Introduction: Father-Daughter Wooden Butterfly Weekend Project
I like working with wood (as you can see if you look at some of my other instructables). So I wanted to pass on / introduce my 8 year old daughter to it when I recognized that she sometimes watched interested what I was doing.
I guess she also saw what results I could achieve with just some basic tools and what fulfillment I get out of it when my project comes out the way I expected.
She loves painting and crafting and she had seen a butterfly-project in one of her magazines which proposed doing the project with cardboard. As cardboard is not so durable, I proposed to pick up some crafting wood (thin laminated sheets of wood) at the home improvement store for this nice little father-daughter-project. Actually it was the first time she joined me in going to the store voluntarily and she got pretty excited (and I had to get some parts for
other projects anyways).
Step 1: Tools and Supplies
As this is a project you can do with your child, make sure to properly advise of the use of tools and supplies.
If things get too difficult for your kid, help out.
And sometimes you really just have to be cool and relax. Working with kids can be a challenge sometimes (but if you plan on doing this or another project with your kid, you'll already know this).
This is what you'll need:
- Acrylic paint
- Wooden stick
- Wooden or plastic beads (several sizes and colors)
- Coping saw
- Needle pliers
(I hope I didn't forget any important things, but if so, you'll see them on the pictures, too)
Step 2: Creating a Template
First I had my daughter make a template. She used the idea from the magazine, but as the magazine was just letter sized, I told her to make the template much bigger and use the plan in the magazine as a template for that.
She copied the plan for the wings and body to a piece of paper (actually, cardboard would have worked better here for tracing the shape of the wings and body later) and cut out the template with her scissors.
Step 3: Outline the Template on the Wood
To make tracing the shapes to the wood easier, we taped the template into place so as to prevent it from moving during the process. Use only a pencil or pen that is light in color. To make it easier to see the line while sawing, I told my daughter to trace the outlines with a black pen. Unfortunately, this required 3-4 coats of paint later to get the remaining visible lines covered.
Step 4: Cut Out the Wings and the Body
We first clamped a single wooden sheet (without the tracing lines) from the package to a stool (we only have a balcony for our projects, so space is tight and also not weatherproof, which is why I cannot set up a nice little wood shop, even if I would love to). This way, my little one could get some practice using the coping saw.
Be sure to introduce your kid to any tool you want it to use, so that no accidents happen.
After that, we started sawing out the two wings and body of the butterfly. She really had fun doing this allthough I sometimes had to guide her hand. I also had to do the curves of the first wing, and when she got bored, I had to cut out the rest, too. But that's ok. I think she got the basic idea, and if she wants to, she can saw other projects in the future if she wants to.
Step 5: Drilling the First Few Holes
After all parts were cut out, I clamped the wings on top of each other to drill the 2 holes which attach to the body of the butterfly (actually you end up with 4 holes, but you only drill twice if you clamp the wings together).
By clamping the wings together, you make sure that the holes are in the same place of each of the wings.
Do only drill the holes for attaching the body. You have to find the "center of gravity" of the butterfly first before drilling the holes in the wings that are used to hang the butterfly.
Then drill 2 holes in the top of the body to attach the wings, and one in the bottom to attach a string.
Step 6: Making the Support Bar
To make the support bar, place the wings side by side with the butterflys body placed in the middle. This will give you the measure for your support bar.
Cut the bar to a length a little wider than the outside dimensions of the butterflys outline.
Then use a saw and make 2 cuts on each end of the support bar. Keep a distance of about 2-5 millimeters of the ends.
This will be used to securely attach the strings of the butterfly to the support bar. This way, the strings won't come off.
Step 7: Finding the Center of Gravity
To find the center of gravity pre-attach the body of the butterfly to its wings with some strings. You'll have to detach the strings later again to allow for coloring the parts.
Attach one piece of string to each end of the support bar and tape the 2 ends to the surface of each wing of the butterfly.
Lift the support bar until the butterfly hangs freely and check whether or not the butterfly looks like a flying one.
If you attach the strings too far on the outside of the wings, they'll completely fold up and if you attach them to close to the body, the wings will fold down.
Try finding the proper position by retaping the strings to the wings until you're satisfied with the flying characteristics of your butterfly.
Your little one can either hold the support bar to help you or you can hold it and your little one pulls on the butterflys body to see if it "flies" properly.
After you found the right position for the strings, mark the position, clamp both wings together again and drill the holes.
If the wood splitted around the holes you drilled, use some filler to clean them up. This is probably better done by you rather than your kid, as fillers can contain toxic chemicals which you don't want your kid to handle.
Make sure you work in a well ventilated place and that you apply any precautions advised on the fillers manual.
Step 9: Sanding Off the Edges
My little one enjoyed sanding the edges and smoothing the surface of the parts a lot as it was easier for her than cutting out the parts.
Make sure your kid doesn't forget to smoothen all rough edges and if necessary, help out a little.
Step 10: Painting the Parts
To paint the different parts, my girl used the templates from step 1 to get a rough idea on how she wants the butterfly to look like.
As with most girls, the wings got painted pink (with some blue accents).
She used a dark brown for the body.
Step 11: Attaching the Wings to the Body
Use wire to make rings which connect the wings to the body. The rings must be wide enough to allow for movement so the butterfly can "fly".
Pre-bend some wire. Thread the wire through a wing, then through the body and then through the second wing. Hold the wire on the ring side and make 2-3 twists on the wire (with your pliers) to pre-secure it.
Stick a pencil into the pre-shaped ring to ensure a proper ringshape once you twisted the wire close. This also will ensure that your rings will be wide enough to make the butterfly "fly".
Cut off the excess wire once you're finished. You can put some hot glue on the wire-twist ends to minimize any risk for your kid.
In my case it was best to ask my little one to hold the pieces in the proper position while I was threading and twisting the wire. Having only 2 hands just didn't cut it here.
Step 12: Making the Butterflys Antennae
To make the butterflys antennae, thread some wire through the hole in the head of the body. Twist the wire close so that it stays in place.
Then just bend the form of the antennae as you and your kid likes.
At the end of the antennae, use the needle nosed pliers to loop the ends of the antennae to make the design safe for your kid.
Step 13: Attaching Strings to the Butterfly
Cut 2 strings to double the length from the support bar to the wings (the length depends on where you plan to hang your butterfly later).
Thread one string through the first hole of the first wing from the top side of the wing. Our string was a little thin, so we attached a pink plastic bead to secure the string to the wing from its underside. If you use thicker strings or make smaller holes, a knot may do the trick.
Thread the other end of the string through the second hole of the wing, securing it to the wing with another bead or knot.
Repeat for the second wing.
Step 14: Attach the Butterflys Strings to the Support Bar
Attach the butterfly to the support bar by hanging the 2 strings over the ends where you made the cuts (like described in step 6). Now you can adjust how the butterfly hangs on the support bar by moving the string a little more forward or backward on the bar.
Once you're finished adjusting, use some extra string and form a loop around the butterflys string close to the support bar and pull it tight, securing it with a knot.
The 2 cuts on each side of the bar will prevent the butterflys strings from falling off.
Step 15: Adding a Pull-string to the Finished Butterfly
Attach a string at the bottom of the butterflys body. Attach a bead to the other end of the string to allow pulling on it (the bead must be big enough to pull on it, but also must be small enough as not to put too much weight to the butterfly so that it doesn't disturb the "center of gravity").
Again, the string in my case was to thin for the hole in the bead.
So I made some knots and secured the bead to the string using superglue. Don't let your kid do this unless you advised the proper usage.
Now you can pull on the string and let go. The butterfly will swing up and down, looking like it's flying.
Step 16: Final Comments
Some of the steps were a little too complicated for my little one. So I had to help.
Just don't loose your temper if something doesn't go like you imagined.
After all, it was a great little project for me and my daughter and I hope you'll enjoy a similar experience.
She's really proud having made such a project and she really loves the outcome of it.
And we really have spent some quality time together.
If you prefer other animals over butterflys you can easily adjust the design. Just imagine a dinosaur, a flying elephant......