Modern Aluminum Paper Airplanes Mobile

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I have always been amused with hanging mobiles. They are fun and memorable for all children in their cribs (mine was of giraffes) and they are just as interesting to watch the balancing act as an adult. However, I've found that the most interesting modern mobiles can be very expensive but creative works of art.

I had also found a perfect spot in my home office to hang a mobile where the lighting would be perfect to highlight the mobile. My roadblock was the cost of each mobile I was attracted to. So - I decided to make my own. It was both inexpensive and a lot of fun!

This instructable documents the process of building my Modern Aluminum Paper Airplanes Mobile

Supplies:

  • Thin gauge sheets of Aluminum (can be found at Lowes and Home Depot) https://www.lowes.com/pd/Hillman-6-in-x-1-1-2-ft-A...
  • Wooden sphere or cube the size might vary depending on your project (I used the 1 inch sphere - which I found at Michaels but I'm sure and craft store would have them) https://www.michaels.com/craftwood-wood-ball-natur...
  • Nylon Fishing line (for bead stringing - also found at michaels) https://www.michaels.com/nylon-string-by-ashland/1...
  • A hook to hang the finished mobile from the ceiling
  • Any tape (I used painters tape)
  • Spray paint
  • Angular grinder with cutting wheel and grinding wheel
  • Drill with 1/16" bit
  • Ruler/straight edge
  • Fine point sharpie
  • To bend the aluminum in a straight line you will need a:
    • Paint bucket
    • Plywood/old or sample of flooring material
    • 4x4 block
    • a couple clamps


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Step 1: Draw Your Idea on Paper

The first thing you want to do in any project is jot your idea down on paper. I started with a very simple sketch of what I wanted the mobile to look like. I knew I wanted something that somewhat resembled paper airplane as it would be in the air. I was also thinking about the angles at which I wanted each airplane to point. I was also thinking about how large I wanted each plane.

Step 2: Start Cutting Triangles Out of the Aluminum Sheets

You can see I measured my smallest triangle to be about 9 inches by 6 inches. Then I used the angular grinder with the metal cutting blade to cut along the lines. Follow the flow in the pictures to make as many triangles as you'd like for your mobile. I made a total of four but you can make as many or as few as you'd like.

Step 3: Folding the Aluminum Triangle

I do not have a good work bench so I used what I had to create a pseudo sheet metal brake. I used the paint bucket as a stand. I placed a small sheet of plywood on the bucket (shown in the second picture). Then I placed the aluminum triangle on the edge of the plywood and lined up the center line of the triangle with the edge of the plywood (shown in picture 3). Next I placed a sample piece of wood flooring on top of the aluminum triangle. I also took care to line the edge of the flooring wood up with the edge of the plywood (shown in picture 4-5). After getting everything lined up, I clamped the two pieces of wood so nothing would move (shown in picture 6). The next part was the hard part. Take the 4x4 and hold it above the half of the triangle which is hanging out past the edge of the wood. Carefully use the mass of the 4x4 to press down on the aluminum triangle until you get about a 90 degree bend down the center of the triangle (shown in picture 7-9). Now you have an aluminum paper airplane ready to use in your mobile.

Step 4: Creating a Counterbalance Weight for the Bottom of the Mobile

Now that you have your airplanes completed, you will need to make a counterbalance for the lowest part of the mobile. I used a wooden sphere. I drilled a hole through the center of the sphere with a 1/16 inch drill bit. Once I had a hole all the way through the wooden sphere, I fed the nylon string through the hole in the sphere and tied a large knot in the nylon string. The sphere can now hang from the nylon string.

Step 5: Balancing the Aluminum Paper Airplanes

Balancing the airplanes or any object in a mobile is the most difficult part of this project. What you want to remember is to always start that the bottom or with the lowest item in the mobile. You want to start at he bottom so as you add objects toward the top the balancing point does not change based on the fact that you have finished adding weight to the bottom.

With the description above in mind, first Start with the wooden sphere. Take the string from the top of the wooden sphere and tape it to the underside of the first airplane. Tape it near the front of the airplane. Now you will want to find the balancing point between the wooden sphere and the weight of the rear of the airplane. To do this take a second piece or string and tape it to the top of the airplane. The lift the string to see if the plane is balanced how you would like it to be be balanced. If you remember from my drawing - I wanted my first plane to be tilted or angled upwards. In the 6th picture I had placed the top string to far toward the rear of the plane making the plane tilt downward. I moved the top string much closer to the front of the plane so it would tilt upward (shown in the last picture). Once you have the plane balanced you can move to the next step.

Step 6: Drill Holes in the Plane

Follow these steps once you have each plane balanced as you like.

With the string and tape still on the plane you will want to use the sharpie to make a mark where the string and tape intersect on both the top and the bottom of the plane (shown in picture 1-2). Now remove the tape and string and drill 1/16 inch holes at both locations (shown in pictures 2-4). Now feed the string through these holes and tie knots so the string will not slip through (shown in pictures 5-6).

Once you have the sphere and 1st plane completed, return to the previous step. The only difference will be that you will hang both the sphere and first plane from the bottom of the second plane (shown on picture 7).

Step 7: Pictures of the Final Result

After balancing all the planes, I took all the string off and painted the wooden sphere with black spray paint.I also used the angular grinder with the sanding or grinding blade to gently sand each aluminum plane to give them a brushed look. I really like how the whole project turned out! Hope you do too!

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    5 Discussions

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    jeepolantern

    13 days ago

    Thanks for the comments. :)
    Yes the wood flooring and paint bucket are basically my work station since my work area is my driveway. :)
    And the mix of metals will be very cool. I'd like to see pictures of it or I might make another myself.

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    jeanniel1

    24 days ago

    So easy and great idea! Even can make it out of stiff paper - what an idea. Ha ha ha! I wondered about the paint can and the flooring panel... now I know. Am going to try this!

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    dcummins81

    26 days ago

    This looks awesome! I am going to try it with a mix of the steel and hopefully an equal number of copper planes made from thin copper sheet!