9 years ago
Garbage bags are too heavy. Light dry-cleaner bags are excellent. Use very light, thin balsa for an X pattern lower strut assembly, and if you use birthday candles, cut them in half and distribute on the struts. In 1972, our largest "project" was confiscated by the local Fire Dept before we sent it up - 700 candles and the equivalent of 30+ bags that were cut into sheets and ironed together...
B-Brothers9 years ago
This looks awesome and would be a great teaching tool for science. I can't wait to try this with my sons!
You could use those white, dish shaped candles instead of birthday candles; they don't weigh that much more and some of them can last a really long time. Also a good idea might be pre-heating the air in the bag with a blow-dryer, that way the candles would just maintain the heat and it would fly better.
Hugo.B9 years ago
BLAST!! My brother (llama13) got here first! Anyway a much better way of doing it is to get a big lump of cotton wool and incorporate it into the thin copper wire that your baloon's base is made out of, soak it in methylated spirits or paraffin, and set it alight. (A big plus is that the clothes patterns (made out of thin brown paper) will catch fire when it eventually lands. (and it is more enviro. friendly being made out of paper, and burning up afterwards). The best time for launching the baloons is at nighttime with little or no wind. They look soooo weird all light up high in a pitch black sky!
ll.139 years ago
we make the balloons out of old sewing machine patterns (cut and pasting) and do some wireing at the bottom ( wire ring around the bottom) then 2 cross peices with cotton wool soaked in meths cooool
nice face
I go with jonnycharles on the cotton ball soaked in rubbing or denatured alcohol, sitting in a foil cup glued to the balsa cross strut. This was our best solution over the last 20 years. A larger heat source, much like a homemade sterno can to preheat the balloon, will quickly inflate the rig. Add the cotton ball just before liftoff. I look back in amazement that we never started any wildfires or burned down any houses.
gn0stik9 years ago
Dollar store hula hoop for the frame would work great with a bigger bag(due to the weight. but the painters plastic bag is nice, as big light bags are hard to come by. Little fishing string and a small weight would be good for ballast as well. And as someone else mentioned, foil for fire prevention. Also filling it with a hairdryer, or heat gun ahead of time would allow you to use less heat to keep it going, and preserve your candle life. Then you could use tea lights or say goodbye to all your wife's party lite bull-crap.
gn0stik9 years ago
err heat gun of course.
gn0stik9 years ago
Or use a hair dryer or head gun for an initial fill to get more life out of the candles.. :)
gn0stik9 years ago
Why not hot-glue here?
To avoid the wax, you could make some kinda light 'container' with alum. foil, and put some cotton soaked in Rubbing Alcohol. It'll light for a while and no wax will drip.
qolque9 years ago
I did about a dozen of these when I was a boy(learned at a scout meeting!). Dry cleaner bags are very thin (and you just get the old ones from neighbors for free), you just need to melt the holes on top with a hot object. (Don't use Mom's iron!) We used simple drinking straws for the frame. Just put the straws in an X and spliced enough straws to hot the bottom of the bag open. You carefully cut holes in the straws to hold the birthday candles. We just used Scotch tape to hold the straws in place. Then, you heat the bag with other candles (or a narrow flame backpaking stove). Don't light the birthday candles till the ballon is starting to tug. Once it is going to go up, you light the small ones, they last around 5 min. That's plenty of time for your balloon to outdistance you. We only recovered 2 of them. They work best once it is cold enough for a jacket. (Also heard that pencilpoint holes poked about 2/3 up help to stabilize, but haven't tried that myself)
ROCKETMAN9 years ago
What about wrapping the balsa under and near the candles with foil to prevent burning the balsa? Rember to turn the most reflective side out. Soaking the wood with water befor each flight would seem like a good idea except I supect that would add to much weight.
rusty13jr9 years ago
I have built these before...but I use solid core 12 gauge wire for the frame and I hang three or more tealights in the middle. I find that bags of 5x6 or greater dimensions can hold more than ten candles.
sam9 years ago
i did this as a scout.. not long ago!! it works really well outside on a COLD day.. we used to do it at winter camps. ours had cotton soaked in alcohol. we also used fishing line.. great project for pyro scouts!!!!
KidByte9 years ago
When I was a kid, my grandfather told me he made one of paper and sticks. He used beeswax and kerosene (make a ball) and lit it for heat. It got away from him and burned up a neighbor's dry grass field! ah ha ha! I made one of tissue paper "gores" glued together, a small wire hoop for the opening and a tin with toliet paper and rubbing alcohol for heat. Worked great!