How to make flying paper lanterns

Written by angie diersman
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How to make flying paper lanterns
Flame retardant helps make flying paper lanterns safer. (istockphotos)

Flying lanterns float into the sky when heated by an open flame in the same manner as a hot-air balloon. Launched in China more then 2,000 years ago, the original flying lantern was constructed from a bamboo hoop with thin sheets of paper attached to form a bag or cube. From the opening at the bottom, hot air filled the lantern, fuelled by a burning candle or a piece of cloth soaked in oil. As the lanterns cooled, they dropped gently back to earth. Modern flying lanterns are much like their predecessors -- only safer, thanks to the addition of flame retardant to the paper. And, unlike the early days, instead of sending information to the army, many people write messages or wishes on their lanterns before sending them skyward.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Package of tissue paper, any colour
  • Paper fireproofing product
  • Clothesline
  • Clothespins
  • Glue
  • Craft paper
  • Bamboo, 2.5 cm (1 inch) in diameter, approximately 4 feet long
  • Knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood glue
  • Copper wire
  • Staples
  • Thin cardboard square, 5cm (2 inches) on each side
  • Jumbo cotton ball
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Aluminium foil
  • Tape

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Pin four sheets of tissue paper to the clothesline and spray with fireproofing product, avoiding the corners where the pins are. Allow the paper to dry.

  2. 2

    Glue each sheet of treated tissue paper to an untreated sheet, joining them lengthwise with a thin layer of adhesive.

  3. 3

    On craft paper, draw a pattern that resembles half of a mitten. Your completed lantern will resemble a hot-air balloon when the four pieces are joined. Make four half-mitten pieces from the craft paper and tape them together, with the flat portion open on the bottom, creating a mock-up of your lantern and adjusting where necessary. When you are satisfied with the design, remove the tape.

  4. 4

    Using the craft pattern as a guide, cut the tissue paper, making four slightly curved pieces with one straight edge. Glue the lantern pieces together, leaving the straight edge open, creating the bottom of the lantern.

  5. 5

    Make a bamboo hoop. Split the bamboo into thin strips, carefully moving a knife slowly down the length of the pole. Test the strips for pliability by bending them slightly between your hands. Once you find a pliable piece, sand it until it is smooth. Form a hoop with the bamboo strip and secure the ends with glue.

  6. 6

    Install a wire "X" onto the frame; secure in place with staples. Cover the cardboard square with foil and secure it to the centre of the "X" with tape, staples or glue.

  7. 7

    Make a foil cup, large enough to hold the cotton ball. Tape this to the centre of the pad.

  8. 8

    Attach the tissue paper to the hoop at the open bottom with tape, staples or glue--remember, it works like a hot-air balloon, so the foil cup should face the inside.

  9. 9

    Take your lantern outside. Soak the cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and place the saturated cotton in the foil cup. Light the cotton on fire and hold the lantern, allowing it to fill with warm air. When the sides are hot and you can feel the lantern pulling away, release it.

Tips and warnings

  • Garden stakes or planting poles can be a good source of bamboo.
  • Launching a flying lantern is easier with two people.
  • When designing the "balloon," make sure the top is bigger than the bottom.
  • Alternative fuel could be made by taking toilet tissue and dipping it in melted candle wax.
  • A copper wire hoop can be attached to the top of the lantern as well to provide greater structure.
  • Do not launch on windy days.
  • Do not launch if it is raining.
  • Remember, your lantern is a potential fire hazard. You are responsible for any damage it might cause.

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