Monday, September 28, 2015

Simple Leaf Blower Hovercraft


What better way to finish off the summer than a relaxing hover to the park?
This is an overview of a simple, inexpensive design that can be built for less than $10 if you are resourceful (and already have a leaf blower). Maximum cost, excluding the leaf blower, is about $50.
Here's a video of the hovercraft in action!
Recommended to use a gas powered leaf blower if you want to travel somewhere beyond your garage or workshop.

Step 1: Materials


-- Circular piece of wood for hovercraft body w/ ~ 2 ft. diameter
Minimum area of ~ 10 sq. ft. (1 sq. meter).
-- Small circular piece of wood for anchor w/ ~ 6 in. diameter
-- Tarp
-- Cardboard
-- Optional: Propulsion mechanism (fan or PVC piping)


Step 2: Tools

-- Leaf blower w/ output ~ 200 MPH*
A gas-powered leaf blower works best for this project and lets you travel anywhere, but any leaf blower will work as long as the output is powerful enough.
-- Staple gun*
-- Jigsaw* + safety equipment
-- Power Drill
-- Scissors and/or Blade Knife
-- Duct Tape
-- Sandpaper*
-- Screws* (~4)
*Not pictured


Step 3: Procure Base

The area of the base of the hovercraft should be at least 1 square meter (10.8 sq. feet). This will support about 220 lbs of weight.
Wood is the best material for the base. There are lots of ways to source wood cheaply or for free. Mine was found discarded in an alley. You can also purchase plywood and cut it to a different shape.
Once you have the base, measure the diameter of your leaf blower nozzle, then cut a small hole in the base about 6 in. from the edge. Thoroughly sand all edges, including the hole.
Also sand the edges of the wood anchor.


Step 4: Build it! Pt. 1

1. Lay base on top of tarp. Cut tarp around the base leaving at least 3 in. of excess tarp.
2. Loosely fold tarp over top of base; there should be room for the tarp to inflate about 1 in.
3. Use overlapping layers of duct tape to adhere the tarp to the top of the base.


Step 5: Build it! Pt. 2

1. Cut out 1 in. x 2 in. cardboard rectangles to go around the perimeter of the base.
Rectangle size is approximate.
As for the number of rectangles, you can be extremely precise and measure the base perimeter to calculate how many rectangles to cut, or you can be approximate and cut more as you need them (my preferred method).
2. Staple the cardboard rectangles to the base so that the sides and/or corners are touching.
3. Flip the base over, and add overlapping layers of duct tape across the middle of the base.
4. Find the center point of the base and mark it.

Step 6: Build it! Pt. 3

1. Find the center point of the wood anchor, and match it up with the center point of the base (on the bottom over the duct tape).
2. Drill the anchor securely into the wood base.
3. Cut about 10-15 ventilation holes around the anchor and on top of the duct tape. Area of each hole should be ~ 1 sq. in.
Suggested to start with a small number of holes (~5-8) then test w/ the leaf blower to see how it floats. It should be stable and not tip to one side. If it is tipping, cut more holes on opposite side of which it is tilting.
4. Flip over the base (so that the top is up) and adhere the leaf blower nozzle to the hole w/ duct tape.

Step 7: Test it and Take it to Town!

Power up your leaf blower and take it for a spin! Or a straight line.
You can also turn this into a rudimentary vehicle by adding a propulsion system. One easy way is to add a fan. Another is to use PVC piping to redirect some of the leaf blower airflow behind you. I'm considering testing the PVC method.. if there is interest I will post an addendum showing how to do this.
Many thanks to this YouTube tutorial for the general overview.
Creative Commons License
This work by Jennifer Fox is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License