Introduction: Ornithopter

Picture of Ornithopter

Here's how to make an ornithopter powered by a rubber band.

You will need the following: (All my measurements are in inches.)

Wood: (Balsa works well, but i used coffee stirring sticks)

2 x 1 in.
2 x 1 1/2 in.
1x 2 1/2 in.
3 x 3 1/2 in.
1 x 4 1/2 in.
2x 5 in.

Wire: (paper clips work well)

1 x 2 1/4
2 x 2
1 x 1 1/4

Other Stuff:

Rubber Band
Super glue
Needle nosed plyers
glue gun
Tissue paper (Other light materials work.)

Step 1: The Body

Picture of The Body

First, cut out all of your wood and wire, Then start Gluing together.
Take your 4 1/2 in. stick and glue on the 1 in. sticks as shown in the picture. Then glue the 2 1/2 stick across the top.

Step 2: The Tail

Picture of The Tail

Then glue your three 3 1/2 pieces together in a triangle.

Step 3: The Wire

Picture of The Wire

After that, bend your wire as shown in the picture above.

Step 4: The Beads

Picture of The Beads

Now you can glue your beads on and put the wire pieces on (don't glue the wire! they should turn freely.)

Step 5: Tail

Picture of Tail

Glue the tail wire piece on.

Step 6: Wing Spars

Picture of Wing Spars

You'll need to glue the 5 in. sticks to the wire pieces. then take the 1 1/2 pieces and punch two holes in the end and slip the ends through as seen in the picture.

Step 7: Wings

Picture of Wings

Here's the wings you'll need to hot glue them to the spars. As for the tail just trace it and cut it out.

Step 8: Finish

Picture of Finish

Just attach a rubber band, wind it and give it a toss!

Ask me for any questions



Dilberp1 (author)2017-08-16

Very Good!!

andreacorradi (author)2016-05-03

When do you glue the paper on the wings? Before or after putting the wings in the beads?

Arellano5 (author)2016-02-21

shoe do you do this, it's so hard? How do you keep the front pieces from falling off

canadiankidengineering (author)2015-12-13

And also, how do you do the crank? Mine keeps hitting the frame and it does not spin very smoothly....

i took the prop block from a rubberbadn plane and used it for the crnk

colem16 (author)2015-12-24

do you hve to sign up for pro to get all the plans

BigMaker12 (author)2015-12-23

lol and bff on a bright screen makes Anthony sad. :(

BigMaker12 (author)2015-12-23


kamran ali chohan (author)2015-05-11

i am confused in step 6 i made it 3times but i does not work

Use hot glue

canadiankidengineering (author)2015-12-13

How do you make a clean cut hole in a coffee stirrer?

kamran ali chohan (author)2015-05-11

i made it but it is not working

McChubs (author)2011-06-07

I am confused, plz help. Where di the beads go, it is confusing and for step 1 the body which way does the 2 1/2 go?

pie popper (author)McChubs2011-06-07

the beads act as bearings so they go on the wire pieces at the joints, just makes it run smoother, and for step 1 the 2 1/2 piece lays across the two 1 in sticks
that you glued on to the body, so for the confusion, this was one of my first ibles, i need to update most of them

steelyglint (author)pie popper2015-02-23

I had trouble making sure the beads were in the right place and struggled to glue them there. I used part of a corrugated plastic advertising sign (Estate Agent/Realtor) to hold the beads perfectly front and back, for not much weight.

Emsaid (author)pie popper2011-06-07

OOPS! haha that was actually me right there ^ my sis left her acount logged on!

sasorin (author)2011-09-01

I need help! Everytime I try and make holes in the wood, it splits. Any advice?

AjeyN (author)sasorin2015-01-03

A red hot sewing needle makes nice clean holes without splitting the wood ;)

LiftAndLove (author)sasorin2011-12-05

try to put masking tape around the area before putting in the hole.

Scuddestroy (author)LiftAndLove2011-12-05

Might not be solid enough, you have to ensure the fibers stick to each other.

Scuddestroy (author)sasorin2011-11-12

Glue the area of the wood you wish to make a hole in. Let dry. Hope this helps.

BrodyM (author)2014-11-17

well mine did not fly do not know why help me please

silvia.caetano.967 (author)2014-10-15

it´s beautifull and simple in the photos, but, when we are goingo to try doesn´t work... fail... step 6. that´s a pity!!!

sidshr123 (author)2014-10-12

have u ever tried an rc ornithopter....if yes please instruct me in making one

JohanN4 (author)2014-10-07

Good inspirations, nice one :) I made mine with bamboo only and it flies well!

Check the video:

Will make tutorial soon.



the clone (author)2014-04-26

what did you make the wings out of?

Imetomi (author)2014-01-03

What is the mass of the ornithopter?

Emsaid (author)Imetomi2014-01-08

Sadly I no longer have the ornithopter anymore. I'll have to re-make it and weigh it. I have to admit though that this model is fairly heavy as it is made with a heavier wood. Though the point of this ible was to show people how to make a working mechanical model with easy to find materials. It did fly but it was not the best ornithopter out there

jid4611 (author)2011-08-14

could you use popsicle sticks?

Emsaid (author)jid46112011-12-06

you could but the idea is to use as little material as possible so they might be to heavy but you could try, you could mybe break them in half long ways

Cool Icee (author)Emsaid2013-09-18

Could we use plastic straws? They're pretty light...

ItsmeNivas (author)2013-08-18

awesome mechanism........(y)

lmendoza11 (author)2013-02-10

Mine wont spin properly, and the rubber snaps. How fast must it flap for it to take flight?

One other very important thing to test and adjust is the distance between bends on the driver and driven cranks so that they don't stop. Making a bigger ornithopter would make reducing friction easier,too.

Emsaid (author)lmendoza112013-02-10

you may need to check each pivot point and make sure there is the least friction possible, finding the right beads is important. try a thicker rubber band (not to thick, other wise it will snap you thopter) and surprisingly it doesnt have to flap very fast to take flight, it just needs constant flapping. also the lighter the materials used will make for longer flights.

eyesee (author)2012-12-21

Can fly you

DrJase (author)2012-09-24

Great 'ible! Am definitely going to make one (I had quite a collection of Starbucks coffee stirrers!)

Any cance of a video of yours in flight?

лким (author)2012-08-28

Вот немного по махалётам http://xn--80ahduedo.xn--p1ai/machol_ti.html еще бы чертежи махалётов

scientist vardhan (author)2012-04-28

awesome design
loved it!!

Raaunak (author)2012-01-13

I have already built one, but the problem is that the rubber band is unable to turn the wooden pieces.

Atulya Verma (author)2011-12-18

krra yaar mazedaar chiz banai hai ye .............karre launde
good frnd,,,

ninja_boy1012 (author)2009-11-30

what if you dont have tissue paper? what other kind of peper would you use? i dont have tissue paper. only paper towels and toilet paper. and the toilet paper is to small lol.

so if you had to choose between wax paper, tin foil, napkins, or paper towels to make the winds, what would you choose? lol. please help.   :D

dombeef (author)ninja_boy10122010-05-29

 Plastic bags

pie popper (author)dombeef2010-06-05

lets see... out of those i would choose wax paper, but i think plastic bags would work better, tissue paper also works great

Emsaid (author)pie popper2010-06-05

oops! signed into the wrong account! so the above comment is actually from me

dombeef (author)Emsaid2010-06-05

Oh ok, won't wax paper be too heavy?

Beduk (author)dombeef2010-11-19

wax paper is not heavy.But i think aluminum foil will be better since it is light and sturdier.

dombeef (author)Beduk2010-11-20

Aluminum foil is too thin, it rips easly, and it crumples easly too

J.A.R.V.I.S. (author)dombeef2011-02-19

you should also take into account aluminum foil is kinda heavy because it is technically metal, well... yeah, by the way thanks for the instructible! I used it for a science fair project with which wing material works better, aluminum foil (Iron Man) or plastic bag (Plastic Man) Marvel and DC collide again.

80$man (author)J.A.R.V.I.S.2011-12-06

Hope your science fair entry did well, very clever, are you going to become an engineer? Many I ask what your findings were, foil or plastic?

Has anyone tried using a foam-alight (aka Styrofoam, expanded foam) sheet material for the wings? It should work, ample stiffness and lightweight, just need a very thin piece.

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