Introduction: DIY Free-Flight Glider

About: Senior in AET at Purdue University

In this instructable, you will learn how to build and fly your own free-flight glider from printed plans. This glider will provide hours of enjoyment for people of all ages. All the required materials are very cheap and this project should not cost you more that $15. Most tools such as tape and scissors will be available in any home or office.

Be careful around tools such as a hobby knife or hot glue gun. They can hurt you.

For best results, read each step fully and take your time during the build.

Step 1: Gather Materials

Materials Needed:

a. Foam board

b. Low temp hot glue gun

c. Hobby knife

d. Masking tape

e. Pencil/Pen

f. Scissors

g. BBQ skewers

h. #64 rubber bands

i. Small lead weights (or equivalent- I used some 1" screws)

j. Printer/paper

After sourcing all the required materials, laying everything out on a large, clean, and smooth work area will make things easy. Be careful not to damage your work area with tools such as the hobby knife or hot glue gun.

Step 2: Printing and Assembling Plans

The PDF plans provided can be printed out and taped together to form a template for each piece needed in the build. Use the tile print function of your PDF software to print out each page so that they can be assembled together. Be sure to print at 100% scale. Tape your plans together so that the lines meet up in the proper place. You can refer to the digital PDF to determine the placement of each page.

PDF plans available here:

Step 3: Cutting the Pieces Out

To prepare for cutting, place the plans on your foam board and tape them down so that they do not move. You can trim some of the excess white area with scissors so that the plans do not overlap the foam. This will give you a better place to tape them down.

Use the hobby knife to make the cuts. Assemblies such as the fuselage, tail, and wing, can all be cut along the solid lines to form a part. For the dotted lines, the foam board should only be cut halfway. The paper on the opposite side should be left intact so that you can bend the foam there later. The smallest piece, the wing rib, should be cut out 5 times.

Caution: Hobby knives are very sharp! Use carefully.

Step 4: Gluing the Tail

The horizontal stabilizer and vertical stabilizer should be glued together so that the vertical stabilizer is on top of and perpendicular to the horizontal stabilizer. Refer to the picture to see what the final product of this step should look like.

Step 5: Making the Wings

The wing is made in three pieces- a rectangular middle section with two angled tips. To give the wing it’s airfoil shape, the pieces should be slightly folded in along the scored sections. Glue 3 of the wing ribs from step 3 to allow the middle wing to hold it’s shape- one at each tip and one in the middle.

The other two wing ribs can be used at the root of each of the wing end pieces.

After all the rib glue has cooled, use a liberal amount of hot glue to glue each wing tip on to the main wing. Do each side individually. For added stability, angle each wingtip up approximately 20 degrees and hold in position as the glue cools.

Step 6: Forming the Fuselage

The fuselage is made so that it can be folded to create a rectangular shape. After scoring along the dotted lines, use the end of your pencil or pen to indent the score line. This will aid in the 90 degree fold. Some trimming may be required to get a nice square shape. Fold the shape in on the creases at right angles.

After the shape has been created, use hot glue to hold the fuselage closed. Leave the top flap of the nose cone open so that you can add your weight here later.

The tail section can be completely enclosed now and your stabilizer assembly can be inserted and glued in place.

Step 7: Setting the Wing

Temporarily tape the wing so that it it is approximately 3.5 inches from the tip of the fuselage.

Poke a BBQ Skewer through the sides of the fuselage below the leading edge of the wing and the trailing edge. With scissors, trim each so it has approximately .5 inches of skewer sticking out each side. This will be where the rubber bands attach to hold the wing down.

Use two rubber bands in a X pattern to hold the wing in place. Alternatively, you could glue the wing on, but this would not allow for adjustment or replacement.

Step 8: Adding Nose Weight

Using the open flap mentioned in step 5, place your ballast in the nose of the plane. The amount will vary, but the plane should balance near the top crease in the wing.

If the plane dives when thrown, less weight is needed.

If the plane climbs when thrown, more weight is needed.

When the plane flies fairly level, you can glue your weight so it does not shift.

The wing can also be moved slightly to compensate for climbing or descending.

Step 9: Flying

Use a straight and level toss to start your glider through the air. Be careful not to launch the plane too high or low. Launching nose-high can cause the plane to stall. Launching nose-low can cause a crash. The picture in this step demonstrates a nose-high launch.

If you have a large indoor space, such as a gym, you will see good results and a stable flight.

When flying outdoors, watch for wind as it may cause your glider to crash.