How to Make Chinese Sky Lanterns

Written by Harry Gilliam

Topics: How to Make Fireworks

Click to watch the sky lantern video.

I gotta admit, I’ve seen Sky Lanterns around for several years. I’ve seen ‘em advertised right here by Skylighter. Have seen them at displays and club events. But, honestly I never gave them much thought, and I wasn’t much tempted to buy any.

But, then I saw the latest Skylighter ad for them, and I thought, “I wonder how sky lanterns are made.” Ya see, one of the things I enjoy most is learning how something is made. I watch This Old House and The New Yankee Workshop, just to see how they do stuff, even though I’ve been doing that kind of work myself for a living for 30 years.

So, I had Harry send some of the flying lanterns to me. By the time they arrived on my doorstep, I was excited to see them. I opened the package up, looked at the treetops to make sure there wasn’t too much wind blowing, and I hustled my wife and granddaughter outside to fire the first one up.

I enjoyed finding out how to light the paper lantern, and how to let it inflate and launch it. And, the three of us really did have fun watching it lift off, and then gazing at it for minutes until it flew out of sight and we couldn’t see it any more. Then I quickly got another one out and launched it as well.

My son and his family came over last Sunday, and I knew I just had to demonstrate these new toys for my grandsons. The photos below say it all.

The Next Generation of Gorskis with Paper Hot Air Balloons

The Next Generation of Gorskis with Paper Hot Air Balloons

So, now, back to my original quest: How to make sky lanterns.

Note: I’m gonna tell you how I ended up successfully making these homemade paper hot-air balloons. But, as with any pyro project, I learned some lessons the hard way, and I had some significant failures. I’ll note these as I go along in this hot paper tale.

A little reverse engineering revealed:
Weight of a flying lantern 2.7 ounces
Thin bamboo hoop at bottom 45.75″ circumference, 14.56″ diameter
Weight of hoop 0.3 ounces (with a little paper and glue still hanging onto it)

Bamboo is about 1/16″ x 1/8″

X of thin wire tied to hoop

X of wire is “woven” through waxed cloth and paper “burner”

Original Sky Lantern Burner, Which Weighs 0.9 Ounce, Including Wire

Original Sky Lantern Burner, Which Weighs 0.9 Ounce, Including Wire

The burner is composed of a 2.5″ x 17″ piece of wax-impregnated cloth, folded in Z-fashion back on itself 5 times.

In between each Z-fold of the waxed cloth are five 2.25″ x 3″ pieces of thin, coarse-fiber paper, about the weight of 40# kraft paper.

(The cloth/paper burner smells “nice,” sort of like the scent of roses. Maybe the young Chinese lady who made this one was wearing some fragrant perfume.)

Note: I have also seen sky lantern burners, which resemble fiber-reinforced blocks of wax. I don’t know how they are made and have not tried to duplicate them.

The “bag” of the balloon is made up of white tissue paper. This paper has been treated with a fire retardant; it does not catch fire when touched by a flame. It just scorches a bit.

The tissue paper bag weighs 1.5 ounces.

There are four panels (called gores in the ballooning world) that make up the balloon, and they are glued together and to the bamboo hoop.

Here’s a sketch of one of the gores, with a bit added to the edges to allow for gluing.

Sketch of a Sky Lantern Paper Panel

Sketch of a Sky Lantern Paper Panel
(One square = 1″)

I flew one of these fire-lanterns in my high-tech, windless wind-tunnel (actually my garage, emptied of any gas cans or other combustibles). I tethered the Chinese lantern to a weight with some very thin, light string as it burned. The fuel pack burned for 4.5 minutes.

I added 0.05-ounce pieces of wire, one at a time, to the bottom wire “X” of the balloon as it “flew,” and found it would carry 0.25 ounce of payload before starting to sag toward the ground garage floor. That 0.25 ounce, added to the paper-lantern’s original weight of 2.7 ounces, added up to a maximum flying weight of 2.95 ounces for a lantern with this internal volume.

It is the internal volume of a paper hot-air balloon, and the heated air it can contain as well as how much that air is heated, which determines its maximum carrying capacity.

Skylighter Sky Lantern Carrying 0.25-Ounce Payload

Skylighter Sky Lantern Carrying 0.25-Ounce Payload

Note: The information above is important. These flying lanterns are delicately balanced for flight, and they are just light enough to allow them to fly. If they were much heavier, they would not leave the ground. Due to some circumstances, which I describe below, my first balloon ended up weighing 3.9 ounces, and obviously would not have flown.

I went up to my local Hallmark store and bought some nice tissue paper in different colors.

Some checking online produced some leads on products designed to flameproof paper. One company, Universal Fire-Shield (, sells a product, Universal Paper Shield P-3000, designed to fireproof paper products. I ordered some. They sell a quart spray bottle for about $30, including shipping. This would be enough to treat about a dozen paper hot-air balloons.

Tissue Paper, and Fireproofing Product

Tissue Paper, and Fireproofing Product

I hung 4 pieces of the red tissue paper on a clothesline, and sprayed them with the Paper Shield until they were saturated. After they were dry, I tried to burn a little piece of the paper, and it only scorched like the original fire-lantern paper, but it would not burn.

Fireproofing the Laundry

Fireproofing the “Laundry”

Note: On my third attempt to make one of these paper lanterns, I decided to try to spray the untreated bottom half of the balloon after it was assembled, in order to skip the step described above. I hung it up, slightly inflated it with my heat-gun, and started spraying it. The tissue paper soon started to weaken, sag, and tear, ruining the balloon. Crud! Another lesson learned.

I decided that the process of hanging the panels like laundry works best. The upper corners of the sheets will be cut off when the gores are cut out, so I don’t spray those areas because they get weak when they are wet, and allow the clothespins to tear through the paper and sometimes that has the paper to tear loose from the string.

Warning: Paper Shield has an acid in it, and it will damage a concrete garage floor slightly. It’s best to have a plastic drop cloth under the clothesline to protect the floor. Don’t breathe its fumes or get it on your skin.

The red tissue will be the bottom of the paper hot-air balloon, which will be the only part that gets exposed to the flame. The top of the balloon will be blue paper, and it does not need to be treated.

I glued a piece of the red paper to a piece of the blue with thin stripes of Elmer’s, and I did that four times for the four panels, and let the panels dry.

Note: The Elmer’s glue tends to wet the tissue paper, bleeds through, and tries to stick to the other stuff around it. In an attempt to avoid this problem, I used hot glue when building my first balloon. This worked nicely during construction, but when I fired that baby up, the hot-glued seams at the top of the balloon let go completely. I did not think the internal temperature would get high enough to cause this problem. I was wrong. (My wife, Molly, told me later on that she wondered about me using the hot glue, and that she thought it would melt when the burner was lit. Oh, well.) The hot glue, which is significantly heavier than the dried Elmer’s, also contributed to the excess weight of the first model.

After gluing the red and blue sheets together and letting them dry, I cut the four panels out with scissors, using a kraft paper template that I made based on the sketch above. Folding the kraft paper in half lengthwise, and then every 6″ made the pattern transfer easy.

Tissue Papers Glued Up and Cut to Form Balloon Panels

Tissue Papers Glued Up and Cut to Form Balloon Panels

Then it was time to glue the lantern gores together to form the Thai-lantern’s “bag.” I laid one of the gores, unfolded and open, on the worktable with the inside up. (The outside of the gore is simply the side that I think looks best.) Then I laid a gore, outside up, on top of the first gore, weighed the two down, and glued the right sides together with a thin stripe of Elmer’s. The table had waxed paper on it so that any glue that seeps through wouldn’t stick to it.

I then folded the top gore’s loose side over on itself, so that half’s inside was facing up, inserted some waxed paper between the glued side and this loose side, and laid the third gore on top of that one. I glued those two loose edges together, inserted more waxed paper, folded the loose half of the third gore over, laid the fourth and final panel on top, and glued those loose edges.

Then the last step was to fold the loose half of the top, fourth gore, over on itself, and fold the loose half of the bottom, first gore over onto it, and glue the loose halves together. (This all sounds much more complicated than it actually is. Once you try it, it’ll all make sense.)

Then I pulled the glued edges up and off all the waxed papers, propped the panels apart from each other and from the table, and allowed the seams to dry.

Gluing Sky Lantern Gores Together to Form Balloons Air Bag

Gluing Sky Lantern Gores Together to Form Balloon’s Air Bag

Another Failure Note: On my first attempt to build one of these, I tried gluing the bag together with the panels inside out. I let the seams dry, and then I tried to turn the bag right side out, so that the seams would be hidden. This probably would have worked OK, but the fireproofed red tissue paper was somewhat brittle because of the fire-treatment, and as I tried to turn it inside out, it started to tear and crack at the bends and creases. I had to try to repair these tears with clear packing tape, which increased the lantern’s weight, and made it ugly, and not something to be proud of. I decided to simply allow the seams to be on the outside of the bag in future models, and avoid the “turning inside-out” step.

Home Depot had some 1″ diameter bamboo poles in their lawn and garden department. I bought one and carefully split it into thin strips. I took one of the strips and smoothed it with sandpaper and a razor knife until it was about the dimension of the original lantern’s bamboo. I only sanded the “interior” side of the bamboo because I did not want to weaken the smooth, exterior side of it. Then I glued it into a hoop with the same circumference of the original.

Tiki-Torch for Bamboo Strips & Sky Lantern Bamboo Hoop

Tiki-Torch for Bamboo Strips & Sky Lantern Bamboo Hoop

Another source of good bamboo strips is from a “Tiki-Torch” pole. These are often split to obtain bamboo strips for girandola frames, wheel frames, and the like. (Or you can steal some green bamboo from Harry Gilliam’s bamboo-infested front yard.)

I had some blue, industrial paper-towels, and I decided to melt some grocery-store canning-wax, and impregnate the towels with the wax in an attempt to duplicate the waxed fabric that I found in the original fire-lantern’s burner.

Warning: Canning (paraffin) wax is very flammable, and should only be melted over low heat in a double boiler. It should never be exposed to open flames or high heat.

Coating a Paper Towel With Wax to Make Sky-Lantern Burner

Coating a Paper Towel With Wax to Make Sky-Lantern Burner

I took a strip of this waxed paper towel, and burned it alongside a strip of the waxed material from the original lantern’s burner. Both samples burned identically and for the same amount of time.

I had some coarse, recycled kraft paper, and cut it into rectangles to match the original burner’s paper layers. Then I cut some strips of the waxed paper towel to match the original burner, and sandwiched 5 pieces of the kraft paper in between each layer of the waxed paper-towel.

Then I stacked the layers of the burner together, punched 4 holes through all the layers with an awl, and threaded two pieces of wire through the holes.

The ends of the wire were then wrapped around the bamboo hoop and twisted tightly to secure the ends. The hoop was then carefully glued into the end of the lantern’s tissue paper bag, and the glue was allowed to dry.

Assembling Paper-Lantern's Burner & Attaching It to Bamboo Hoop

Assembling Paper-Lantern’s Burner & Attaching It to Bamboo Hoop

A simple alternative burner can be made by simply installing a plain X of wire on the bamboo hoop. Then strips of cotton-ball like material can be saturated with rubbing alcohol, draped over the center of the wire X, and ignited when launching the balloon. But keep in mind, you have to use this method right away; the alcohol fuel evaporates, and these have no “shelf life.”

Materials Needed For a Rubbing-Alcohol, Cotton-Swab Balloon-Burner

Materials Needed For a Rubbing-Alcohol, Cotton-Swab Balloon-Burner

All that remained, then, was the installation of the “FAA” aircraft identification numbers, and a flight in the “test chamber.”

Test Flying Homemade Sky Lantern

Test Flying Homemade Sky Lantern

This paper hot-air balloon’s final weight was 3.0 ounces. At about 50-degrees F in my garage, it was able to carry a payload of .55 ounces of the wire pieces before it started to sag toward the ground.

After this testing, some soot and moisture condensed on the inside of the lantern. I was able to allow it to dry out, attach a new burner, and fly it outdoors for real. It was about 40-degrees F outside on the evening that we flew it, and it really took off for the heavens very quickly.

My Lovely Assistant Molly Launching a Homemade Sky Lantern

My Lovely Assistant Molly Launching a Homemade Sky Lantern

Note: The flying lantern in on the right, Molly is on the left. The fact that Molly’s attire matched the balloon she was launching was entirely coincidental. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Click to Watch a Video of the Launch.

This was a fun and educational project. I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do, when making one of these little hot-air balloons. This project was not as easy as it might look.

Based on my experience with flying the paper lanterns tethered in my garage, I think it would be fun to fly one outdoors in windless conditions, tethered by a short wire leader and a roll of light thread. It could be flown like a kite, reeled back in when the burner burns out, reloaded and flown again.

This project resulted in me having a high amount of respect for the folks overseas who turn these things out by the thousands, which fly successfully every time. I’m continually amazed by the low cost of a device like this, sold by Skylighter, compared with the time and materials I invested in producing a successful one.

It was fun to make these lanterns, and I enjoy knowing how to do it. If I had to come up with a bunch of ‘em for an event like a wedding, holiday, or memorial service, I sure wouldn’t be making them, though.

Happy Flying, and Stay Green,


178 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. JAmes Robinson says:

    Edmund Scientific used to sell crepe paper balloon kits much larger than these. The gores (8 or 10 I believe) were more slender and about 96″ in length producing an envelope in the classic incandescent light bulb shape.
    The gores were glued together with glue stick rather than white glue. The protruding seam was avoided by shifting the upper gore about 1/2″ inside the lower gore and folding the 1/2″ offset lower over the upper gore. The neck hoop was light aluminum wire. An involved technique was required to launch. Owing to the large size, the balloon had to be pre-inflated. I used a charcoal chimney with a 6″ dia. 36″ long stove pipe inserted into its throat with about 15 charcoal briquettes. the neck of the balloon was held over the top of the stove pipe. The balloon had a string loop glued to the top through which a stick was place to hold the top of the balloon up until the bag was inflated and lifting. After the balloon was tugging upward it was removed from the stovepipe and an alcohol (denatured not isopropyl)cotton wade with a wire hook embedded was placed on the wire “x” and ignited and released. Always better to launch in cold weather where the temperature differential is greatest.

    • Brian says:

      I made these back in the late 60′s using large plastic dry cleaning bags. we put straws (2 each connected with toothpicks for each crosspiece, 2 total) as a support for the bottom and placed a small pie plate containing sterno at the cross section of the straw base. These flew for a long ways! However, very bad idea using sterno as a fuel source and flying on a cold breezy evening. I had to climb on our neighbors roof to put out the sterno caused fire. Oh, to be young and stupid again!

  2. Farmer says:

    There’s no denying the beauty of these things in a night sky.

    Unfortunately, there’s also no denying the potential dangers associated with these things. One of your “failed” attempts to get these aloft could easily result in setting fire to someone’s property. I don’t think they’ll feel like laughing that off. Why should they?

    There are times and places which make flying these things a whole lot safer. Windless nights. A flight that takes them over water. A flight path that takes them away from concentrations of homes or businesses. Flying them if there’s a snow cover or the ground is wet from recent rains. Not flying them if we’re in a drought or dry spell. Basic common sense. And there are some who supply a safer version of these things. Sky Orbs in the UK, for instance.

    What I’ll never understand is the cocky sense of entitlement some on this Comment Section have that THEIR FUN trumps all other considerations including (and especially) the safety of others around them. It doesn’t according to the legal systems in most countries. It doesn’t if they lead an ethical and moral life. It does, however, if they lead the life of a psychopath.

  3. Jim says:

    Thanks so much for this article! Knowing the balloon dimensions, total weight and heat intensity of a working prototype helped us refine our own designs… which we flew tethered over a snow-covered backyard for safety.

    Earlier crepe paper designs — only 20″ tall with a tealight candle — were too heavy given the small balloon volume and low heat intensity.

    Heat source that worked for us: bottom 2″ of empty aluminum soda can for reservoir, wad of shredded cotton cloth to maximize surface area, splash of 92% rubbing alcohol to wet the cloth.

    Great article, thanks so much for posting this!

  4. Champ Alreja says:

    Thanks for the insight. I would love to do a workshop following your post with street kids sometime and they can all make their wishes on lanterns and send them to the heavens.

  5. hermanclausan says:

    Oh, by the way , it seem’s that Harry Gilliam is quite happy that we fool around with his designs. I want to thank him for his website. Without this site I would never had been able to fly these , bring back the kid in me ,harmless sky lanterns.

    Thanks again Harry.

  6. hermanclausan says:

    The paper I use is shiny tissue paper,it probably is starched. It is so easy to use compared to plain tissue paper. Size is 20/30 inches.For the bottom part of lantern I use 2 papers . The 20 inch part is up. So the lantern will be about 59 inches around when opened up.Then I glue 3 papers together 30″ side up.Three glued together equal about 59 inches around.
    I do both flat , glue the top and bottom together and then join the sides. I then cut a square 15 inches by 15 inches for the top.

    Then glue the bamboo ring to the lantern. The bambo is 1/8 by 59 inches. With 1 inch over lap to join the bamboo ends together it come out at 58″ circumferance.

    I make the wax and cloth as per instruction from the above pictures, except I use Aluminum foil to separate each fold of the wick.Just one piece per fold.

    With this circumferance of the lantern no fireproofing is required.
    Never had one fail..
    Install wick as instructed above. The wire I use is that steel wire that they string beads for necklesses.

    Boy , are these easy to fly.

  7. Lebrow says:

    I bought a flying lantern last week and the fuel cell was made of paraffin and fiberglass. I made one (fuel cell) myself by putting a piece of insulation in a ziplock bag and then pouring in paraffin. I haven’t tried it in a lantern yet but It burned well. And sense fiberglass does not burn there is nothing to smolder when it runs out of wax.

  8. Carissa says:

    Cool! Looks a little time consuming, but since I am on summer holiday maybe I can find some spare moments to try it out! Thanks!!

  9. negin says:

    is it possible that a lantern flies with a single tea light?

  10. Donna says:

    They look pretty but I would be afraid someone would let them fly into the dry timber in the summer….there are enough forest fires happening. A forest fire can start from just a small spark in the dry summers. But it was interesting reading and I enjoyed it. Thank you

    • CJH says:

      well, as long as you’re not flying on windy days, the darn thing isn’t going to be coming back down until the fire stops burning…duh…
      so forest fires shouldn’t be a problem.

  11. Andrea Anibal says:

    Oh what an awesome post! I really enjoyed it. You have a great style of writing and a thorough, curious mind. I especially liked your concluding statements. I plan to try these with my nieces this summer. Thank you so much for sharing your adventure with us!

  12. How says:

    Nice post!
    I play with my kid by using plastic bag for rubbish bin. Of course, it is not durable. Your sky lantern is very nice! Good job!

  13. Kelly Wood says:

    I think making a chinese flying lantern is a rediculas idea. Its dangerous and not very Probable that it can even be accomplished by most people. Its a big waste of time and money, trust me I know I tryed it. AND….for children to try and make these things is just stupid. Someone will end up causing a fire or even worse, ending up on fire themselfs.

    • Chester Chew says:

      Hey there Kelly,
      Take is easy with your negative energy. That is what’s wrong with the world today, negative people. Take that money you would have used for the flying lanterns and get a spelling and grammer book. That is maybe why you are so angry. These lanterns are fun!!!!

    • duke says:

      Hey Kelly, What is your problem? Just because you have no creativity or are easily dissuaded from doing a project doesn’t mean the rest of us. My son and I followed the instructions and had a great time. Our first one was too heavy, (lie and learn) but the next ones were great. We are planning on doing this for a family reunion and will pre prep all the items.

      Thank you Ned for this excellent post and the for the time to research and and share it with us.

    • Jonathan says:

      Take a hike, Kelly. I saw one of these float silently into the dark blue sky as we were leaving a concert at Alpine Valley Music Theater. I’m 46, and it took me immediately back to childhood, and The Young Mechanic–a book of novel ideas like this. Yes, there is fire involved, but wow, what a pastoral scene as this unexpected refrigerator-sized paper balloon wafted skyward. Thank you for the description and the work you put into making it something we can replicate.
      I feel sorry for kids who have moms or dads like Kelly. They’ll never cut their fingers whittling balls in cages, spill ink learning shodo, or build somewhat dangerous tree houses. 100% assured safety is overrated.

    • david alan says:

      You’re right Kelly. You should stay away from fire and just stay in school and be good. Big boy projects should be done by grown-ups who know how to read, write and spell. When you are not in school,stay at home and sit on your hands.

    • Jasmin says:

      I figured out how to do this myself…when I was 6…with no instruction… and about a dollar’s worth of material. I’d just seen a photo of a ‘real’ hot air balloon in an encyclopedia. I used split skewers and thin wire as a frame tethered it with a thin peice of fishing line, with baking paper for the bag- it was reusable quite a few times before the paper was scorched

      Of course you think it’s rediculous, if you couldn’t do it … but you clearly didn’t think so /before/ you found that out, or you wouldn’t have tried :) I’m kindof amused that an adult couldn’t figure out how to do it, with the benefit of an internet connection and instructions.

    • John says:

      I’m just gonna guess, Kelly, that you’re the parent of the kid down the street who isn’t allowed outside without a helmet. Just a guess…

    • nadine says:

      Really Kelly…Ooooooom!

  14. Jean says:

    Very interesting and educational! Thanks for posting!

  15. Gabi says:

    Now I am sure of one thing: I will buy them.

    Thank you!!!

    • Tracy says:

      Amen to what Gabi said! Thought I could save $ hahaha. Time or $ – hmmm. Shorter on the time I think. But thank you so much. VERY informative. You’re pretty awesome! :)

  16. dee says:

    thank you for sharing this information..

  17. kam says:

    we decide to make a paper lantern that goes as faster as we can,
    how the shape of the lantern is important,? whats the best shape.?

    • Pravin Kumar says:

      Definitely a pointed cone top, rather than a blunt top will be more aerodynamic, reducing the downward drag. Try it and post your results.

  18. I have been looking for a technique for building a flying Chinese lantern to add to my site, and while your directions were great, I was hoping for something a little easier. Maybe I should start with a hanging lantern and work my way up, literally, from there.

  19. ronmar_cesma says:

    thanks for the information now i can create a home made sky lantern…..

  20. Great tutorial, very clear and detailed, it would be fantastic if you can share the sketch on a ready to print .pdf Thanks for this great post.

  21. Mike says:

    We did something like this in college in the 60′s. We used a sealed laundry bag and natural gas as the lifting force. Melted wax on a coarse string provided the “igniter”. As these baloons reached altitude on a windless night they would seem to flicker. Then alrge ball of fie, followed by melted plastic plummeting to earth. had many a UFO reported and plane crashes !!

  22. Robert Williamson says:

    Lots of fun. We made these also back in the ’60′s. We used plastic dry cleaning bags, an X frame of thin light balsa wood from the Hobby Shop. Small Birthday candles along the X frame were used for the heat source. Getting the candles all lit quickly was the trick. A few friends with lighters. Letting these go at night resulted in UFO reports to the local radio station. Orange ball of light high in the sky drifting over the city. Because at a distance, that is all you could see at night. A ball of orange light in the sky. And it would move with the winds at altitude. UFO lol.

  23. DERRICK says:

    How much weight in english system could a standard sky lantern lift?

  24. Alex says:

    Watching the July 4th fireworks across the city, I noticed something far more interesting on a neighbor’s rooftop. Lantern after lantern graciously bobbed up and floated away into the night. Magical! I hadn’t seen these before, and was very happy to come across your blog. So now I know.

  25. Bruce says:

    >How much weight in english system could a standard sky lantern lift?

    Well he says his balloon could lift .55 American ounces which in England is 15 grams

  26. Angela says:

    I am pleased to respond to your kind invitations, above, to “speak my mind” and “tell us what you’re thinking” by posing two questions about sky lanterns which interest me:

    1. Can they interfere with other aircraft, especially near airports where planes descend low, exposing the jet turbines to the risk of inhaling the lanterns with lethal effect?

    2. Is it irresponsible to deliver trash uncontrollably to remote locations with unpredictable effects where paper, bamboo, and wire can become caught up in working machinery or distract a motorist by landing on a moving motor car, or any other unknowable dangerous outcome?

  27. angela hater says:

    Angela = EPIC FAIL.

  28. Fox IV says:

    Oh shut the hell up!
    The cost-benefit ratio in this project is far more on the side of science than on some environmental-green-safety-freak like you Angela.
    Have you ever wondered what environmental effect have some far more bigger projects and even everyday usage stuff. Let me rephrase: do you have car? Yes? Well congratulations! You’ve generated about one million times bigger pollution just to drive to work today!

    And about the safety related stuff. Have you ever been right in the head by an empty paper bag? You have? I’m really sorry about that but I’m sure that your head is quite OK and that you don’t have a slightest injury caused by that bag. You see 15 grams is something that never could cause any damage to anything no matter how fast it moves. The damage caused by a flying object is directly proportional to wind velocity and weight of the object but anything above the 20 mph would just destroy the flying lantern and probably smash it to bits (not to mention large aircraft jets and large fans on the factory exhausts). So, no worries… no one’s gonna get killed.

    So, knowing all those facts (and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that kind of stuff), I’m surprised how someone could be so stupid to ask those questions.

    I’m sorry mr Gorski for the offtopic but I just had to do some scientific explanations to this ignorant smartass, Angela.

    I really admire your work and I’m going to try to make the lantern using your analysis and experience in making this one. But I’ll try to make it about three times bigger. Wish me luck!

  29. Mitch says:

    If you watch the right auctions you can get Flying LANTERNS on eBay for a little over a $1.50 each and that includes shipping

  30. heather newsome k says:

    I must get some for Midge death festival, They look good fun we had one of the science museums solar air ships this summer it was great fun we inflated it using a hair dryer , unfortunately the string snagged on the roof and off it went never to be seen there’s instructions also on how to make the solar airships on the web, Maybe that could be your next quest Ned the grand children would love it and all on a sunny day. Heather..

  31. Merlin says:

    I teach aircraft systems at a college and gas turbines would not even bat an eyelid with these things. They can chew up frozen turkeys no problem at all.

    Peace out y’all

  32. Theora55 says:

    I’m quite intrigued by these, and will probably make some, but I am quite concerned about delivering a flaming lantern or hot wire to a dry, grassy area. Cigarette butts have caused forest fires. Will it go out at sufficient altitude to be cool at landing?

  33. HEGilliam says:

    If you properly fire resist the paper they will fly very high until they’ve burned out and then fall to the ground with no fuel/fire left.
    You also want to be sure to fly them when there’s little to no wind. Wind can/will push the hot air out of them causing them to drop. Wind can also blow them into trees/power lines nearby.

  34. Will says:

    BTW, there is no such thing as “American Ounces”. Ounces are the (old) British system, grams are the metric system.

  35. THANK YOU for these D.I.Y. instructions. I have some questions.

    In your opinion, how much larger would I have to make your 40 inch gore pattern if I wanted to have enough volume to carry 7 ounces. I’m thinking or attaching a wire X with a circular wire dougnut hole in the middle to the bamboo frame. In the circular wire doughnut hole (which could actually be made of a smaller circular piece of bamboo) I want to place a sterno can. But your weight tests were quite specific. So how much larger of a lantern would I have to create in order to lift the sterno can?

    Here is a link I found to a retailer of fire retardant paper in a variety of fun colors:

  36. That last post I sent did not show the pricing or retail outlets of the flame retardant paper. It only showed the product description and the manufacturer. Here is a link to a place to by flame retardant craft paper . It comes in units of 100 feet. The measurements of the paper are 48 inches by 18 inches. The price is around $30 per 100 feet.

  37. TOny WillyWonka says:

    Thanks. Interesting. Well done. Having trouble understanding the kraft paper and how you cut and pasted the gores together though. Could you clarify a bit?

  38. Kev says:

    Well, I’m with Angela on this… there ARE valid concerns about where you fly these things. It’s a shame that people like FoxIV don’t have the intelligence to realise this and have to resort to insults and abuse as a first response.

    I doubt if these lanterns would cause any problems for aircraft in terms of ingestion into turbines, but if I’m a passenger in a plane in the final approach stages, I’d rather your lanterns didn’t come near my plane if that’s ok with you ! I’d prefer not to take the risk.

    As for drivers… of course they could be a distraction ! Say you live near a freeway (or even several miles from one) and your lantern drifts nearby. How many bored drivers are going to have their attention distracted by your lanterns ? Having that many people in close proximity travelling at speed with their eyes not on the road is highly dangerous.

    As long as the burn time & launch location of the lantern is such that it can’t drift into traffic or aircraft paths, then there’s no problem. That’s just common sense. Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed with it.

  39. John in Taiwan says:

    Great effort! I had no idea how complex these things were.

    You should make the trip over to Taiwan and witness the amazing lantern festival in Pingxi, Taiwan when thousands of these are released at the same time. They are about 4 times bigger than yours, and you buy them off the street for only about $3. Went there last year, and I’ll never forget it.

  40. Keith says:

    As to the regulatory framework for unmanned ballons I refer all to the Title 14 subpart D sections 101.31 to 101.39 of the Code of Federal Regulations

  41. David says:

    In Angelas defence there definatly is a safety issue here, there have been recorded deaths from fire lanterns. In the UK there was a terrible tragedy involving Daisy from Cheshire, here is the article.

  42. Erick says:

    To fire proof the paper, you can also use a mixture of alum powder (food spice) and water.

    I plan to try it soon. Do you think it will add too much weight?

  43. UK Tony says:

    With ref to the Federal Code on unmanned balloons: What happens if your unmanned balloon gets accidentally manned, because, for example, your young son climbs inside it during an unguarded period, just moments before it ie either launched, or breaks free of its tethers?

    I know it’s unlikely to happen, but is a possibility.

  44. Rebecca says:

    This was the greatest DIY information, and it works. Much more interesting to do it yourself, and you can completely personalise it to whatever celebration you are planning. We have done it at home with some friends. We have also done it with our woodcraft group kids here in the UK without the heatsource, scaled down and used hairdryers! also great fun. Thanks for taking the trouble to put the information up.

  45. Karen says:

    Wow! We let some lanterns off at our church New Year party (even tho’ it was a bit windy!) I’d never seen them up close before. I was just on the net trying to find out what they were actually made of and how, and I’m made up that I’ve stumbled across all this. I can’t wait to try it myself.

    Thanks for all the info and instructions. I’ll try and leave a post on here re. my successes/disasters.

    Karen, Southport, England

  46. Steve says:

    I saw one of these for the first time tonight I watched it for a while, tried to find my big binoculars…lol eventually rang the police asking if anyone had reported anything strange in the night sky, heading towards the airport. After I had described it to the officer as a hot air balloon with its basket on fire, he asked could it be a chinese lantern. Obviously it was, and after reading this info, I think there may be several more flying around in the future…

  47. a glass half full says:

    To all those worriers out there … pfffft!

    I’m guessing you think twice before you leave the house.

    Paper balloon into jet engine or even getting hit by a prop = no bloody effect what-so-ever.

    And if you’ve ever seen what happens to a plastic bag being blown around on a motorway you’ll know that these things won’t pose a threat to motorists.

    Get a life and start living it!

  48. The Safester says:

    I am also extremely concerned about the possible cataclysmic outcomes from these flying death machines. But on a more important alert, everyone please take caution while chewing your food! It is a statistical fact that an inordinate amount of deaths over millennia (way more than sky lantern fatalities) have been caused by people not chewing their food and swallowing properly. Heed my warning and put all your food in a blender with lots of water and ingest with a straw. Eating by way of chewing and swallowing your food is a proven killer and a risk not worth taking.

  49. Rester says:

    ive tried it just yesterday… and it works…. its safe .. im using a piece of cloth folded with floor wax as a burner

  50. Cooler Becky says:

    These are really beautiful during the lantern festivals. Your design is quite traditional too, although the lantern is quite a bit bigger than some of the ones that we send up into the sky during the festival.

  51. Phil says:

    Thank you for the investment of time, to research and share.I think this would be a fun project to do with my daughter… she is 10.
    I will appraise you of success.
    Thanks for sharing.

  52. stevie_boy says:

    These have been around for centuries. They are cool. 45 years ago a friend of mine an i were making these out of a plastic dry cleaner bag with a small aluminium foil pan and cotton ball with alcohol for the heat source. Tie the top in a bunch with thread and small wire for the hoop a bottom. Worked real good. Lots of altitude when they. Make sure no wind or the sides collapse..

  53. Chris says:

    Thanks for your marvelous instructions on building the sky lantern. I flew my first one tonight (6/20/10) and it worked beautifully. I live in Denver, CO. The temperature was about 74 degrees at about 9:45 p.m so it went up a little slow at first and the wind took it north. It burned for over five minutes before it finally flickered. I had tried the day before up in the mountains to find cooler air but the breeze was too strong and kept collapsing the balloon. I made my own fire retardant with Borax and Boric Acid. I only put one coat on the tissue paper (Only the bottom pieces). Any more and it made the paper too brittle. Without the retardant I think it would have caught fire. I tried to tether it, but the very slight breeze made it difficult to hold and I let it go. It’s been great fun. Thanks again. Chris, Denver CO

  54. cheryl says:

    My daughter is having an outdoor wedding reception in a somewhat wooded park. Can these lanterns be tethered so they just float above tables etc.. Is it safe and if so how long does the flame last? or is there an alternative candle that can take its place?

  55. You are sucking the life out of this fun blog says:

    What is wrong with just saying, “I disagree and here is why.?” Don’t resort to calling people names just because you don’t like what they are saying, it make you look foolish and unintelligent. If you are so inclined, state your disagreement and give constructive criticism. How hard is that? This is supposed to be a light hearted article. Lets leave it at that, please.

  56. Heating says:

    I keep on seeing these everywhere! Thanks for the help.

  57. Bob says:

    THANK YOU for these D.I.Y. instructions.

    If you use a wire for the hoop it is lighter ( the same wire you use for the x that holds the fuel. I don’t know if it went higher but it will lift off faster.

    If you tethered the lantern the wind will tip it (even a light wind) the heat will blow out and it will come down still lit

  58. alitat says:

    Did it not occur to anyone that if Taiwan, China, and Thailand send these up by the thousands during festivals in crowded cities where high rises crowd the skyline WITHOUT INCIDENT… well, then maybe there less of an concern here than some are relaying? And by comparison, isn’t it possible that pop bottle rockets are more “dangerous” if mishandled?

  59. joesdog says:

    Seems like the best system would be to send these little beauties up from a boat in a lake on a windless day.

  60. moresafest-than-anyone says:

    To be very safe, these should only be used in oxygen free atmospheres. The moon is the closest available and would be totally safe. (hold breath while launching)

  61. moresafest-than-anyone says:

    @ joesdog:
    Not a boat sitting on a highway? Or perhaps a boat sitting in a carpark?

  62. marvy says:

    Paranoia will destroy ya. Go have fun. All it takes is a little common sense.

  63. this blog is too long says:

    my interest in flying lanterns was piqued after watching the disney movie “tangled”.
    they realized thousands of them from a small island annually to search for the lost princess. i think the safety issue was negligible because most of them floated above water – and it was an animated movie! i do however, wonder about the trash implications of thousands of these things! they do look beautiful in the night sky

  64. ThankfulCaliGirl says:

    Thank you, Ned, for your wonderful DIY instructions! I love the photos and simple explanations. Cannot wait to make these with my four children!
    We’ll be sure to wear our HAZMAT suits and oxygen masks, of course, and alert the local highway patrol and FAA of our intentions, so as not to harm any innocent civilians who haven’t been taught the imminent dangers of driving and walking near potential paper lantern launch sites. :) Thank you, all you paranoid posters, for making “fun”=”fearful”. We’d all be dead without you. Afterall, from the day we’re born, we’re just dying.

  65. herman clausan says:

    I live in Thailand . I have made several of these lanterns and not one will fly. My bamboo ring is 1/8 by 1/16. A couple tried to fly but just won’t . Do you think if I increase the size of the ballon it might work ?Also The the source of heat is made exactly as you suggest.

  66. vince says:

    its really nice..

  67. Jonathan Digweed says:

    Very nice project. First time we tried it, it was too small and didn’t generate enough lift to take off. Second time we used the dimensions given and it worked perfectly with a little block of firelighter as the fuel.

    Great fun. Thank you very much.

  68. vinod patil says:

    I would like to know more about preparation of fire retardant (BORAX + BORIC ACID) or any other method we have tried many methods preparing bigger baloons in my native village at AKSA MUMBAI in india also tried this method but with much less succes we are trying but will need low cost fire retardent ie our main problem.

  69. herman clausan says:

    I can’t believe all the people that think these lanterns are not safe. Worried about the responsibility. The faa has nothing against them as long as you use care.

    Also it you are worried about damages . Launch them where no one sees you launch. Once in the air you can not be traced. And why in the world would anyone put their name or address on the lantern. Have fun, like I also love Fireworks. Yes , there against the law , but who cares. Thomas Jefferson said we should celebrate , so let’s celebrate.
    In the spring I am coming to America and I shall fly the lanterns like flies. And teach my friends to make them, so they can enjoy the pleasure.
    In the 50′s Ohio outlawed fireworks , since then many things has outlawed. Smoking for one. I know of no one that died from second hand smoke . But a few got the ball rollin’ so the politicians,to hide what they were doing , jumped on the wagon to blow smoke , so the voters couldn’t see what was really going on. Hee Hee

  70. Brandon says:

    Wow I never knew a simple sky lantern could provide so many life lessons.

    Thanks for the great instructions


  71. Radek Gorski says:


    I’m Radek Gorski – from Poland ;)

    joust searching for lantern making instruction and found yours – I will make a lanterns for me and my girlfriend :)

    thanks so much :) maby we are family some way :)

  72. Dena says:

    Does anyone know if baking parchment paper would work as a fire resistant paper or would it be too heavy? This type of parchment paper is the type you buy at the market to use when baking. It is lightweight and can withstand a temp in an oven of 400 F without any problems.

  73. herman clausan says:

    Hey , guys, the last three lanterns I flew only flew for 1 minute and flamed out. I retrieved 2 of them and there was still plenty of towel and wax left. Before they would fly for 7 minutes.
    Anyone have any suggestions or changes I can make .

    Would cutting. the paper inserts the same size as the waxed towel make the difference.Before I cut them 1/4 inch smaller, I think ?


  74. lilboi says:

    can you make a tutorial video

  75. jeff says:

    I’m in China now and see these lanterns often but never see a store to buy them. I have even asked my students and Chinese girlfriend where to buy them and they seem clueless.

    On a clear night I have seen the Chinese launch lanterns and it’s very cool and they fly pretty high before flaming out. I want to buy 10 of them and light them and watch them all go into the sky.

    So I was thinking of making my own but will continue the search to find a store to buy them

  76. Jesus says:


    My name us Jesus – from Puerto Rico

    After I saw Tangled I wanted to make one flying lantern for my 2 years old daughter.

    Excellent article! I’ll let you know how it went.


  77. jeremy says:

    hey dana, i actually had tyhe same idea, i tried it out. Aparrently, parcment paper will still light on fie if you hold a lighter to it, beacuse fire creates heat in excess of 400 degrees. i also tried aluminium foil, much too heavy. mine pretty much turned into a fireball. although there might be some merits in using a ligtweight dish full of hand santitizer, if this does not make enough heat you could add some rubbing alcohol, or even better some nail polish. nail polish burns faster, but not as fast as rubbing alcohol, so it might be perfect with hand santitizer. i am going to try and make one with these in a little bit. might make a mini one with a bday candle as fuel source :P

    lol gravatar……. fail :P

  78. Jeff in China says:

    SUCCESS! I found a store here in China that sells the Flying Lanterns – for 77 cents each. A little premade lantern in package. Didn’t open the package yet but it has directions in Chinese and very broken English and also has a power source. Going to see if I can use a tea candle instead instead of the little fire source it comes with.

    Any way to post pictures here?

  79. esha says:

    After I saw Tangled, i fell in love with the idea! Can i use a paper bag and fire-proof it with a fire-proof spray? Thanks!

  80. jeff says:

    My first attempt FAILED! too much wind. Even with the help of two little Chinese girls walking by, the JEFF1 Floating Lantern ( that I paid 77 cents for her in China) did not get off the ground.

    Will try again when there is no wind!

  81. david says:

    the fuel is the easy part just go to ur local camping store and get some of the instant stoves they are littel tin contaners that have a blue gel in them the gel burns forever and can produce enough heat to lift off a bron paper bag

  82. luis garcia says:

    hey guys quick question why would we need an FAA id# I mean it makes sense cuz I live in the U.S. But it’s kinda dumb I know maybe if it falls on power lines they want to make you responsible but wouldn’t theybe able to do it regardless with tragectory wind speeds weight andweather but anyways if anyone can tell me where I can get it for mines would e cool

  83. Jeff in Suzhou says:

    I have bought so many chinese flying lanterns now! At .77 cents each they are cheap fun and me and my chinese girlfriend light them and fly them often.

    For her it’s just an everyday thing but for me makes me feel like a little kid…

  84. We operate a company called Night Sky Lanterns in the UK. Whilst I think the ‘how to make sky lanterns’ tutorial you’ve made above is fantastic (very well written and looks quite good to follow), It’s not a product you really want to ‘try’ and make yourself. At the end of the day, Sky Lanterns float away with a naked flame attached to them. There are a lot of poor quality Sky Lanterns on the market and I’m sure you’d agree that most of these are dangerous. If someone is following these diagrams, follow them to the letter and ensure you don’t miss out any steps. Sky Lanterns need to be made out of high quality materials in order to retain the heat. Alternatively, just buy a high quality lantern from a high street store or online. They usually only cost £1.50 each for a high quality product!

    Just my opinion, but we’ve been in the industry a long time and for the cost of purchasing them, it’s definitely worth it. Great write up non the less! :)

  85. Kevin Camama says:

    Can I use the normal pad paper in constructing the balloon??

  86. John says:

    Hey, l was wondering:
    1) What would the internal volume of the lantern be?
    2) l am attempting to make a square lantern, like from the movie tangled, and l will be commenting again to tell you if the attempt worked. I will be following most of the instructions given here, except of course the shape.

  87. Porsche says:

    What’s alum? is that short for aluminum? (I just want to be sure)

  88. HEGilliam says:

    I’d avoid cheap Sky Lanterns. The extra price of Skylighters Sky Lanterns comes from the time consuming fire retarding process. Cheap Sky Lanterns often lack this important step which is why they’re so cheap.
    There was a fireworks demo where a Sky Lantern, which had no fire retardant, was lit and began flying. After it got about 15-20 Feet off the ground it lit on fire and began to come back down, just barely missing a house! Luckily it ended up landing in the road and burning out there. A Sky Lantern with a fire retardant coating will be more expensive but will not light on fire, they can char and get holes due to charring but won’t go up in flames in the sky.

  89. Chuck says:

    Yesterday I made some fire proofing spray for sky lanterns of my own. 3 oz boric acid, 7 oz borax mixed in half gallon hot water. Used a spray bottle to spray tissue.
    Tested with a lighter and the tissue was indeed fire retardant. You can burn a hole in the tissue but it would not support flame..AT ALL
    A sample of un-treated tissue went up like the Hindenburg

  90. Alison says:

    oh darn, guess i can’t fly one now! boo hoo on you Keith!

  91. indigo carmen says:

    i agree with FoxIV,

    if we treat everything as a risk, then, in theory, life is a risk of death…….

    something to think about


  92. John says:

    I disagree with FoxIV. First of all, there’s no need to be abrasive in a reply … it seems to be de rigueur for those who abjure rational discussion. Doing what you like without regard for how it might effect others is just antisocial. I can certainly see how some people could misuse these things in a dangerous way. Improper use could cause them to come down prematurely in brush or rooftops and start fires. Even though they could cause little actual damage colliding with aircraft or car, the pilot or driver wouldn’t know what was coming at him and make dangerous attempts to avoid it.
    That being said, these things look like a lot of fun and I am anxious to try one, maybe launched from a boat out on the water or in the desert. Otherwise I would like to tether one so it couldn’t drift into danger. I live in a forested area and we have plenty of fires from all sorts of things thoughtless people regard as harmless.

  93. David says:

    I seriously doubt they could lift one ounce

  94. Davy says:

    I don’t understand the malevolence to Angela for asking two sensible questions. I like the idea of these lanterns, but the first thing that came to mind were the possible incendiary outcome to other people’s property were I to let them loose in my neighbourhood. You may be right that those of use who consider the welfare of others are freaks, but we’re not wrong.

    I think Angela’s observation that someone driving a car might be endangered is perhaps overly cautious, but it is right to err on the side of caution when people’s lives are in question. Perhaps she, like me, considers drivers despite not driving herself – you can’t assume everyone mistreats the environment as you do.

    Clearly you found a woman with something intelligent to say overly challenging. That’s no excuse to ignore good taste and manners.

  95. Pedantic Pete says:

    A rail gun causes a lot of damage with a pellet which weighs next to nothing, the energy of the projectile is half of the velocity squared times the mass. Doubling the speed will quadruple the energy whereas doubling the mass will double the energy, therefore almost anything is lethal if going very fast ( which I have to agree a paper bag never will )

  96. welshdean says:

    Ha ha, he should have fireproofed his cows!!!

  97. LMC says:

    This website sells lanterns that contain no wire ( so it must be possible to do. How about thin strips of balsa wood – like they use in model building – soaked and bent for the frame work?

  98. j says:

    bamboo and paper are bio degradeable and the fire goes out in the air. i would not send one off at an air port either.

  99. toni smith says:

    how did you mix the boric acid and the borax????

  100. Docwells2000 says:

    Safester…I like your style!! ;-)

  101. John says:

    Glass half full responds with;
    “if you’ve ever seen what happens to a plastic bag being blown around on a motorway you’ll know that these things won’t pose a threat to motorists.”

    That’s a far cry from a glowing or flaming ball unexpectedly coming down in front of a driver at night, who would likely swerve dangerously to avoid it.

    He suggests “Get a life and start living it!”
    I recommend he get a brain and start using it. Used responsibly, these things are beautiful and fun … but like any other type of firework, they can be dangerous in the hands of thoughtless people.

  102. John says:

    Safester responds with; “everyone please take caution while chewing your food!”

    Oh come on! Surely you can see that being willing to put yourself at risk is not the same as putting other people at risk without their even being aware of it.

    ( I know giant corporations do this all the time … but that doesn’t make it right. They get held responsible for damages by law.)

  103. Jralph says:

    We do not suggest tethering sky lanterns. They are basically a hot air balloon with an open flame at the bottom. In normal use they fly upwards and do not come down until they have burned out. When they are tethered they can easily be buffeted by winds causing the hot air to escape and lowering the balloon. Also when they are at the end of their tether and struck by wind the flame is more likely to hit the balloon wall long enough for a hole to be charred through the balloon. If the balloon loses enough hot air or has holes which allow air to escape it could come down to the ground and become a fire hazard.

  104. Davy & Angela are the same person says:

    No, it’s Angela’s FEAR that keeps people from doing things like this. Find the danger in harmless things so Americans won’t hurt themselves or others.

    That’s why the malevolence. Those aren’t sensible questions in any respect. Those questions are answered with common sense. If you don’t have common sense, don’t make a sky lantern and continue to be alarmed by things that need not be feared.

    If you truly think people’s lives are at stake, don’t teach your kids to fly kites, which could break free and fall on a car.

    The more I think about it, the more ridiculous these questions and your defense of her “good taste and manners” gets.

    Be afraid of the world. Even the balloons are out to get you.

  105. Davy says:

    I and Angela are the same person? I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that you’d leap to that errroneous conclusion, despite my having disagreed with Angela’s level of caution as over the top. So much for your “common sense”.

    Balloon does not equal sky lantern (unless you’re talking about the Hindenburg).

  106. Bob says:

    Yes you can. Read section 101.1 – applicability which states;

    (a) This part prescribes rules governing the operation in the United States, of the following:


    (4) Except as provided for in §101.7, any unmanned free balloon that—

    (i) Carries a payload package that weighs more than four pounds and has a weight/size ratio of more than three ounces per square inch on any surface of the package, determined by dividing the total weight in ounces of the payload package by the area in square inches of its smallest surface;

    (ii) Carries a payload package that weighs more than six pounds;

    (iii) Carries a payload, of two or more packages, that weighs more than 12 pounds; or

    (iv) Uses a rope or other device for suspension of the payload that requires an impact force of more than 50 pounds to separate the suspended payload from the balloon.

    101.7 states;

    (a) No person may operate any moored balloon, kite, amateur rocket, or unmanned free balloon in a manner that creates a hazard to other persons, or their property.

    (b) No person operating any moored balloon, kite, amateur rocket, or unmanned free balloon may allow an object to be dropped therefrom, if such action creates a hazard to other persons or their property.

    Unless you make a monster size version of this, or start attaching payloads, I believe you are exempt.

    Here be trolls.

  107. Davy says:

    What would be the outcome to the hapless yankee sky lantern launcher should a farmer’s fields be burned down, as happened in New Zealand? A civil justice system that would award a complainant big money because of coffee that’s “too hot” is not going to say, “I believe you are exempt.”

    Here be egocentric Americans!

  108. John says:

    Welshdean replied “Ha ha, he should have fireproofed his cows!!!”

    This person thinks it’s amusing for a creature to suffer for two days and ultimately die. I often hear of people who amuse themselves by torturing animals. I understand they sometimes go on to enjoy torturing people.

  109. Davy says:

    Without incident? What about the fire that closed a runway at Taipei airport in 2006:

  110. mr mo says:

    The have been using these things in wooded rural areas in Taiwan for years without incident…. but you never can be too sure, can you?

  111. A. or C. Shirley says:

    I’m going to try this this coming New Year 2011.

    Guess I’ll rather LIVE than just SURVIVE.

    Accidents could be caused by the noblest intentions and i think this is safe

    enough. With risk yes everything we do has risk. Effects? Of course it has.

    Everything we do will have effect greater than we could imagine.

  112. Chris says:

    Mr. Clausan:

    The first couple lanterns/balloons I made the ring from bamboo I got at a local hardware store (Home Depot) that’s normally used to support young plants or trees . I widdled the wood down very thin with a box cutter and glued the ends with super glue. I later found it was easier to make a square balsa wood frame using balsa from a local hobby store. The 0.5 cm square pieces work fine. Only one of my frames caught fire in a wind that was too strong to fly the balloon. The square frame is light and strong enough to do the job. I wired the wax/paper burner to the four sides of the square frame. Other than that I followed Ned’s instructions slightly changing the shape of my four panels to make it a little bigger. I tried using a monocote iron and painter’s drop cloth to make a plastic balloon, but after a few minutes of flying, the heat melted holes in the top of the balloon and it came back down. I was able to repair them and they work ok for short flights , but the tissue paper made for a several great flights. You can also make the wax and paper burners a little bigger to increase the burning time. I’ve made a hybrid paper and plastic balloon, but have yet to try it. The top 3/4 is paper to withstand the heat and the bottom is plastic, which makes the bottom stronger and more suitable to reuse if the balloon is tethered.

    Chris C.
    Denver, CO

  113. herman clausan says:

    One point that stuck in my mind was you increased the size. I googled “Why do hot air ballons fly”?
    And there it was :Volume. So as per design, I increased the size of each panel of the ballon from 22″ to 30 ” . The rest basicly the same , except I trimed to top to fit into the 40″ size of two sheets of tissue paper glued together.I threw caution to the wind and didn’t worry about the weight of the balloon. Lite the wax and paper fire block and Low and Behold , in seconds it was flying to the heights.So thanks for the post. I was just about crazy making so many balloons that would not fly.Worrying about the size and weight or every part of the balloon.Also if Thailand was just tooo hot to fly balloons. Because most post mentioned that weather was 50 degrees ECT.WoW ! They sure are KEWL!!!!

  114. Caity says:

    Okay, all of y’all except for Angela are stupid. She’s allowed to ask her questions, so leave her alone! You guys are rude. If you don’t like what she said, just ignore it. Common sense! :)

  115. herman clausan says:

    Hi Vinod.
    I don’t use fire retardant any more. If don’t have a fire on the ground , when I release it , it never burns up. So I really don’t know how the retardant works.

    But to your Question : I use to use Alum . I bought it by the Kilo. A big crystal like rock. Mixed it 1:1 Then just misted the out side..
    So fires so I guess it worked.
    I also modified my lantern so that right from the opening ,it flairs out quickly so that the flames do not get near the paper.

  116. herman clausan says:

    I have use fire retardant , but quit because at the opening I flare the baloon right from the start and flames don’t even get near the paper. I used Alum. 1 ;1. But no need if you adjust your pattern.Also the lanterns seem to fly better.
    Also another point . I have access to live bamboo and have learned that to split the bamboo in about 5/8″ strips and then wittle the bamboo down to about to 1/8 ” thick and then split for the 1/8″ size is very easy and it runs quite true. Before , when thick it would have a tendency to split in unusable pieces.I do all the splitting and shapeing with a sharp Butcher Knife. It just trims it to 1/16″ so very easy. Also being fresh bamboo really helps.

  117. jeremy says:

    yea, u guys are all ridiculous. ill admit those questions were a bit air-headed, but so what? there is always a margin for error, and it is better to have someone ask these “stupid” questions than for someone not to. out of the box thinkers like angela come up with solutions to question that people would never think of. just take it with a grain of salt.

  118. jeremy says:

    ok smokey the bear. Jesus,just beacuse your antisocial does not meant you dont care what hapens to others, rather it is beacuse you care about what others think of you so much that it isnt worth it to be around people beacuse of abrasive shit like what every1 is railing about angela on. just chill, and watch the pretty lights,damn.

  119. jeremy says:

    oh my god, he sells those cows to be eaten by people, it does have a certain irony to it does it not? like u can judge, u probably ate part of that cow anyway.
    here be carnivores

  120. jeremy says:

    ha, that rhymed

  121. Jralph says:

    It depends on what type of paper bag. Sky lanterns need to be very light in order to get enough lift from the hot air. A brown paper shopping bag would probably be too heavy to lift off. The paper used for sky lanterns is usually a very light/thin rice/tissue paper.

  122. herman clausan says:

    I wouldn’t worry about faa ID. First of all you don’t want to be id’ed if something did go wrong. Just fly them when the fields are damp. FOrgrt the power lines . It won’t hurt anything.
    If it all possible never register anything you can avoid. Big brother is not our friend. That’s why I moved and live in Thailand. I am really free there. When in America we only think we are free. Brainwashing starts right after birth. Take care and have a ball.


  123. Luis Mojica says:

    Nice work you did, pretty documented and complete. I was thinking of making one by my self but now I see it’s no trivial at all.


  124. Momohatma Magrundistane says:


    If I may respectfully suggest that you perhaps have to much time on your hands.

    You are also preventing six year old Chinese girls from earning the living they deserve.

    Most naughty


  125. herman clausan says:

    Yes , Alum is what we use to can pickles and peppers with. It made them crisper.


  126. russ vanover says:

    i prefer peanut butter over cream cheese…the consistancy is better

  127. Coretta says:

    Question. On average how long can a flying lantern burn before you have to let it go, or it burns out.

  128. EvaLena says:

    nice work, but they’reonly 80 cents to buy, so hardly worth the effort

  129. Bill says:

    You could have sprayed the paper with boric acid mixed with water for simple fire proofing. and also used some of it in a methyl alcohol swabbed cotton ball for a really cool long burning green flame fuel source.

  130. Deep Tshering lepcha says:

    I’ve a small doubt regarding the shape and size of a papper baloon.Is it necessasry to take the accurate measurement like one you have given in the sketch above or one can simply make any shape and size?

  131. Lee says:

    My family has been making these out of newspaper for years. Take a full sheet of newspaper, bring all four corners together and pin with a straight pin, creating a balloon shape. Turn over with pin side down. Evenly twist the two ends of the paper balloon that are sticking out the most – it will be obvious at this point – but not too tightly. Light the twisted ends so they will burn evenly, then watch your ‘balloon’ float as the heat builds in the chamber.

  132. At, they’re GIVING away Sky Lanterns! Free ones with every order.

  133. jessica says:

    So what kind of glue did you use?

  134. HERMAN CLAUSAN says:

    On the bottle it onlys says WATER GLUE. I have no clue to what its made of . I buy it in thialand. Its not messy or hard to work with. Also adds no weight.

  135. Emily says:

    Thank you so much for providing such in depth steps for making sky lanterns! After seeing the movie “Tangled,” my friends and I all wanted to try and make them, and your directions helped us immensely. It took us a while to make the first one (naturally), but now that we have all of the supplies, our plan is to make and release a bunch of them at the same time next summer! Making them yourself is such a rewarding experience, and I cannot thank you enough for walking us through the process. You helped make our summer wonderful!!!

    P.S. I have your blog bookmarked on my computer for future reference =)

  136. Mike says:

    Thanks for all the advice and info! I haven’t actually made any yet, but have launched over 100. I found them cheap online, shared with friends, got addicted to setting them off for any possible reason/excuse to do so…grins. Several at once makes such a bigger impact/image than one at a time…they look like a free-form constellation shifting and changing in the sky…too cool! I’d like to contribute a few tips/thoughts from my experiences with them :

    Preheating/inflating the balloon over a small fire or heat source will give you some more fly time…hold the balloon over a fire until it inflates and wants to lift, then ignite the fuel cell, release when fuel is burning well. This will save the 2-3 minutes taken to fill the balloon by it’s “on-board” flame. Also; by getting it good and hot over a fire, it’s more likely to rise straight up quickly rather than drift up and sideways.

    Adding/replacing fuel is specifically NOT recommended in the laughable Chinese/American instructions printed on the lanterns I have purchased. That said: I have attached a tad more fuel to what was provided so as to get longer fly time. I made “fuel” out of sawdust and old candle wax; poured it out onto an old cookie sheet, about 3/8″ thick. Like Ned said; weight is an important factor: doubling size of original cell was too much, it burned longer but didn’t get the lift/height. Adding about 1/2-1/3 worked well…good lift and added 5-7 minutes fly time. I sort of tack-welded these fuel cookies onto the top of the original cell by heating/melting them togetugh20timea’am_h0in: NOT RECOMMENDED!l..0but it-okes ehem t3 worl..chuickkes
    %0Laust: Taike a smerousy look hat yors srrfountinps codictionh20timeMaike srve thrve is littdle%Fnt3 iand, nt3 burI hzoards, tfresr tht7 might+locks fmight and bscsrve viewh20timeMoust imporn onis reI made of “flamT rsisrtant tissuve apger r but you reI stwill endding 2 flamr aoift, keepe a sshape.yed on ith20timea’aOof the 10+0 Iave itd so/aor: maybet 3 didn’t rise up ionto the skt and burI+out safkely hmigg abave the grfound was expictel..A “C got stucks in*C tfret and glowedk like a gitant fir0fly until thir2 flamr burned+oul..nt3-aimage, /exeptf for maybet the io-degradhable”flamT rsisrtant tissuve apger bng huing up ion*C tfrel..10 I releasds too sloon with too much frezge, neover got off the grfound

  137. CHIRU SUR says:

    Great idea to make your own sky lantern.Here in Kolkata we call it ‘Fanoosh’ ,the tips are good especially the boric acid with water as fire retardant & methyle alcohol or spirit can be easily got from market.After the winter harvest & festival time of Makar Sankranti the wind is perfect for kite & ‘Fanoosh Fun’ as rightly said for ‘intrinsic value’.
    I hope I can help poor slum children with an enjoyable simple livelyhood in a 15 million crowded city with one rupee profit to make a kid a millionaire one day…Regards
    Chiru from the ‘CITY OF JOY’

  138. iqra says:

    hi! i m also a keen learner of sky lantern. Please do tell me abt it more

  139. sen says:

    .. i tried making fuel. with kraft paper and cartoon. after i lit the fuel it was quite low in burning and i was afraid coz there were fire falling from my fuel becoz of the wax… how about the fuel u made??? was there fire tears falling from it??? lol afraid i might get burnd

  140. HERMAN CLAUSAN says:

    I made a chimney with thin foil, and I tell you it went into high clouds and disappeared.

    It was just big enough to cover around the flame About 6 ot 7 inches high. Wow did it fly. I guess that the chimney directs the flame upward faster . thus the extra lift.

  141. HERMAN CLAUSAN says:

    HI gang.
    I changed the diameter of the bamboo ring to 58 inches, thus eliminating having to fireproof the paper.Hope this also works for you.
    I post this because so many get confused about the fireproofing.

    happy flying

  142. tricia says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this information! i have been fascinated by sky lanterns for years!!! Can’t wait to have a try!!!

  143. Lisa says:

    Gosh – some people are too serious – enjoy the craft and the fun of makinf and sharing!! But please attach a thread and don’t let it sail off to the heavens only to land in the sea to be swallowed by birds and fish. Let’s be thoughtful, too.

  144. pearl says:

    hello, i am experimenting making a sky lantern for this upcoming January 2012 event. flying sky lanterns would be a remarkable exchange to our usual and cliche candle light ceremony. since we are not from the US, i was wondering if their is any improvise equipment/chemical/liquid for the Universal fireshield use for fire proofing the balloon? and may i ask what is the desired wire size of the wires you used in making the balloon? ive been making almost 6 of them, and both failed to lift in the air, i know that problem is with the weight of the balloon, can you give me some solutions to for this problem? thanks! hoping youll answer my questions!

  145. Douglas says:

    Well this is a well written tutorial, like a lot how you show the pictures and make a really home made sky lantern, awesome work and thanks for sharing!
    Good luck!

  146. Douglas says:

    Hello, im trying to make one, but were i live and my native language isnt english for the fireproof product do you have any specific label or it has another name, scientific name or something… it would be easy, i have son chemist friends… thanks

  147. Jeff says:

    Hey buddy China has changed – now you have to be 10 years old to work in a factory in China.

  148. Jeff says:

    I have had to hold them about 5 minutes while they get enough hot air to achieve liftoff. Once airborne they seem to get a good 10 1-5 minutes of flight. Keep in mind I am in China and have been buying them locally for about 80cents a pop.

  149. Handy Dude says:

    ……. hardly worth the effort

    You’ve never made anything with your own hands and had it work?
    Great holiday project to do with the kids.

    I’ve been making these for years and it’s a family thing now. I use a foil mini-loaf pan with denatured alcohol (burns hotter) and they fly for a long time (but not as bright.)

  150. jeff says:

    Laughing, EVALENA NO! There is little effort in opening the package, a quick assembly, and lighting the fuel source.

    However, watching the flying lantern climb and fly across the lake next to my house and float for about 10-15 minutes contains much intrinsic value.

    Often there are cross winds as it rises and sometimes they have gotten knocked down and battered as they climb.

    A few crashed and burned! ( I live on the 5th floor) from premature launch. One I launched thinking it had enough hot air to rise, quickly sank and landed on the ground where after about a minute it popped back up and took off. Another was grabbed by a housing security guard who quickly stomped it in submission despite my yells ( in English!) to leave it alone.

    There is some romance in watching them take off and flat when with my Chinese girlfriend.

  151. cdc says:

    I’m actually chinese and I built several sky lanterns when I was a 10 year old. It’s really a lot simpler than you’re making it, though you made a nice one. The design is pretty forgiving on the whole, as long as you give the burner enough of a clearance box in your design. Your burner looks way too large to me, making it perhaps more dangerous than it needs to be. I think a burner of a square of about 1.5 inches would have sufficed for a lantern of the size you made, would have made it rise slower and it would have consumed itself away more safely — if the wind causes the lantern to burn in flight, for instance, a smaller burner would extinguish itself before falling to the ground.

  152. herman clausan says:

    No. I had to make mine a little wider to get to fly. It just made a little larger volume. I use a strip of thin towel to specs. and dip in wax . The last one I flew went into the clouds.

  153. Owen says:

    any chance of a photo? Your method sounds alluringly simple…

  154. bill latimer says:

    id sure like to see how you do would my 3 children .if you have time could you help us out ?

  155. HERMAN CLAUSAN says:

    Sen , spell again (cartoon) ????

    I use thin terry cloth . wax and paper inbetween. Some dripping , but thats no problem.

  156. Lee says:

    I’ve been out of the loop for awhile. I’ll try to put one together for you. Be aware, these are ‘fire’ and are consumed in the air so they must have plenty of space to go up and come down.

  157. Lee says:

    I’ll give you the same answer and add a thank you for your interest.
    I’ve been out of the loop for awhile. I’ll try to put one together for you. Be aware, these are ‘fire’ and are consumed in the air so they must have plenty of space to go up and come down.
    In addition, you don’t want to do this in dry, drought like conditions as it takes only one little spark to start a fire.

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