Introduction: Going Green: Making a Glider Out of a Raffia Stick Only

About: "Creativity is contagious, pass it on" -Albert Einstein

A glider is an lightweight aircraft designed to fly without an engine. Like the name, it glides in the air, as graceful as a bird. Gliders used today are made of of aluminum composites and other metals. The toy ones are fabricated with plastic or wood. I sought a way to make an easy glider using a hundred percent plant material. That way, it will be environmentally friendly and will eventually decompose when discarded.

As a challenge to myself, I made it out of using only a single raffia palm stick and nothing else.

Step 1: What You Need.

The materials required to make the green glider are:

-One raffia palm. (Those who live in the tropics may know about the raffia palm tree. It has elongated raffia palms. It shall be difficult to buy this. I doubt it gets sold, even in online stores. It's left to you to locate a place where it grows and harvest it. If you can't find this, bamboo is the next best option)

-A knife


Step 2: Striping the Bark

A single raffia palm branch has spiky leaves, a hard exterior like that of sugarcane, and a soft ropy interior. Get a knife and carefully strip away the spiky leaves, if any. Care should be taken, as they may contain spikes. With this done, hold the blade at the top edge of the stick and carefully strip the skin. This bark will be used because it is lightweight, strong and flexible.

The barks you have just striped should be long. Use a ruler to cut two 40cm and two 30cm long pieces. Alternatively, this measurement could be bigger or smaller, based on the size of the glider you're trying to build.

Step 3: Getting Some Ropes.

After the skin is removed, a soft white interior is noticeable. It is like one bundle of ropes. Using your hand, dig in a find a single strangle. Pull out meticulously, making sure it doesn't break. Repeatedly do this until you have a lot of ropes.

Step 4: The Skeleton.

For a structure to be strong and solid, we need a solid skeleton. Our glider will need a skeleton of its own upon which we can add other stuff on top. Get the two 40cm and 30cm sticks and line then in a cross shape. (See picture for reference). The two 40cm sticks shall be the wings while the other forms the body. These sticks should be lined to take a glider shape. (Once again, see picture to understand what I mean)

With the skeleton in place, grab the fiber ropes and tie firmly around each joint. Do this until all the joints are tied together. Viola. You have a strong skeleton.

Step 5: Wrapping the Ropes

Repeatedly wrap the ropes around the skeleton. Thankfully, the sticks are firm and flexible so will readily bend as you tie them. Wrap and tie continuously until the entire structure looks mummy-like, but for the square at the center of the joints. You could always add a stabilizer to the tail portion if you wish.

Step 6: Adding a Carriage

For lack of a better idea, I chose to add a small matchbox-sized carriage to the top of the glider. To do this, get the remains of the raffia stick. Strip off the back and get a few sharp hard peels. Cut the pith into two 6cm blocks and four 2cm squares.

Insert the sharp thin bark sticks into each side of the longer blocks. Each block can be settled on either side of the top portion of the glider. The smaller square blocks which were earlier cut will act like plugs. They're soft and can be pushed on the other side of the thin long bark sticks, hereby holding the carriage firmly in place.

Step 7: Finish

It's all done and ready for use.

Factors which will affect flight:

--Weight: The lighter the aircraft, the longer it will glide. If at the start, you used a fresh raffia stick, you can leave the glider under the sunlight for a few days to dry. As the components lose water, weight reduces. Even without drying, this aircraft should weigh little, considering it is fabricated from lightweight materials.

--Absence of holes: As you may expect, there are huge chances that the wrapping of ropes will not be done to perfection. All visible holes should be blocked out with more ropes. Holes will affect flying adversely.

Make It Fly! Contest 2017

Participated in the
Make It Fly! Contest 2017