Instructables

Articulated Wing Framework

Featured
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.
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Tools & Materials

Picture of Tools & Materials
1687376590_b94071a487.jpg
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).

Tools:
  • 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
1-40 of 204Next »

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!

MykelDavid1 month 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

tgryffyn1 month 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)

http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2014/05/27/building-articulated-wings-framework/

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.

tgryffyn3 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)

Thanks!

http://www.instructables.com/id/Mini-Model-Articulated-Wings/

mats.jpg
Partybot9 months ago
I used your design as a basis for my dragon costume. Thanks!
http://www.instructables.com/id/Dragon-Costume/
10-03-13-19.13.48 (crop).jpg10-03-13-19.14.18.jpg
rachel (author)  Partybot4 months ago

Wow! Amazing work.

fbollen made it!4 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! :)

IMG_5284.JPG
rachel (author)  fbollen4 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!4 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)  heckkitty4 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) 4 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!

harufan98 months 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?
mooshroom279 months ago
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
Partybot Partybot9 months ago
I actually just used hinges to mount the wings to the backpack. A little less fabrication.
Animatrixx10 months 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
rquintos11 months ago
okay, i bet somebody's already asked this, but can you apply feathers along the framework? Or will that ruin the movement?
rachel (author)  rquintos10 months ago
It depends where you put the feathers. Open and close it several times, see where the overlaps are, and make sure the feather placement avoids those area.

I eventually put leather, lace, and ribbon streamers on mine, and did not have any trouble with opening and closing it (at least, not because of the streamers, but see other comments regarding the balsa vs other materials).
unisis528511 months ago
4 years later and I finally just finished putting my wings together tonight. I had a really hard time finding some of the pieces needed and ended up putting it away for a couple years, but took it out to try again for a new costume. I just read up on all the comments and noticed that many people offered alternate material suggestions. Unfortunately mine are made of balsa wood. In order to support the wood I am planning to saturate it with an epoxy resin. I had seen the update about using epoxy instead of wood glue and found that it really firmed up the wood around the drill holes. So if anyone else put lots of time into balsa wood, that could be another way to support the frame. I am now attempting to pattern draft the cloth covering to make demon wings, I will attempt to post pictures afterwards @__@
Just in case anyone else was intrigued by ewickerham's reference to the dryer rack build - it's here:

Pt I: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV6Yd9wPb30

Pt II: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3v6oGQSR6k
Omg!!! That's so cool!!!! I'm doing a maximum ride costume for Halloween, can u tell me how to stick feathers to it? Mabe I could use light leather or something that I can superglue the feathers onto. :D if u could help me, that would b awesome!
Kirike1 year ago
did you cover yours with feathers? for the project i have in mind id have to cover it in feathers, and i am not sure how to go about doing that!
lharlett1 year ago
http://flamiekitten.tumblr.com/post/46260200282/cries-tears-of-joy-etc-look-whats-finally

Thank you much for your tutorial, my Dad and I had a good time making these together! :D


Partybot1 year ago
Amazing engineering and the best instructions I've ever seen on here. I'm a Halloween costume nut and this will be the first time I'll avoid a month of trial and error and 10 part runs to the hardware store. Do you have a PayPal account that I can use to send you a few bucks for the plans?
rachel (author)  Partybot1 year ago
Thank you so much for the compliments! No need to send me anything, just make an awesome set of wings and post pictures when you're done. I do advise not using balsa wood as it turned out not to be strong enough for multiple wearings, I got I think two parties out of these wings before the hinges started to pop out :( whiteoakart's idea of 1/8" birch plywood is probably what I'd try if I made these again.
I think I might splurge and go with bar aluminum. I priced aluminum at $22 for 6' or an L shape aluminum at $10/6'. I've learned over the years you have to factor in the labor cost of rebuilding items and that I am good at running into things with a giant mascot head on :) Thanks again.
I am using 1/8" birch plywood from the hobby shop. It is much stronger than balsa, but still inexpensive, very light, and easy to work with.
Cresco3 years ago
Just thought I would share! I used your instructable to make a Halloween costume for my son this year. Thank you very much for the inspiration!

http://www.coolest-homemade-costumes.com/coolest-homemade-toothless-the-dragon-halloween-costume-idea-4.html
That's a really nice costume you made for your son, Jeff. Kudos.
rachel (author)  Cresco3 years ago
Wow that looks awesome! Thanks for posting it. (Cute kid too :)
jade121352 years ago
How big width-wise are these? And could I lengthen the leather strap to make them extend more? And would this hold chicken wire and feathers? Sorry about bombarding you with questions ;u;
ogihci2 years ago
Did you cover your wings with feathers? Could you maybe show me? I don't want to cover it all to find out it won't close D:
dreiling2 years ago
great design and instructions on this. i'm currently making a set of these for a motion capture project, and just wanted to thank you for putting this up. it has been a great help though my project.
DessMia2 years ago
I've made a pair of these, but they're kind of awkward to wear. When they're closed, they fall inward and get tangled with my packstraps, and they don't close well when I extend them. Do you have any suggestions on how I might be able to fix these technical difficulties?
This is a perfect side project for me on my robotics team! I think I'm going to use an aluminum frame instead of balsa would, for durability. Maybe even use some small servo motors or something for opening/closing activated by a switch
DessMia2 years ago
Do you know/remember what brand of backpack you used to make these, I'm looking at some online and the picture shows them with a external frame, but they don't say anything about an internal frame. Should I assume that the packs have one, or not?
rachel (author)  DessMia2 years ago
I got mine from someone's garage where it had been sitting for I think years. I don't know what brand it was unfortunately, nor do I know if all external frame backpacks have an internal frame too. Try contacting the seller perhaps? If you don't have an internal frame to re-use, you could get some aluminum or even plastic tubing separately.
1-40 of 204Next »
Pro

Get More Out of Instructables

Already have an Account?

close

PDF Downloads
As a Pro member, you will gain access to download any Instructable in the PDF format. You also have the ability to customize your PDF download.

Upgrade to Pro today!