How To Make A Hot Air Balloon

Hot air rises.  If you trap the hot air, you can get it to lift a balloon into the air.  Here is how to make a tissue paper hot air balloon.


Hot Air Balloon Supplies

First, you’ll need to gather your supplies.  You need:

  • paper clips
  • tissue paper
  • school glue
  • thin wire
  • wire cutters
  • scrap of light cotton fabric
  • wax & matches or lighter
  • scissors
  • pencil
  • poster board
  • ruler

Cut Out the Balloon Shape

Layer four pieces of tissue paper on top of one another, fold them all in half and use paper clips to secure the pieces together on the folded side.  Then cut a balloon shape similar to the one below through all layers of tissue paper.  It doesn’t matter if the shape is just so, it just needs to be a general balloon shape and as large as your paper will allow.  At the bottom you should leave 4 inches of “stem” for the bottom of the balloon.  In this picture the bottom of our balloon is actually too small, we left only 2 inches, and we ended up having to trim it up to make it larger when we got to the end of the project.


Remove the paper clips from the tissue paper very carefully so you don’t tear the paper.  We ended up bending our paper clips up so they would release with out tearing.

Glue the Balloon Together

Next you will glue the panels of the balloon together.  Squeeze glue along one entire half of a sheet of tissue paper.  Lay a second sheet diretly on top of the first.  Half of the sheets should be glued together.


Then fold the top sheet  in half, over the already glued portion.  Place more glue on the part you just folded and then glue down the third sheet.  Do this for all four layers, finally gluing the last piece to the first one you started with.  The layers will look like an accordion when they are laying flat.


Then check the top of the balloon and if there is a hole, glue it closed.  You may need a little tissue paper patch to cover a hole.

Make the Rim

You need a stiff rim to keep the mouth of your balloon open.  Cut a long piece of poster board, the whole length of a large sheet in a 1/4 inch strip, then glue it in a circle, using a paper clip to keep it secure until the glue dries.


Prepare Your Fuel

This balloon will be fueled with cloth covered with wax and set alight.  Start with a strip of thin cotton cloth (remember light weight is imperative!) about 3 inches by 8 inches.  Tie it in a loose knot and drip melted wax over the cloth to saturate it.  You will want to do a couple of layers of wax.


You see above there are two wires that the knot of the fabric was tied around.  After this picture I switched out the wire for some thinner that Tim found for me.  Light weight!

Attach the Rim to the Balloon

Glue the poster board rim you made to the bottom of the balloon.  It works well to cut little slits in the tissue paper so the paper wraps up around the rim more easily.  Use enough glue to completely seal the bottom. Then carefully poke the wire through the paper and secure it around the rim in the four quarters of the balloon so that your fuel is in the center.


Here is the balloon finished.


Mistakes We Made In Balloon Construction

The first hot air balloon we made had way too small a hole at the bottom.  This meant the flame was too close to the edges and burned the balloon up.  You really need to use a long piece of poster board and make the rim as large as possible.

A couple of years ago we tried to send balloons like this up in July.  They simply did not rise.  Ever.  When we did it in January though, there were no problems.  The air has to be cold enough to have a big difference between the temperature inside the balloon and outside the balloon.  This really is a winter activity.  Besides, in January there’s very little chance of starting a fire by accident.

New Year Celebration

When we sent our hot air balloons up we did it on New Years Eve and sent them up with our wishes for the new year.  You can do this activity any time early in January and have it focused on your wishes, your goals, or giving up a bad habit for the new year.


More From Layers of Learning

If you enjoyed this hot air balloon, you’ll probably love these other cool projects.

How to build and launch a PVC Rocket.
How to build and launch a PVC Rocket.

The science of sledding. Potential and kinetic energy.
The science of sledding. Potential and kinetic energy.

Unit 1-1 Free




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