Introduction: Rubber-band Powered Butterfly

Picture of Rubber-band Powered Butterfly

This little widget doesn't take much building, and will flutter across a room.

(No video because I ran out of bands in prototyping, and I need to get this posted before the deadline.)

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools
The materials you need:

  • Three paperclips. I used large ones that opened out to 15cm long, but I see no reason why this wouldn't work with ordinary clips.
  • An elastic band, sized to match your clips (the ones I used were 6cm long).
  • Paper - stiff and light for preference.


  • Pliers (two pairs could make life easier).
  • Glue or tape.
  • Scissors or craft knife.

Step 2: Making the Frame

Picture of Making the Frame
First, carefully straighten the clips and measure to find the middle.

Bend one clip to an angle of 90o - this will support your front wings.

Bend the second clip 90o as well, but then bend the wire back 45o on each side of the first bend, making a straight wire with a V notch in the middle - this will support the back wings.

The third clip is much more complicated:

  • Turn a small loop in the middle of the wire (I wound it round the handle of a small paintbrush).
  • Bend the straight sections so that, when the loop is held horizontal, the straight legs point vertically down.
  • Bend the ends of the legs into an L (on the same side as the loop) and then bend the bottom of the L into a small V.

(Check the images to see what I mean.)

Step 3: Building the Frame.

Picture of Building the Frame.

The back wing-clip is connected to the middle frame you constructed in the last step.

Place the V between the two bent parts of the L you made, and use the pliers to clamp the Ls tightly over the wing-clip. Make sure that the point of the V is pointing up into the frame.

You are now ready to add the band and the wings.

Step 4: Design the Wings

Picture of Design the Wings

I was aiming for a butterfly style, but you might want to use different-shaped wings.

I lay the frame on the paper, and sketched roughly what I wanted the wings to look like. When I was happy, I firmed up one side of the butterfly in marker pen, allowing for tabs to fold over and glue.

I then folded the paper in half to cut it out, thus making two identical-but-mirrored sets of wings.

Step 5: Add Power

Picture of Add Power

I discovered during prototyping that it is easier to add the rubber band before attaching the wings. If you have to replace the band later, because it snaps, you will discover how hard it is to stretch it over the wings without crushing them.

Attach the band to the rear wing-clip with a lark's head hitch, then thread it through the loop at the other end of the frame, and thread the front wing-clip through the band.

Step 6: Add Wings.

Picture of Add Wings.

Fold the tabs over the wing-clips and glue in place.

Make sure that the wings do not foul the frame or each other when they turn.

You could, of course, decorate your wings, but I would use ready-decorated paper (if I had any), such as the colourfully-marbled origami papers you can buy.

Step 7: Winding and Flying

Picture of Winding and Flying

To wind up the butterfly, hold the rear frame in one hand, and spin the front wings round with the index finger of the other hand until the rubber band is as tight as you like.

Hold the butterfly flat between the palms of both hands, and toss it into the air as if releasing a dove.

Both sets of wings will spin in opposite directions (if one set is larger, it will spin more slowly than the other pair), and the flat wings will bend, forming a pair of crude propellers - they work together, even though they're spinning in opposite directions.

The loop you made at the top of the frame is like a section of a helix; the front wings might catch on it, so you might find that the butterfly works better if you wind it one way and not the other.

Step 8: Oh, No!

Picture of Oh, No!

As I said, flying the butterfly is simple.

Unfortunately, accidents during prototyping reduced me to just one last band. After test flying the final model, I decided to wind it just a little tighter to make it fly really well in the video.

I snapped the band.

Still, here it is, ladies and gentlemen, for your consideration - the rubber band powered butterfly.

Double oh no! - this isn't as original as I thought. I was just googling for some images of butterflies, intending to draw on my finished wings, when I came across an existing rubber-band powered butterfly make. It's not exactly the same as mine, but identical in the flight mechanics. I hope this doesn't preclude me winning, but if it does, it was a fun make anyway.


yourworstnightmare (author)2010-02-15


it donot fly

Just copy the photos.

cRimeTHor (author)2012-02-16

yeah.. how does it works?... think impossible to fly....

geekster88 (author)cRimeTHor2015-06-17

If you have seen a helicopter or a prop plane (plane with propellers), you know that the propellers are rotated slightly. Now think of those propellers as mirrors, and all of the air as light (is weird, but that's how I think of it). When the propeller (mirror)spins, it moves the air (light) behind the propeller. Now there is empty space (not even any air) (also called a vacuum) in front of the plane. Since empty space (vacuum) pulls things into it, the plane is pulled forward by the empty space (vacuum). Does that make sense?

Furthermore, have you ever noticed the shape of a plane wing? Well, a propeller is actually a sideways wing. Wings produce lift on the plane by creating a vacuum above it.

Good answer?

Jfieldcap made it! (author)2015-01-17

I found that to make the wings work better, It seems best to just lay them flat and tape them onto the wires. Mine doesn't fly so well, but I think it's a lack of a better rubber band. :D Still a great project though!

argha halder (author)2013-07-12

but i want to know a bit is it a glider like thing that is if i release it from a place will it glide to the ground or it will go upper than the level from which it has been thrown and then will go down slowly?(hope to get your answer soooooooooon) and i am working on it now the thing is half done beside my laptop.may even find out the answer tomorrow after making it myself.

Kiteman (author)argha halder2013-07-12

It goes off in roughly the direction you launch it, but falls to the ground as soon as the wings stop spinning.

argha halder (author)Kiteman2013-07-12

thanks for your answer!

argha halder (author)2013-07-11

great instructable.hoping to make one very soon.(awesome one)

Kiteman (author)argha halder2013-07-11

Thank you.

awesomecreations (author)2013-03-31

I have made some basic rubber band helicopters using pen tubes for a "frame" and they worked quite well, but just not for very long. The blades did not have enough drag to allow for longer flight duration and both ends spun freely, instead of one end fixed to the frame. one problem with the pen tube is that the band gets knots in it when winding and unwinding and gets stuck. Nice Instructable!

Kiteman (author)awesomecreations2013-03-31

Thanks for that!

awesomecreations (author)Kiteman2013-03-31

You're welcome.

GofishRC007 (author)2012-10-25

Its cool but it needs more pics and instructions , its to hard to understand

chubawabu (author)2012-08-26

and the amazing kiteman does it again! Amazingly designed instructable, nice one

Kiteman (author)chubawabu2012-08-26

Thank you!

NXTHacker (author)2012-08-22

Ok, i've made one of these, now it flew somewhere and i lost it:)
How do they work? Mine just jumped out of my hands and fluttered, is it just a rubberband heli? The *wings of the butterfly acts like the blades?

Kiteman (author)NXTHacker2012-08-22

Pretty much, yes - the top wings twist like a propeller, and the bottom wings stay flat to resist the reverse spin (a bit).

4sdmk4 (author)2012-06-01

This is great... making it for VBS with the kiddos... couple pointers... do not use coated clips, they need to be bare metal... mailing labels work for a quick and easy wing (just fold them in half over the clip and shape them) ... and if you use a large clip for the body and small clips for the wings the weight is reduced and flight is a little better.

canucksgirl (author)2012-04-24

Nice ible! :)

See I knew you didn't need a 3D printer and all that mumbo-jumbo to get it to work (the rubber band and paperclip method works great!)

IITO (author)2011-08-05

how to play that thing ??? -_- i still dont understand...

IITO (author)2011-08-05

to hard for me ... -_- ...
i still dont have the thing for make that so i dont understand XD

R and R (author)2011-03-07

Well I have tried this three times now and it just isn't working for me. Do y'all have different elastic bands down there? It would be really cool to get this going for my kids, but as of yet, I am still at the crash and burn stage. Any suggestions or tweaks? Thanks for this awesome sight. I'm like a kid in a candy store here, not sure where to begin!

Kiteman (author)R and R2011-03-08

Er, thin paper makes it lighter, make sure it spins freely, and really crank it up - it doesn't take off from your hand, you have to throw it.

tim1 (author)2011-01-05

thanks for letting me know!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

tim1 (author)2010-12-10

this is so awsome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think that I will make it!!!!!!!!!!!! But how do you wind it up?????????? Please tell me n=in a comment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kiteman (author)tim12010-12-10

You hold one set of wings in one hand, and twiddle the other pair around with one finger of the other.

artistalight (author)2010-07-20

I want to do..:( i cant see pdf :( equal is a very brilliant proyect :)

Kiteman (author)artistalight2010-07-20

Thank you.

Unfortunately, PDF files are only available for pro members.

jeffconnelly (author)Kiteman2010-09-19

I can get them, but I've also been a member since before "PRO" memberships came along.

jid4611 (author)2010-09-18


jid4611 (author)2010-09-17

could you use a cereal box? I don't go to many stores with 60 lb cardstock in them

Kiteman (author)jid46112010-09-18

That's fine - it's just harder to decorate.

Any stiff-ish sheet will do it.

supersmeady (author)2010-08-15

for the loop one it is easy to use a safety pin.

randomguy1 (author)2010-07-04

thanks works great and is heaps of fun

Kiteman (author)randomguy12010-07-04

Cool, thanks for commenting.

briwood (author)2010-06-07

This is an awesome project for kids! I spent sometime creating a template for wings which I have tried to attach here! Make sure that you attach carefully as to not foul the mechanical movement. I Let my nieces color the wings with sharpies, then cut them out and attached them- used 60 pound card stock and a pretty heavy rubber band. worked great- bands have about 6 good flights in them( after the first 2 or 3) so have extras! great fun on a rainy day. Thank you for making me the coolest uncle in the family!

Kiteman (author)briwood2010-06-07

You're welcome, and that template deserves a patch!

azuro (author)2010-03-23

hey! Where's the video?Good instructable though. ;->

Kryptonite (author)2010-03-23

Well, I guess it's about time for a video now, wouldn't you say so, Kiteman?

Yerboogieman (author)2009-07-07

I have a ton of ripstop nylon, and want a HUGE kite, how would i build one without sewing?

Kiteman (author)Yerboogieman2009-07-07

You can glue or weld it as well.

iTraceur (author)Kiteman2009-09-14

Weld it? Yeah, good idea, make a massive one out of sheet metal and the worlds largest rubber band, and fly around. In fact, i'm going to do it now! ( iTraceur's last ever comment )

redneckjaybyrd (author)iTraceur2009-10-28

There's also a such thing as plastic welding too!

iTraceur (author)redneckjaybyrd2009-12-18

WHAT?!  BLASPHEMY!!  How dare you even suggest such a preposterous thing!  STONE THE GNOME!!!

Yerboogieman (author)iTraceur2009-12-22

JB weld.

Hycro (author)Yerboogieman2009-12-30

There is also such a thing known as "sonic welding" that's used in factories to fuse pieces of plastic together without glue, such as for plastic handsaw handles, and some cheep screwdriver handles use it too.

scarabeetle101 (author)Hycro2010-03-14

 That thing's awesome - they use a high pitched sound which matches the resonant frequency of the plastic, which makes the plastic vibrate so much that the friction between the two parts makes them melt together. Interestingly, it was also the inspiration for the "Mosquito" security devices used around some shops to disperse crowds of youths.

nutsandbolts_64 (author)2010-03-10

Is there any easier way to do this? Beehard44 and I made it, but we got a big epic fail and were face palmed. 

About This Instructable




Bio: The answer is "lasers", now, what was the question? If you need help, feel free to contact me. Project previews on Tumblr & Twitter: @KitemanX
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