Paper Plate Papercraft Spacecraft Craft




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Create your own Lost in Space Jupiter 2 spacecraft from paper plates. Try your hand at the Spindrift, Flying Sub, USS Enterprise, even Thunderbird 2 or anything else saucer shaped. Classic sci-fi. Classic TV.

What better way to get into Making than by creating paper models.  With just paper and glue, you get to learn hands on how to craft and apply a little bit of engineering. And fun to stoke the imagination.

Step 1: Dilithium Crystals

wait, we need more carbon tetrachloride....

All you need is some paper and glue.

That was all we had as kids, days before personal computers and pepakura.  Sure, there are dimensioned blueprints and papercraft cutouts already out there, but the challenge is to do it yourself.

and it helps to have:

scissors/utility knife


clear packaging tape

something dome shaped like a lotion bottle cap

and electronics to light it up - I have an Adafruit Flora with Neopixel rings (arduino with LEDS)

You could make the model from regular paper but I wanted a more rigid model so the next best thing is using light cardstock or material scavenged from papter plates and paper cups.

Raid the cupboard or pantry for some clean paper plates and paper cups and toothpicks or bamboo skewer sticks.

I used 9 inch and 6 inch paper plates.  You can make do with foam plates, not eco-friendly or those uppity up dinnerware plates, they are thicker but we want to form the shapes easily.  Plain uncoated plates glue together more easily.

Step 2: Top Saucer Section...

If you look around, there are so many things that you can use to form the basic shapes of something new.

For the Jupiter 2 spaceship, there is a dome element on top of the saucer.

I spotted this lotion bottle cap made of clear plastic that would be perfect to use.  It just would have been recycled after use anyway.

The paper plate is already in the shape of the saucer section.  We just need to build up the sides to make it a deeper bowl shape.

Mark the size of the bottle cap in the center of the plate.

Mark out the plate in 8 pie sections.

Slice the pie segments to fit the bottle cap.

Slice the outer pie segments just to the inner plate rim.

Overlap the pie sections by about 1/4 inch or plate rim indentation and glue in place.

This gathers up the rim and makes it a bowl shape.  When the paper plate gets saturated with the glue, you can mash the seam or bump to form a smoother bowl shape.

Step 3: Bottom Saucer Section...

We now need to make a paper plate skirt for the saucer engine ring which will be the bottom of the paper cup.

Just like for the bottle cap, mark and cut a hole for the paper cup in the smaller paper plate.

I laminated two paper plates together first to get a stiffer bottom plate.

The sliced paper segments will be the gluing tabs.

This assembly will then be glued onto the bottom of a larger paper plate thus forming the bottom saucer section.

Glue the cup in place.

The top of the cup that protrudes through the saucer will be supporting the top saucer section.  Cut the cup to height and flare out. 

Step 4: Mating Top and Bottom...

Mark how big the top section fits onto the bottom saucer.

Cut and gather the bottom saucer rim to fit inside the top saucer.

Glue so you have a lip on the bottom saucer.

You can now add details to the spacecraft.

Cut out the bay window.  I used pieces of a bamboo skewer for the window dividers.  Reinforce or glue in place with bits of paper or scraps cut from a paper plate. Build up so you have an inset window frame.

Use an awl or a pen to punch holes for the door or windows.  The equipment hatches were punched on top and covered from the inside with a piece of paper plate.  Cut out some pieces of paper plate to use as overlays for the door and bottom saucer window cover.

I built up the receptacle for the bottle cap.  The bottle cap could just slide into place after I finished painting.

Step 5: Landing Gear...

This is just what I did on the fly to make the landing gear.

Keep gluing and folding pieces of paper together till you get something that looks like the landing gear.

I used a paper hole punch to make the landing gear holes in the supports.  

You can be more screen accurate if you used a utility knife to cut out rectangular holes.

Bamboo skewers are used for the landing gear struts.

Tiny pieces of toothpicks were used for the landing gear steps.

Use plenty of glue to make fillets or smooth out and fill any holes or imperfections you see in the streamlined surface.

Step 6: Paint...

The Prime directive.

Prime and paint.  

I used some silver acrylic paint.  

Use a magic marker to add in the engine power ring details.

Step 7: Disco Lights...

When paint is dry, you can use some clear packaging tape for the windows.

Tape a piece of tape on itself so you have a non sticky piece of clear plastic.

Tape that over the window openings.

You can use anything to light this up.

I had an Adafruit Flora arduino that was hooked up to a pair of Neopixel rings.  It was already loaded up with the basic goggles sketch which provides a similar light animation as the true Jupiter 2.

One Neopixel ring is taped to the bottom of the paper cup and the other faces upward to provide interior and dome lighting.

Note that I punched some holes in the paper cup in the interior section to add some more light into the interior.  But then I had to add a light blocking extra layer of paper to the top saucer to control the light bleed through the paper plate.

Step 8: Launch...

The Jupiter 2 is done. Time for lunch.

Complete your model by constructing a diorama or set for the spaceship.

Create an alien landscape or rocket launch pad with gantries and other gear.

Make your own sci-fi movie. Learn how to do special effects.

Build Robot.

Have fun with it.



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    15 Discussions


    use an empty toilet paper roll as the basis for the cigar shape main hull and two longer empty paper towel rolls as the engine pods. Make an instructable on that.

    Aww cute. Love it . I pretty much think that's how it was originally made for prop use.

    Now you have to make a B9 or better known as just plain Robot Instructable. :)

    1 reply

    Carbon tetrachloride? Back in the day you could bathe your kids with it. Come to find out it has a slight risk of causing Acute liver failure. Good stuff.

    2 replies

    Where else but on TV do you learn at an early age the names of cool chemical compounds like trinitrotoluene or nitroglycerin.

    I grew up watching the community college Distant learning Science shows on PBS. Not the best thing in the world for an unsupervised 8 year old on summer break.

    "Um i dont know that burn got into the carpet!"

    Tex Arcana

    4 years ago

    I did something similar when I was a kid in the '60s...

    1 reply
    caitlinsdadTex Arcana

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    papier mache balloon Sputniks. I can believe how much they charge for a blank styrofoam or floral foam ball.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Wow! This looks very neat, and do I see the toilet roll holder? ;-)