Wing design tutorial-moving wings as well.

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#1 Saeru on 17 years ago

Now with PICTURES! Woo!
[b]Note:[/b]If the pictures fail to load, this tutorial is also available for viewing at [url=]The CosplayWiki.[/url]

I've been meaning to edit this for a little bit, and now I've finally gotten around to it! This post is for anyone who wishes to attempt to make moving or stationary wings...or perhaps improve on a design of their own and looking to see how other people did it.

Now, I can't claim to be an expert. I've only actually constructed three sets of wings.
However, these wings have won me five different masquerade awards, so I figure I must be doing something right.

What I specialize moving wings. Wings that don't just sit there...they flap, they raise...they're dynamic. Get up and Go wings!

I've drawn up some schematics on what I've done as well, though they're not the greatest...I'll be posting better quality schematics and pictures as I get to them.

-This is a picture of the Clover wings I made, in their full extention. I went for a purely mechanical look...based exactly off the book. The important thing to get a moving set of wings is that they be very lightly constructed, hence my materials are all wood and foam core.
To get the "feathers" to look right pattern-wise(and this is something you can do at home if you want a specific shape of ANYTHING large), I painted in acrylic on a clear plastic sheet, then showed a flashlight through it up onto a large peice of paper taped on my wall. I drew out what I saw, and then used the drawings as patterns to cut the wing out of foam core. Nice stuff, foam core. ^^ You can get it in very huge sheets at Hobby Lobby for around 7 dollars for a sheet about 4ft by 5ft.

Here they are retracted.
But enough of showing the final're interested in the design. ^^ Take a good look at this link,'ll make the drawings make a lot more sense.

Actual image:
(read image description for what the text says)
The frame of the wing was constructed out of a thin, durable type of wood. I believe it was 3-ply, but I could be wrong. At any rate, you can find these at most hardware stores, but lumber places are the best. You'll have more than enough for 4 sets of wings for less than 6 dollars.

I cut out two large curves and three smaller circlets. After I cut the last small circlet, I lined up the "spindles" as I wanted them. These were made out of the inner workings of an old umbrella. ^^ I marked out their placement on the small cirlet, then cut along the markings. This was so they could be very well wedged into the middle of the three circlets. (see far right) The top spindle was stationary, as the wing itself didn't need it to move. The others, however, were quite movable, but only from their pivot points. (lower left)

The upper left is a direct side view of how the mechanism worked. If you look in the real picture above, you can see a black rod that extends from the small circlet to outside of the larger one, which the biggest feather is attached to. That held the feather, and provided its pivot point. Hence, when we pulled down on the top of the feather, the rest of the feather went up. It was attached to all the smaller feathers by fishing line...
and the smaller feathers were attached to the when the big feather went up, it made the whole wing look like it was moving up.

There are two pulleys used in this mechanism. They're not hard to find at a hardware store...look for screen door sliders.

The bolts that hold this all together are pictured above. My father called them "Chicago screws" but it is likely (especially in Chicago) that they have another name entirely. (If you show the people at the hardware store a picture, they should know what you're talking about. "Screw posts?") These screws most often hold my wings to my wing harness, because they're easy to get on and off, and they hold EXTREMELY well. It makes for easier travel if you can disassemble the wing.

Actual image:
(read description for what the text is)
This is the back piece that I used to hold my wings on me...this applies to both sets. The materials I used in mine we had lying around..though I wouldn't suppose most people to just have these, I'll explain what we did anyhow. We cut a piece out of a plastic barrel, and fitted two leather straps to it that went around the arms and snapped onto the back. We welded two pieces of metal together at about a 60-90 degree angle (depending on how you want your wings to sit) and then cut slits in the plastic which the metal went through. Two holes in the metal allowed the wooden frames to easily attach on with the Chicago screws once we got to the con. ^^

Now I'll talk about feathered wings.

There's a lot to be said in this area. Of course, you could just go out and buy a pair from the local costume shop....
but...this brings about the Tombstone Complex. (How most bought wings look like halves of tombstones with feathers glued onto them.) This, I believe, is really unattractive.

The worst fate that people who create their own wings go through is -not- understanding wing structure. I'd REALLY suggest going out and getting a book on birds before attempting feathered wings. However, for those who are just here for the basics, I sketched up some pictures of how wings ought to look. (sort of)

Also, another really important part in the feathers!
You will find every kind of feather in every color that you could possibly need here:

Now that that is taken care of...
here's a set I made for Otakon, 2003:
The credit for this picture goes to Eurobeat. Its the best one I've seen out there, I really hope he doesn't mind. If he does, I'll take it down, though.
They're not great, but...they -do- move, and the construction of them gave me much better ideas for the make bigger and cooler wings. ^^

This is pretty much the gist of it.
It was a lot of work, but...overall it was very simple.
Oh, and the feather designations are as follows, since I forgot to write them in:
1. Wing Rounds
2. Plumage
3. Flats
These are the kinds to order from the above website, though I've found the plumage to be kind of useless overall.

Basically, I strung long sets of Wing Rounds together, and then set them up in a wing shape. My frame was a really basic kind of curve, to which I drilled holes in every few inches, then stuck wires into. The wires held up the strings of wing rounds, and provided my basic wing shape.

I glued sets of flats together (usually three, though it depended how they were needed) and glued them to the wires. This would both disguise the wires, and provide the wing with its feathered wing look.

The frame and basic moving structures I covered with rabbit fur, which gave a very fluffy look, and which I would use again. However, I've seen fur stuff at walmart that is more feathery looking, so if you can find that, all the power to you. It is the same fluff that I used on my Kilik costume, and looks VERY lovely.

After trying this design of wing out, I drew up a few more that would also be workable:
(That is a spring on the right image)

This design would be particularly nice for the feathered wings, since it wouldn't have any parts sticking up:

MAKE ONE. I and several other people have made this critical mechanics mistake when constructing moving DOES NOT WORK:
The reason for this is that your wire will NOT have any vector pulling in the direction that you want the wing to go (namely, up.) You need to have the upwards motion worked into the design somehow.

Current related works:

I'm planning (above) a set of fully functional electrical 'wings' for ACEN, that will be dynamic in multiple directions and incorporate motors into the design.

Currently this is in the design stage, but I've uploaded a useful lot of schematics to show what I think I'll be doing:


Movement Options:


I think I've covered most of the basics. ^^
I'm still currently in the process of coming up with bigger, better designs, and I've a few in mind, but these shall do for now.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.
Wings are really awesome to have, and if you do them right, they won't be uncomfortable. (I've worn both sets for hours at a time. You WILL develop new muscles, but its nothing that will kill you!)

Plus...why settle for stationary wings...when you can have ones that move? ^^

#2 Fault on 17 years ago

None of those will show up, you'll have to put the images into html files. Alternatively, change their extension to .txt, it seems to work for a friend of mine.

And I really want to see them too. I like wings, they're shiny.

PS: If you have the images on file, why not just use the attachment button that this forum has? I'm not sure what the attachments limit is, but hey *shrug* it's worth a try.

#3 moo on 17 years ago

The pics show up if you copy and paste the links into a new window, not by clicking on them.

Saeru: Thank you so much for the tips!

#4 KuroBara on 17 years ago

...why not put the pics in your gallery?

#5 Saeru on 17 years ago

It specifically says "no artwork."
While these are costume specs...
they probably qualify as artwork.
However, it is something that I can give a try to when I get home.

#6 Carmila on 17 years ago

Wow, the extent to which you have gone to help people is wonderful! I will pass this along to a few of my friends, I know they are dying to find a good way to make moving wings.

BTW, your wings look great! Good job!

#7 KuroBara on 17 years ago

By artwork it means no copyrighted artwork, costume designs and specs that you have done are different. I still haven't gotten to read the whole tutorial, but I have bookmarked it, thanks! I want to do a "Wish" group next year, and this really helps. When I saw the topic of the thread your Otakon skit immediately came to mind. The Balmung costume is very impressive, and I just adore Clover. Thanks again for the detailed tutorial!

#8 ZiggyB on 17 years ago

Saeru is right, it's still artwork. She did draw it herself. :)

Actually, a better definition would be you should only post photos in your photo gallery. Photos of yourself, your costumes, your friends (as long as your gallery is 90% cosplay photos, non-cosplay photos are ok). If you want the exact post that Admin made about this subject, I can find it for you.

I've already PMed Saeru about hosting the sketches for her, so let's get back on topic. :) And for someone who's seen these wings in person (and had to carry them) I'm really looking forward to this thread. :)

#9 Saeru on 17 years ago

I uploaded the pics to the server. Hopefully this will allow them to work better for anyone viewing. ^^

#10 Saeru on 17 years ago

Also thankyou everyone who has replied. I really hope this will be of use to people.

It'll be great to see more wings making an appearance at cons. ^^

#11 AlikNyankoChan on 17 years ago

Hrm...For really, really huge feathered wings(8 ft tall, extremely large wingspan...about 16ft ^^;;) Do you think the wood would still work, or do you think a tougher material would be a better idea?

Also, do you think the pulleys would still work....and if so, which design do you think provides the most leverage?

I've been planning out workable wings (and came up with a workable design). I've got a heavier backboard in mind, and curved pvc pipes in mind. I'd rather use wood though, if it wouldn't snap/shatter under the pressure ^^;;

I'm dying for input from someone who has done it before ^^


#12 Saeru on 17 years ago

My friends used PVC pipe. Its kind of nice, though its roundness makes it a little harder to work with as far as drilling holes and such.

My clover wings were about 7 ft fall, with a 14 ft wing span, and their frame was made out of wood. You can get it in several different thicknesses...I'd just suggest a better quality sheet of wood thats a bit thicker if you're planning on going bigger. I'm almost positive the frame will hold, especially if you reinforce any holes you make.

However, if you're worried about it and you have access to the materials, some good thick sheets of metal would be the strongest frame. But, that'd be heavy...very I wouldn't suggest it.

Pulleys are infinately verasatile. The more pulleys you use, the less work you have to do and the more weight it will hold.
You can spend a few dollars more and get some extra strong pulleys, but I don't think you have to worry to much, so long as you keep your wings as light as possible. ^^

Those are just my tips, however.
I'd love to hear how it turns out. ^^

#13 Ayaka on 17 years ago

AlikNyankoChan - my wings were not going to be quite that large, but aside from the fact that I mis-designed the mechanics, I was using polystrene baseboard for my wings; much lighter than pine, and still quite strong. You might want to look into it, though I did have a problem with driling into the bottom part of the frame (it cracked, though I'm not sure if it was my drill speed, too close to the edge, what).

Well, anyway, another alternative for you to investigate, perhaps.

#14 Nietsche on 17 years ago

This moving wing tutorial is thorough and inspiring (the pulley system is similar to the one I had thought about and tried out on a cardboard model). I've been trying to work a way to make the pulley cord as discrete as possible for my Raphael (Tenshi ni Narumon) costume. I was also impressed by your adaptation of existing feathers to produce wings larger than the feathers were made for.

The only questions that arise are- How well will the wings collapse when relaxed?

I also noticed that your wings are fixed perpendicularly to your back obscuring them unless a sideview or 1/4 shot is used. I realise this serves the purpose of being accurate to Balmung's design and facilitates getting through doors and such, but do you think it possible to allow the wings lateral (I dunno if this is the actual term) movement so they show up in front views?

I also found it interesting that you matched the wing "frame" length to your own arm length.

#15 Oselle on 17 years ago

Excellent wing tutorial!

I'm currently working on a set of dragon wings for a project, and instead of using wood, I'm using aluminum. It's lightweight, strong, and you can find it at most large hardware stores. I actually got some strips meant for covering tile, you can also find aluminum roofing trim or door trim, that works well too.