Here's a quick and easy way to make an amusing dancing figure of yourself, or someone else. It's a simple-yet-funny movement that never fails to make people grin. Kids love it. Make one for your sweetie for Valentines Day, or for your kids to embarrass them with your antics.
In this Instructable I'll show you how to build one very quickly, with thick paper, scissors, a pencil, and a twist tie. But if you have access to other tools and materials, then by all means make it fancy! I made the clear acrylic version in the movie above at my local Tech Shop, using graphics software and a laser cutter. You can build it from any sheet material you like: cardboard, plywood, sheet metal, plastic, etc.
The simple trick here is to connect the head to the legs in a way that makes them stay parallel to each other, even as the torso tilts back and forth. A simple linkage does the trick.
Here are the steps:
1) Bust a dance move for the camera. (Est. time: 2 minutes to several weeks, depending on how picky you are.)
2) Print or trace 2 outlines of yourself onto stiff material.
3) Draw in the bits that connect the pieces, and cut out the pieces.
4) Assemble the parts.
Let's get started...
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Step 1: Bust a Move for the Camera
Take a picture of yourself (or your victim) in a dance pose. I chose a sort of late 70s disco pose (as befits my age), but pick whatever pose you like. Experiment! It helps to take the picture against a contrasting background.
Since I was printing this onto thick paper with a monochrome printer, I also adjusted the image to look good when printed in black and white.
Step 2: Make 2 Copies on Stiff Material
Print, trace, or otherwise transfer 2 copies of the figure onto your material. Here I printed the image onto some thick paper I had.
You can also use graphics software to trace the outline of the figure, for a more "faceless" effect, or modify it in other ways (Add extra arms! Add another head!). For the fancy lasercut version, I used Rhinoceros to trace the figure.
Step 3: Draw and Cut Parts
Here's where we connect the head to the legs to get this figure moving. On one copy of your figure draw this:
Head: Choose and mark the rotation point, at the base of the throat, then extend the sides of the throat down past the point. Then draw a lever extending sideways out to the shoulder. The lever should be entirely contained within the torso, so it can hide behind it later.
Legs: Mark a rotation point at the center of the hips, and draw an oval above the hips to connect that point to the legs. Then drop a dotted line down from the head lever to locate and mark the second pivot point on the hips.
On the second copy, draw this:
Torso/Arms Transfer and mark the same rotation points to the second copy, then draw an oval below the hip point, and a bit of neck above the neck point.
Connector: Lastly, on a piece of scrap, draw the bar that will connect the head piece to the hips. Make it the same length as the distance from the head lever to the hip connection.
If you're using graphics software, follow the same basic procedure, then separate and arrange all the pieces to fit on your material, something like the screenshot.
When you're all set, cut out the four parts, and pierce holes at the pivot points.
Step 4: Assemble Joints
Now we just need to put it all together. For the simple version, cut some short lengths from a twist tie. At each pivot point, poke the wire through the parts, then just fold it over on both sides.
Of course, there are many other ways to do this (paper brads, grommets, a bit of dowel, etc.), but a short piece of soft wire is quick and easy.
Step 5: Dance!
Now build another...there's LOTS of room for experimentation. Try connecting the arms to the head, or to the legs, or both. Try different poses, different people, maybe even your dog or cat. Build a whole flock of tiny ones, or build one life-sized. Experiment!