A skeleton set of wings made from balsa wood and an old frame backpack, suitable for angels, bats, demons, birds (but not so much for butterflies or other insects). They open and close as you raise your arms, and flap forward and back when you do. Decorate them with leather, feathers, streamers, gold paint, whatever strikes your fancy. Mine ended up with a 9 foot span when open fully.

I wanted a very lightweight wing that would not tire me if I wore it all night. I chose balsa wood over aluminum tubing because it's easier to work with given the tools I have available. The basic structure could be made out of almost any stiff material, however. (My prototypes were made from popsicle sticks and foam core.) Each wing is a simple set of linkages arranged to expand and rise when opened.

Step 1: Tools & Materials

Except for the backpack, which you may be able to find in a thrift store or Army Surplus if you don't already have one in your garage, all the materials needed can be found in a hardware store and/or craft store.

(A) 1 aluminum frame backpack
(B) 3 pc of 36" x 4" x 1/4" balsa wood
(C) 1 pc (60" length) of 1/4" wood dowel
(D) about a foot of "hanger strap" - a thin strip of metal with holes in it, mine came coiled up in a packet (found in the plumbing section)
(E) 4 nut/bolt sets, bolts of a diameter to fit through the holes in the hanger strap, and as short as you can find (they are used to fasten the hanger strap tight around the wing supports)
(F) 8 shaft collars with inside diameter 1/4"
(G) 6 pc 3/4" machine screws that fit the threadings in the dowel collars (F)
(H) 2 pc 1/2" machine screws that fit the threadings in the dowel collars (F)
(J) 4 pc 1/2" binding posts for the balsa/balsa hinges
(K) 2 pc 3/8" binding posts for the balsa/hanger strap hinges
(L) 10 pc 1/4" long nylon spacers, that the binding post (J) fit through
(M) 6 pc 1/4" long nylon spacers that the machine screws (G) will fit through (and turn; these will be some of the wing hinges)
(N) 4 nylon washers, 1/16" thick, that fit around the binding posts (J)
(P) a number of small nylon washers, 1/16" and 1/32" thick, that fit around the machine screws (G) 1
(R) 2 nylon flanges (I am not entirely sure this is the right term) to fit into the aluminum tubing of the backpack
(S) scrap leather
(T) couple inches of velcro

1 these washers are to pad the hinges created by the collars & the machine screws, so the thicknesses are determined by the actual dimensions of the hinge assemblies. I used, I think, 8 of the thicker ones and 6 of the thinner ones, but I suggest buying these later once you're ready to assemble the hinges and can take the wing parts into the hardware store and measure, or just get a bunch and use them as needed (they cost me something like 6 cents each).

  • x-acto knife
  • Dremel or power drill with a cutting wheel attachment & a 1/4" metal drill bit
  • tin snips (you can use the cutting wheel if you don't have tin snips)
  • 2 pair needle nose pliers
  • wood glue
  • hot glue gun
  • screw drivers appropriate for your bolts and screws
  • sandpaper or fine file (I use fingernail files)
  • sewing machine or needle & thread
<p>or shortened?</p>
<p>Dear rachel, I have previously made less advanced articulating wings for a cosplay (Castiel) and the convention was very crowded and movement was limited. I love the design and plan on using it if you don't mind. However, because there will be three of us this year wearing wings, (CASTIEL, GABRIEL, ?) Do you think the design would work if the arm bands and the strings attached to them were lengthened, or is there something else you reccommend? The end goal is to have not all arm movement lead to the wings opening and closing so we don't injure any more people. </p>
<p>How do you attach feathers or similar things to this to make angel wings?</p>
<p>do u have a template we could use if necessary?</p>
<p>Hi! Great project. Do you have a rough cost estimate for all the materials involved in this project?</p>
First of all, let me just say HOLY COW!!!! These are so unbelievably beautiful. By far the best looking diy wings I've ever seen. I hate to ask a potentially stupid question, but do you think there is any possible way to transfer the wing skeleton onto a corset (instead of the backpack)? I have one available to me and I think it would be more comfortable for me and the corset is already part of my costume. But I have minimal problems with the backpack method, and I think it's GENIUS!!. I am planning on going as Maximum Ride or some other character with wings (maybe a demon of some sort?? I don't know, the year is still young!). I hope it can be transferable, but no big deal if it can't, I doubt I'll have a problem with your wonderful and flawless design.
<p>I made my own heavily modified version of these wings for a steampunk convention. A steampunk dragon. I didn't want to start with an expensive and bulky backpack frame, so I made my own framework. I did some leatherworking to make a hand-tooled waist cincher and shoulder belts (I probably should have added an upper shoulder belt as well, but improved with a loop of leather cord. I pop-riveted some copper tubes onto the straps and used bent coat hangers to connect to the wood wing pieces to the copper/leather frame (while still allowing rotation at my shoulders).</p><p>I used pine wood instead of balsa for extra strength, and just drilled holes and used screws with Nyloc nuts to connect the frame pieces together for rotation without loosening. </p><p>I used furniture tacks at 2-3 places at the top of the frame to attach the canvas wings to the wood frame.</p><p>Let me know what you think. I wonder if these are different enough to justify their own Instructables write-up.</p>
<p>hi heck kitty, how are you? I really like your costume and especially interested in knowing how you made the frame for the back. I have a six year old girl that I'm planning to make the costume for and think your frame is lighter. Also I highly doubt I can find a small kids backpack frame. If you could kindly let me know how you did yours would be appreciated. Thank you so much</p>
<p>Hello Heckkitty,</p><p>THANK YOU SO MUCH for sending me the details on how you made your harness! I Really appreciate you taking the time out to write me this detailed instruction. Without photos, I am clearly lost and I think it's too late for me to start making this as I have less than a week now to do so. I should have started earlier! It doesn't look like I will have time to make this particular design. Thank you again. </p><p>Best regards,</p><p>Sarah </p>
<p>It has been a while since I've dug this out.</p><p> I incorporated leatherworking into my frame. I am not sure you plan on doing that as well, but you might be able to work with other stiff fabric. Or possibly even a modified dog or child backpack harness. The wooden wings framework is pretty much exactly as described in the instructable. My backpack replacement is a self-made leather harness. A waist cincher belt, 2 loops over the shoulders, and 1 additional connection on the upper back due to the added weight of the wooden wings on the back. I drilled some holes in some generic copper tubing (like you find in a hardware store) and then pop-riveted them to the top and bottom of the back shoulder straps. If you were going to start with a child backpack, you would attach the tubing the same way. Just make sure the harness has the 2 back straps far enough apart for attachment points. The shoulder straps need to be quite far apart (near the very side of your back) in order to get full forward motion with the wings (otherwise you can't reach forward). That extra back connection strap to hold it in place is necessary to keep the shoulder straps from falling off your shoulders. The tubes are necessary in order to get the full range of motion translating to the coat hangers and rest of the wings. </p><p>One other thing the original instructable left out: how to decorate and make fabric for your wings. Put on your framework and stretch to the full wingspan, then measure your canvas (or desired fabric) to that shape. I used shallow furniture tacks to hold the cut and edged canvas shape to the wooden framework, but you have to be careful as you can't overconstrain/overpin the fabric, otherwise it won't close all the way. I could only figure out how to pin to a couple places on the top of the wooden frame, so when not at full extension, the fabric bunches up loosely.</p>
<p>Hi <a href="https://www.instructables.com/member/heckkitty" rel="nofollow">heckkitty</a>,</p><p>I just moved to SF from NY and getting ready to start the rehearsal for my Shadow theater project. we have a magical bird character which I think your mechanics could be useful for the costume of the character. our rehearsal space is in Oakland, Is there any way we can meet and get your advise or if there is way to test/buy the base of the wings? my email is promete@mac.com<br>it would be great if you could reply to me. THANK YOU</p>
<p>heck kitty, sorry, my email is chicsarah1@gmail.com</p>
<p>Hrm, my last comment may not have come through properly as a reply, heckkitty. I strongly encourage you to write up yours, it is fantastic.</p>
<p>the best articulated wings! I can't wait to make this for my daughter. Is there a pattern for a child by any chance? Thank you</p>
<p>Hi Rachel,</p><p>I just moved to SF from NY and getting ready to start the rehearsal for my Shadow theater project. we have a magical bird character which I think your mechanics could be useful for the costume of the character. our rehearsal space is in Oakland, Is there any way we can meet and get your advise or if there is way to test/buy the base of the wings? my email is promete@mac.com<br>it would be great if you could reply to me. THANK YOU</p>
<p>Hi Rachel,<br>I just moved to SF from NY and getting ready to start the rehearsal for my Shadow theater project. we have a magical bird character which I think your mechanics could be useful for the costume of the character. our rehearsal space is in Oakland, Is there any way we can meet and get your advise or if there is way to test/buy the base of the wings? </p>
What thickness of balsa wood did you use? Do you recommend any specific thickness?
Could you do a tutorial on adding the feathers? I'm not sure how to place them so they won't bunch up all weirdly
<p>Thanks for posting such awesome instructions!</p>
<p>I love this tutorial and I can't wait to begin making my wings for my Maleficent cosplay! The only thing I'm having trouble with is the Shaft Collars. I can't find them anywhere... Do they go by another name? Could you link me to any online? </p>
<p>You can find them on Grainger (<a href="http://www.grainger.com/category/shaft-collars/couplings-collars-and-adapters/power-transmission/ecatalog/N-clj#nav=%2Fcategory%2Fshaft-collars%2Fcouplings-collars-and-adapters%2Fpower-transmission%2Fecatalog%2FN-cljZ1yztk0v" rel="nofollow">for example</a>) but I got mine in a local hardware store in the section with all the tiny drawers full of tiny screws and such. A salesperson should be able to point you to the right drawer. You will want to make sure your machine screws G and H will screw into the shaft collar's set screw thread, so if you can find all those things in person in one place it's easier to check that. But you can also get the screws later once you have the shaft collars.</p>
<p>i really like the idea of these wings. Do you ever commission yourself to build them for others?</p>
<p>I haven't made a set for anyone else but I am open to the idea - PM me and let's talk!</p>
<p>what are the dimension for the wooden bone pieces?</p><p>I know that they are probably custom to the person, so what are they person size : bone size?</p>
<p>Check out Step 3 for information on the bone sizes.</p>
Hey! Im also wondering if you do commissions but I don't know how to message you :/ please email me at happythorn07@hotmail.com<br>Thanks so muh!
<p>Okay I have ben wanting to start this as a project for awhile now but the only thing that I don't get is how do you put shirts/jackets on over the wings or harness? I want to do this for my Gabriel cosplay and he wears a jacket so if I bought or made one would I have to cut it up in the back and ruien it? </p>
<p><a href="http://whatishcc.com/tutorials/wing-harness/" rel="nofollow">http://whatishcc.com/tutorials/wing-harness/ </a> here is a good idea without messing up the back to much. wish i had this sooner xD</p>
<p>im was thinking the exact same thing for an attack on titan cosplay im doing with wings. im not sure how else you would get them on so i just bought a cheeper lower quality jacket and tore out the back. hope this helps</p>
<p>How did you attach feathers to it?</p>
<p>i attach feathers by covering it in chicken wire and hot glueing the fetahers to it</p>
<p>Does anyone have any tips on making these more like Max's from Maximum Ride? I very much want to be her for Halloween this year. Please let me know, I want them to be as bird-like as possible. Thanks.</p>
<p>I love maximum ride and the best i could say would make the wing span bigger and attach feathers that look those similar to an owl. I attach my feathers by covering it in chicken wire and hot gluing the feathers to the wire. sorry if this is really late but i hope it helped.</p>
<p>Do you, by chance, still have a pattern for the wing bones I could print and cut out?</p>
<p>Hi! It looks marvelous, and I have to admire the amount of work you put in so the rest of us don't. ;) I know I couldn't have figured all of this out on my own. </p><p>One thing, is there a way they could open and close without the arm bands? </p>
<p>Hello author, :)</p><p>It looks really awesome, congratulations !</p><p>would you have any idea on how to make articulated wings that sit on the hips, not back and shoulders and open flat (not standing) ?<br>Like in the two images down here (1st : closed wings, not that they are slightly curved, 2nd : opened wings, the behind of the wing facing down, not facing front like normal wings).<br><br>They don't have to be huge, mind you. :)</p><p>The way they stand make them harder to make :( I'm having issues, but since you can do such awesome things, maybe you know how to help me ?</p>
<p>Thank you for the kind words! Those wings do look harder to manage. If I were making them I would start with a small prototype model, maybe popsicle sticks and toothpicks, or heavy paper and staples, and just mess around until I got something that worked. Then I would figure out how to scale it up to (I assume) person-sized. They will clearly need a sturdy corset-like garment to support the wing bases, and that is also a possible starting point for figuring out the wing structure. I guess you will want to come up with a different opening/closing mechanism than attaching to the wearer's elbows. All in all, an interesting problem! I hope you will post an Instructable about the solution you come up with!</p>
<p>Please post the exact measurements for the materials you used and where you bought it. I tried looking for them and it took me forever and went to three different stores looking for the materials and I havent found some of it. It would help thanks!</p>
<p>Unfortunately I can't do this - I made these wings about 5 years ago and I don't remember that level of detail any more. Improvise with what you've got - not everything I used was optimal, particularly the balsa wood which was too soft to keep the hinges and I would recommend a different material for the bones.</p>
<p>Please post the exact measurements for the materials you used and where you bought it. I tried looking for them and it took me forever and went to three different stores looking for the materials and I havent found some of it. It would help thanks!</p>
<p>I don't have the tools NOR the materials to make it how you did (though mine would have been much prettier and hardier if I did!). </p><p>My materials were:</p><p> -broken umbrella</p><p>-caradboard</p><p>-screws</p><p>-washers (decorations)</p><p>-knuts</p><p>-white fabric</p><p>-duct tape</p><p>-fishing wire (though fishing line is as good. Twine is not, because it succumbs to pressure more easily and snaps)</p><p>I took apart the umbrella and the &quot;arms&quot; already bend the way I wanted for wings. I threaded the fishing wire through the hole at the back of the farthest-reaching &quot;digit&quot; of each umbrella &quot;arm&quot; so that when I pulled it, it would extend the entire arm like a wing. Then I attached them to a cardboard backing I made with duct tape, made holes in the cardboard backing, and criss-crossed the wires through so I could pull on the strings while wearing it. I added old belts as straps, though you can make duct tape straps. I cut out the white fabric and sewed it around the umbrella arms. The washers I used to decorate to make the holes around the cardboard look a little better, and I also covered it in a wood varnish so as to maybe fool people into thinking it's made of good wood.</p><p>It doesn't work.</p><p>But all in all I made some working wings for less than $10. Though if people are feeling ambitious and want well-working wings, I would hope they use your tutorial!</p>
<p>This sounds like a super interesting technique. Can you post a picture? I'd love to see your wings.</p>
Fortunately, the cardboard for this pair (the digits I saved from the umbrella allowed me to make 3, but this is the best one) came from a box of Steampunk accessories I had bought online, so it had a cool logo on it. <br>I don't know if it's visible in the pictures, but I also tied the ends of the wire around curtain rings so that they wouldn't poke or get caught around stuff. That way my finger slips into the loop rather than reaching for the end of a sharp wire.<br>I apologize for the random stuff in the picture, like me leg, my scarf and my shoe!
<p>Thanks for the pics, that's a great low-cost alternative.</p>
This is a wonderful idea and i am addicted to the idea of having wings, one year for halloween i had made those lil fairy wings out of wire hanger and stockings but i rlly want feathered wings. so i look at all these websites and find how to make wings out of cardboard..... well those wings are great but they dont move &gt;.&gt; so after a while of searching for articulated wings i found this, i love this idea and think it would be amaizing but i was wondering, how do u make the skin or feathered part???... and do i have to buy a really good quality backpack? cuz it cant get too pricey.... i LOVE this idea.. im trying to think how to cover the ugly frame... i mean it is beatiful work its just not what u want to see when u are supposed to be looking at a pair of angel or elsewise wings..... BUT I LOVE THIS!!!<br>
A little while ago I saw where someone had made similar wings like this, but instead of using a backpack, they had made slots in a corset, to slide the wing supports into. If I were to make these again, I would use that method, it is much sleeker and made the wings really look like they were attached. Unfortunately I didn't save the link to it :(
<p>Is this one similar?? I found it online and was thinking of changing it to work with your <strong>amazing</strong> wings. Problem is, when you search &quot;corset for sale&quot; you figure out what they are most often used for these days...</p><p><a href="http://whatishcc.com/tutorials/wing-harness/" rel="nofollow">http://whatishcc.com/tutorials/wing-harness/</a></p>
<p>These look fantastically great! Do the wings open up if you put your arms up and forward too??</p>
<p>I would appreciate it if someone could estimate a cost for these. while estimating cost for feathers, without surface area calculation to work with, I came up with at least 50 bucks. :/</p>
<p>I spend about 50 for feathers. I'm sure if you do some hunting you may be able to find some place that will sell you them for cheaper when what i paid. I used under a 1/2 lb.</p>

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Bio: I run Neal's CNC in Hayward, CA, an expert CNC cutting and fabrication service. Check out what we do at http://www.nealscnc.com ... More »
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