Papercraft Theo Jansen Walking Machine - Making Paper Walk




Introduction: Papercraft Theo Jansen Walking Machine - Making Paper Walk

Hi there!

In this instructable I'm going to be showing you how to create a working papercraft model of Theo Jansen's Walking Machine.

The entire possess is a little bit tedious, so stick with me and I'll try to explain it to the best of my abilities. I would recommend reading the entire instructable before attempting this project so you don't get confused along the way. This is also my first instructable, so bare with me, as I'm new to all this. Also, sorry for the bad pictures, my camera's not the best.

I've entered this instructable into the "make it move" contest. If you like it and want to support me, feel free to vote for this instructable. Thanks!

Step 1: Understanding the Concept

Before we get started, it's important to understand how the walking machine works.

The basic idea of the walker is converting the spinning action of the axle into the sideways motion of the legs. This is achieved by the unique shape of the legs and the use of a bent axle.

Each leg is composed to two triangular supports and six joints; four allow the leg to flex while the two anchor points transfer the motion from the axle to the leg.

Due to the design of the walker, you can use as many pairs of legs as you want. For the purpose of this instructable, we will be making a walker with three pairs of legs.

Animated GIF By MichaelFrey - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Step 2: Materials & Tools

The materials you will need for this project are:

  • tape/paper glue
  • super glue
  • hot glue sticks
  • cardstock
  • 14 gauge hard wire/heavy paperclips

The tools that you will need are:

  • a drill
  • 1/16'' drill bit
  • dowel cutter/handsaw
  • pliers
  • ruler
  • a poking tool/needle
  • scissors
  • X-Acto knife/razor
  • hot glue gun
  • printer

Step 3: The Template

When I was researching how to go about creating a walking machine, I was unable to fine anyone who had a template for a paper craft walker. So I modeled it in SketchUp and used Pepakura to create a template. I've attached both of the templates and the SketchUp file for anyone who wants to tinker with it.

As I mentioned before, the design is modular, so if you want to make a walker with more or less legs you can. For our six legged walker we are going to need to print three copies of the leg template and two copies of the base template. Make sure your print it on letter size cardstock, and print as actual size.

Step 4: Cut & Pre-Fold

After you print all the templates, go ahead and cut them out.

NOTE: there is a section on the leg template where two flaps overlap. I've attached a picture showing where to cut.

After you have all your pieces cut, use a ruler or hard edge to help make sharp folds along all the dotted lines.

NOTE: the mountain and valley fold lines on the template are incorrect. I will detail how to fold the legs in the next step.

Step 5: Leg Assembly

Now that everything is cut and folded, it's time to assemble the legs. Use glue or tape to assemble as shown. I've detailed the steps in the pictures.

Step 6: Base Assembly

Now lets move on to the base. The base is comprised of six pieces: two triangular rods and four rectangular separators. I didn't take any picture of the base assembly in construction. However, the assembly for the base pieces are pretty simple. I've included pictures of the finished pieces.

Step 7: Base Prep

After you finish with the rods and separators for the base, we need to cut some holes and slits in them.

First take all the rectangular separators and poke a hole in the center (you can find the center by drawing lines from the diagonal corners). Then use a pencil or pen to widen the holes to the width of the wooden dowels.

Now take the triangular rods and find the longest side. Then make two marks half a centimeter from the ends, and two marks three centimeters from those marks (see picture for details). Now use a razor to cut half centimeter slits on the center of each mark (see pictures for details).

Step 8: The Axel

Now that all the paper parts are complete, we can move on to the axle.

The axle is made of four wooden segments and three bent metal segments. The anchors of the legs connect to the metal parts and are rotated as the axle spins.

NOTE: When I constructed my axle I made a mistake. Each metal segment is supposed to make a 120 degree angle between each segment when looked at from the front. My axle was 180 degrees between each segment. That's why two are pointed down and one is pointed up. I will show you the correct placement when we get to that step.

Step 9: Axle Components

The first part of the axle are the three bent metal segments. To create them use a pair of pliers (or two) to bend a heavy paper clip to the necessary shape and cut off the excess. Each segment should have four bends with one centimeter between each bend (see photo).

For the wooden segments use a dowel cutter or saw to cut two (2) one centimeter long pieces and two (2) five centimeter long pieces. Take the long pieces and drill a 1/16'' hole, one centimeter deep on one side. These will be the end caps. Now take the short pieces and drill a 1/16'' hole all the way through them.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the finished end cap pieces.

Step 10: Assembling the Axle - Part 1

Here comes the tricky part.

As I said before, I made a mistake on my axle, so your finished axle should look different than mine. I'm mentioning my errors so that you won't make the same mistake. That being said, lets get started.

First take a metal piece and use super glue to attach one of the wooden dowels to one end. Do not push the metal part in all the way. You need to leave enough space for the next metal piece, so only stick the metal piece halfway into the dowel (see photo). When you're done, put this piece aside.

Now this is where I messed up. When you look down the axle, each of the bent part should create a 120 degree angle (see photo). My axle was set up incorrectly, so it looks like the last photo.

With that in mind, take the other two metal segments and glue them into the remaining short dowel. Pay close attention to the angle of the metal pieces in relation to each other. You want them make a 120 degree angle when you look down the axle.

When you finish this step you should have two parts that, when combined, will make up the axle. Do not glue the two parts together yet. We'll get to that in the next step.

Step 11: Assembling the Axle - Part 2

Now that you have your two axle parts, you need to connect the center pair of legs before we can glue them together.

Take two of your six legs and slide the four anchor points (two per leg) onto the longer axle piece. Make sure both legs are pointing in the same direction. Now you can glue on the smaller axle piece onto the larger axle piece, sealing the legs inside. Again, pay attention to the angle when gluing the axle together.

It should look something like the picture above when finished (but your axle should look different).

Step 12: Assembling the Base

Now we need to assemble the base around the axle.

First take a triangular rod and attach it to the loose flap on one of the legs (see photo). Make sure to line up the two center slits in the triangular rod with the small wooden dowel sections on the axle. Repeat on the other side with the remaining triangular rod.

After the rods are attached, take one of the separators and slide it onto the axle and into the inner slit on the rod. If you want you can squeeze some hot glue into the slits before sliding in the separator to keep them in place. Repeat on the other side with another separator.

You should be able to turn the axle now and see the legs in action.

Step 13: MORE LEGS!!!

Now that you have one pair of legs installed, repeat the steps with the other two pairs.

First, slide the anchors onto the axle. Then, secure the rods to the legs. Next, slide the separators on the axle and secure into the rods. Finally, glue the wooden end caps onto the axle sealing the legs in place.

Step 14: Finished Product

If all went well, you should now have a working paper model of Theo Jansen's Walking Machine.

I've uploaded a video showing it in action if you want to check it out.

I hope you liked this instructable and I hope that you were able to understand everything easily. If you have any questions, leave a comment and I'll try to get back to you with an answer.

Thanks for reading! Have a great day and be blessed!

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    4 years ago

    Throw back to the first time I saw a video of these machines: your paper version is awesome!