Chinese Dragon Pull Toy




Introduction: Chinese Dragon Pull Toy

This is a toy I vaguely remember picking up a long time ago... I'm thinking 1974 World's Fair in Spokane, WA. The Cub Scouts general theme for February this year is Chinese New Years, and this toy I haven't thought about in ages suddenly pops into mind and I decided I had to come up with it.

This instructable will show you step-by-step how to put one together, and I envision this as a parent child activity. I've added a note about that at the end.

Step 1: You Will Need

This dragon has two parts: the dragon body and the mechanism.

For the body:
Paper - Fine paper is nice, but newsprint or butcher paper will do and can be painted
Mask - Download the pdf template

For the Mechanism:
1 wooden spool - Still available at hobby/craft stores
1" finishing nail
1 rubber band
6" wire - Paper clip works, but I use 14 gauge galvanized wire for a bit more stiffness
40" heavy thread - embroidery thread works well
1 finger pull of some sort
Wire cutters

Step 2: We'll Start With the Mechanism

This is a very basic rubber band driven motor. The wire keeps the tension on the rubber band which goes through the center of the spool. The nail holds the rubber band in place inside the spool, and provides a mounting point for the pull string.

Step 3: The Spool

Drill a pilot hole in the middle of the spool. This is vital as it keeps from splitting the spool, and works best on a drill press. You can make sure you're centering properly by placing the spool in a v-shaped holder. Make sure you are using a drill bit that is a size smaller than the nail.

Draw the rubber band through making sure it will be straddling the nail. I drive the nail in first just until I can see the point.
Drive the nail in leaving 1/16" or so above the surface, but make sure the spool rolls without the nail touching the ground. The nail performs two jobs. It holds the sides rubber band apart so it will wind, and it provides an anchor for the pull string.

Cut ~40 inches of thread. Tie a loop in the end of the thread and cinch it down on the nail. Use a spot of super glue to fix it in place. After the glue is dried, wind the thread onto the spool. While you're waiting for the glue to dry, move onto step 4.

Step 4: The Wire & Finished Mechanism

A paper clip can suffice for the wire, but I find that it is a bit flimsy and doesn't hold the rubber band at very high tension, so I use this 14 gauge galvanized wire. It is stiff enough to hold a well wound rubber band, but supple enough to bend without too much effort.

Cut 6" of wire or unbend a paper clip for the harness.

Bend it according to the template on the mask .pdf and, using the notches anchor the ends if the rubber band with the wire straddling the spool.
Set the mechanism aside.

Step 5: Dragon Tail

Any paper of sufficient length will do, but try to use paper that is at least 20 inches. Newsprint or butcher paper works fine if you want to decorate it yourself. Part of the joy for me, however, is finding some fine or exotic paper to use. I picked up these samples at De Medici Ming Fine Paper on 1st and University across from the Seattle Art Museum. They've been selling beautiful papers from all over the world from their shop for 25 years now.

Cut a 5 1/2" wide strip of paper, then accordion fold it. There are any number of ways to do this, from a simple accordion fold to more complex mountain and valley folds. I will try to pull together either some instructions or some links for you.

Step 6: Dragon Mask & Finished Body

Decorate the mask, then trim it out.
Poke holes at the sides where indicated and on top for the pull string.

Glue the tail onto the body at the underside of the mask. You will need to curve the mask for this so you might want to attach the mechanism to assist. (Step 7)

Step 7: Attaching the Mechanism

Once the glue has dried, if you haven't attached the harness, hook it up now.

Poke the ends of the wire through the holes in the side of the mask orienting the mechanism so that if the string were pulled the spool would move the dragon backwards.

To add a little tension to overcome friction, rotate the spool a couple turns without pulling the string, the same direction the spool would rotate if you were pulling the string.

Feed the string through the hole in the top of the mask.

Secure the harness to the underside of the mask with tape. The wire gives the head its shape, so feel free to adjust it to whatever pleases you.

Step 8: Finishing Up

Add finger pull to hold the thread from pulling through the mask. Of course, you can use anything you want here: a bead, or plastic loop or something. I found the parts for these fancy pulls at the craft store in the jewelry section. Tye the thread to a small bead that won't pull through the hole in the larger pull, and secure the bead inside with super glue.

Now set it on the floor and pull the string! When you let the string go, the dragon should zip forward with a fun zig-zag glide.

Step 9: Followup

A note on doing this with kids:
I realize this project as a whole is definitely beyond kids, but I also know that Cub Scouts is intended to be a parent child program. As such I think it is a great activity for adults and kids to attack together.
The mechanism and the dragon are really two separate sub-projects. The adults constructing the mechanisms with some help from someone with access to shop tools. The kids folding the tails with some help, and painting the mask. And the parents and kids working together to hook it up.

I am told that our pack will be doing these as centerpieces for our Blue & Gold Banquet in February, so we'll see if I can live up to my own expectations ;) I'll let you know.


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    Kite builder
    Kite builder

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Hello from the head-mask of the Dragon toy i got the idea to use the mask as the head of a dragon-Kite:

    I loaded the pdf with my vector-program and separeted one of the three masks.

    than i changed it´s outline into a classic diamond-kite-Shape with rounded thrailing edges.

    And i added a long triangular tail with a zigzag pattern on it.

    here is my drawing:

    in the picture of the separeted head-shape, you see, where the frame should be

    I think a good size of the kite is Head 50 x 50 cm and the full length with tail: 160 cm.

    a good way is to scale my picture with a vector program and print it out in parts.

    tape them together and use it as template for kite-paper or plasticfoil you want to use for the sail.

    Bosun Rick
    Bosun Rick

    12 years ago on Step 6

    What are you using to form the "head"? It looks like a section of styrofoam plate cut to shape maybe?

    Spartan Phalanx

    I remember buying one of these when I was in Pakistan, the mechanism was am out of clay ad I think that it was a snake instead of a dragon. I might make one of these if I get the time

    Jane Gammons
    Jane Gammons

    14 years ago on Step 5

    How about using some of that Christmas wrapping you saved or can buy in January at 50 to 75% off.


    14 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the input! I'll be posting a video shortly, and possibly do a video of folding as well, maybe in a separate instructable. I've also added a note about it being a 'kids' project.


    14 years ago on Introduction

    That's cool. I have not seen one of these in a long time. Brings back some memories.


    14 years ago on Introduction

    Nice job. It's beyond my Cubs, but I think I'll pass it on to the technology department at school - they like simple and effective toys.