Card Stock Pterosaur X

About: Airplane enthusiast

Hi there. This is a flying model made out of card stock, chipboard, a piece of balsa wood, and glue. The plans are quite detailed and there are lots of images for reference. Expect to spend three hours or more building it.

Although I had made a design similar to this one, I started digging a little deeper into pterosaurs and was fascinated by some of the more recent (last 10 or 20 years) interpretations, particularly with regard to wing shape. This one doesn't have pointy wingtips like the last one, and the average chord is shorter. The video for the last one (Card Stock Pterosaur) might be a useful reference if you were to get stuck or confused during the building process.


1. balsa wood (1/4" thick x 3/8" wide x 4" long)

2. two sheets of card stock, 8.5" x 11", preferably 65 lb. and 80 lb.

3. chipboard, preferably 0.8 mm (1/32"); if you don't have anything this heavy, try gluing together layers of thinner material and allowing it to dry before cutting

4. glue

5. scissors

6. access to a printer or photocopier that can handle card stock

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Download and Print

The document consists of four pages. Page one has instructions and stencils for the chipboard pieces. Two and three are for the card stock. Four is a reference drawing.

Step 2: Cut Out the Shapes and Build the Main Components

The piece of balsa wood you will cut out is the foundation of the whole design. (At left in the photo is a spare piece of balsa, not to be confusing.)

To it you will attach the main wing/body, the wing spars, and the long neck pieces. The body/wing gets some extra bracing (chipboard) and a top layer (darker green). The neck pieces extend forward beyond the balsa so they can hold the head in place.

Here are two mistakes you will want to avoid.

(1) Gluing the balsa wood as far back as the legs. No! Use the reference lines that are on the top of the main wing/body.

(2) Allowing the pieces to drift as the glue dries. No! The neck really needs to be perpendicular to the wingspan, and it needs to be right on the center line.

Step 3: Cut Out the Shapes and Build the Rest

Now the tedious stuff. There are a lot of weirdly shaped pieces that will cover up the body and head. Work from the aft end toward the nose so the coverings will overlap correctly (front ones over the back ones, a few millimeters).

The placement of the canard airfoil is pretty important. Make sure it is not sloping down too much. If it is, the pterosaur will tend to pitch down. You can use a little bit of chipboard under the front of the airfoil to raise it. You can also bed down the elevators of the airfoil to create more lift and, thus, cause the thing to pitch up a bit.

Step 4: Test Fly and Make Adjustments

Hooray! You made an awesome flying model with a canard configuration that is based on the physiology of an extinct species.

Now, here are three mistakes you will want to avoid.

(1) Flying the Pterosaur before the glue has cured. No! The glue isn't strong when it's wet. Also, the weight of the glue changes as it dries, and you won't get an accurate idea of the balance of the plane if you fly it too soon.

(2) Getting frustrated because the plane doesn't fly well. No! It can do some cool stuff, as seen in the video. Check the CG. If the plane is tail heavy it won't go forward much, and will usually wheel off to one side and dive into the ground. Add pieces of card stock, or devise some other method of adding weight to the nose, if that is happening. Also, you need to sight down the nose and make sure the wings are symmetrical. A twist, or a wingtip that is much higher than the other, will cause the plane to fly poorly. You can correct these problems by gently and repeatedly shaping the material with your fingers. Lastly, learn a little about basic aerodynamics, if you haven't already. There are many informative and entertaining videos on the subject. The canard airfoil has control surfaces, and the legs can kind of function as tailplane elevators. Keep in mind that the effect of these two is opposite. If you want pitch up, curve the legs up and/or bend the canard elevators down.

(3) Flying the pterosaur when it is windy or wet. No! This is a light model and the design isn't all that stable, so wind causes bad things to happen. Card stock is like a sponge and gets flimsy in high humidity. Dew and raindrops will cause weak spots and wrinkles.

Make It Fly Challenge

Participated in the
Make It Fly Challenge

Be the First to Share


    • Art Skills Challenge

      Art Skills Challenge
    • Make it Move

      Make it Move
    • Teacher Contest

      Teacher Contest

    2 Discussions