Homemade cardboard propellers

Written by gryphon adams
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Homemade cardboard propellers
Make a classic two-blade propeller for an aeroplane. (aeroplane propeller image by Stanisa Martinovic from Fotolia.com)

According to Yale.edu, a propeller creates high-pressure air behind itself and low-pressure air in front--the propeller's circular action also pushes air backward--which propels the plane. The same principle gives a helicopter lift and keeps it aloft in the air. Making a cardboard propeller gives you a chance to learn about how propellers work. Use a cardboard propeller to complete a model project or to use on its own. A straightforward project made from household materials allows you to experiment with propellers.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Card stock from a stationery store or lightweight cardboard from a shirt package or gift box
  • Sharpened pencils
  • Wooden stick from a frozen treat
  • Dime
  • Scissors
  • Wide drinking straw
  • Regular metal paper clip
  • Modelling clay, if needed

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Measure the length for the propeller. HomeScienceTools.com suggests making a 5-inch propeller and provides a printable pattern. Print the propeller pattern on card stock in a computer printer. Skip to Step 6. To create a cardboard propeller to complete a model, check the length of propeller you'll need for the plane you based your model on. For example, if the plane's nose is 1/3 the width of its propeller, and your model plane's nose is 1-inch wide, make the propeller 3 inches long.

  2. 2

    Use a wooden frozen treat stick as a pattern. Use a ruler to measure the propeller length on the stick and mark the desired length on the stick with pencil. Hold the stick flat on the card stock and trace the stick with the pencil from the mark down one side around the curved end and up the other side to the mark. Place a curved end of the stick on the open end of the drawing so that it points the opposite direction of the curved end you already drew, and trace it on the paper to complete the shape.

  3. 3

    Use the ruler and pencil to mark the centre of the propeller. For example, for a 3-inch propeller, make the pencil mark 1 1/2 inches from the end of the propeller.

  4. 4

    Center a dime over the centre mark on the propeller. Trace it with the pencil.

  5. 5

    Use the ruler to draw a line from one end of the propeller at a slight angle toward the circle at the centre of the propeller. Repeat this line on each side of each propeller blade.

  6. 6

    Cut the propeller out of the cardboard. Have an adult help, if needed.

  7. 7

    Hold the propeller's ends with the thumb and forefinger of each hand and gently twist the propeller blades in opposite directions.

  8. 8

    Straighten a paper clip into a hook.

  9. 9

    Poke two holes in the propeller's centre with the end of the paper clip. Put the opened paper clip through the propeller so that each end of the wire goes through one of the holes. Insert the paper clip ends into a drinking straw. If the clip isn't secure in the straw, take it out and bend the ends of the paper clip a little farther apart. Roll a piece of modelling clay smaller than the tip of your pinky and put it in the top of the straw to make the propeller secure, if needed.

  10. 10

    Experiment with turning the straw between your hands to see how the blades move air. Let the straw go and watch how it flies.

Tips and warnings

  • To create a propeller with three or more blades, follow the same steps. Use a ruler to make the blades the same distance from each other.
  • Reduce or enlarge a drawing or propeller pattern by using a scanner or copier to make the propeller the right size for your project.

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