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The Flying Scrooge: Ornithopter of Household Items

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Picture of The Flying Scrooge: Ornithopter of Household Items
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This instructable will show you how to make a nifty flying model known as an ornithopter from cheap to free stuff.

An ornithopter is a lot like a model airplane, but it flaps its wings like a bird or an insect, and is a lovely sight to watch in flight.

This is pretty easy to build; you really only have to make sure the bearings are all parallel. Everything else can be crooked and this will STILL fly just fine. It is also VERY sturdy and can take many, many crashes without breaking. As an added bonus (and due to my personal tightwaddery) it is CHEAP. You can make this ornithopter out of household items. Mine cost about $1.30 to make.

If you appreciate this instructible, please visit my blog for more ideas:
GoodCleanCrazy

Supplies:
Bamboo Place Mat -- $1 at the local dollar store. We bought one too many for our table.
Gel Super Glue -- $1 for a 3 pack at the dollar store. Found it in a cupboard.
Plastic Grocery Bag -- Usually use them for tying up stinky diapers.
Coffee Filters -- Free from work (I don't drink coffee). And, no, I didn't steal them.
Paper Clips
Rubber Bands
Bic Pen
White School Glue
Clear Tape -- All free stuff I found lying around

Optional:
CA accelerator -- $4 at the local hobby store. Sets super glue almost instantly.

Tools:
Sharp Blade
Diagonal Cutters
Scissors
Needlenosed pliers
Regular Pliers
 
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Step 1: Assemble the Body

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I looked up "ornithopter plans" on Google and can up with these plans. However, I wanted to make an ornithopter with four wings, like this. So I decided to base my ornithopter on the free bird plans, but modified it to make it four-winged and for use with my bamboo construction materials.

Start by removing some flat bamboo strips from the place mat and laying out the body shapes. I made some triangles. Using a pencil, carefully mark lines where they overlap. Cut along the lines with your dikes. Carefully clean up the edges with a knife. Glue together with a bit of superglue and spray with accelerator.

Continue for all the joints.

Step 2: Assemble Crank Supports

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The top and bottom of the body need to be parallel, so add a few pieces to make the bottom rectangular.

I made some thin support pieces by cutting the bamboo in half lengthwise.

Step 3: Add Bearings

Make three bearings by wrapping a large paperclip around another large paperclip. Straighten the paperclips out before you begin. Coil the wire onto a small screwdriver or a dirll bit that is slightly (slightly!) larger than the diameter of the paperclip wire. This slight diameter change allows the paperclip to rotate freely inside the coil. Clip off excess wire. Based on user feedback, it seems this step is harder than it appears. When you are done making your bearings, test them for smoothness of turning.

When you have three bearings, make some bearing support pieces as pictured. Glue a bearing to the bottom of the body. This is the main crank bearing. Glue two bearings to the top, side by side in the channels created by the support pieces. These are the wing bearings.

I found it helpful to slip a couple straight pieces of paperclip inside the bearings as I was positioning them. This helped me ensure they were all parrallel.

Step 4: Reinforce Your Joints

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Mix white glue half and half with water in a disposable cup. Cut out some rectangles of coffee filter tissue and glue onto the body, making sure that the tissue is throughly moistened with glue. Apply two layers. Let dry.

Step 5: Finish the Body

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Finish the body using the photo as guidance. Add another triangle shape at the rear. The two rear spars are half-thickness to allow the tail hook to fit between. Form the tail hook from a large paperclip. Scuff the tail hook and superglue to the rear triangle. Reinforce tail hook with tissue paper.

After flying and crashing my ornithopter for several days, it broke right at the weak point between the triangles. So I added a third spar high enough to avoid the rubber band motion. I recommend you add one as well, as pictured.

Step 6: Make Wing Spars

The wing spars need to be longer than any one piece of bamboo. Join two straight bamboo pieces together by cutting as shown and gluing. The stepped cut gives more surface area for the glue to grab, strengthening the joint. Reinforce the joint with tissue. Drill a small hole through the joint.

You can make a drill by squishing the end of a paper clip and cutting it at an angle with dikes. Bend into a stepped shape and hand crank away. I made a motorized drill for this project from a VCR motor I had lying around and a thumbtack. Super glue the tack to the motor, squish the tip with pliers, and cut at an angle. Attach to 9-volt battery. I found the VCR lying beside the road a few years ago and scavenged it for parts before I threw the case away.

Form two wing cranks from paperclips as pictured. The little "jog" in the left wing crank allows good wing movement. Insert cranks into wing spars and superglue in place. Reinforce with a layer of tissue. Take two smaller pieces of bamboo and drill several holes at regular intervals. These will be the adjustable arms.

Insert the left and then right wing spar and slide the adjustable arms onto the wing and main cranks. Test wing movement. You might have to add a piece of Bic ink tube as a spacer to one of the wing cranks for easy movement.

Disassemble wings and adjustable arms.

Step 7: Make a Crank

Straighten a paper clip and bend a hook on one end. Insert into the bottom bearing and bend a stepped shape (the crank handle) into it.

Make a bead for the crank from a Bic Pen. Pull a Bic pen apart with pliers. Cut off a few rings of the ink tube. Fill the rings with super glue and let dry. Slide one onto the crank handle and glue in place with super glue. Be sure not to get any glue on bearing.

Step 8: Make the Tail

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Save the outlines.jpg file attached to this step. Print it full size. {In Windows XP, right click on the file name and click "print". A dialog box will open. Keep clicking "Next" until it prints.} Cut out the tail section from the paper and trace onto the grocery bag. I taped my grocery bag to the back of a clipboard to have a smooth surface.

Using similar techniques as before, cut and glue two bamboo pieces together at an angle for the tail booms. I also thinned my tail booms to cut down on weight. Glue a large, straightened piece of paperclip as a tail boom. Cut a small circle out of tissue and reinforce the joint with it. Carefully cut the tail out of the grocery bag with a sharp knife. The tail should be about 6.5 inches long. Super glue the tail to the tail spars.

Step 9: Attach the Wings.

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Cut out the wing outline from the paper you printed in the last step. Trace onto the grocery bag. Flip, and trace the other half of the wing. Trace a second wing the same way. Carefully cut out both wings. Cut a rectangle out at the middle of the straight edge of each wing piece. This allows the mechanics to move freely. Super glue the wings to the wing spars, starting at the center. Cut the right wing down the middle.

Insert the left wing into the left wing bearing. Insert the right wing and make sure that the wings can move freely. You might have to add a bit of ink tube as a spacer. When you have them moving well, remove the right wing. Glue the left wing to the the "spine" of the body. Add the right wing and just tape the centerline of the wing flaps to the left wing.

Step 10: Final Assembly

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Scuff up the tail boom with dikes and superglue to the body. Reinforce with filter paper. Using pliers, bend the tail boom up about ten degrees.

Hook a rubber band onto both hooks.

Step 11: Test Fly and Trim

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Wind up your ornithopter and test fly it. Wind it clockwise and counterclockwise to see which direction gives you smoother movement.

Here's my second test flight:



If your ornithopter zooms upwards and stalls, try adjusting the tail boom down a bit. If it still stalls, you may need to tape a coin to the front of your 'thopter.

If it turns in a slow circle, you can tape a piece of wire to the wing tip on the outside of the turn. I left my wing spars long, and so I just cut off excess from the wing tips on the inside of the turn to fix that.

Experiment with different arm lengths (you know, the adjustable arm) and different rubber bands. I found that two or three narrow rubber bands gave me more consistent torque than one thick band (and also lasted longer).

Now go play with it! My daughters love watching this thing.

*Update*

I've added a couple pictures to show where to attach the rubber band (actually, I use four regular rubber bands at once) and where you wind it up.

Step 12: Bearing Pictures

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As per forum request, here are a few close-up pictures showing the wing and crank bearings in their final form.
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blakehansen99 made it!1 year ago

I used the ink pen tubes as bearings and oiled them up to ensure the wires turn freely and smoothly, and it works great! It flies so effortlessly and has good motion in the air. Thanks for the Instructable!

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MMoyce3 years ago
in the last airbender Aang, he had one
sridhar k3 years ago
anyone u can send the list of requirements
bbhat3 years ago
Great plans. will the bamboo sticks work on a 2-winged ornithopter, it being heavier when compared to balsa??
micaiah20004 years ago
what r the inches cinimeter to all this bamboo i dont no how much to cut and with the paper clips what do u mean put one at the bottom of the body
intiguy4 years ago
hey can we use a spring?????????
BraisedDuck5 years ago
rather than coiling maybe you can use a balloon stick,maybe?pls reply..
great idea ive made 3 ornithopters and im sure thet would work
royalestel (author)  BraisedDuck5 years ago
What's a balloon stick? You mean, like a straw?
goofy1029384 years ago
instead of making the complicated paper clip bearing you can make a paper tube and super glue it and its practically like plastic
chaoshawk5 years ago
can you send me the plans at chaoshawk4@gmail.com thx (=
Patented5 years ago
Author's video have been remove, so here is another one I found made by Kipkay : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3wWfKEdvpY&feature=player_embedded

Skip to 2:50 for test flight !
DBMods5 years ago
 You REALLY  need measurments
dombeef DBMods5 years ago
He said that the plans are from the free bird plans
hyun200055 years ago
woo hoo!!! I made it! Awesome!
Can you make a video?
hyun200055 years ago
Yes!!! almost finished!!! Thank you so much for this instructable. I just need to renew the spring that you make in step 3. When I turn the hook, it gets caught a bit. In other words, the movement isn't smooth.
i only have round bamboo peicec. will the ornithopter still fly if the bamboo is rounded??
I also have only round bamboo pieces.
I'm also wondering if this will work with them.
I already started and I'm on Step 6 and I had no problem so far with my bamboo pieces being round.
andrew937 years ago
does it really fly??
royalestel (author)  andrew937 years ago
Absolutely. It would fly longer and better if it had an electric motor instead of a rubber band, but it does indeed fly just fine.
adding the motor would be easy
the real challenge would be adding a rudder to remote controll it you could use a miniature rc submarine motor and board or
fust buy the havoc avenger and use the electronics from it as weel as rudder only problem is short range and a free flow rudder  
 The radio instillation would be easy! If some one made one of these i could convert it to an rc model in under 24 hours! The difference in my model from yours is that i would use servos and an ESC instead of cannibalizing an rc helicopter. I would totally make one of these but I am to inpatient to glue all of those bamboo rods.
ANDY! Mr.NHRA5 years ago
 i used a rc car to make a plane, but i broke the reciever I think.

first off you could use balsen wood and second the havoc avenger is an ornithopiter as well but the why it flies is hard to control and is adgetating

ps                                                                                                                            

i tried it but i cant find it now

 

hyun200055 years ago

Argh! Dis is so hard!!! Can anyone give me advice?
Also, wat is the paperclip wire thingy for?

blckthng5 years ago
Awesome work man....i just wanted to know how small you could make one of these for it to function as an indoor ornithopter....toothpick size? and also can u make the frame with aluminum wire, its easier to bend and gluing with epoxy is faster and stronger. thanks
i dont get any of this
killion015 years ago
were do you get this sticks?
BraisedDuck5 years ago
I just put too"maybes" in that sentence i'm so dumb!
varrok8005 years ago
I made one of these, and the wings won't flap. is it because the crank isn't straight?
varrok8005 years ago
sorry if i sound stupid, but how do you make the body? I don't understand
GreenAce926 years ago
Really it can be however big you want it, just study some ornithopter designs and figure out how big of a crank you need, what size wings etc... the important thing is you need to build light, and strong... because there is lots of torque/power going through the body to flap the wings... and also it has got to be very light if you want it to really fly for a good time and make sure the wings flap in unison
GreenAce927 years ago
i have made one of these before, except its a singlewing type, not dual. It flew only so far, they neeed alot of torque to flap the wings. I have a vid of mine on youtube called Jacob's Ornithopter, its made of popsicle sticks lol.
can anyone tell me the length of the sticks my son is trying to big one and no where is the measurements of anything can you please help
royalestel (author) 7 years ago
Dear Royalestel,

Congrats on your "ornithopter from household materials". To build one of these with such limited materials is a real accomplishment. I wanted to add a comment on your instructable, but it wasn't working, so I decided to send you a message.

Since a lot of people were looking for other plans and stuff, you might want to provide a link to http://www.ornithopter.org where there is a whole section of free plans for various designs.

(The "competition" link and also the "articles and plans" page both have several plans.)

Also, you should delete the comments from that "chirothopter" guy. Historically, the word "ornithopter" refers to any flapping-wing flying device, not just ones that have "feathers". He's only going to confuse people by trying to divide these machines into different categories. Besides, he didn't even construct the term properly: It should be "chiropter" without the "th".

Nathan Chronister
The Ornithopter Zone


PM'd to me and reposted here for everyone's benefit. The link is especially handy!
i have been meaning to reply to you for some time now so sorry for the late comment. I will agree with you that ornithopter is a very generalized term that is used to describe a flapping fying machine. however, if you disect the word you will end up with orni(bird) and thopter(flapping machine) and when the word chiroptera(bat) is disected you find chiro(hand) and ptera(wing) and when put together you end up with chirothopter and not chiropter as the word opter has no meaning without a prefix or suffix. so, if the roots are taken literally enough you end up with the three main groups of flapping machines: entomopter,chirothopter, and ornithopter and that's if you do not consider helicopters as flapping. i will also agree with you that this will confuse people and i am sorry for that. but, for those of us it does not confuse, this is very interesting peice of information and thats all im trying to make it into. i am not suggesting we change every book and website using ornithopter to the more specific term.
gun7 years ago
looks sweet!!! Dude :>
sb1237 years ago
great instructable!
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