This will give you step by step instructions to make a fire balloon or sky lantern.
SAFETY PRECAUTIONS: This project involves highly flammable materials. Children should only make this if accompanied by an adult. Don’t use the fire balloon in dry areas or in areas where a fire could start. The best place to use a fire balloon is over a large body of water.
Step 1: Materials
- Five pieces of large tissue paper or waxed rice paper
- Scotch Tape or Masking tape
- Rubbing alcohol or lighter fluid
- Kitchen sponge or similar absorbable material
- Lighter or matches
Total cost: $5 to $15
Gather the materials to make the fire balloon. You will need large sheets of tissue paper or large sheets of waxed rice paper. Tissue paper can be bought at most department stores or grocery stores. The paper needs to be thin enough for the balloon to lift off the ground. Copy paper and most paper bags are too heavy for the heated air to lift them off the ground. You will need scotch tape or masking tape to tape the pieces of paper together.
For the fire, a small sponge soaked in rubbing alcohol is used. Many other things can be used besides the sponge. The material just needs to be able to absorb the rubbing alcohol and light enough to not weigh the balloon down. With this balloon, a standard kitchen sponge and 91% isopropyl alcohol is used. Lightweight wire can be used to connect the sponge to the paper balloon. String can’t be used to connect the sponge because it will catch fire once the sponge is lit. It’s easiest to light the sponge with a grill lighter if you are by yourself. If you are with multiple people, you can light the sponge with a normal lighter or matches. Someone can hold the balloon up while you light the sponge from underneath. If you are by yourself, it’s easiest to set the sponge on the ground and light it with a grill lighter while holding the balloon up with the other hand.
Step 2: Taping the Sheets of Paper Together
Lay four pieces of tissue paper out next to each other. The longer sides of the sheets should be next to each other. Overlap the sides so the pieces of paper can be taped together. About a half-inch or a centimeter is enough. Use scotch or masking tape to tape the pieces together. The tape needs to run the whole length of the pieces of paper so that the heat can’t escape the balloon after the sponge is lit. Check along the tape to make sure there are no gaps between the two pieces. The four pieces should just look like one large piece of tissue paper now.
Step 3: Making the Balloon Into a Cylinder
Take one short end of the large taped together sheet and fold it towards the other short end. Tape the two short ends together so the large sheet resembles a hollow cylinder. Once again, the tape must run the hold length of the two edges. It’s important to remember that the heat must be kept inside the balloon, so no gaps or holes.
Step 4: Putting a Top on the Balloon
Next, a top must be put on the hollow cylinder to trap the heat. Another piece of tissue paper can be used. Fold the cylinder along the taped portions to form more of a box shape with the cylinder. It might naturally form a box shape already. Set the balloon on the ground with one side on the ground and one side facing up toward you. Take the last piece of tissue paper and place the short end about 4 to 6 inches down from the top. Leave the longer portion up above the balloon. It will be taped to the other side. Run a piece of tape along the whole edge of the paper.
Flip the balloon over and do the same thing to the opposite side.
Step 5: Completing the Top
Turn the balloon on its other sides and tape all the edges closed. The balloon should now only have one open side. Check over the whole balloon to see if there are any gaps or holes where hot air could escape.St
Step 6: Making the Fire Source
The kitchen sponge should be cut to a smaller piece so that it can fit in the balloon and so it won’t be too heavy when soaked with alcohol or lighter fluid. Half-inch to one inch sides (or about 3 centimeters) will work fine.
You will use two pieces of wire to connect the sponge to the balloon. Beading wire is used here because it is lightweight and inexpensive. The two pieces need to be about one inch or 3 centimeters longer than the width of the whole of the bag. The beading wire can be cut with scissors, which is also helpful. You can find it in most craft sections at department stores.
The wire should be pushed through the sponge long ways on each side. The portion of the sponge with most surface area will be facing upward toward the top of the balloon once it is connected. Position the wire so there is an equal portion on each side of the sponge.
Tape each end of the wire to the balloon at the edges of the opening. The sponge should be positioned in the middle of the opening so the tissue paper doesn’t start on fire.
Step 7: Getting Ready to Light the Fire
Soak the sponge in alcohol or lighter fluid being careful not to get any alcohol on the tissue paper. This step is easiest to do if you are working with another person. One person can hold up the balloon while the other soaks the sponge.
Step 8: Lighting the Sponge and Letting the Balloon Go
Finally, when lighting the sponge, it’s easiest to light the sponge using two people, but it can be done with one person if you’re careful. The balloon needs to be held up when the sponge is being lit so the paper won’t catch fire. If you’re by yourself, hold the balloon up with one hand while using a grill lighter to light the sponge with the other hand. Caution needs to be used when lighting the sponge. The whole balloon can catch fire very quickly if you’re not careful. Set the lit sponge on the ground in the middle of the opening of the balloon. Set the balloon over the fire so hot air starts to fill the balloon. Wait a few minutes and your balloon will take off.