Make your own hovercraft and power it with a standard shop vacuum or leaf blower.
Demonstrate the ability of air to reduce friction by gliding down the hall like a human
hockey puck. You can also demonstrate the lifting ability of compressed air. Learn about
1. 4 x 8 sheet of 3/8 inch plywood good on one side. Cut the plywood into two 4 x 4
2. 6 x 6 foot square of 6 mill visqueen (heavy plastic). Obtained from hardware or lumber
store. Heavy duty plastic shower curtains work well too.
3. (50) 5/8 inch round head screws.
4. (3) metal washers to be used with the 5/8 inch screws
5. 1-1/4 inch carriage bolt 1 and 3/4 inch long and nut
6. (2) metal washers to fit the carriage bolt
7. (1) plastic coffee can lid (approximately 5 inches in diameter)
8. Staple gun.
9. Duct tape
10. Leaf Blower or Shop Vac
11. Scrap wood to build a stool (optional)
Process to Make A Hovercraft
1. With a saber saw, cut a disc out of each plywood sheet. The top disc should have a
diameter of 48 inches. The other disc should be cut to a diameter of 47 inches. If the
bottom disc is cut a little smaller, the overhang of the top disc will protect the rolled edge
of the visqueen covering on the bottom disc when the craft is stored on its edge.
2. The bottom disc must have the edges of the plywood sanded round to protect the
visqueen covering. I used a router to shape both the top and bottom edge of the
plywood disc. I lightly sanded the edge to give it a smooth surface. I also routed and
smoothed the edges of the top disc to prevent splintering or slivers.
3. Drill a 1/4 inch hole in the center of both discs.
4. Drill a 1/4 inch hole in one of the 4 x 4 inch wood blocks.
5. Temporarily bolt the two discs together and drill a hole large enough to receive the
end of the plastic hose of the shop vac. This hole should be located halfway between
the center of the disc and the outer edge. This hole must go through both discs and
should provide a rather tight fit for the shop vac hope (if needed, tape can be used on
the end of the shop vac hose to take up any sloppy play). Also drill the same size hole in
one of the 4 x 4 inch wood blocks.
6. Tightly cover the bottom surface of the smaller disc with the visqueen, folding it over
the top and staple in place as shown in the diagram.
7. Poke a hole in the visqueen where the bolt will go through and reinforce this area with
duct tape. I covered about a six inch square area in the center of the visqueen.
8. Bolt the top piece of plywood and the bottom disc together as shown in the diagram.
Be sure to insert the bolt through the washer and plastic coffee can lid first then through
the two discs and wooden block. Secure with a washer and nut.
9. Screw the edges of the discs together using 5/8 inch round head screws spaced
about 3 inches apart. These screws should help form a tight seal and prevent air
10. Screw the coffee can lid firmly in place using three 5/8 inch screws and washer.
11. Cut several air holes in the visqueen. I made a cutting tool out of an old piece of
shower curtain rod. It has a diameter of about 1 inch and it is made of thin brass so I
was able to sharpen a cutting edge with a round file. This worked well because it made
a nice clean hole. A large cork baring tool could also be used to cut nice clean holes in
the plastic. The pattern shown in the diagram is the one I used, and it worked well. You
may want to experiment with your own pattern.
11. I made a stool tall enough to fit over the shop vac. The students could sit in the
center when riding the hovercraft.
12. Good luck and happy hovering.
Now go get that leaf blower and some friends and make a hovercraft.
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