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This is a full size(4ftx8ft) one person hovercraft built over one summer for less
than $200. It was built with no prior experience or knowledge of hovercrafts but
with sheer determination to build something dierent. So check this project out,
hope you like it.
Disclaimer (March 2013): I have not made any changes to this Instructable
since the early days of this website, 2006. Take this Instructable as an
example of how not to build a Hovercraft. The homemade thrust fan and
unshielded rotating parts make this homemade craft pretty dangerous. If
your building a hovercraft of your own please consider the safety aspects
large rotating parts and apply this understanding in your design. For a
great example of how to build a working and safe hovercraft see this
Instrucable 10-HP-Hovercraft (http://www.instructables.com/id/10-HPHovercraft/)
http://www.instructables.com/id/Hovercraft/step2/The-Lift-Engine/

About This Instructable

! 353,452 views
366 favorites

Posted:
Mar 30, 2006
License:

Doug Costlow
(/member/Doug+Costlow/)
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(/member/Doug+Costlow/)
Bio: I enjoy building things more than
actually using them.

Step 1: The Skirt and Base

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# Group
Lets start out with a little history, I built the hover craft during the summer
between my sophomore and junior years of high school. It was built by a good
friend, Brain, and myself Doug. Like I said I built the entire craft for less $200
including the engines and the fans. I will explain how I did it soon but lets start
out some of the main things you will need to get started.
3hp Horizontal Shaft Engine $50 at a local lawnmower repair shop
4hp Vertical Shaft engine took it o one of my lawnmowers
5.2 moisture resistant Lauan Plywood 4ftx8ft
Styrofoam 4ftx8ft
1/2in Plywood 2ftx4ft
A couple 2x4 8ft
A couple 1x2 8ft
1/4in bolts and nuts 1in- 3in
Wood Screws 1/2in - 1in
Plastic sheeting Painters Sheet (this is the skirt material)
Brass Grommets with punch You can get this as a kit
This is about what I started out with but in no way is this everything youll need.
Also keep in mind that this is how I did it, if you plan on taking on a project like
this do it how you want to and with what is available to you. Use this as a guide
so that you do not make the same mistakes I did.
Lets start out from the ground up. On a hovercraft the only thing that touches
the ground is the skirt. The skirt is the part of the hovercraft that holds air to lift
the craft. Like in the second picture my hovercraft has two engines, one for lift
and one for thrust. The lift engine pushes air under the craft and the skirt holds
http://www.instructables.com/id/Hovercraft/step2/The-Lift-Engine/

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and one for thrust. The lift engine pushes air under the craft and the skirt holds
the air in. As more air is pushed under the craft pressure builds up and lifts the
hovercraft o the ground. This is how a hovercraft hovers, the only thing in
between the base of the craft and the ground is air.
But before I designed the skirt I designed the base of the craft. It has to be
light(this is the most important) and it has to be strong enough to hold the
weight of a person and the engines and everything else. Keep in mind though
that when hovering the craft is actually more stable than when its not. The air
pressure helps to hold the weight evenly over the entire craft.
This said here is how I made the base. I got two sheets of 4ftx8ft lauan and a
piece of 2in thick Styrofoam. The lauan was the cheapest and the lightest sheet
of plywood I could find at home depot. One note, I got almost everything for
this hovercraft at home depot. Lows or any hardware store will probably have
the same items I got.
The base is just the two sheets of plywood with the Styrofoam sandwiched in
between. Holes are drilled all the way through this sandwich and bolts are used
to hold all of the components on the base.
Back to the skirt which is one of the more trickier parts of a hovercraft. It has to
hold its shape under pressure and it has to be the right size. To big and it will
drag on the ground which will slow the craft down or not let it move at all and to
small and it will not hold enough air to sustain lift.
To overcome this I designed my skirt to have 8 dierent pieces that I sewed all
together with nylon string. For each of the four sides of the craft there are two
skirt pieces. A upper half and a lower half, which are same shape. The picture
shows what each part looked like. Basically the same design for all four sides
just dierent lengths. The skirt is actually smaller than 4ftx8ft by 2in on all sides.
This is done so that the skirt can sandwich between the Styrofoam and the top
piece of plywood. So you will need four longer skirt pieces and four shorter
ones.
Each piece first needs its flap folded over and sewn. To sew the skirt I used a
standard sewing machine and sewed along the seam lines which are 1/2in from
the edge. Now take two pieces one short and one long and sew them together
at the angled end. Now do this again for all the other pieces to form a two
rectangles. Now put one rectangle on top of the other and sew along the
outside perimeter. This forms the whole skirt but its not done yet.
Now duck tape along the seam for added strength then flip the skirt inside out
so the seams are in the inside. Punch holes on the inside of the skirt in the
middle of the flap on the top and the bottom of the skirt with the grommet kit.
Put holes on all corners and every foot along the length of each side. Drill holes
through the base that line up with the grommets. Sandwich the top of the skirt
between the Styrofoam and the top piece of plywood and then use 1/4in bolts
to hold it all together.
This completes the skirt and the base. This is the most general part of the build.
The rest of the craft is built specific to the engines, fans and components I
used, you will have to adapt these plans to fit your components.
Sorry about the pictures I could not get them to show up very well. I included
the DWG file though. The last picture is the overall skirt put together showing
the flap folded over with the dashed line and where holes should be put with
the circles.

skirt1.dwg (/files/orig/FZH/N8A2/0MDEP27VUJ9/FZHN8A20MDEP27VUJ9.dwg)

skirt2.dwg (/files/orig/FQ9/TP5J/15KEP27VUJQ/FQ9TP5J15KEP27VUJQ.dwg)
http://www.instructables.com/id/Hovercraft/step2/The-Lift-Engine/

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skirt2.dwg (/files/orig/FQ9/TP5J/15KEP27VUJQ/FQ9TP5J15KEP27VUJQ.dwg)

skirt3.dwg (/files/orig/FCZ/L483/OS2EP27VV0J/FCZL483OS2EP27VV0J.dwg)

Step 2: The Lift Engine

(/file/FUVMRVPJOLEP27UZ97/)

(/file/FGCYF6N7CREP27UZ5Y/)

(/file/FBA8OHWSXUEP27UZAA/)

The lift engine and fan were added next. Here is what I used, a 4hp lawnmower,
a 20in dia. fan that I think came o a air conditioner, angle steel, a piece of
sheet metal, some nuts and bolts.
I cut a big hole in the base with a jig saw and then added the engine. The angle
steel as seen in the picture is in a u-shape that lifts the engine so the fan is not
below the bottom level of the base. I welded these pieces together but they
could be bolted together with a bunch of L-brackets. They are bolted to the
base and connected with a piece of sheet metal. The sheet metal has a large
hole cut in it with smaller holes around it for the bolts that hold on the engine.
The larger hole is so the engine sits flat on the sheet metal. The fan is just
bolted onto the engine shaft just like blade was when it was on the lawnmower.
Then some 1x2s and more L-brackets were used hold on some aluminum
flashing to make a fan shroud. You can get aluminum flashing at any hardware
store, its used for roofing but all it is, is aluminum sheet metal. A bike brake and
cable of an old bike was used to control the motor.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Hovercraft/step2/The-Lift-Engine/

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Step 3: The Thrust


Engine
Hovercraft
by Doug Costlow
(/member/Doug+Costlow/)
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The thrust engine was a little bit harder than the lift. It has a larger fan, a pulley
reduction and a large fan duct. I started o with the fan. It was hand made with
a welder and some steel. This is not a good idea, the fan has to be perfectly
balanced and the pitch of the blades has to match the power of the engine. I
you are going to build a hovercraft do not build you own fan. I was lucky that
my fan did not fly apart and kill me. Do not do what I did here and get a good
fan to use.
So once you have a fan you need to build a duct. I used more lauan plywood to
cut out the shape and screwed in a bunch of 1x2s to hold the two pieces
together. Then I wrapped more aluminum flashing around the whole thing to
make the duct.
The fan was mounted to a 1/2in shaft that ran through two brass bushings with
a pulley on the other side. This was all mounted on a 2x4 and plywood frame.
Then a smaller frame was made to hold the engine up so that the belt would fit.
No type of clutch was used on the engine which is typical for most hovercraft.
This finished the thrust engine and fan.

Step 4: Steering and Controls

http://www.instructables.com/id/Hovercraft/step2/The-Lift-Engine/

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(/file/F0RNE4GC08EP27UZ71/)

(/file/F1BWNPZEJQEP27UZ3S/)

The steering for a hovercraft is done through air deflectors placed behind the
thrust duct. For these I just used the circle I had already cut out for the duct
itself. I cut one of them in half and screwed a 1x2 on the rounded edge of each
half. L-brackets were attached to the duct hold them on and allow them to turn.
Then rope was attached to the deflectors and run through eye-bolts. The rope
was criss-crossed under the duct so that moving the control stick left would
turn the hovercraft left and right turns right. The control stick was just a piece of
PVC pipe with a hole drilled through the bottom so that it could pivot.
The Thrust engine is controlled by a lawnmower throttle cable and the lift
engine was locked into full throttle. I could have mounted the bike brake on the
control stick but it would have been just one more thing to worry about so I just
left it wide open.

Step 5: It Hovers!!!

http://www.instructables.com/id/Hovercraft/step2/The-Lift-Engine/

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(/file/F2Q3SZSVTLEP27UYR4/)

(/file/FP05DO5GIXEP27UYS7/)

So here is a picture of it finally hovering. Looks pretty good, but really the
project did not go as well as planed. It hovered and I could ride it but that was
while I was testing and it did not have the thrust engine or fan on it. Once I
added the thrust stu it would not hold all of the weight. All is not lost though,
the build went well and I learned a lot.
So I you are planning a project like this here are a few tips so you do not make
the same mistakes I make:
1. Use more powerful motors or motor if you build a single engine craft
2. Get already made fans do not try to build you own
3. Use light components, this is the most important it has to be a light as
possible
4. If you do not know what you are doing, get some plans o the internet, try
Universal Hovercraft they have got some good stu

http://www.instructables.com/id/Hovercraft/step2/The-Lift-Engine/

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We have a be nice comment policy.


Please be positive and constructive.

) I Made it!

Add Images
+

GregQ (/member/GregQ)

Post Comment

7 months ago

Reply

I don't get how you were so concerned about the weight


of the base using light weight wood, etc. when you end up
sitting on it. If it can't lift a heavy base, there's no chance
of it lifting a person.
Flag

SpencerT2 (/member/SpencerT2)

8 months ago

Reply

Excuse me, when you said "hovercrafts," you were not


using a real word. Hovercraft does not have a plural form.
The plural form, is, in fact, hovercraft.
Flag

hovercraftorg (/member/hovercraftorg)

2 years ago

Reply

Lawn mower blades are very dangerous, we use the same


fan blades as used in air conditioners pitched at about 37.5
degrees. It is important to add proper fan guards front and
rear - hovercraft racers don't like doing this as it slows air
thru the duct, but there was a fatality in NZ, someone lost a
few fingers in Australia last year - if you want your kids to
play guitar or piano, make sure you fit proper guards.
Flag

weargle (/member/weargle)

3 years ago

Reply

i couldnt get a fan so i made one using the lawn mower


blades by bending them
Flag

KrystianEly (/member/KrystianEly)

3 years ago

Reply

i have a prodject in college where we have to use the


information over the 2 years to build something, everyone
chose a go-cart but i chose a hover craft im building this on
my own, do you think it will be worse if i was to add slightly
bigger engins? thanks.
Flag

pavilion89 (/member/pavilion89)

3 years ago

Reply

My craft is about 8 icnh height, 8feet length, 4 feet wide and


capacity for a person only. is 2.8hp enough ?
Flag

,
!

Doug Costlow (/member/Doug Costlow) (author) ( pavilion89


(/member/pavilion89)

3 years ago

Reply

I don't think that will be enough unless the craft is very


light. check out this
http://www.instructables.com/id/Hovercraft/step2/The-Lift-Engine/

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12/13/15, 7:54 PM

light. check out this


http://www.instructables.com/id/10-HP-Hovercraft/
same size but uses a 10hp engine
Flag

pavilion89 (/member/pavilion89)

3 years ago

Reply

what is the suitable material to built a fan for engine of


2.8hp?
Flag

,
!

Doug Costlow (/member/Doug Costlow) (author) ( pavilion89


(/member/pavilion89)

3 years ago

Reply

I would not recommend building your own fan,


especially not like the steel fan I built for this craft.
Most fans/props I've seen are made from wood or
have plastic baldes connected to a center metal hub.
Also, if your building a craft similar in size to mine,
2.8hp won't be enough power.
Flag

assaultpioneer (/member/assaultpioneer)

3 years ago

Reply

Wonder if you could make two smaller almost hoverboards


connect them to make a hover "pontoon boat" or catmeran
Flag

Dovim (/member/Dovim)

7 years ago

Reply

hey, awesome guide. i have a couple questions though. how


fast can it go? can you make it have more surface area
while using the same skirt and engine setup? and i thought
of a way in which the forwards thrust fan might be replaced
by a spinning wheel which could be lowered and
maneuvered like that of a motorboat (i don't know very well
how to explain it). thanks
Flag

,
!

Doug Costlow (/member/Doug Costlow) (author) ( Dovim (/member/Dovim)

It didn't really go anywhere, read the last step. Why


would you want to make it bigger? If you did make it
bigger with engines similar to mine, it would be way
underpowered and probably not hover. An outboard
wheel could work but I think it would defeat the
purpose of a "Hover"craft

7 years ago

Reply

Flag

Dovim (/member/Dovim) ( Doug Costlow (/member/Doug Costlow)

Reply

Ah, i see. so it was too heavy for the fan to actually accelerate 7 years ago
it, right? well, an outboard wheel would solve that problem, i
think. also, i see the purpose of a hovercraft as a vehicle that
can go on land and water, so if the outboard wheel could also
be used as a fan in the water, then the purpose would be
complete. also, an addition of an outboard wheel would lead to
the only speed limit being air resistance, since it doesn't touch
the ground (as dierent to all other vehicles), whereas the
wheel could be lifted so it didn't touch the ground. the result is
it could just keep accelerating and accelerating. The results
could be interesting. The thing about making it bigger was
http://www.instructables.com/id/Hovercraft/step2/The-Lift-Engine/

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12/13/15, 7:54 PM

could be interesting. The thing about making it bigger was


merely curiosity, though. i can see that it would have no
practical purpose, and if i could make it smaller without losing
stability, then it contributes to making it lighter, thus faster. As i
said, the results could be interesting. i'll have to do a lot of
thinking on it, but the hovering mechanism of your hovercraft
seems like a great way to start.
Flag

double_g (/member/double_g) ( Dovim (/member/Dovim)

7 years ago

Reply

I'm not sure if this is true as I'm rather new to the hovercraft scene, but
from what I've read it seems that increasing the area actually increases
the lift generated. I'm not sure where the page was that said this but if
you crunch some numbers on the following website you'll find that this
seems to be true. http://www.olshove.com/HoverHome/hovcalc.html
(http://www.olshove.com/HoverHome/hovcalc.html)
If someone can explain this it would be much appreciated, since I haven't
yet figured it out (I'll ponder on it a bit more in the meantime and see if I
can come up with a logical explanation).
Of course weight to lift gain must be considered.
-hope this helps future builders
Double_G
Flag

,
!

Doug Costlow (/member/Doug Costlow) (author) ( double_g (/member/double_g)

If you increase the size of the craft and therefore the 7 years ago
area the pressure needed to maintain lift will decrease
but the amount of air needed to be forced under the
craft will increase. This usually means you have to use
a dierent fan or a more powerful lift engine. During
the design of the craft you have to decide what you
want. If you want a bigger hovercraft you need to
match that with the right size engine and lift fan, but if
you already have the engine size set then you need to
decide on the right size craft. The guy that created
that site from your link says he used Hovercrafting As
A Hobby to create the calculator so I would start there.

Reply

Flag

double_g (/member/double_g) ( Doug Costlow (/member/Doug Costlow)

Reply

Thanks I built my hovercraft for my high school senior project. 3 years ago
I've planned on making a bigger better version so I'll definitely
take your advice for that if I ever get back around to it. Alas
plans for the new version are in a long list of projects not the
smallest of which being my senior project for my undergrad in
electrical engineering.
Flag

Pfarmkid (/member/Pfarmkid)

3 years ago

Reply

how did you make the steering controls?


Flag

threewingwonder (/member/threewingwonder)

4 years ago

Reply

You could build your own fans from wood, all you would
have to do is check out Universal Hovercraft with a search. I
http://www.instructables.com/id/Hovercraft/step2/The-Lift-Engine/

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12/13/15, 7:54 PM

have to do is check out Universal Hovercraft with a search. I


have built a hovercraft from plans that I got from them.
turned out to be a very versital craft.Mine was 6ft x 12 ft and
had a 5 hp lift motor and a 30inch home made lift fan and 25 hp thrust motors with 48inch homemade thrust fans. I
now have plans for a little bigger craft for exploring. You
should really check out :Universal Hovercraft, they are
based in Cordova Illinois. A very good place to start a
hovercraft adventure.They have plans,supplies and
advice/tutorails for hovercraft builders.Great ible though
Flag

Pfarmkid (/member/Pfarmkid) ( threewingwonder (/member/threewingwonder)

How much did it cost?

3 years ago

Reply

Flag

PickPacket (/member/PickPacket)

7 years ago

Reply

That looks safe..


Flag

puerboytbh (/member/puerboytbh) ( PickPacket (/member/PickPacket)

THIS IS IN NO WAY SAFE. For our cadet's "Pioneer's" 7 years ago


platoon (building stu), we built 3 full sized hovercrafts
for use. The prototype on it's first run tore itself apart,
srapel flying everywhere, nearly killing myself and
many other cadets. In building these hovercrafts,
ensure that there is a metal mesh over the air intake
(and outakes) and that the propellers are insulated in
metal. Depending on your propller speed. Have fire
equipment ready. Being 14, I don't want me or my
cadets to die.

Reply

Flag

Jaredicus (/member/Jaredicus) ( puerboytbh (/member/puerboytbh)

Reply

4 years ago

What branch JROTC are you? I am army JROTC.

Flag

puerboytbh (/member/puerboytbh) ( puerboytbh (/member/puerboytbh)

By the way... The same thing happened about a month7 years ago
later. With the metal, the propeller stayed in the engine
housing, causing only damage to the engine, housing
and propeller. The hovercraft remained floating, while
we remove the two year seven cadets from the craft,
set up a perimeter, and killed the engine. The craft
didn't even sink! MUCH SAFER.

Reply

Flag

szulli-randall (/member/szulli-randall)

4 years ago

Reply

Does anyone think it's possible to make it hover a few FEET


o the ground?
Flag

jbowman7 (/member/jbowman7) ( szulli-randall (/member/szulli-randall)


http://www.instructables.com/id/Hovercraft/step2/The-Lift-Engine/

Reply

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12/13/15, 7:54 PM

4 years ago

they're called hoverwings, google it

Flag

szulli-randall (/member/szulli-randall) ( jbowman7 (/member/jbowman7)

Reply

4 years ago

I ment without wings.

Flag

jbowman7 (/member/jbowman7) ( szulli-randall (/member/szulli-randall)

Then no, it's not possible, the skirt has to be touching the
ground to maintain the air cushion. but you can still hit jumps
with a sturdy hovercraft. Look up hoverwings though, they're
cool.

Reply

4 years ago

Flag

Doug Costlow (/member/Doug Costlow) (author) ( jbowman7

,
!

(/member/jbowman7)

4 years ago

Reply

Large hovercraft, like the ones the military use, hover a


few feet o the ground but that height is sort of
proportional to the their size. A small hover craft that
hovered that high would most likely by unstable,
remember your sitting on air, so nothing but your
balance will keep you upright.
Flag

iminthebathroom (/member/iminthebathroom) ( Doug Costlow (/member/Doug

,
!

Costlow)

4 years ago

Reply

Not sure if even they hover that high actually, maybe


periodically though
Flag

geckomage (/member/geckomage)

4 years ago

Reply

will this hold a 260 lb person like myself? :P i normally go


muddin in my truck when i wana have fun driving
something. but this'd be fun :D
Flag

gopalrr (/member/gopalrr)

5 years ago

Reply

hi,
can you share details of how you did the 70%/30%
distribution of air thrust to lifting and propulsion ?
gopalrr
Flag

,
!

Doug Costlow (/member/Doug Costlow) (author) ( gopalrr (/member/gopalrr)

that distribution is typical of a hover craft that uses a 4 years ago


single engine to turn one ducted prop. the duct is split
to divert 30% of the air underneath the craft for lift and
the rest for thrust. My hover creaft used two engines
and fans so that distribution is dierent

http://www.instructables.com/id/Hovercraft/step2/The-Lift-Engine/

Reply

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Flag

rocketman20 (/member/rocketman20)

4 years ago

Reply

Where did you get the fan you used for trust.
Flag

,
!

Doug Costlow (/member/Doug Costlow) (author) ( rocketman20


(/member/rocketman20)

4 years ago

Reply

I made it from sheet metal and angle iron, but I would


not recommend doing this at all. Get a purpose made
prop thats been properly balanced.
Flag

elina0 (/member/elina0)

4 years ago

Reply

OMG! This seems me too heavy..


Flag

rbland (/member/rbland)

4 years ago

Reply

you probably want to put some sort of cage around the


vents too:
http://www.stu.co.nz/national/5380361/Auckland-mandecapitated-testing-hovercraft
Flag

rocketman20 (/member/rocketman20)

5 years ago

Reply

Are the Brass Grommets just for attaching the skirt to the
base? Also does the skirt have holes in it? I am trying to
build a hovercraft myself but am having a hard time
understanding how the skirt works.
Flag

,
!

Doug Costlow (/member/Doug Costlow) (author) ( rocketman20


(/member/rocketman20)

4 years ago

Reply

they are just for attaching the bottom edge of the skirt
to the base with small rope
Flag

jdhover (/member/jdhover)

4 years ago

Reply

so is your base piece hollow or is it ducted?


Flag

,
!

Doug Costlow (/member/Doug Costlow) (author) ( jdhover (/member/jdhover)

its a sandwich of t pieces of 1/4" plywood with 2" of


Styrofoam in between
.

4 years ago

Reply

Flag

nibbler125 (/member/nibbler125)

5 years ago

Reply

you need a real fan that metal one has no airfoil and you

http://www.instructables.com/id/Hovercraft/step2/The-Lift-Engine/

Page 13 of 15

Hovercraft - All

12/13/15, 7:54 PM

could easy double youre lift with a good wood one it will
cost allot more tho up to 200$
Flag

ss2pheonix (/member/ss2pheonix) ( nibbler125 (/member/nibbler125)

Reply

or just make one yourself, assuming of course you have basic 5 years ago
air foil knowledge and the ability to carve
Flag

ss2pheonix (/member/ss2pheonix)

5 years ago

Reply

i think i would have used one 12hp engine or bigger from a


lawn tractor and rigged the mowing deck to feed the air for
the lift and controlled the drive fan with the drive train from
said lawn tractor.
Flag

tgo (/member/tgo)

7 years ago

Reply

would a water bed matress work for the skirt or would it be


too heavey
Flag

,
!

Doug Costlow (/member/Doug Costlow) (author) ( tgo (/member/tgo)

Reply

7 years ago

I think it would be to heavy.

Flag

,
!

ilpug (/member/ilpug) ( Doug Costlow (/member/Doug Costlow)

it works fine. canvas tarp coated with polyurethane sealer is


perfect.

Reply

5 years ago

Flag

vhayden (/member/vhayden) ( tgo (/member/tgo)

6 years ago

Reply

There are ready made plans for using a water bed mattress for the skirt. If
you are interested, let me know.
Flag

geoslim13 (/member/geoslim13) ( vhayden (/member/vhayden)

Reply

i am!!!! i know you aren't replying to me but i have a friend, well 6 years ago
my grandmas friend that has become a family friend, that has a
water bed and is thinking of getting rid of it along with his
treadmill (dierent project) that could work. it is a king or
queen (whichever is bigger)!!!!
Flag

Thelonelysandwitch (/member/Thelonelysandwitch) ( tgo (/member/tgo)

use a thick tarp and duct tape

7 years ago

Reply

Flag

,
-

ilpug (/member/ilpug)

http://www.instructables.com/id/Hovercraft/step2/The-Lift-Engine/

5 years ago

Reply

Page 14 of 15

Hovercraft - All

12/13/15, 7:54 PM

nice. i think you need a much tougher more rigid skirt. i


would also use a more powerful motor, or maybe two really
powerful leaf blowers used together, feeding air in from two
separate points, instead of one point.
Flag

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