Steampunk Airship Frame




Introduction: Steampunk Airship Frame

A mad scientist has a laboratory with strange devices, but where would his Laboratory be located? Well, if the mad scientist doesn’t want to be disturbed while working in his laboratory, then there is only one location possible... in the air. For that reason, mad scientists often build their own airship. I’m going to attempt to create a scale model of such a mad scientist airship.

I’m not sure if I will succeed, but if I don’t try, I’ll never know. Besides that, I haven’t seen many airships ‘Steampunk Style’ on Instructables, except for the Steampunk Airship by YuKonstruct, but that one is quite large.


Due to the many stages of this large project, I will create several instructables as 'in between projects' and I start with the base, the Airship Frame.

Step 1: Materials Needed

A piece of 3mm Plywood, approx. A4 size (21cm x 30cm)
100x Ice-cream sticks
35x 3mm diameter, 180mm long round bamboo sticks
(as used on a barbeque for saté)

And if you decide to create ‘service hatches’ like I did:

25x 2mm thick, 5mm wide wooden coffee stirrers (or something similar)
10x 1mm thick, 3mm wide wooden coffee stirrers (or something similar)
1x Cotton candy stick 3x3mm
4x M3 bolts 16mm including a flanged nut
(Note: I used 4mm bolts and flanged nuts, but these are a little bit too big)
1x small Antique Hook Latch Lock

And tools like :

A sharp hobby knife
A cutting mat
Wood- and 2-component glue
Small Wood Clamps
(If you don't have any, See :
3mm wood drill *)
3,5mm wood drill (holes for the service hatches)

and if you have one: a Plinth Tangh or Mitre shears

*) adjust the hole size to the thickness of the bamboo sticks!
In my case I had to use a 3mm wood drill.

Step 2: Designing the Airship Frame

You can draw circles to create a ‘circle type’ airship frame (cigar type) or do what I did, use ovals to create an ‘Oval type’ airship. Whatever you do, the building principle stays the same. You may consider to cut some extra ‘Larger circles or Ovals’ to make the airship a bit longer or, if you dare, ‘think outside the box’ and create your own shape.

When you use your own shape, keep in mind that you have to add a fabric to the frame unless you make an ‘airtight force field’ type of airship frame. In your imagination, everything is possible. Decide what you want to do and create an easy to construct ‘circle type’ airship frame (most common, It will look like a Zeppelin especially if you put some additional large rings in the mid-section to extend the model) or use my drawing to create an ‘oval type’ airship which is less common but harder to create.

For this instruction, I’m going to describe how I built my oval airship frame.

I used a free program ‘Inkscape’ to draw several Ovals from ‘Small to Big’, aligned them and printed my design. Then transferred these Oval shapes to a piece of 3mm plywood using carbon paper.
When done, I cut these shapes and marked and drilled several 3mm holes. (See PDF : Ovals)

The mistake I made, and you can correct:
mark two drill holes next to each other in one of the biggest ovals where I only marked one drill hole in the image. (I already corrected this in the drawing). The reason for this is that ‘two bamboo sticks must fit in these holes and one hole is too small for that. Don’t simply drill a bigger hole! Drill two holes next to each other...

Step 3: Creating the First Half of the Airship

Start with the smallest oval. Put some wood glue in each drilled hole and place a bamboo stick in each hole.
If the holes are drilled with the correct drill, in my case a 3mm drill, the bamboo sticks fit perfectly.
Make sure to place the ‘blunt’ sides in the oval and that the sticks are all aligned in one direction. (See Picture)

When the glue is dry, make a mark on each bamboo stick at 30mm from the first oval. At these marks you have to glue the second oval. Place the second oval over the bamboo sticks, almost in the final position. Put some wood glue around (!) these bamboo sticks at the marked points, then place the second oval in position and let it all dry. Take your time and make sure that the second oval is parallel to the first oval. *)

When the glue is dry, make a mark on each bamboo stick at 55mm from the second oval. At these marks you have to glue the third oval. Place the third oval over the bamboo sticks, almost in the final position. Put some wood glue around these bamboo sticks at the marked points, then place the third oval in position and let it all dry. Take your time and make sure that the third oval is parallel to the second oval. *)

Important 1:
Before starting with the next step, there is a little catch! You have to do this almost at the end of the bamboo stick. Please have a look at the second drawing that shows ‘method A’ **). When using this method, use some extra wood glue around the bamboo stick points on both sides of the oval and do not proceed with placing the fifth oval until you are absolutely certain that the wood glue is 100% dry!

When the glue is dry, make a mark on each bamboo stick at approximately 65mm from the third oval (this distance may vary depending on the available bamboo sticks ; See: Important 1).
At these marks you have to glue the fourth oval. Place the fourth oval over the bamboo sticks, put some wood glue around only one bamboo stick at a marked point, then place the fourth oval in position, then put some wood glue on a new bamboo stick, Place this new bamboo stick in the same hole as the one already glued (both points are inserted with’ equal lengths’. Make sure both bamboo sticks ‘fit tight’ and are aligned to each other. Let it all dry (See: Method ‘A’) .

Repeat this step for all remaining positions for this fourth oval before continuing to the fifth oval. Take your time and make sure that the fourth oval is also parallel to the third oval. *) When the glue is dry, make a mark on each bamboo stick at 70mm from the fourth oval. At these marks you have to glue the fifth oval. Place the fifth oval over the bamboo sticks, almost in the final position. Put some wood glue around these bamboo sticks at the marked points, then place the fifth oval in position and let it all dry. Take your time and make sure that the fifth oval is parallel to the fourth oval. *)

Step 4: Creating the Second Half of the Airship

Do not proceed with the sixth oval but repeat the steps in the previous step to create the second half of the oval airship.

Step 5: Combining the Two Airship Frame Halves

Important 2:
Before starting with this step, there is another little catch! You have to do this with the ‘blunt’ sides of the bamboo sticks. Please have a look at the drawing that shows ‘method B’ **). When using this method, use some extra wood glue around the bamboo stick on both sides of the oval.

Now use the sixth oval to combine both parts. Make sure that both parts are aligned straight. This can be tricky and you may have to use small wood clamps to keep both parts aligned when the wood glue is drying. When both parts are combined, you have an ‘Airship base with an overall length of approximately 66cm.

At this point, you may decide to add some additional 'Large Ovals' to make your airship longer or continue as described.

Beware! You are not finished yet! This construction is not strong enough!

Step 6: Strengthening the Airship Frame

Important 3:
Make sure that, when an ice-cream stick is ‘cut to fit’, it fits perfectly between two ovals! Also make sure that there is wood glue on both ends and on one side ‘in the center’ over the full length. Use small wood clamps to keep this ice-cream stick in place and against the bamboo stick when drying.

Tip: If you have a Plinth Tang/Mitre Shears, cutting the ice-cream sticks is an easy job

Now you have to glue ‘cut to fit’ ice-cream sticks between all ‘Ovals’ on top of the bamboo sticks. Make sure that all ice-cream sticks are aligned in the length.

Repeat this step until all bamboo sticks are covered ***)

If you don’t want to add service hatches, continue with step 12, ‘final sanding’
If you removed a bamboo stick because you want to create two service hatches, continue with the next step.

Step 7: Creating Two Service Hatches

Tip: If you add 2x Oval Six and connect these with the bamboo sticks (and not use 1x an Oval Six as I did), then the creation of the service hatches is much simpler because you can create straight, (and if you want 'longer') service hatches depending on the distance between the two largest ovals, besides that, you don't have to measure the 'angle'.

To create the hatches, you have to measure the distance between the two ice-cream sticks from left to right at Oval Five and Oval Six where you cut the bamboo stick. In my case, the distance at Oval Six is: 120 mm and at Oval Five: 110mm. Measure the angle from Oval Five to Oval Six, which is in my case 10 degrees. Measure the distance (including the 10 degree angle) between Oval Five and Six. In my case 84 mm Now copy the lower halves of Oval Five and 6 on to a piece of plywood using the carbon paper method. From the center of Oval Six, draw a straight line just below Oval Six, parallel to Oval Six.

Now mark two points on that line. One (120mm - 2mm) / 2 =) 59mm to the left of the center point and one 59mm to the right of the center point. Now do the same for Oval Five, but use a distance of (100mm - 2mm) / 2 =) 54mm for both marks.

Cut the oval parts, drill the 3,5mm holes, then cut 4 ice-cream sticks to length. Don't forget to remove twice the thickness of the plywood, because you have to glue these ice-cream sticks to the inside of the oval parts and don't forget the 10 degree angle on both ends because the hatch is a bit skewed. (Sounds difficult? it is not if you have a look at the PDF)

I made a mistake by glueing on the outside of the oval parts (as you can see in the images) but I corrected this mistake in this instructable.

Glue everything together to get 2 doorframes. If needed, you can add short cotton candy sticks in the corners where you didn't drill the 3,5mm holes.

Now ‘test fit' the doorframes. If all fits properly, also mark and drill 3,5mm holes in Oval Five and Six of the airship frame and use a 3mm bolt and nut to attach the doorframes to the airship frame.
Can the doorframes be opened and closed? Adjust if necessary before proceeding to the next step! If all fits and opening and closing are no issue, then remove the hatches from the airship frame and glue some 2mm thick, 5mm wide wooden coffee stirrers on the frame that is going to be on the outside. Start on the longest, straight side for the best result. On the smaller side, you have to cut a bit diagonal to remove some excessive wood from a coffee stirrer, so it is better not to start glueing from this side of the hatch frame. Use small wood clamps to keep all coffee stirrers in place while drying. The easiest way is to glue these stirrers ‘one by one’ and cut them to length before glueing them to the door frame. When both frames are ready, draw and cut another Oval 5 part, ‘cut to fit’ and use wood glue to glue this in the middle of the hatch to make the hatch stronger.

Important 4
Make sure you don’t twist or skew the frame while glueing. The hatch won’t fit when done and you may have to start all over again. In the images you’ll see that I used short cotton candy sticks in all the corners, but I had to remove two of them due to the position of the ‘bolt holes’.

Note: The holes in the 'Airship Hatch.PDF must be 3,5mm andnot 3mm.

Step 8: Glue the Flanged Nuts to the Airship Frame

The next thing I did was:

I used a tiny bit of superglue on the flange of a nut and placed it over the 3,5mm hole on the inside of the airship frame, making sure that the bolt can still be easily inserted and removed. Then I used two components glue to fix the flange to the airship frame by adding the two components glue over the flange and onto the wood of the oval. (See pictures) Repeat this for the three remaining nuts. When all dry, test fit the hatches once more and adjust if necessary. Then continue with the next step

The reason for doing this is that, when the airship is covered with a hull fabric, it will be difficult to remove and replace the hatches if needed. By glueing the flanged nut to the airships frame, I expect fewer issues because you don’t have to deal with a partly inaccessible nut.

Step 9: Make a ‘Hatch Stop’

If you close the hatches, you’ll notice that the hatches tend to ‘overshoot’ to the inside of the airship frame. To prevent this from happening, you have to cut two 20mm sticks from the cotton Candy stick an glue these as far as possible to the inside of the airship frame in the center of Oval Five and Oval Six and let it dry (See Image).

Unfortunately, you have to adjust the hatches because you can’t close them anymore. Use a dremel tool with a ‘rotating sander’ to remove excessive wood from the hatch. See the image to see ‘what I did’ to solve this issue. As a result, the hatches close nicely, are less ‘bulky’ and look better.

Step 10: Adding a Lock to the Hatches

With the hatches closed, position the Antique Hook Latch Lock, carefully drill four 2mm holes and screw the lock into place. Test the lock. I made sure to place the lock in such a way that, when the airship moves forward, the hook closes. In other words, the bend curve of the lock is positioned pointing to the front of the airship.

Step 11: Creating an Edge Around the Hatches

Creating an edge around the hatches is necessary, because you need an area to glue a fabric to the Frame. Take two ice-cream sticks, cut them to fit between Oval Five and Oval Six and glue them alongside the hatches onto the ice-cream stick that is already glued to the bamboo stick. Try to create a 1mm (or if needed a larger) gap between the ice-cream stick and a hatch and make sure that the hatch can still open and close. Let is all dry.

Then use a few 1mm thick, 3mm wide wooden coffee stirrers to create an edge alongside the Ovals Five and Six. This is not an easy task, because you have to deal with an angle and a curve at the same time. The best way to do this is to cut off the rounded ends of two coffee stirrers and glue them onto the ice-cream stick in the middle of the oval where the hatches are located. Let it all dry. When dry, put some wood glue along the edge of the coffee stirrer and on the ‘next’ ice-cream stick already in place.

Use small wood clamps to press the coffee stirrer against the inside of the oval and against the ‘next’ ice-cream stick. Let it dry, remove the clamps, cut the excessive coffee stirrer wood to length and repeat this step on the other side. When all done, repeat these steps at the opposite oval. If done properly, you now have a small edge around the hatches. Now use a few ice-cream sticks to create ‘the same height’ towards the hatches by glueing additional ice-cream sticks on top of the ice-cream sticks already glued to the bamboo sticks and the next oval.

By doing this, you have three ‘double layers’ of ice-cream sticks between Oval Five and Six on the font side of the airship and between Oval Four and Five on the rear side of the Airship. (See: Blue rectangles)

In my case I also had to glue 1/3 ice-cream sticks between Oval Four and Five on the front side of the airship and between Oval Three and Four on the rear side of the airship. These 1/3 ice-cream sticks I had to sand into a wedge shape (step 12: Final Sanding) to form a nice transition. (See: Red rectangles)

Step 12: Final Sanding

To finish the frame building, I used a sanding block to remove all excessive wood.

Start sanding on top of an oval until the oval is at the same level as the ice-cream stick. Repeat this for every part of an oval that is ‘higher’ than an ice-cream stick.Then sand the Ice-cream sticks. Take extra care where you have to sand 1/3 ice-cream sticks into ‘wedges’, make a nice, if possible ‘straight’ transition.

When done, sand the remaining parts of the ovals. Start with one Oval part until you have a nice curve between two ice-cream sticks, then go to the next part of the same oval and repeat this step. Make sure that the final result is looking like an oval. Repeat this for all remaining ovals and you’re done.

Take a look at the images to see the final result (in my case including the two service Hatches)

Before covering up the frame with some sort of fabric, I have to think about things like:

- Where to put and how to attach the lines that carry the ‘Ship’?
Shall I use a (part of) a knotted net?
- What kind of shape do I give the ship?
What do I want to make it look like?
- Where to put the navigation lights?
- Where to put the propulsion?
On the airship frame or on the ship and what type of propulsion? a Propellor? paddles? something else?
- Where to put a rudder, if any?
On the airship frame or on the ship and what type of rudder shall I use?

As soon as I have inspiration, I will publish one or more ‘follow ups’ to this instructable.
Be patient, there is more to come. If you can’t wait, go ahead, design and build your own airship!
I can't wait to see your creation...

Happy building

Baron Atmo van der Sfeer

*) If you want, you can add some additional wood glue on the ovals at the points where the bamboo sticks and the Oval make contact.

**) The amount of glue is displayed excessively in all drawings

***) If you want to add two service hatches, then do not glue an ice-cream stick in the following position:
Put the construction on one of the flat sides with one point pointing to the left and the other pointing to the right. Then go to the sixth oval and choose the left or right bamboo stick in the middle. Do not glue an Ice-cream stick in this position but instead, remove (cut) the bamboo stick.

Be the First to Share


    • Make It Modular: Student Design Challenge

      Make It Modular: Student Design Challenge
    • Leather Challenge

      Leather Challenge
    • Remote Control Contest

      Remote Control Contest



    2 years ago

    did you finish this project? at least put a picture with the finished project to make an idee what you were thinking about


    Reply 2 years ago

    I didn't finish this project yet, still working on it. I'm now creating some simple parts like a propeller (whenever I can find some spare time). Due to study and long working hours my projects are on hold because, unfortunately, there are only 24 hrs. in a day.


    4 years ago

    I know this is a stupid question, but if this is merely going to do absolutely nothing but be on display, why worry about such structural integrity? I mean if doesn't actually fly, and isn't make to throw or drop, why are you going through such pains to make it structurally sound with beefed up joints and such? I guess I am not up with secret labs in the sky? IDK


    Reply 4 years ago

    The answer is quite simple:
    Without these ice-cream sticks, the frame is a bit 'wobbly'. To solve that isue, I added a simple solution: ice-cream sticks. Besides that:
    a. I'm going to add more items to this structure like navigation lights and other things in the future, so I need a surface to attach these items to
    b. The bamboo sticks alone don't provide enough area to glue the hull fabric in a proper manner.
    c. Since i'm also adding 'a ship' to this frame with electronics and batteries, I just wanted to be sure that the frame is 'strong' enough.