The world of toy helicopters was not always overrun with radio-controlled gadgets using the latest in infrared technology. Toy helicopters have been relatively simple in design for centuries, long before man ever actually flew in such a machine. If you like working with wood and building traditional toys that fill a child with imagination, rather than filling landfills with batteries, learn how to make a traditional toy helicopter.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Tongue depressor
- Small saucepan
- New No. 2 pencil
- Super glue
- Felt-tipped markers
- 3 to 4 inches of aquarium tubing
- 12 to 18 inches of kite string
Fill a small saucepan with water and bring to a boil on the stove.
Soak the tongue depressor in the boiling water for at least 30 seconds. This will make the wood slightly more flexible so you can shape it into a rotor. Remove the tongue depressor from the water with a pair of tongs, and try to twist the stick in the middle. You will want to try to twist one side forward while twisting the other side backward. Hold in position while the tongue depressor cools. You may need to repeat this step a few times. Ideally, you will shape the depressor so one half is angled. If you have trouble bending the wood, try using a file to at least angle the edges.
Apply a small drop of super glue to the pencil's eraser, then stick it to the centre of the tongue depressor. Get it as close to dead-centre as possible, as this will affect your balance. You could also use a pencil and tape measure to measure and mark the exact centre, although just eyeballing it is perfectly acceptable. In place of a pencil, a 1/4-inch dowel rod, about 7 to 8 inches long, will provide good balance for your toy helicopter.
Decorate your helicopter. Use different coloured felt-tipped markers to colour your toy helicopter with a colour and design of your choosing. Colour the rotor blade at the very least.
Wrap your sting tightly around the pencil, about one-third of the distance down from the top of the toy helicopter. Use a piece of kite string or nylon cord. A piece 12 to 18 inches long is perfect. Simply wind the string around the pencil several times, leaving a small amount at the end for you to hold.
Cut off a piece of the aquarium tubing that is 3 or 4 inches long, just long enough to hold on to. The tube must have an inside diameter that is large enough for your pencil to drop inside loosely, with plenty of extra room. Use a knife or small drill to make a hole in one side of this tube, near one end. The hole should be big enough for your kite string to fit through.
Position the tubing so the end with the hole is at the top, and slide the pencil inside it. When the portion where you wrapped string around the pencil is inside the tubing, pass the extra length from the end of your string through the hole so the string can be pulled, even though the wrapping is inside the tube.
Hold the handle of the toy helicopter with one hand, and give the string a good pull with the other. You want to pull the string all the way off in one long, fluid motion. As you do so, the helicopter will begin spinning, and when you reach the end of the string, the toy helicopter will leave the tubing handle and fly into the air.
Tips and warnings
- If well-balanced, these toy helicopters can fly anywhere from 30 to 50 feet in the air.