Aeroplane From an Aluminium Can (and It Flies Too)




About: I have always loved the feeling of finishing the construction of an object and if I don't have something I need or want I usually give it a go to build it from what I have. Usually though, I look at a boring...

This aeroplane can definitely be improved by measuring before cutting. I didn't do this and it ended up looking a little bit uneven. This aeroplane will fly, but only if you make it from an ALUMINIUM can. Most canned energy drinks use all-Aluminium cans. This model is not a scale version of any real aircraft. This is my first ever aluminium-built model aeroplane and it was quite satisfying to see it fly.

Materials needed:
An aluminium can
some kind of ballast (use putty or wire or anything else that seems to work)

Tin snips or scissors

Step 1: The Wings

Cut the top and bottom off of the can and cut vertically between the top and bottom to reveal a decent sheet of aluminium. Flatten it out.
Now, for the wings, cut the sheet about 2 fifths across so that you have enough material for the wings and enough left over for the fuselage and tail. If this was the original sheet: I___I it should now look like this: I_I I__I

Bend it in half, but don't crease the edge like you would paper. We want the leading edge to be realistic-looking, not flat.
 DON'T cut the leading edge. Cut 2 slits in the top piece of the wing, each one about 2mm from the centre line.
Now "roll" the top of the wing further back. This will make the leading edge move from one part of the sheet to another. The wings should now appear somewhat swept-back.

Cut the back of the wing and the wingtips to the shape you want them to be.

Because it was requested, I included a template page which I made on Microsoft Paint so that you can click on it, download the full-resolution picture and print it from paint. Then, cut the parts out and trace them onto your can. I used a 16FL. OZ. 473ml Monster can, so If you have a smaller can it may not fit. I apologise if it isn't perfect, but I hope it helps you if you need it.

Step 2: The Basic Fuselage

Cut off another rectangle from the sheet. This one should be as long as the wing and also about 2 fifths of the can from the edge. This should leave about one fifth of the can unused.

Fold this piece (the bigger one) in half (longways) and only pinch the metal at one end as is shown in the first and second pictures. Cut a slit about 3 to 4 cm long, about one third along from the pinched (tail) end. Repeat this on the other side. This will later form the horizontal tailplane.
At the very front of the fuselage, fold the inside out over the front. You will want the fold (or new furthest-forward point) to be about 1 to 2 cm from where the old one was. See the 3rd-last picture, this is what it should look like when done.

Now, gradually roll The fuselage into a sort of long cone shape that tapers down to a point (the tail).
Cut a slit from the front to halfway back on the tail section. This is shown in pictures 5 and 6.
Fold the front half under and when done the result should look like the last two pictures.
Lastly, put some glue along the underside of one side of the fuselage and press the other side onto it until the glue dries. This is also illustrated in the last two pictures.

Step 3: Attatching the Wings

In order for the wings to be blended into the fuselage, first cut 2 slits in the leading edge as shown in the first 2 pictures.
these slits should be just long enough to fit the fuselage in-between them. Fold these up and note that because the fuselage tapers, the back doesn't need to have as big a gap.

On the inside of the wing, trail some glue along the trailing edge and the wingtip and press the other half of that wing against it until the glue is dry. Don't glue or press the whole wing as this will not make it look as nice.

Put glue on the piece of wing marked in the first picture and also the side of the tabs that faces inwards.
Press the fuselage into place and make sure that it is upright and that all glued areas make contact.

Step 4: Cockpit and Vertical Stabilizer

Cut a square from the remaining strip of sheetmetal.
Bend it in half and cut about a third of the way up along the leading edge and fold the bottom open.
Cut the tail fin to the desired shape and bend the bottom to form tabs that form to the tail and blend into it. Glue the bottom of the tabs to the back of the fuselage after gluing the trailing edge as you did for the wing.
Also glue the trailing edges of the horizontal stabilizer in the same way after cutting it to shape.

For the cockpit cut a small trapezium from the sheet and bend it as shown. Glue it on top of the fuselage about halfway across the chord of the wing.

Step 5: Adjusting for Flight

To make this ornament into a flying model, add some ballast to the front until the aeroplane will be able to balance on a point on the front half of the wing.

If it dives, reduce the ballast and if it climbs and stalls, add some more ballast.

To fill in the hole in the gap between the wing and the tail, I glued a piece of metal over it. This is shown in picture 4.

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    66 Discussions

    I made this cool MiG 21 after I made this instructable;

    Yes, of course! and it would fly better too, although it would likely not be as strong when it comes to impact. The metal thickness is constant, so the bigger you make the aeroplane, the lighter (relative to its size) the thing will be. (But there will be a bit more weakness in it too, and a few more seams.)


    6 years ago on Introduction

    My great grandpa used to make old biplanes like this back before i was born. I went into his attic and found about 5 of them and just fell in love. thanks for the instructable. I hope I make some as well.

    spark master

    6 years ago on Introduction

    please redo with a page to print out and glue to can material so they come out nicer.

    nose of plane is open?

    consider crazy glue to build it. I seem to remember it was claimed o be used to laminate materials to build plane wings on het fighters. How true I do not know but here it would be nice. Clamp materials down tight one drop and capillary action sucks it up.

    nice concept I've made Pepsi-G alky stoves, and used soda cans to make other things

    thanks, but please make another with a print so they all come out really nice.

    10 replies

    Okay, I will make an MS paint version which can be printed and stuck/traced onto the sheetmetal. It may take a day or two though to get it all correct so it can fit all on one can.

    That is why they call you (cue drumroll and fanfare)......THE AWESOME ONE!!!!!

    truely nice project, if ther a cover on the front of the planes nose?

    If you anted to make a lot of them make a mandrel then heavily wax it, or use silicone release, that would allow you to make a really taut shell, the crazy clue would work nicely

    but that is just a suggestion.

    After you print the plane parts you use rubber cent to glue it on the the flat metal then use Xacto kife to cut out the plane parts,better edges then shears (well usually).

    thanks so much for your instructable, glad to see you follow up with prints.

    after that a bi-plane-triplane!!! well perhaps not , but we can wish!


    Thanks. No, the nose isn't covered by anything and this does affect stability a bit.
    I wouldn't suggest gluing paper plans to the metal permanently because paper is quite dense and increases the weight considerably.Glue also adds quite a bit of mass.
    One could cut a semicircle out of the can-sheet and roll it to form a cone which can be glued inside the nose and stick out a bit to reduce drag and look like a propeller cone, if somebody does this then please post some pictures of the finished product and some steps along the way.
    I wish I could make another model different to this one but I don't have any aluminium cans.

    You live in a plce with not cans, I am now even more impressed! All I need do is go past a school/park and can pick up a dozen all aluminum. We have deposits oncarbonated beverage cans here in NY State, but nothing else, so a person who wants to play can find "stuff" easily. I am sure the postage from me to you plus governmental agencies would stop anything I sent you or make it ludicrously expensive.

    Isuggest if there is / are health lubs near by you ask if they sell any of the stuff that uses those cans then ask them to save a few empties. Service stations and parks are another place to look to get'm fer free.

    good luck

    Finding steel cans is easy, but aluminium ones are difficult because not everybody drinks expensive energy drinks all the time.

    use Cyanoacrylate glue (nasty stuff if you make an error really can be nasty), will add almost no weight . you might add a hook to the bottom so you can rubber band lauch it.

    or gut an old balsa flyer for the plastic prop and add rubberband flying. Your concept has a few nice variables. You could get a simple electric batt system and the motors (they are very very powerful for weight and size. I do not fly planes so I don't know how they would work out.

    I also make my own parts for rubber-band conversions for some other gliders I have made. This is basically the propeller, friction reduction and parts to hold everything in place. Usually I use old plastic containers and pen-lids.

    I also use mostly cheap Cyanoacrylate adhesive which is difficult to correct and it also it leaves white marks from the chemical reaction with the air.