Introduction: How to Make an Airplane Ornament Using a Cigar Tube

About: Kiwi transplant living in the US.

I started a tradition when Thing One was born - every year I make an ornament for Thing One (and subsequently for Thing Two when he burst onto the scene). I try to make something novel and fun, inspired by things lying around in the house. I want something basic, that will last for years if cared for properly, and that will grow in sentimental value.

This is a re-creation of the airplanes I made a few years ago - I needed to take photos of the process so decided to make another one.


A cigar tube
Some sheet Aluminum
Fast setting epoxy
Primer and paint

Tools: Sheet metal cutters, toothpick/small skewer, modeling clay, sharpie pen, cardboard for wing templates

Step 1: Design the Silhouette

Locate a cigar tube of your choosing. Cut out cardboard (I used soda-can carton) templates of the wings and tail sections. I sketched a few profiles until I got one I liked that looked about right. Lay them out next to the tube to see if you like the silhouette before going on to cut the metal.

Step 2: Cut Out the Wings and Tail

Find some scrap metal to use for the wings. I wanted to use aluminum to match the cigar's a minor issue but if you use a different metal for the wings you risk corrosion at the joints ( called galvanic corrosion, and is caused when two metals of differing electrode potential are in contact in the presence of an electrolyte), and I want my ornament to last without corroding.

You can also buy sheet aluminum in small sizes at Lowes/Home Depot etc.

Cut out the wings using a pair of tin-snips/metal shears. Smooth out the edges on a piece of emery cloth/sandpaper. At this point I went ahead and sanded the tube as well - just to rough it up so the paint would adhere well. You could sand off all the paint to bare metal and go for the retro jet travel shiny aluminum look. I did that on the originals and love the look...but wanted to try painting it this time around.

Step 3: Cut Slits for the Wings and Set Up for Epoxy Weld

Use a box cutter to cut slits in the tube for the wings/tail. I just eyeballed it for the wings to be opposite each other etc...its an ornament and doesn't have to be exact. That's what I keep telling myself because I'm a measurement snob and know deep down I should have been more precise.

Push in the wing sections so that there is a little bit protruding on the inside. I will be applying epoxy glue on the inside as well to give the wings more strength.
I wanted to keep the cargo hold open on the inside, so the wings don't stick all the way into the middle - Santa likes to fill up the cargo hold with little M&M's so we don't want to obstruct.

Step 4: The Weld

Did I mention that I love epoxy? We've been having an affair for a long time now...this cure for all ailments gives a strong joint and is the perfect glue for the wings.

Epoxy is a chemical glue that comes in two parts. Mix the two parts and the glue will harden from a paste to a solid weld. This is a fast setting epoxy, so I work in small batches as it sets up in minutes.

I used a toothpick to mix the epoxy and to apply it liberally along the edges of the joints. Once the outside is all glued and well set, apply epoxy to the inside joints as well, using a longer skewer instead of a toothpick to reach inside the tube.

Step 5: Sand and Paint

When the epoxy is set, I lightly sanded out the bumps at the joints. I rolled up a piece of sandpaper and rubbed along the joint. The wings and tube were already sanded prior to gluing.

The cigar tube cap is a nice red, so I'm leaving it that way and won't paint it. I wrapped a piece of painters tape around the end and they sprayed a coat of primer.

After the primer is dry (you will have to flip it over and spray primer on the underside as well), spray on a top coat of gloss enamel...I decided on white this time.

Step 6: The Finished Article

And here she is. You could add other painted details, but I like the minimal approach.

My earlier models have little eye hooks screwed into the top of the tube, to hang the ornament from. This time I opted to leave off the hook - and will just place the ornament on a branch of the tree.

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