Did you see our homemade hot-air balloon that David and Jason made on New Year’s Eve? When they started making more the following night, I photographed the process so I could share it with you. Perhaps you’d like to make your own!

Hot air balloon, January 2010
A home-made hot-air balloon adds excitement to any bonfire.

The things you need are

  1. large garbage bags — we used wheelie bin liners. After experimenting, our advice is to buy the cheapest and lightest plastic bags — don’t go for the thick, quality kind — they are too heavy.
  2. wooden shish-kebab skewers — the cheap, light kind
  3. a roll of brown packing tape
  4. a length of heavy-duty electrical wire (we used earth wire because of its unique construction)
  5. firelighters (Little Lucifers, Jiffy, Zip, etc).

The idea is to finish with a large plastic bag whose mouth is held open by a rigid, lightweight ring. The firelighter is suspended from the ring by the wire in the place where you’d expect to find the basket on a real hot-air balloon. The firelighter provides the fuel to heat the air which rises, filling the plastic bag and providing vertical lift.

If you pre-purchase these materials and pack them away with your camping or barbecue equipment, you’ll be ready to make hot-air balloons when the occasion presents itself. Here’s the process.

Making a hot-air balloon, January 2010
Tape the wooden skewer sticks together to create a ring as large as the garbage bag's circumference.

Making a hot-air balloon, January 2010
Tape the circle of skewers to the open mouth of the garbage bag.

Making a hot-air balloon, January 2010
Measure out a length of wire that is slightly longer than the diameter of the bag's circular mouth.

Making a hot-air balloon, January 2010
Strip the plastic off your wire so you can separate the strands. Heavy-duty earth wire can be separated into individual strands that are of a gauge that is sufficient and strong enough for this project.

Making a hot-air balloon, January 2010
Attach one strand of wire straight across the width of the diameter. Twist it around the skewer circle to secure it.

Attach the other end of the wire to the other side of the circle. Do the same with a second wire running perpendicular to the first. This makes the wires cross in the middle. This centre point is where you’ll attach your firelighter.

Making a hot-air balloon, January 2010
Thread more wire through your chunk of firelighter, taking care to centre it with the wires so it is placed where you might imagine the basket of a real hot-air balloon hanging.

Making a hot-air balloon, January 2010
You can also attach a screw or something else to act as a counter-weight.

Making a hot-air balloon, January 2010
If your firelighters are individual units, simply string them together on a length of wire. With this design, a counter-weight is not necessary as the firelighters become the counter-weight.

Making a hot-air balloon, January 2010
Carefully hang the string of firelighters in the middle of the bag.

Making a hot-air balloon, January 2010
Billow up the bag with hot air from your campfire, or if you're at home, a hair-dryer will suffice.

Making a hot-air balloon, January 2010
Once the bag is full of hot air, light your fuel.

Making a hot-air balloon, January 2010
When the balloon is full of hot air and you can feel it supporting its own weight and pulling away from you, let it go.

Making a hot-air balloon, January 2010
Lift-off!

Making a hot-air balloon, January 2010
Looking at this flame, you can see the importance of centering the fuel source. If it's off to one side, the flame will burn a hole in the plastic bag.

Making a hot-air balloon, January 2010
On a still night, these home-made hot-air balloons rising in the night sky are beautiful and fun.

Watching hot-air balloons, January 2010
Your audience will love the show. Ours always does!

If you make these, please let us know.