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.
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Step 1: Tools & Materials

Picture of 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
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koroko110 hours ago

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!

koroko110 hours ago

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!

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!).

My materials were:

-broken umbrella



-washers (decorations)


-white fabric

-duct tape

-fishing wire (though fishing line is as good. Twine is not, because it succumbs to pressure more easily and snaps)

I took apart the umbrella and the "arms" already bend the way I wanted for wings. I threaded the fishing wire through the hole at the back of the farthest-reaching "digit" of each umbrella "arm" 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.

It doesn't work.

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!

rachel (author)  sarah.gawle6 days ago

This sounds like a super interesting technique. Can you post a picture? I'd love to see your wings.

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.
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.
I apologize for the random stuff in the picture, like me leg, my scarf and my shoe!
rachel (author)  sarah.gawle3 days ago

Thanks for the pics, that's a great low-cost alternative.

i really like the idea of these wings. Do you ever commission yourself to build them for others?

rachel (author)  patrick.hill.37606 days ago

I haven't made a set for anyone else but I am open to the idea - PM me and let's talk!

ewickerham3 years ago
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 >.> 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!!!
rachel (author)  ewickerham3 years ago
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 :(

Is this one similar?? I found it online and was thinking of changing it to work with your amazing wings. Problem is, when you search "corset for sale" you figure out what they are most often used for these days...

These look fantastically great! Do the wings open up if you put your arms up and forward too??

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?

How did you attach feathers to it?

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. :/

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.

and could you maybe post a picture??

How did you adhere the feathers to the frame??

I made it and it works great for my Hawkgirl cosplay. I don't have to many pictures up but if you want to check it out in a week or so I should have more up on my facebook. Your instructable was great and easy to follow. I used a heavy gauge wire and a corset with channels to keep the wings on instead of a back pack. Also if you want to put feathers on it go slow! Try the feathers in a few different places with tape and make sure it still opens and closes. I made that mistake and it wasn't fun. I was able to cover both wings with just about 1/2 lb of feathers. Thanks so much!

My facebook if you want to check out the picture(s)

rachel (author)  jessica.gladstone.982 months ago

That looks great! I'd love to see a pic with the feathers, please do comment here when you post that!

Here4Cosplay4 months ago

Is there a possible way to change the way the wings open without ruining how they do so? I would like to make it so that they open when the arms are thrust downwards instead of upwards to apply a more comfortable pose for photos.

I was wondering how this would work with real feathers or worbla-made feathers without the feathers bunching up? Thanks!

MykelDavid4 months ago

What are the exact measurements for the bones... I am making these and have all my supplies and the feathers and just need the dimensions so i can start the project.. THanks

Do you by chance have the bone patterns still ???? you realy do not go in depth on that unfortunately. things like size of each bone compaired to wing span would be helpful

tgryffyn5 months ago

Your Instructables here was featured on Adafruit's blog. Good job!

(originally attributed to a Tumblr where someone just hotlinked to your photos but they corrected it)

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.

tgryffyn6 months ago

Just a h/t to you for some inspiration in my early planning stages for some possible wings for my girlfriend. I wanted to take a step back and do some prototyping first and thought I'd document what I had done. My first Instructable!

Your instructions and parts list will come in very handy later when we go to make the real thing. I thought mine might help people who are intimidated to dive into a full scale thing and/or might be interested in doing something similar on a smaller scale (pets, toys, etc)


Partybot1 year ago
I used your design as a basis for my dragon costume. Thanks!
10-03-13-19.13.48 (crop).jpg10-03-13-19.14.18.jpg
rachel (author)  Partybot7 months ago

Wow! Amazing work.

fbollen made it!8 months ago

Thank you so much! A great instruction! With some fabric it became my carnival costume and I won as the second in the costume show of my school! :)

rachel (author)  fbollen7 months ago

That looks great! Congratulations and thanks for posting the pic, it is always lovely to see how people have improved on my work :)

heckkitty made it!7 months ago

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).

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.

I used furniture tacks at 2-3 places at the top of the frame to attach the canvas wings to the wood frame.

Let me know what you think. I wonder if these are different enough to justify their own Instructables write-up.

articulated wings 1621976_10152265174824630_1410471279_n.jpgarticulated wings 12601364033_a0c45ec38e_b cropped.jpg
rachel (author)  heckkitty7 months ago

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.

rachel (author) 7 months ago

Those look fantastic! I totally think you should do a writeup of yours. My version had a lot of flaws, everyone else who has made one has made significant improvements and in particular your body attachment strategy looks really awesome. Please do post!

harufan91 year ago
Hey, um... I can't quite get the shape of the bones right. I'm on a time limit, though! I need my wingspan to be about 4 feet extended, can anyone help me?
is a steampunk ninja demon an acceptable use of these wings?
Partybot1 year ago
Thanks again. Suggestions: avoid drilling large holes in the wood for the inserts and use large washers instead. I had chunks break out trying to drill the hardwood trim. Longer bolts to account for the washers. Metal rods instead of wood where it attaches to the backpack. Heavier gauge steel strapping. Cut the wood with a jigsaw and then a dremel to round all edges so things don't catch.

small DSCN0456
I actually just used hinges to mount the wings to the backpack. A little less fabrication.
Animatrixx1 year ago
I am surprised no one has tried the carbon fiber rods that you can get from a knackered pop up tent that are shock corded together.. they are easily cut and can take a good load of bend too and are light and flexible i really think this is a possible material people.. and tents get thrown out all the time. I can go to the tip and get some any day i want to almost.. especially in summer. Shock cording them together would be a lot easier than the expensive joint system & you could probably come up with a rather cheap and cheerful joint just by looking at camping supply catalogs i am sure there's some kind of fixed corner or angle piece out there for gazebos etc that might work.. just saying! xx i will try one of these maybe for a Garuda costume i was thinking about . gotta start brainstorming as i have to do it on an almost zero budget! xx
rquintos1 year ago
okay, i bet somebody's already asked this, but can you apply feathers along the framework? Or will that ruin the movement?
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