Easy Cardboard Model Airplane




About: I’m currently studying engineering. We’ll See how that goes.

I have always enjoyed making little things out of cardboard.After being inspired by a video where someone made an RC plane from a pizza box, I found myself making detailed cardboard airplanes that can glide. This will be a semi in-depth look at how to make one of said cardboard planes. The specific plane that will be made in this instructable will be the FW 190 A8, but the steps will work with any cardboard plane.

Step 1: Materials

This is a list of the materials needed for this project:

  • Cardboard (cereal box type, about one mm thick)
  • Hot glue (one bag)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • notebook or paper (for taking down measurements)
  • Pencil

Optional Materials:

  • Paint
  • Paperclip
  • Sharp knife

Step 2: Finding an Airplane

The first thing to do when making a cardboard airplane is to choose a plane that you like and to choose one that works well with the materials you are using. Most older planes work well for this, but I recommend finding one that has either a more boxy, cone, or cylindrical shape (planes that combine these also work fine. Ex: A-10 Warthog). In this instructable I will be demonstrating how to make a FW 190 A8 (pictured above).

Once you choose your plane, you'll want to find reference photos of said plane so that you can get the proportions correct. I used the photos that I found on the Wikipedia article for my plane.

Step 3: Constructing the Wing Base/outer Shell

For this part you'll want to find a good top down photo or drawing of your plane. You will want this to take measurements from so that your plane ends up properly to scale.

First, measure the wingspan of the plane and the width of the wings at the end and at the base of the wing. Write those three measurements down.

Next, choose how big of a wingspan you want your plane to have then divide the wingspan of your wings by the measured wingspan. Write this number down; you will be multiplying all of your measurements by this (and using the resulting number as your measurements) so that everything is properly to scale.

After you have all of the measurements written down and to scale, transfer them onto a piece of paper to make a template. measure the width of the planes fuselage and include half of the width of that added on to the length of the wing (the wings will be slotted into the body of the plane).

trace the template onto one of your pieces of thin cardboard then flip it so that the front edge of the wing is connected on the top and bottom side when it is cut out ( these pieces will be folded in half along the part where the two wing front edges touch). Cut out the wings with a one cm or half inch allowance for the next step (it doesn't need to be exact).

Once you have each wing cut out, fold it along its front edge, but don't put a hard crease in it so that the airfoil shape can be made (unless your wing is supposed to have a sharp edge).

Hint: for cereal box cardboard, place the edge on a slightly rounded corner and rub the fold into the cardboard with a pencil or similar hard object.

Step 4: Wing Shape and Refining

After the base for the wing has been made, it is time to work on the inside of the wing, which will help the wing keep its shape, and help prevent the wings from bending too much if you ever feel like throwing this plane.

First, grab some of the thicker cardboard and measure out enough quadrilaterals to build the wing up to the right height. This step doesn't need to be as precise since no one will actually see the insides of the wings. For my plane I used three pieces stacked on top of each other, each losing about a centimeter in length and width for each level.

After you get your pieces cut out, glue them to the inside of the wing as close to the front edge as possible.

Once the insides of the first wing are in place, fold the wing in half over top the inner supports. Glue the insides of the wing together, placing glue on the top of the supports to make sure the wings are strong. Take the second, unglued wing, fold it in half, and slide it into or over the allowance left for the body of the plane, making sure not to go too far. Glue the two wings together then finish folding the second wing in half, adding a connecting piece of supporting cardboard in the middle if needed. Once the wings are glued together trim them back to the proper size.

I folded my wings in half down the middle since my plane has a slight V shape to its wings.

Step 5: Constructing the Body of the Plane

The next step is to make the body of the plane. As always, measure the dimensions (for the base, do tip to tail excluding the propeller and if there is a rounded part directly before the propeller since these will both be made separately in this tutorial). Also measure the widest point on the plane and how far that is from the nose. Draw another template using those measurements and cut it out. Trace the template onto the cereal box cardboard and cut it out. There is no need to leave an allowance this time.

If the nose of your plane is angled upwards on the wings, make some small cardboard bits to place between the base and the wing top.

If your plane is cylindrical or conical, measure the circumference at its widest point and cut out a circle of the proper size. Cut a slit halfway through this circle and on the base to mirror. Slide the circle onto the base so that it is standing perpendicular, then secure it with glue.

Step 6: Adding a Skeleton and the Tail Piece

Now it is time to reinforce the body of the cardboard plane. This is another part that doesn't require too much accuracy when it comes to measurements since it will be covered up in the next part.

measure a point half way through the planes body and cut out a piece of the thick cardboard that matches the height at that point and the width (I just eyeballed this and it turned out fine).

Next, cut out a length of cardboard that follows the height of the middle piece and the nose piece. It should be as long as from the front circle piece to the tip of the base. Add a slit to the middle point reinforcement to allow for the placing of the new spine, then glue this in place.

Once the inner reinforcements have been added, measure the reference photo for the dimensions of the tail. I measured the height of the tail at the highest and the shortest points, the distance to a line going perpendicularly through the highest point from the back of the tail, and the distance from the back of the tail to the shortest point.

Use those two measurements to draw out a template for the tail piece, making it extend on the body enough for the cardboard to reach halfway to the midpoint, and making it tall enough to be able to reach the bottom of the base, but also to join at the top.

Step 7: Skinning the Plane

This is when the plane starts to come together. It is also a really easy step as no measurements are required.

Take a thin piece of cardboard (like the cereal box cardboard) and line it up with the the edge of the base on one side. Glue down the cardboard to the edge, then bend the cardboard across the inner supports and gradually cut the cardboard until it fits snugly. Put glue on the tops of the supports and on the other edge of the base and press down on the cardboard so that it stays on the inner reinforcements.

cut a smaller strip of cardboard to cover the transition between the tail piece and the rest of the plane. glue the piece flush with the previously glued skin, but overlapping the tail piece a slight amount.

Step 8: Building the Nose Tip

For rounded nosed aircraft, take a piece of cardboard that can wrap around the nose of your plane, cut slits into it, then overlap the slits and glue them together until it forms a circular piece. Trim the piece to fit the existing portion of the nose then glue it on.

If you think the outcome looks too rough in the middle, add a circle of thin cardboard or paper to cover up the messy edges in the center.

Step 9: Adding the Cockpit

Again, there are very few measurements for this part. On the reference, measure from the nose to the front of the cockpit, or from the tail to the back of the cockpit. Scale the measurements then mark that spot with a pencil. after that measurement is made, measure the length of the cockpit and mark it on the plane as well.

For the FW 190 A8, I cut out two equilateral triangles and one rectangle with a height the same as the length of the triangle sides. I then pasted the three pieces on a piece of cardboard with the rectangle in the center of the two triangles, with the edges of the rectangle touching the edges of the triangles. I then cut the piece of cardboard, leaving about a centimeter or approximately half an inch of length extra on either side. Next, I took a coffin shaped piece (I didn't measure it, just made sure that the two pieces, when combined, would fit within the required length) and folded it to fit with the front part. I then glued the two parts together

Once the cockpit has been assembled, glue it to the top of the plane (or wherever it needs to go)

Step 10: Building the Propeller

Since my propeller had three blades, I drew out a circle that looked big enough then divided it into thirds. I then sketched out the rough shapes of half of the blades then cut the propeller out of thin cardboard. Next, I took strips of the thin cardboard that were twice as long as the propeller blades and covered the blades on both sides with the cardboard. I then trimmed the propeller to shape and added a small, reinforcing circle to the middle of it to keep the blades from bending.

Step 11: Making That Little Nose Cone and Adding the Final Details

The little nose cone was made out of a thin piece of cardboard cut into the shape of a thick rainbow and then glued together. This nose cone was then glued to one side of the propeller. I then added a folded paperclip through the center of the propeller and poked a hole in the middle of the planes nose. This part is optional but I decided to do it when I accidentally broke the propeller off of the nose after I had glued it on.

Step 12: Personalize Your Plane!

There are many things to do with your plane when you are done. Some ideas would be to give it a custom paint job or to throw it around a bit. If you want to throw around your plane, make sure it is balance when you hold it in the middle of the wing, if it isn't, add some washers or coins for weight.

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    24 Discussions

    Tura Street

    6 days ago

    This looks amazing! Thanks for sharing!!


    9 days ago on Step 11

    Thanks for a great instructable. You have inspired me to have a go.
    Regarding the drawing and scaling of the models, many model aircraft builders down load 3 view drawings. These can then be changed from pdf to gif using GIMP, and then rescaled to whatever size you want. If you are using Posterazor to print out very big scale ups, the plans need to be in gif to use in Posterazor.


    10 days ago

    Niceley done!


    23 days ago

    Nice, I am also attempting to make this plane out of cardboard and, how wide does the wing, and the body has to be though?

    5 replies

    Reply 23 days ago

    Hi! So what I did was choose how wide I wanted the wingspan to be before I did the rest of the plane. I then found a reference photo that had a good top down shot (for this specific plane I used a drawing from Wikipedia) and measured the wingspan of the drawing. I then divided the wingspan of how big my wings were by the measurement from the reference photo. For instance, if my wings were 25 cm wide but the reference photo was 12 cm wide, I would divide the 25 by 12 to get a number for how many times bigger or smaller my plane will be (in this example it would be 2.08). After you have that number, measure the ref photo for the width of the wing in the tip and the part closest to the plane. Multiply that number by the number you got from dividing the two previous ones and that should be the width of your wings. Multiply the length and width of the body from the reference by the same number to get how long and wide it should be. I hope that helps, if you need more clarification just ask :)


    Reply 16 days ago

    also btw, can we also do it in a epilog laser thing aswell? one more thing, can we do it in 2d aswell?


    Reply 16 days ago

    Well, everything that is required to make this plane is from a flat sheet of cardboard


    16 days ago

    I'm so impressed! Well done! Caused me to look the plane up. Found this info that gave me some good insight: https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/worl...
    Especially interesting to me was the counterpart to the FW 190, the Messerschmitt Bf 109, was powered by a BMW engine to carry heavier loads. Our P-51 Mustang had an Allison Engine. Your Great Grandpa Nunn inspected Allison airplane engines, but it was after WW II in which he and three of his brothers fought.


    21 days ago

    This is really cool! The planes from this era have always interested me, and this is one of my favorite. (For those of you who don't know, FW stands for Focke-Wulf. This was a German plane widely used in WWII.) I voted for you.

    2 replies

    Reply 21 days ago

    They’re known as some of the best fighters in the war.


    21 days ago

    I have been building flying model airplanes using balsa wood and glue known as cement to join parts. Covering the frame with tissue paper. Spraying water on tissue paper. This shrinks the paper and helps in giving good profile. A single propeller engine is then fitted to its nose. Engine fuel consists of equal parts of ether, kerosene and castor oil.

    1 reply

    21 days ago

    well done dude, see the free plans on FLITETEST website, think you will love them.
    they did that pizza box plane WITH electronivs and it flies like a champ
    hope you will put rc elec on this and fly it.


    27 days ago

    Wow! Great job!


    4 weeks ago

    You are so talented!-you could easily make an intriguing book on how to build a variety of cardboard planes. Your project really captured my interest, because the pictures were very well taken & helpful to invision each step & instructions covered every detail so anyone could build this. Well done!


    Tip 4 weeks ago

    In case you haven't already found these, you should really try building (and flying, do you like flying?) foamboard models like the kind from flitetest.com. The construction techniques are almost the same as this cardboard model, and the model can be made into RC or a glider.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Ah ok, thank you. That’s pretty neat. They sound familiar. I believe it might have actually been their build on the pizza box plane that inspired me to start making these (I’m not 100% sure though).