Beer Can Models...




About: Happily retired.....

This is a fun little challenge for those who like to solve problems as they construct something out of nothing. The basic raw material used is a beer can, but any soda can will do. Beer comes in 16 ounce cans which allows for some larger pieces to work with. I like to make my models powered so I am always looking for small DC motors and switches. (Battery powered Crest Toothbrushes have excellent motors)

There is really no definite right or wrong in building a beer can model. It actually boils down to your imagination and how great a challenge you want to accept. These slides will show you some areas that really stumped me for a while. For the rest, you are on your own.

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Step 1: Another View of My Favorites...

Just another shot of two of my favorite models.

Step 2: Things I Use...

Most pack rats will have most of this stuff laying around in their shop. This is a short list of the most essential items.

1. 16 ounce beer cans (drink the beer first).
2. Various adhesives, but the MOST important is JB-Weld. You can do the whole project with JB-Weld if are not concerned about time. Liquid Nails will give you a faster set, but doesn't sand very well.
3. Some cutting instruments.
4. A 9 volt battery. If you break it apart you end up with six 1.5 volt AAA batteries.
5. A Sharpie pen makes a good container for the batteries. Just cut it up (make measurements first).
6. If you are going to power it, get a small switch (the style is your own choice).
7. DC motors. If you are going to make a powered model you need to start with the motor. The scale of your entire model depends on the size of your motor.
8. A great source for switches and motors is:
9. You will also need at some time some wire. (24 stranded is good)
10. Some shrink wrap.

Step 3: Where to Start...

Everyone will have their preference of where to start. When building a plane, I like to start with the wings because your wingspan is determined by the size of your can. This photo shows the upper wing of the biplane being built. It has about a 10" span. One of the things I like about using aluminum cans is they already have an "airfoil" type bend to them.

Step 4: Constructing Parts...

Think through your project. Sketch it out if that makes you feel comfortable. I see it in my head and just do it. In this photo you see some of the forms used to create cylinders and how they are made. Pick the size of the form that meets your needs.

1. Wrap a section of a can around the form that you have selected. In this picture there is a 1" piece of PVC pipe, a 3/4" aluminum pipe and 1/2" steel pipe. Actually, you can use any size cylinder you want.

2. You have to be very careful when creating the aluminum cylinder.
a. Take an aluminum strip and wrap it around the cylinder form you are going to use.
b. Mix some JB-Weld and apply a thin bead just inside the edge of the aluminum strip.
c. Take a piece of cord and wrap it around the cylinder form and the aluminum strip and let it set.
d. Be VERY careful not to get any JB-Weld on your form. (You will end up gluing the aluminum to
your form.

Step 5: Fuselage Construction...

This picture shows a couple of things. The top wing of the biplane has been completed and the bottom wings are in the process of being attached. You can see the half inch nuts in this picture as they are used to hold the wings to the fuselage. Again, JB-Weld is being used and this stage needs to set for at least 12 hours. This picture also shows the beginnings of the helicopter that was built and the wrapped item in the upper left is another cylinder being made. It will eventually become part of the helicopter.

If you are using and mixing JB-Weld, it is easier to do a couple of projects at the same time. Then you don't waste the JB-Weld mix.

Step 6: The Guts...

This picture shows a couple of things. First, both the helicopter and biplane parts can be seen. I have used a toothbrush motor and attached some wires to it. Shrink wrap was used to make the motor snug in the fuselage.

Step 7: Motor Assembly...

This is a closer look at the motor assembly.

Step 8: Putting the Guts Into the Fuselage...

Slide the motor with its connection wires into the fuselage. Attach the wires to the poles of the battery holder (can be soldered or crimped).

Step 9: Project Completion...

Complete the project by gluing all the parts together. As mentioned in the beginning, what you end up with is what "you" make it. Beer cans are a great raw material to work with. The aluminum is thin and easy to cut, shape, and glue together. I'm working on two more projects of which one is pretty serious. I'm using NASA diagrams of the ISS to construct a model of the space station. It won't be to scale, but it should look pretty proportional. The second project is building a modified space wheel that is motorized. I guess I have to go drink some beer.

Hope this starts some ideas floating....

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    15 Discussions


    3 years ago

    the plane I gave my dad for his birthday was hung on the garage, yet after a particularly windy night it'd flown partly across the driveway where it crash landed and really wasn't salvageable!

    Nice! I don't use beer cans for my can aeroplanes because of the weight, because mine are flyable.


    9 years ago on Step 9

    hi mate,
    nice project.want to do one myself/


    9 years ago on Introduction

     So, I was going to ask if these fly, but then I read...

    Still, Really cool!

    The Little red one, was that out of a few Coke cans? And how did the bottle rockets disengage? How did you make the fuselage? I think that it would be a really cool instructaable to show how to make one of these! 

    Five stars!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Nice work. Just wanted to point out that the six batteries inside a 9v are classified as AAAA and not AAA.

    the gizmoman

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Cool, I've builded popcan backpacking stoves now ive got to try this, this is so cool!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    OK, this is CLOSE to the coolest 'able I've seen on the site. REAL close! I figure this is kinda like zen modeling: no real point other than the exercise itself. But hey, at the end of it at least you have something a bit more tangible than a pile of sand you move around with a rake. :-) Dude, seriously, this is fantastic stuff! It's right up there with the paper-craft castle I just read about on another feed. We're talkin' paragon of patience here.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry, these models do not fly. They are static displays hung from the ceiling. The biplane and silver jet "fly" around in tight circles and the helicopter is an excellent experiment in countering the torque created by the main rotor...The physics is all wrong for them to actually fly.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    BEAUTIFUL!!! Congratulations. I use soda cans for other buildings, but it never occurred to me to make aircraft with them. (Yo uso las latas de gaseosas para otras construcciones, pero nunca se me ocurrió hacer aeromodelos con ellas).


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, no kidding, do these actually fly? If so, quite possibly the coolest thing ever.