In our home, we're getting ready for the arrival of a new baby. It's an exciting time!
I decided to make something unique for our child's nursery, and after bouncing around a few ideas, I chose to make a wooden airplane mobile.
Since we live in an apartment, I don't have a garage full of power tools to work with or a substantial amount of space.
So if you're in a similar situation this tutorial is just for you. You can do pretty much the entire thing while sitting at your dinning table.
If you get stuck on any step just let me know in the comments below.
Here's everything you'll need to make your own wood airplane mobile:
- Balsa wood - 1 4x24x1/8" board & 1 4x24x3/16" board
- Airplane stencil (You can download mine at the end of this post)
- X-acto knife
- Paint brush
- Super glue
- 2x2x2" wood block
- 32x1/8" dowel
- 9 Screw Eyes
- Drill & drill bit
- Masking tape or painters tape
Making the Airplanes
Step 1: Trace & Cut out Airplanes
First, find an airplane you want to model your planes after. You can use fighter jets, WWII planes, or even biplanes if you get creative. What you'll need is a side profile of the plane and a top/bottom view of the plane.
If you want to use mine just scroll to the bottom of this post and download it. Be sure to print it on card stock paper.
Now, in case you don't already know this, balsa wood is extremely light, that's one of the reasons I picked it for this project. The downside however is that it's rather fragile.
You'll want to cut the long sides of the plane with the grain of the wood, as seen in the picture below. When your cutting across the grain go slow. You may need to do a few test cuts to get a good handle on cutting balsa wood.
These are the three pieces you should be left with after you cut out the plane.
Now before you put the airplane together I recommend sanding the entire airplane down. You mostly want to get rid of the sharp edges. Use fine grit sand paper.
Just remember, this is balsa wood, so it doesn't take much sanding to smooth things out. Sand too much and you could end up reshaping your plane. This is the one step you should probably do outside.
Step 3: How to Put the Airplane Together
Next you'll need to cut a slot across the body of the plane for the wing to slide into. Also cut a slot in the horizontal stabilizer so it can slide into the tail of the plane.
Here's what your airplane should look like all put together.
Now repeat step 2 & 3 five more times to make all 6 of the airplanes for your mobile.
Step 4: Painting the Airplanes
This is the fun part! I like simple, bright colors, as you can see with my airplanes above. But go crazy. Paint them however you'd like.
Making the Mobile
Step 1: The Wood Block
You'll need to drill 4 holes in your wood block. Using a tape measure find the center of 4 sides of the block. You'll want the hole to be the same diameter as the dowel.
If you aren't sure which bit will give you that diameter, start small. You can always make the hole bigger but you can't make it smaller.
Don't drill all the way through the block. Your hole only needs to be about 1/2"-3/4" deep.
You can wrap your tape around the drill bit several times so you can see when you've reached the desired depth. See the picture below for an example.
Step 2: The Dowel
Now take your dowel and cut it into 4 equal length pieces. Apply a small amount of super glue to the inside of the hole in the wood block and stick each dowel in.
Now about 3/4" from the end of the dowel you're going to drill a small hole for the string to go through. This should be a vertical hole that's just wide enough to fit the string through.
Step 3: Add the Screw Eyes
The last thing you need to do is add a screw eye to the top and bottom of the block. Again, find the center of the block and mark it. This is particularly important for the top one. If you don't get it in the center your entire mobile will hang crooked.
For the bottom screw eye you can use the same size as the ones you'll be using on your airplanes. However you may want to get a larger screw eye for the top of the block as this is going to support your entire mobile.
You should be able to screw these in by hand, it just takes a little elbow grease.
Hanging the Airplanes
Step 1: Add Screw Eyes
Now pull out your little box of screw eyes to add to the planes. If you aren't sure exactly what screw eyes are here's a picture of them screwed into the plane.
Try to find the center of balance of your airplanes so they'll hang fairly level. Then screw in your screw eye to the body of the plane.
You'll want to be careful with this step. You don't want to split the wood. Slowly and carefully add the screw. The wood is soft so you should be able to do this be hand quite easily.
All of the planes should only have one screw eye in the top of the plane, unless of course you wanted some of your airplanes upside down. One plane, the one in the center, should have a screw eye in the bottom as well since a second plane is going to hang from it.
Step 2: Tie it all Together
The last step is to break out the string and tie everything together. Now it sounds rather easy but it can be a little tricky.
Mobiles are all about balance. The airplanes that are opposite of one another on the mobile need to hang at the same length. If they don't, you'll end up with a crooked mobile.
And I should know, that's exactly what happened to me. One string is about an inch longer and now it's all crooked. After I finish writing this I'll be fixing that.
You'll just need a simple knot on each plane. Once they are all tied apply a small amount of super glue to each knot and cut off any excess string to give them a clean look.
Once you've tied all your airplanes you're done! You should have something that looks a bit like the picture below.
Now you just need to figure out how to hang your mobile. A hook in the ceiling is probably the easiest but you'll have to figure out what will work best in your child's room.
Have any questions? Just ask below.