Introduction: How to Make a Stable Toothpick Structure

Picture of How to Make a Stable Toothpick Structure

This structure was my first architecture school project. The assignment required me to build a structure made entirely of toothpicks and able to withstand the weight of one brick. The catch was to test the structure on an angled base. A lot of testing and hard work was put into this first project, but it all paid off. The final model was able to hold up twenty-eight bricks without breaking. Here, I am going to show you how to start a project like this one. Feel free to change anything and test out new designs.

Materials Needed:

1-2 packages of regular toothpicks

Clear drying glue - a mix of regular and tacky works best

X-Acto knife or box cutting knife

Cutting mat

Wire cutting scissors

A ruler

A protractor

Regular paper sheets

Chipboard- can be any size needed for the base

Time taken: 3-8 hours (depending on the complexity of the design)

Step 1: Making the Chipboard Base

Picture of Making the Chipboard Base

Making the Base

Making the base is very simple. I was required to make an angled base, but feel free to make any type of base you would like. First measure out all the sides of your base. If you're going to make an angled base, use the protractor to measure out the angle. Add additional pieces to the inside in order to support more weight towards the middle.

Use your knife to cut the pieces out and then glue them together making sure not to use too much glue. After measuring and cutting the pieces, carefully assemble the base. Be careful not to cut yourself when handling an X-Acto or box cutting knife. Children should ask their parents for help when cutting with a knife.

Note: You are not limited to one type of base. Feel free to make it different. If you wish to make a regular box for a base, feel free to do so.

Step 2: Making the Toothpick Structure Pieces

Picture of Making the Toothpick Structure Pieces

Making the Toothpick Structure Pieces:

Now time for the fun part! The easiest way to have a successful structure is to think of actual architectural structures such as columns and beams which help to transfer weight to the ground.

Toothpick Columns

First create a mixture of tacky and regular glue. Using only regular glue is fine, just expect for it to dry slowly. To make a column of toothpicks, take seven toothpicks and coat them with a generous amount of glue. Using your fingers, gently and carefully make sure to coat all the toothpicks while grouping them together. There should be one toothpick in the middle and six toothpicks surrounding the middle one. Gently place this group of toothpicks on a regular sheet of paper and allow it to dry.

Toothpick Beams/Planks

Next, make the toothpick beam/planks. These are made in a similar manner as the toothpick columns. Use five toothpicks instead of seven and make sure not to group them together. Hold five glue coated toothpicks in one hand between you thumb and your index finger. Be careful not to press too hard because the toothpicks may be sharp. With your other hand, form the five toothpicks into a plank, making sure that the toothpicks are touching each other. Carefully slide your fingers across the plank of toothpicks to remove any excess glue and gently place each piece on a sheet of paper to allow them to dry.

Make sure to make a lot of toothpick columns and beams/planks. Once all the pieces have dried, remove them from their sheets and have them ready for assembly.

Note:Be careful not to hurt yourself. The toothpicks may be sharp. If you wish to cut their points off, do so with a knife or wire cutter scissors. If after the drying process some toothpick groups haven't fully stuck together, use a little super glue to glue them, just be careful not to use too much and to not get it on your fingers.

Step 3: Toothpick Structure Assembly

Picture of Toothpick Structure Assembly

Toothpick Structure Assembly:

Once all the pieces have dried, use the cutting knife or wire cutting scissors to trim some pieces. Be careful not to cut yourself when using a knife or wire cutting scissors. Use the glue mix to attach all the pieces together. Here I chose to use an octagon as a primary shape. I cut an even angle off of each beam/plank piece for my project. Feel free to get creative with the endless possibilities. I learned that sandwiching corners helps the structure stay upright. Glue the toothpick columns and then brace them with pieces in between. You'll see that it's not very difficult once you start gluing everything together. Allow the pieces to fully dry before testing the structure.

Step 4: Final Testing

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Final Testing:

For the last step make sure that your structure is fully dry and able to stand on its base properly. Place your structure on the base and see how much weight it can resist. Consider using bricks in order to test the structure's maximum weight. My project was able to withstand the weight of twenty-eight bricks. How strong will yours be? Don't forget to take a lot of pictures to remember your awesome project! Good luck!

Comments

buchehat000 (author)2017-03-06

how tall is the structure?

buchehat000 (author)buchehat0002017-03-06

me and my friend are making a tower that needs to be at least a foot tall and needs to hold at least 50 lbs. with weights.

yosefsimcha (author)2016-10-09

how do you make a stable balsa wood structure?

AlexT86 (author)2015-12-13

Is there any way to do a structure that is below 10 grams without any right angles?

Rgahn (author)2014-11-17

How heavy is this layer

StacyB3 (author)2014-10-06

This is SOOOOO cool! It kind of looks like the Colosseum in Rome! Congrats.....I hope you win :D

dbvinoff (author)StacyB32014-10-09

Thank you!

kbc2 (author)2014-10-06

awesome! wish you had done this a couple years ago so the high schooler could have done something similar but as a bridge for her science project. Hers beat most of the class, but no one beat the challenge of the teacher.

dbvinoff (author)kbc22014-10-09

lol Thank you!

ThisIsMyNameOK (author)2014-10-06

Awesome! I really needed to know this! Well, ok, not really, but I want to know it. Definitely going to be purchasing some toothpicks soon. This is a great science project for kids too. Thanks for sharing. :0)

dbvinoff (author)ThisIsMyNameOK2014-10-06

thank you! Good luck!

ThisIsMyNameOK (author)dbvinoff2014-10-08

I just voted for you. It seems I forgot to do that before. :)

I was thinking, if your structure was able to support 28 bricks, it should be more than strong enough to hold up a potted plant. Just seal it with an extra coat of something to weather proof it, add a few decorative touches, and I'll have some nice little wooden plant stands...

dbvinoff (author)ThisIsMyNameOK2014-10-09

Nice! Thank you!!

wilgubeast (author)2014-10-06

Be prepared for an onslaught of homework help requests. 28 bricks is impressive. Impressive that your structure could support them, even more impressive that the instructor keeps 25 or more bricks on hand.

dbvinoff (author)wilgubeast2014-10-06

lol....thank you! I too was also impressed that my project could support so much weight because it's super light. The structure is as light as a feather.

jmwells (author)2014-10-06

Very impressive!!!

dbvinoff (author)jmwells2014-10-06

thanks!

jessyratfink (author)2014-10-06

Wow! This is really neat.

dbvinoff (author)jessyratfink2014-10-06

thanks!

mmaatkamp (author)2014-10-06

Cool! Do you have pictures of the other student's solutions as well?

dbvinoff (author)mmaatkamp2014-10-06

Thank you! I only have pictures of my deskmate's project. His looked like a scorpion and was only able to hold up one brick.

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