Straw Builder Project #1: Mechanical Hand using only fast food straws

As with all of my straw projects, you can take pride in using freely available materials.  Unlike other constructions toys, the fastening process is part of the building material.  After finishing this project, snapping together expensive injected molded blocks will feel like cheating.

This is a great project for kids and parents or as a classroom project.  The project will require a bit of patience and take a few hours to fully build and assemble.  If not assisted by an adult, I would suggest a starting age of 10 years old since the force needed to use the paper punch is too much for younger kids.

Parts Needed:
25-30 Straws

Tools Needed:
Paper Punch
Ruler (optional)
Wooden Skewer (optional)
Permanent Marker (optional)

That's it.  The elegance of this design is that it is basically free and the assembly is pretty simple.  Yet, this design achieves fully mechanical hand that rebounds back to its original state when the tendons release their tension.

For this project, the goal was to build a fully functional hand using only straws.  The diameter of a McDonalds straw is just about perfect.  You can substitute straws from Chick-Fil-A clear straws.  I prefer the McDonalds straws because they have a yellow and red band that run the length of the straw which makes cutting easier.  The yellow and red bands act as a visual guide and results in straight cuts.

The magic of this project is that it uses no glue, welding, staples or securing other than by creative use of the source building material.  Straws are incredible building materials.  They come in a wide variety of dimensions but share inherent strength, flexibility, and availability attributes.

Step 1: Materials

You will need about 25 straws to complete this project.  Kindly ask the fast food employee if you can have a few extra straws.  While the project is free, the straws do technically cost money to the restaurant so be respectful.  Before you know it, you'll have a stockpile.  For our build, I told the fast food window employee that I was building a project with my child for school.  They handed me all the materials over two or three visits in this way.  I don't recommend washing and reusing straws.  Aside from the need to sanitize them, they have lost a bit of strength just from normal use.  Teeth are very destructive.
<p>Sorry</p><p>I meant Thank you. This simple expalnasion helps me to do this project a lot more easier.</p><p>Highly Recommendable to friends</p>
<p>Is this model movable and how about the thumb?I</p><p> wan to make one where u can show the thumb movement.</p>
<p>Is this model movable and how about the thumb?I</p><p> wan to make one where u can show the thumb movement.</p>
me gusta
A simple comprehensive introduction to Robotics and the working of the Human body. <br>High Commendation -Thank you.
This is great! <br> I imagine that you could use other kinds of tubing, say irrigation tubing or even silicone tubing to create a larger more durable version. Maybe even an old garden hose.
I've been using Instructables for a Very long time for education, children, enjoyment, boredom, etc. I truly salute you and this endevour! Creative, easy-ish and excellently written (unlike my post)! I think you've embodied the essence of what this site is ALL about! My hat's off to you!!
This is very kind of you to say. Thank you. Enjoy!
Very cool! We made these as kids, but nothing this elaborate.
Very flipping clever. I'm afraid that the 1st thing that I'd do with it is flip someone off. <br> <br>Yes, character flaw.
Clever! Artistic! Loved it.
Amazing job!!!
Thank you. I hope a few people take a try at it and post their results and variations. An Alien movie Face Hugger would be tons of fun in time for a Halloween costume. It would be a similar build with a few steps to spray paint the final hand in tan with a hidden string going to all of the pull rings.
Wow! After figuring this out I could build a plastic and wooden one
Hmmm. Interesting idea to apply this to other materials. I think it might be harder to do in wood unless you where using bamboo. You need a material that wants to 'rebound' back to its natural resting shape.
Dude, this is so damn AWESOME!!!! Downside to it is my lil' sis keeps hounding me to make her one. But still, projects like this is what makes Instructables so brilliant. Thank You for sharing it. ^^
That's cool she is interested and wants to try and make this project with you. You can always scale the project back to just a single finger using two straws. If that goes well, you scale up to the full hand.
Wow! After figuring this out I could build a plastic and wooden one
This is awesome! Great job.
Very Cool :), Thank you for sharing your awesomeness :)
This is so cool!

About This Instructable


541 favorites


Bio: Hi. I am a Dad, software product manager and avid runner. I enjoy building projects with my kids which generally means approaching design using inexpensive ... More »
More by mszymczak: Resurrect a Brand - Burger Chef - Part 2 - Vintage Cup Resurrect a Brand - Burger Chef - Part 5 - Vintage Placemat Resurrect a Brand - Burger Chef - Part 6 - Vintage Food Service Hat
Add instructable to: