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Mechanical Bird | Rainy Day Activities

Mechanical Bird

Total Time Needed: 1-2 Hours

This whimsical bird flaps its wings with the turn of a handle. The trick is in the bent wire piece, called a crankshaft, which transfers rotation into up-and-down movement.


  • Ruler
  • Pen
  • Shoe box
  • Craft Knife
  • Armature wire (ours is 1/8-inch diameter) or lead-free solder wire
  • Tiny rubber bands
  • Wire snips
  • 2 pipe cleaners
  • Printable template
  • Card stock
  • Markers, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Clear tape
  • Tacky Glue


Mechanical Bird step 1

1. Measure and mark two 1- by 2-inch rectangles 3 inches apart in the middle of the box's bottom. Cut them out with the craft knife (adults only). On the box's ends, draw diagonal lines from corner to corner to fi nd the center point; make a hole with the pen point.

Mechanical Bird step 2

2. Straighten a two-foot length of wire. Bend two 1-inch square tabs, 3 inches apart, into the middle section. Wrap the rubber bands onto the end of the crankshaft, then slide them in place.

Mechanical Bird step 3

3. Slide one end of the shaft through a side hole as far as you can. Trim the other end so that it just fi ts through the opposite hole, as shown. Position the shaft so that the tabs are centered above the two holes in the box. Bend one of the wire ends 90 degrees to lie flat against the outside of the box. Trim the end, leaving an inch. Bend the other end into a handle, as shown below.

Mechanical Bird step 4

4. With the box on its side, insert a pipe cleaner through each hole, loop it around the shaft between the rubber bands, and secure it in place with a few twists.

Mechanical Bird step 5

5. Use the template to cut the bird and base shapes from card stock. Add any decorative details you'd like. Attach the undersides of the wings to the body with clear tape.

6. Fold the base and glue both ends to the bird's body. Glue the bottom of the base to the box so that it's centered between the holes. Turn the crank to raise the pipe cleaners to their highest position. Lift each wing as high as you'd like it to flap and bring the pipe cleaner straight up to meet it. At this spot bend the pipe cleaner 90 degrees. Trim the end and tape it to the wing. Now get cranking!


The workings of this mechanical bird are based on a similar craft from Make These Toys: 101 Clever Creations Using Everyday Items, by Heather Swain.