Flower Whirligig Robogigithingy




About: This author has not updated their profile. They might or might not get around to it sometime. If the kid wants a unicorn... Dangit, we're gonna make that happen. What little I know is dangerous, the rest I...

Now here's a flower ornament with a robot theme or a robot with a flower theme. (Judges pull out rulebook to look at fine print again...) Whirligigs are mechanical contraptions that are powered by the wind to create some kind of fanciful movement and adds a touch of fanciness to your garden or yard. Similiar in concept to a windmill powering grindstones, these whirligigs have some kind of "propeller" or "pinwheel" to harness the power of the wind. Gears or some linkage translates the motion into something special.

Without having the proper engineering tools such as a CAD designer, 3D wireframe simulator, lasercutter, waterjet, exotic titanium and carbon fiber parts, metal fabrication shop, and a wind tunnel, I proceded to make this using my frugal material of choice, box cardboard from the recycling bin, a bunch of washers/nuts/bolts, glue, a wood dowel and a bunch of spare paint stirrer sticks gotten free everytime you buy a pail of paint. I'm sure you could substitute K'nex parts here or do a steampunk version but this one is my Instructables Robot entry for the Flower contest inspired by the contest Robot itself.

Step 1: A Body of Work, Get Jiggy...

I thought about cutting out the main shapes from hardboard/masonite or thin plywood but that involved getting out the heavy power tools and making a mess. I saw a few instructables on people layering cardboard to use as a building material so I thought I would give it a try. It turns out to be inexpensive, strong, and easily cut and shaped such as forming it for the drive parts. Don't worry about exact tolerances in cutting out parts or the diameter of the holes we drill. We are making this up as we go along. This is afterall cardboard we are working with, we're not building a Bimmer.

Get a hold of the Instructables Robot graphic. Print out the large image of the robot which can be found here. Print out two copies with the image scaled to fit a regular letter or A4 page.

Trim around the pictures so that you can glue it on a layer of cardboard. On the first picture, trim off the head. One the second picture, trim around the head but keep an oblong section below it where the pivot and drive bolts will attach.

After it dries, cut that out from the cardboard with a razor knife or strong utility shears. Trace the shape again on cardboard. You should try to change the orientation of the grain of the cardboard(the direction the internal ribs or ridges are running) as you trace the new part. Glue or laminate this to the first layer. For the main body, add on two more layers so it is four layers thick.

If you use scrap cardboard from IKEA boxes, you may want to add on one or two more layers for thickness and strength. We need all the layers for the proper spacing of the mechanical linkage. When the grain of each of the layers go in a different direction, it adds to the strength the same way they manufacture plywood.

Step 2: Flower Power

Draw the layout for the flower. I traced around a CD disk to get my guidelines for a round shape. I had a smaller round candy tin that I traced for the inside circle and gearwheel parts. Sketch out your own flower design. The flower is built up with smaller disks that sandwich the flower petals. You can cut out and make your flower as fanciful as you like.

Use a drill to put a pilot hole the diameter of your dowel in the center of the back of your flower. Glue a small section of dowel into the flower that will become the driveshaft. It will be trimmed to fit later. I used a polyurethane glue (GorillazMiko brand...not really) because it expands and cures rigid providing support for the shaft. You can still use a big blob of white/yellow glue instead.

CAUTION: Use latex/rubber gloves when working with polyurethane glue. That GorillazMiko glue goes everywhere. It sticks to everything and you cannot get it off your hands and everything else you touch trying to get it off. It's still a favorite though.

When the glue is dry, get your special helper to paint the fanciful flowers. When the paint is dry, bend the flower petals in a deliberate pattern going the same way all around to simulate a propeller or pinwheel.

Paint your paint stirrer green which will be the "stem" of the flower. Drill a hold to accomodate the flower driveshaft. Use sandpaper/file/drill to make the hole just a tad larger so the flower spins freely in it.

Assemble the flower drive as shown in the pictures. You want to sandwich the cardboard with washers where the bolts go through. Build up spacing with a nut and a washer. Use more polyurethane glue to atttach the drive wheel to the flower axle. Saw off the excess length of dowel protruding in the back so it will not bind against the drive rod later.

Step 3: Time to Tune This Harley...

There are no drawings or plans to work off of. Refer to the pictures to make the mechanical linkage. This is similar to an eccentric gear found on steam locomotives.

Put the parts together and leave the last nuts on the bolts a little loose so you can see if it moves correctly and make any adjustments. You will need to attach the "flower stem" to the body so that the flower driveshaft is somewhat level with the drive bolt on the head part. Just attach one bolt to the flower stem on the body so that it can pivot as you make adjustments.

Try to spin the flower and see where you will have to mark out and drill out a slot for the headbolt. If the head drops too much to the side, just glue up stop pieces to limit its movement.

When everything turns, the head moves correctly from side to side and nothing binds, fix the position of the flower stem by drilling a pilot hole and attaching the second nut/washers/bolt.

I used lock washers in some places but it is easier to add a drop of polyurethane glue on the bolt thread to lock it in. Your whirlygig would disintegrate as the vibration and movement tends to loosen the nuts.

You can then attach everything to a garden stake or pole so that it can rotate like a weathervane to catch the wind. For demonstration purposes, I stuck a U-shaped wire staple used for staking out weed control ground cloth in the bottom so I could stand it up in the soil.

Step 4: Time to Take It Out for a Little Spin...

The drive mechanism turned out a little heavy but moved freely. A little lubricant like wax or powdered graphite may have helped. I did not have a wind tunnel to test my turbine design so I did not know if it was powerful enough to turn the linkage. No breeze today so I took out my leaf blower to provide a 120-150 mph wind current. The subjects had to be clamped to the flowerpot to avoid being blown in the hurricane.

I think my flower petals should have been larger or needed to have the pinwheel shaped scoop to catch the wind. The single layer cardboard fins didn't hold up to being shaped after being painted. Plastic vanes would have been better. If you plan on leaving this thing outdoors, you should dunk everything in polyurethane clearcoat to water resist it before it is assembled.

Step 5: Grand Finale...

And now ladies and germs...announcing our distinguished guests to our tea party in the garden (yeah, I know the Brits will cringe when we mention tea party)


Haha, my KFC hat flew away... Awesome! I am a foot tall!

and His Ericness, he seemed a tad stiff...

First Prize in the
Flower Contest



    • Gardening Contest

      Gardening Contest
    • Colors of the Rainbow Contest

      Colors of the Rainbow Contest
    • Arduino Contest 2019

      Arduino Contest 2019

    51 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    If I had a daisy for a wang, I'd get all the fly honeys. But alas, I'm not into bee-stiality, just into a very bad run of puns that I can't seem to escape from.


    1 reply

    10 years ago on Introduction

    thats hilarious! imagine several like 50 next to each other hahaha, oh, the wonders. plus the song from night at the roxbury... hmmm ideas ideas.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    You know when you're supposed to be working, but you're sneaking a look on the internet, and you see something funny that makes you laugh out loud, so you try and suppress the laugh but it goes up your nose instead and makes a strange noise so everybody looks at you? You know that noise? I just made that noise.

    14 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    The entire class. I ended up having to stop the lesson and showing them the videos.

    (I suppose the vote is from them, rather than me)


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    >The entire class. I ended up having to stop the lesson and showing them the videos.



    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    (I'd finished the teacher-led part of the lesson, and the class were doing group-work. When it's a well-behaved class, with vaguely intelligent pupils who actually think to read the instructions, you can end up at a loose end for 15 or 20 minutes.)


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    The truth is that we don't read the instructions. We're just better at guessing & looking at pictures. ;-)


    10 years ago on Introduction

    You're gunna get banned for the Eric one. He will kill your account jk great instructable