So you want to build a tissue paper
hot air balloon like this one.
We started with rolls of tissue paper
24 inches wide for that one.
We cut off 8 pieces, each 6 feet
You can also glue 2 or 3 pieces of
regular tissue paper together to
make the 8 long pieces you will need.
These sheets were 20 by 26 inches but you can use whatever size you
Whichever you use staple the 8 layers
together 3 or 4 places along the
long edges. It will make the marking and cutting
steps that follow a lot easier. Look ahead at the following steps so
you will know where to put the
staples so they will be in the part that is cut away. If one ends up in the wrong place
just remove it after you cut out the
gores (those are the shapes that you will use to make the balloon).
Mark the shape of the gores on the
top of the stack of 8 tissue paper
panels. The exact dimensions depend on the
width and length of the paper you
are using, but aren't too important. The point will be at the top of the
balloon. The long slanted parts will be glued
together and will form the sides
of the balloon envelope (the technical name for the outside of the
balloon). The lines from the top point should
go to the edge about a third of the
way down. Then draw two lines at the bottom
about 6 inches apart and 4 inches
long (they will make the mouth of the balloon) The last 2 lines connect from about
half way down the sides to the ends
of those lines.
When you have all the lines drawn you
will have something that looks
Then cut along the lines, all 8
layers at the same time. Leaving everything flat on the floor
helps a lot with this and
Next join the gores. Any glue stick will work.
Next we will join the top gore to the
second one along one edge (gores
1 and 2).
We have found it works well to
slide the top layer(white) over about a half inch and then put the glue
on the second layer (tan).
It is also best to start joining
at the point, because good alignment there will make it easier when we
are finishing the balloon. Fold the tan layer over to make the
joint along that edge.
helps but isn't essential.
Next slide the top pair over a little
and repeat for the second (gores
3 and 4).
Glue from the tip to the bottom.
Move it aside and join 5 to 6
and then 7 to 8.
When you finish this step you will
have a stack of 4 pairs of gores.
Next we join the other edge. First fold back the top layer (gore
1) of the top pair. And starting at the point again, join
gore 2 to 3.
Fold that pair back and repeat for 4
and 5 and then 6 and 7.
The points won't be great but any
problems can be fixed later.
Now we have gore 1 joined to 2, 2 to
3, 3 to 4, 4 to 5, 5 to 6, 6 to 7,
and 7 to 8. All we need to do to complete the
envelope is to join the edge of gore
1 to the edge of gore 8. To do that lift gore 1 and push
everything except gore 8 back out of
the way. line up the 2 free edges and glue
them together just like you have done
before (you must be getting good at it by now).
The envelope is complete.
This is a good time to check for any
places that the joints need to be
re glued. Fix any big holes, you can ignore
little ones if you want.
Holes near the top are more important than ones near the mouth.
Next we will need to reinforce the
mouth. I usually use telephone hook up wire.
I asked the local phone company if
they had any scrap 5 feet or so long
that they could donate. The 25 pair interior hook up wire
they gave me was perfect. Other wire will work too. It
should be light weight but stiff
enough to hold the mouth of the balloon open when you are inflating it. For your balloon you will need a
single strand of the wire.
Open the mouth of the balloon and
glue along the edge of two or three
gores. Put the wire on the glue and fold the
paper over it. Continue all the way around.
When you get to where you started twist the wires together, cut off any
excess and glue the paper over the connection as well.
This is what it will look like when
you are done.
Use a fan to do a trial inflation and
look for any holes or seams that
will need to be fixed.
The tops just above were good but if
the points didn't come together
perfectly cut a patch out of some of
the scrap and glue it over the hole. Other holes and rips can be repaired
the same way. Remember the balloon will fly best if
it is as light as possible so
make the patches as small as will get the job done.
Here is the setup we use to launch
balloons. The heat source is a propane outdoor
gas cooker (turkey deep
Two sheet metal stove pipes (6 and 8 inch diameter) direct the heat to
the balloons. This arrangement is slightly safer
than a single pipe since the outer
one won't instantly sear the skin if someone touches it. It is still hot enough to cause a
burn though so please be careful.
A camp stove with no pipes can be
used but there is the added problem
of directly igniting a balloon. Launch couldn't be simpler. Light the burner, hold the mouth of
the balloon over the top, wait for
it to start to pull, and then release. Any wind will make this operation
less than simple though. You may need a helper or two to keep
the balloon from catching fire
from exposure to direct heat/flame. If one does catch fire just keep
everyone out of the way and listen to
the crowd cheer (they always do).
Too much heat will ignite the balloons even if they don't contact
They will usually give a little warning by turning brown and starting
to smoke before they burst into flame. Just starting the inflation.
Nearly ready to launch.
A kite string can be attached to the
bottom of the balloons to make it
easier to recover them. The weight of the string means that
they won't fly as high but you will
be able to send them aloft again.
Of course if you don't launch in an
open field you will probably end up
with you balloon hanging in a tree.
If you are very lucky a shift in the
breeze will free it and it will flutter down and you will
get to fly it again.
We have used balloons to lift baskets
carrying stand-ins for the
passengers of the first balloon flight.
When some of these balloons were
flown free they went out of sight.
We took some measurements and found that one was more than 1000 feet up
and 2 miles away when we last saw it.
If you have the inclination and mathematical skills you can improve on
the balloon shape.
You will need to figure out how wide the gores should be at each
distance from the top.
The right gore shape will have smoothly curving sides from the point to
The shape when inflated will have a nearly spherical top and the lower
portion will be roughly conical.
I will include more about how to do the computations when I update this