How to build your own hovercraft for under $200

So I saw this post on engineering.com and I wanted to build one myself. Unfortunately I was too excited to actually take pictures of my progress, but I’ll attempt to do a ‘post-mortem’.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Skil-saw
yardstick or some other measuring device
staple gun
can of 2-cycle gasoline

Here’s what you’ll need to buy:
$20 – cheapest sheet of wood at least 36″x36″x0.5″
$12 – shower curtain
$5 – blue tarp
$80 – leaf blower (I bought a Weed Eater 25cc 2-Cycle Light-Duty Gas Blower)
$10 – lawn chair
$5 – vinyil tubing
$3 – pipe insulation
$4 – steel metal plated flat bar

To begin, I started by working on the base. Take the sheet of wood, and cut it to 36″x36″. I did this because that was the size of my yardstick and it felt like a comfortably sized base. I might try to experiment with a larger base, but I was trying to minimize the weight in this first design.
Next, I cut out 12″x12″x16.970″ triangles on the corners to make it look like a STOP sign. This is a lazy attempt at making it circular. Worked pretty well.
Finally, I sanded the sheet, especially the corners.

Now that you have a base, it’s a good idea to align all the components. I put the base on two sawhorses, and placed the lawn chair on top with the leaf blower roughly in position. I marked the board from corner to corner to make a square in the center. This is where the chair was placed to make the center of gravity roughly in the middle. Once satisfied that this will work, I proceeded to cut a hole in the lawn chair to have as a mount for the leaf blower’s handle. To add additional support, I took some scrap wood and added it to the chair.

Next I cut the pipe of the leaf blower so that there is a good base for the blower to attach to without having to cut up the unit its self. That way, if I wanted to use it as its original purpose, I could just replace the plastic piece I cut. After lining up the blower on the base, I marked and cut a hole in the base. I cut a smaller hole half way between the blower hole and the center of the base board for the vinyl tubing. The tube will be what gives thrust.

Now it’s time to attach the shower curtain. In the video they make it taught. For me this didn’t make sense, so I actually left it loose, about an inch on each side. This makes my craft have a more doughnut shape compared to their conical shape. I used fewer staples than they did, about 3 staples per side. This was to make fewer number of points where the plastic might tear. I did use duct tape like they suggest. I also attached the pipe insulation to the edge of the board as a sort of bumper.

I then added the blue tarp for extra strength. It turns out that this was pretty much futile. Even though it was a tough sheet, going on asphalt, it still managed to tear. Perhaps it did save the shower curtain to some extent, but I’m not certain.

Last thing to attach was the chair. Then it’s time to gas up the motor, and off I ride. Here is a video of my wife taking a turn.

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