Introduction: Steampunk Hot Air Balloon From a Globe

About: I've got so many projects I could be immortal and never finish 'em all. My home base is in textile arts, but I roam all over the land of making. I'm big into costuming, and anything that's too complicated for …

So, this project happened entirely because I found an old globe rolling around in the street. I took it home, of course (you can't pass up free globe!) and then had absolutely no idea what to do with it. Eventually, this concept emerged from a variety of ideas.


  • A globe.
  • Acrylic paints
  • Leather scraps
  • Thin rope (I used macrame cord)
  • A large metal ring (available at hardware stores)
  • A dowel, thin enough to fit through the hole in the globe
  • Thin wire
  • Thin copper sheet
  • Round reed
  • Wide flat wire(try Michaels)
  • Furniture tacks
  • Small eye hooks
  • A largish washer


  • Paintbrushes, a variety of sizes, but some should be very fine
  • Scissors
  • Wire snips
  • Pliers (I prefer half-round)
  • A handsaw, or something to cut the dowel
  • Hammer
  • A bucket big enough to soak the reed in
  • Towels

Step 1: Painting the Globe

My globe was both woefully outdated and in pretty poor shape when I got it, so the first thing I did was paint over it. This step was a bit of a giant pain, as my paints were old and not thick enough to cover the original finish without about 12 layers. I ended up painting several base coats of white paint on the continents, and then going over that with green, trying to keep the borders as intact as possible. The ocean I didn't bother with a base coat for, as my blue paint was actually decent.

I decided to paint the continents roughly the same color as they actually are, referencing a big satellite map in my atlas. Since I wasn't going to buy new paint for the project, I had to do some color mixing. To get a nice irregular blended texture, I used a combination of smudging with my fingers and pouncing the brush (stabbing instead of brushing).

Step 2: Making the Hanger

First off, if you want the dowel to be anything but wood-colored, paint it now. I painted mine gold.

It turns out that trying to thread a dowel through a globe is not easy, at all. Nearly impossible, actually. I ended up cutting open Antarctica to give myself a bigger hole to thread the dowel through. I made four cuts into the globe so I could peel back the cardboard. I used scissors and a leatherman. There's metal inside the cardboard so cutting it is a little difficult. Once I made the cuts I peeled the cardboard out to enlarge the hole and threaded the dowel through. Once the dowel it through make all effort it doesn't slip out of place! You want to leave the dowel full length for all this so that it's easier to manage. On the Antarctica end of the dowel, place the washer. The washer should be sized so that it doesn't slip down the dowel, but is big enough to stop the globe from slipping off the dowel. Hammer a furniture tack on top of the washer to keep it in place.

Now you have to deal with the giant hole in Antarctica. I just gently folded the cardboard back in place and taped it down with masking tape. You can then paint over the tape.

Next, saw off the remaining dowel (the Arctic side) about an inch from where the globe ends, with the globe still on the dowel. Don't worry if the cut isn't pretty, just sand it down after. Then, screw one of the eye-screws into the dowel, and hang up your globe. Having the globe hanging up is the only way to ensure that the dowel won't slip out. If you have more forethought than I do, add another washer to the Arctic side and prevent this issue.

Step 3: Making the Basket

I tried to make this basket about three times before I finally figured out how I wanted to complete it. My problem was largely that I didn't have any flat reed, only round reed. To solve this problem, I ended up using a wide, flat, copper-colored aluminum wire from Michaels in place of the flat reed.

First, I wove the base out of the wire while I let several long pieces of reed soak in warm water. When I had gotten the base to the size I wanted, I folded up five pieces on each side to weave the reed around, and folded the rest under, clipping them off. Next I began weaving the reed around the sides, creating the main body of the basket. Because I had an even number of spokes, I skipped spokes as necessary to maintain the opposing under-over weave. This is technically from a lack of foresight on my part, but I'm going to call it a feature. Because of this, there is a line winding up the side of the basket from where I skipped.

Since I had made the base of the basket copper, I decided to continue the copper throughout the basket to create uniformity and (hopefully) add to the steampunk flair of the project. When I had to add a new piece of reed to the basket, I bound the two pieces of reed together with thin copper wire, creating copper spirals placed at random throughout the basket. I also wove copper wire through my accidental 'feature', to make it look more purposeful, and wove wire around the top of the basket, binding it in place.

Out of the project as a whole, the basket is what I am most happy with. If I get tired of the final product, I may end up just taking the basket off and using it by itself.

Step 4: Making the Harness

This was another part I tried several ways before finally figuring out what I wanted. (Really, the whole project was like this). At first I intended to knot an actual net for the globe, but this didn't work for the reasons that a) I am not very good at netting and b) I just didn't like how it looked. I was stuck on this for weeks, when by chance I saw a drawing of a steampunk hot air balloon that had a harness instead of a net. I have a bunch of scrap leather laying around, so I cut some strips and strung them around the top with a piece of wire. At first I tried lacing the strips together with embroidery floss down the sides like corset lacing (I was still hung up on the net idea) but I didn't like how that looked either, as it obscured too much of my paint job. So instead I used some macrame cord I had around to make crosspieces for the harness, attaching the rope to the leather with thin copper wire.

Step 5: Attaching the Basket to the Harness

This part was (thankfully) much more straightforward than everything else. I determined how long I wanted the leather pieces to be, and then attached them to jewelry spacers I had lying around, securing it with copper wire. Then I used more of the macrame cord and attached it to the spacers using rectangles I cut from thin copper sheeting wrapped around the cord and flattened tight with half-round pliers. I then attached these cords to a metal ring using the same method. Finally I attached four more pieces of the cording to the metal ring (again using the copper sheeting) and then wired the cords to the basket.

Overall I am happy with this project. It was a giant hassle trying to figure everything out, but a good kind of hassle. My main problem being that now I don't know what to do with it. I don't have a ton of use for a decorative hanging hot-air-balloon-globe. Maybe I'll have a steamy room at some point it'll fit into nice, but it looks like for the present it'll just be hanging in the basement as it has been since I finished it.