How to Build a Homemade Ornithopter Images

Things You'll Need

  • Tissue paper
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • 3 bamboo skewers, 12-inch long
  • Hot glue gun with glue sticks
  • 4 toothpicks
  • Craft stick
  • Clear packaging tape
  • Penny

Imitate the flight of a real bird by building a homemade ornithopter -- a flying machine with flapping wings, rather than straight, static wings like those of an airplane. Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci drew up plans for an ornithopter in the late 15th century but never developed a real one. Create your own homemade flying machine with bird-like wings using bamboo skewers and a craft stick. Once complete, throw it into the air and watch it fly like a bird.

Create a template for the bird wing with scrap paper or tissue paper.
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Draw a rectangular bird wing that is 12 inches long and 5 inches wide onto the tissue paper, using a ruler and a pencil. Cut it out with scissors. The tissue paper forms the wings.

Break both bamboo skewers in half without completely separating the sticks. You need them broken only about halfway through the stick, so they are still intact. This allows you to create the wings.

Glue a 12-inch-long bamboo skewer to the top-long edge of the tissue paper, with a hot glue gun, after aligning the bamboo skewer along the top edge. Glue the remaining 12-inch-long bamboo skewer to the bottom edge of the tissue paper. Allow them to completely dry for about 15 minutes.

Fold the wing with the broken bamboo skewers into a 45-degree angle. Squeeze a 1/8-inch bead of hot glue onto each broken corner. This strengthens the broken part. Hold it for 15 minutes to completely dry.

Cut a bamboo skewer into a 4-inch piece. Turn the wing so its peak is facing up. Squeeze a 1/8-inch bead of hot glue onto each corner, and lay the 4-inch piece of bamboo skewer across it. Keep the wing in this position.

Glue a toothpick onto the front-right side of the 4-inch piece of bamboo skewer so it sticks up, using the hot glue gun. Glue another toothpick to the front-left side. Glue toothpicks to the back right and left sides. You now have four toothpicks that stick straight up and are perpendicular with the 4-inch piece of bamboo skewer. Allow it to dry for 15 minutes.

Flip the wings over so the toothpicks are at the bottom. Insert a craft stick into the toothpicks, so that the wings are central to the craft stick. The craft stick is on its side for this position. Tape the toothpicks to the craft stick, with clear packaging tape.

Tape a penny to one end of the craft stick. This helps weight it and becomes the front end of the ornithopter.


  • An nose hook propeller with a rubber band can be added to the project, which can help it fly higher.

    Wings can be constructed from plastic grocery bags, and balsa wood can be used instead of bamboo skewers.

    Place items on your worktable and on either side of the wing to hold it in the 45-degree angle while it is drying.


  • Fly the ornithopter away from people.