The 4am Glass Robot




About: Find me on Reddit, Tumblr and Twitter as @KitemanX. Buy my projects at

Some people have asked me where I get my ideas. I'm not sure, but I know when I get them.

I don't know why, but I seem to get many of my ideas at inconvenient times - half way through a lesson, walking home in the dark, or, frequently, I wake up at three or for in the morning and go Wow, that's a good idea.

By the time I get near a computer, it's gone.

So, I have started keeping a notebook with me, and a little LED booklight beside my bed, so that I can record my ideas as and when I have them.

This little robot sculpture occurred to me in bed at around 4am. Or, his arm did. I quickly sketched the idea and went back to bed. When I woke up, I drew his whole body.

Originally, my idea was for him to be made of copper tubing and wood, but then I acquired a bunch of glass tubes...


Step 1: Materials and Tools

I will tell you what I used, but it's likely that you will want to use other substitute materials to match what you have available, or to match your own aesthetic sense.

  • Tubing - As I mentioned, I originally intended to use copper microbore tube. Instead, I used glass tubes acquired from school in a clear-out.
  • Beads - The robot's joints. Again, the original plan was to use wooden beads to c-ordinate with the copper and be easy to modify. I ended up using 10mm wooden beads from the local sewing shop.
  • Elastic - the sinews of the beast. Thin elastic pulls all the joints together, proving friction to hold it in position.
  • Hands - I used crocodile clips (I wonder where I got them from?)
  • Head - Again, a matter of taste. I used another, lerger bead that happened to be on the next shelf to the beads i used for the joints.

You need tools to perform the following tasks:

  • Cutting tubes - Saw, pipe-cutter or file, choose whatever is appropriate for your material.
  • Modifying beads - Drill or rotary tool and appropriate bits to pierce and shape the bead material.
  • Cutting elastic - Scissors are your best bet.
  • Threading - you will need to get elastic through tubes and beads. Depending on the relative dimensions of your beads, tube and elastic, you may be able to thread them by hand. Or you may need a needle or straightened paperclip.


Be careful with power tools and sharp things, and always wear eye-protection when using a grinding tool or when working with glass. I mean it. I heard quite a few splinters of glass hit my goggles whilst grinding the glass. Have a dustpan or vacuum cleaner available to deal with shards of glass or metal filings (copper filings will do as much damage to eyes and skin as iron, but they can't be removed from your body so easily because they aren't magnetic).

Step 2: Measurements


I haven't got any. I decided to go with gut feelings the whole way in this Instructable (hey, this is art), so I went with what seemed "right".

I took one of my glass tubes with me when I bought the beads and just found some that looked, as I said, "right". They turned out to be wooden beads, 10mm across. There were a selection of colours in the pack, but I chose the plain beads for this project.

When cut to length, the three pieces that make up the chest section turned out to be about 45mm long, and the limbs were made of pieces about 35mm long.

Step 3: Cutting the Tubes.

(With thanks to NachoMahma, Trebuchet03 and CameronSS)

Lay the tubes flat on the bench and scribe carefully around the tube with the edge of a triangular file. Make a notch around about one third of the circumference of the tube.

I laid the tube across a pen, with the notch directly above the pen, and pressed down on either side.

The tubes, on the whole, snapped quite cleanly. A grinding head on my rotary tool made short work of the occasional jagged edge.

The tube that formed the shoulders of the robot needed a hole pierced half way along. My plan was for the elastic to somehow hold the head in place. A pointed grinding head, running at about half speed, made quite a reasonable hole. Unfortunately, I chickened out at a diameter of about 2mm - the edges of the hole were starting to flake. Since the elastic is about 2mm in diameter, this entailed a different approach, of which more later.

Step 4: Laying Out the Corpse...

When I had all but the feet cut to length, I laid the pieces out to check the level of rightness.

Plans changed.

As you can see in the original sketches, the sides of the torso joined directly to the shoulder-tube. I couldn't think of a neat way to do this, so they joined at the shoulder-joint instead.

I drilled a third hole into four of the beads, at ninety degrees to the existing hole.

The two beads that make up the hip/pelvis area were joined together by gluing a short piece of matchstick into the extra holes I drilled. The glue I used was "Serious Glue", which is strong and fills gaps.

I could not thread two pieces of elastic through the beads, so I also glued the ends of the pieces of elastic that run from shoulder to feet into the extra holes I had drilled in the shoulder beads.

Step 5: Attaching the Head.

As previously mentioned, the head became a problem because I could not directly thread the elastic into it.

Instead, I took a few inches of multi-strand wire and twisted them to form a small loop with a long "tail".

I thread the elastic through the loop, them through the tube that forms the shoulders. I then threaded the tail of the wire through the tube and out of the hole drilled half way down. Note that a small curve added to the end of the tail made it much easier to get it through the drilled hole.

Pulling the wire and the elastic, I ended up with a convenient spike onto which to glue the bead that forms the head. I cut the wire of flush at the top of the bead and wedged and glued a piece of matchstick into the hole to disguise the wire slightly.

Step 6: The Feet.

My original sketch called for feet made of tubes cut in half lengthwise.

Whilst this is a relatively easy option with the originally-planned copper, with glass tubes and my skill-level, it's an impossibility.

Instead, I cut two more lengths of tube and drilled holes about one third of the way along them. I threaded the elastic through these and out the short ends (the heels).

Step 7: Threading Up

Threading needed three pieces of elastic.

The first went from hand-to-hand, though the shoulders as previously described. A knot in one end stopped the elastic being pulled right through, I then pulled the elastic tight with a pair of locking forceps before knotting the other end, thus keeping the elastic in tension when finished.

The sides and legs were threaded onto the elastic I had previously glued into the beads that make the shoulders. The end of the elastic went into the feet and out the heel, before being pulled tight and knotted again.

Unfortunately, the whole thing proved too weak to hold the weight of the crocodile clips I had planned to use as hands, so it's handless.

Step 8: Success?

You be the judge.

He doesn't look quite as I envisaged, and doesn't have the mobility I had hoped for, but he's certainly different. I like him, so I'll count it as success. He's going to live on the bookshelves (if he was strong enough, he'd have been holding a photo), but he may visit me in the shed occasionally, just to check up on what I'm doing without him.

Are you inspired?

Are you going to make a glass robot? A copper robot? A bamboo robot? Or are you going to use pieces of old biros as the tubes? Will it be a man-shape? Or will you make something more fantastic?

Whatever you do, take a photo and add it to the comments. Let's have an army of 4am robots, marching across the desktops of the world...



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    31 Discussions


    11 years ago on Introduction

    thats neat. your strucables are awesome. 4am goodness, always the best. hehe. now you have to make it out of PVC pipe, dont know what youll use as the beads though.

    4 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Ping pong balls? Tennis balls? I also thought for a while about stringing it up loosely and turning it into a string puppet...

    Heh. Most of my good ideas come to me late at night as well. Except, I usually get so crazy about them the rest of the night is completely devoid of sleep.

    It was, at two or three A.M. that I got the idea for my novel. It's working out well :).


    9 years ago on Step 8

    sweet,I'm planning on making a articulated hand.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    make one of those camera flash tazers, hookup wires through his body to the arms, then when someone touches them they get a little suprise. lol


    at some point I will make his steed, a dinosaur at least 1 foot tall ! also this is my kinda invention and thought, you either are very similar to me or a lunatic or both according to stupid psychology friend of mine but whatever what I call creatvity they call madness lol beautiful instructable though cos it's art

    3 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I acquired it from school. A colleague was throwing it so I rescued it.

    I think Mr Rig It used acrylic tube for his scorpion - maybe that would be easier to get?

    Mr. Rig It

    11 years ago on Introduction

    Kiteman here is My Scorpion. I hope you enjoy the video as well. Thanks for a great idea the acrylic spider is coming next :-)

    Mr. Rig It

    Mr. Rig It

    11 years ago on Introduction

    Hey Kiteman, I finished my scorpion, here is a pic. I made mine a little different than yours. I was routing a clear thin stretchy line thorough mine. However the line wasn't cooperating with me in the leg areas. I went with hot glue instead so I could be finished with it. i haven't written my instructable yet, but when I do I will provided reference and a link to yours.

    3 replies
    Mr. Rig ItKiteman

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    No it is not glass its acrylic tubing. The eyes and joints are faceted beads and the feat and stinger are spaghetti beads. I am currently writing the instructable on it, it was pretty simple to make. I wanted to run a bungee like cord through the legs and tail but they didn't want to stay in position, so I glued them instead. I am working on a Spider in my head for the next one.

    KitemanMr. Rig It

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I found I had to pull the elastic very tight to make things stay in place (and even then the arms couldn't support hands).

    Spider in my head