Flapping wing kit

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Build your own set of flapping wings! This was the fifth kit in the Monthly Make It

How It Works

This project uses a system of gears and linkages to model the up and down motion of a flapping bird wing.

You would see this type of mechanism in an [ornithopter][1], a type of flying machine.

Flapping wings.jpg

All The Parts

The wings kit should contain the following parts:

Flapping baseplate.jpg

1x wooden baseplate

Flapping gears.jpg

2x medium gears

Flapping sticks.jpg

2x long popsicle sticks

2x short popsicle sticks

Flapping dowels.jpg

4x long dowels (1 3/4” long, 3/16” diameter)

4x short dowels (3/4” long, 3/16” diameter)

Flapping straws.jpg

2x straws

Flapping backstop.jpg

14x plastic backstops

Build the Crank System

Step 1: Connect the gears

First off, we’ll need to connect our gears to the base plate.

We’re using two 40-tooth gears which will slide into the bottom two holes on our plate.



Flapping baseplate.jpg

Lay the plate so the long edge is horizontal. One edge should be slightly longer than the other.


Flip the gears over so the flat side is facing up. Press the long dowel into the center hole on each gear


Test it out! Use one gear to spin the other. Our gears have a 1:1 ratio; they move at the same speed but in opposite directions.


Slide the gears through the bottom set of holes


Use the plastic backstops to hold the gears in place


Test it out by rotating the gears to make sure they turn smoothly.

Build the Linkage

Step 2: Connect the short popsicle stick to each of the gears

This will be the “connector” between the gear and the wing. We’ll need to add some clearance so the linkage doesn’t get stuck when you spin it.


Press the short dowel into any of the four offset holes on the front side of the gear. Do the same thing on the other gear.


See how the center peg has a slightly raised edge? Add a backstop between the gear and the popsicle stick for clearance


Add the popsicle stick and a second backstop on top to hold the whole thing in place. Do the same thing on the other gear.



Take a moment to line up your gears

Step 3: Connect the long popsicle sticks to the base plate

These will be the “wings,” which will connect to the shorter popsicle stick to complete the linkage. When the gear turns, the linkage pushes the wings up and down. We’ll have to add some clearance so it has room to turn.


Add a plastic backstop to the end of the two remaining long dowels


Slide the dowels through the two holes in the top of your base plate


Add the straws as spacers, then add the long popsicle stick to the end of each dowel. Cap it with a plastic backstop to hold in place.


The final version should look something like this!

Connect the gears and linkage

Step 4: Put it all together!

Using the short popsicle stick as a connector, link the gears to the longer wings. Be sure to connect to the empty hole, not the dowel. If you connect the linkage directly to the dowel, the gear won’t have space to turn!


Line up the popsicle sticks to complete the linkage.


Connect them using the last set of short dowels.


Add a backstop to either side to hold it in place.

Step 5: Test it out!

Give it a spin and test it out! When you turn the gear, the wings should move up and down. Decorate it, add feathers, show your friends!

Flapping wings.jpg


This documentation describes Open Hardware and is licensed under the CERN OHL v.1.2.

You may distribute and modify this documentation under the terms of CERN OHL v.1.2. (http://ohwr.org/cernohl).

This documentation is distributed without any express or implied warranty, including of merchantability, satisfactory quality, and fitness for a particular purpose.