This project describes a method to create a large scale, realistic, partially folded, dragon wing. The design can easily be altered to make other styles of wings, such as fairy, bird, dinosaur and so on. The basic design should work for a variety wings with only the decorating differing for the particular style of wing. Our design keeps the wing fairly light-weight, about 5 to 8 pounds for a 6 foot wing.
The wings were designed to appear partially folded as though the dragon was on the ground with wings displayed but not fully extended. this design could easily be modified to work for fully extended wings, the key differences being smaller bends and the addition of one or two more ribs in the wing.
I used a 10 foot length of 1/2" metal electrical conduit for each wing. I used a bending jig to place a couple steep bends into the center. if you don't have a bending jig, you can carefully bend it around a tree trunk. If the pipe kinks, it isn't a serious concern, unless you are relying on the strength of the pipe to support an extended wing.
If the wing will be viewed from one side only, then the project is a little easier. if both sides will be visible to the audience, more care will have to taken with the stitching - it might also improve the appearance to use a larger sheet of canvas to wrap the conduit front and back. That will necessitate the stitching the two trailing edges together.
I stitched the canvas to the conduit with 22 gauge wire
and a very large needle because it would be exposed to the wind and I wanted to ensure it would hold together. However, I think upholstery thread probably would have worked and would have been easier to use.
I hot glued 1/8" metal rod from peak down to trailing edge of the wing to represent the ribs like in a bat's wing. To add some depth to the wing, to keep it from looking perfectly flat, I add a slight curve to the ribs by hand bending them.
I also added a little bit of wire to fasten the rib to the canvas in four places along the rib.
Once everything was stitched into place, I cut scallops from the canvas between the ribs.
I applied only a light coat of paint use several colors of spray paint. By going over it again and again while switching colors, it helped to create a more natural look, instead of showing clear lines where one color stopped and another started. I used brown, gray and green
cans of spray paint.
Materials List for Dragon Wings
- Start with a 10' length of 1/2" EMT conduit (20' lengths are also available)
- Bend a curve into the EMT hat will trace the leading edge profile of the wing. The wing can also be folded, as in the photos on this page.
- Bending should be done with a conduit bending tool, although it can be bent around a solid object such as a telephone pole. However, bending without a proper tool increases the risk of a kink in the conduit. A kink will not ruin the piece, but it greatly reduces the structural strength, which you may need for fully extended wings that are not otherwise supported.
- If your wings will be smaller than length of the conduit, do not cut the conduit until after you have completed the bending. Also, you may want to leave excess on either end to assist with attachment and support.
- Lay the canvas over the conduit and adjust it to allow the amount of slack or sag you want in the wing. Keep in mind that a natural wing has curvature to it and can be simulated by adding ribbing to the structure to support the fabric in that form. Allow slack to accommodate any ribbing. Do not cut the fabric until after you have sewn it in place.
- Sew the canvas around the conduit along its length. Using 22 gauge wire allows you to use the wire itself as a needle to thread it through the fabric.
- The stitch used in the wing in these photos wraps around the canvas and conduit and comes around a second time but before it is pulled tight, the thread is passed through the loop before moving down the conduit about two inches and repeating. This has the affect of locking each stitch before moving tot he next.
- For the folded dragon wings in the photos, we divided the area of the wing into three and fastened in to metal rods as ribs. We held them in place with wire and then hot glued the entire length of the rod to the canvas to prevent sagging or bunching.
- For a long, extended wing or for other creatures, the ribbing can be hidden and used for structural purposes and modified to suit your decorative purposes.
- For the dragon wing, we cut scallops from the fabric between each rib.
- If your wing will be viewed from either side, consider using two pieces of canvas to create a sort of pocket over the structure. The pocket can also be filled with expanding foam or other material to fill it out as required.
- For the pointed tip on our dragon wing, we sewed the shape we wanted into a pocket and filled the pocket from the ear with expanding foam. We did this to keep it rigid, as it otherwise tended to sag or flop around.
- Painting style is subjective. We found that use of three colors greatly enhanced the realism of the wing.