Wing framework and mechanics

Adding wings to the dragon makes the beast a hexapod (6 arms). To make the wings an integral part of the body requires that they have a muscle structure similar to the upper arms. In my Chernobog costume, I came up with a spring-driven structure to extend the wings when pressure was released. Unfortunately, it was not planned quite as well, and there was no mechanism to retract the wings back against the body. Chernobog's wings had a single spring joint at the top, with smaller springs to pull the wings forward. Chernobog had to be able to wrap the wings forward like a cloak, and the spring construction gave them this flexibility. For the ribs I used six-foot long plastic-coated garden stakes. These are a steel tube covered in green plastic, and weigh less than similar sized fiberglass rods.

To mount these to the wing, the flat end of the stake was cut off, and small springs were inserted into the opening. A pop-rivet or small sheet metal screw anchored the spring to prevent it from pulling out. The other end of the spring was then attached to the large spring joint on the wing using plastic cable ties. The springs allow the 6' long tubes to move freely, but remain anchored to the upper wing. With the Chernobog wings, I started with screw-eye type connections, but found these would snag or twist, causing excess stress and snapping the loop off.

To retract the wing, steel cable was run through the tubing and tied to the outside stake. The actual cable follows a slightly different path than originally sketched. Because the cable has to pull the wing closed along a shorter path, small pulleys were attached to guide the cable. Screen door pulleys were modified and attached to the main tubing, then the cable was threaded through holes in the shoulder, down and up the arm, then through the ribs of the wing.

Screen door rollers are modified to act as guide pulleys.

Preliminary sketch of a wing construction, showing tube assembly that connects to the shoulder frame, general construction of the "arm" with spring joints at the "elbow" and upper "wrist".

Final wing framework. The V-shaped end inserts into a tube in the shoulder frame, then is held in place with a hitch-pin. The wing on the right has the elbow hinge exposed, and only the single spring insert for the top joint. The wing on the left has the external springs in place, one to open the elbow, and one to extend the outer tip of the wing (a small bungie cord is holding the tub in a closed position.)

two rollers guide the cable down the arm and through the tube attached to the shoulder.

A second set of rollers on the upper arm guide the cable through a series of holes in the arm and wing tubes. The cable terminates in a loop at the outer tube assembly.

Positioning the wing tubes on the body.

Once tubes are in place, foam was glued around the framework, leaving small openings for the cable.

Additional foam is built up on the body for shoulder muscles.

Foam is built up around the neck area and a final thin layer added to round out and smooth the shapes before covering with fabric.

Once the foam work is done, fabric covering is applied. Small foam scale inserts were added close to the neck, and gradually worked into the muscles of the wing. Once the muscle structure has been covered, panels were trimmed for the individual wing sections.

Foam scales are added over the wing muscles to match those on the neck. The scale quilting merges into spandex-covered muscles.

The fabric I selected for the wings has metallic gold woven into a black stretch fabric. Because this forms a pattern of fine parallel lines, individual panels were cut to maintain some orientation between the panels. There is also a bright and dark orientation across the gold ribs, and because not enough fabric is available to cut all panels the same direction, the fabric direction was reversed between the panels.

Long tubes of black spandex were made and pulled over the garden stakes. These stopped at the steel cable opening in the tubes. The individual win panels were cut and matched for the left and right wings, then each panel has the edges hemmed. The folded fabric at the edges provided a thin gold edge seen from the back, and reinforced where the panels attach to the spandex on the tubes.

For the section between the upper and lower wing muscles, a panel with gold showing on both sides was constructed and stitched in place. The steel cable passes between the layers of fabric. On the panels between the garden stakes, the gold fabric runs behind the steel cable, and black "fingers" will be added with black stretch panels over the front.

The gold-on-black glitter fabric is spread under the open wing, then panels are cut to fit between the sections of tubing.

Each panel section must be hemmed to reinforce the edge. It also creates a thin gold border around the sections and down the ribs when viewed from the back.

Each panel is then hand-stitched to the spandex-covered tubes. Because not enough fabric was available to cut all panels in the same orientation, the direction of the fabric is reversed between the sections. This image shows the center panel being slight darker for this reason, but the effect is minimal when viewed straight on.

More Claws:

To maintain the symmetry between the feet, arms and wings, two additional "fingers" needed to be added to the top of the wing. Most wings are a modified arm and wrist, with the fingers elongating to form a supporting structures for the webbing. On both the arms and feet, three toes point forward with two pointing back or opposing the others. Since the feet and hands sport claws, these need to be added as well. Claws for the wings are created out of rigid packing foam, covered in shiny black fabric. Fingers were also created out of the rigid foam, then covered with black spandex fabric. The two parts were then joined to form the tips of the opposable wing fingers (or thumbs.)

Two claws are attached to the upper part of the wing, with the upper arm webbing stretching between.

Two claws are attached at the top of each wing.

Finishing touches

To finish off the wings, a webbed panel was made from black spandex to cover the exposed tubing and cable. Half-round foam inserts were added to form the tops of the finger joints that extend into the wing ribs. After the panels had been tacked down to the ribs and wings, a thin line of black sequins was added down the inside of the three wing ribs.

Wing claws are cut from rigid packing foam. A tapered sleeve of shiny black fabric is formed then sewn shut after the foam claw is inside.

The finger tips are also made with rigid foam, then covered with black spandex. The claws are hand stitched to the end of the fingers.

Webbing covers the tops of the garden stakes and conceals the cable. Black sequin ribbon run from the webbing down to the tips of the wings adds subtle detail.

Checking the wings

Once both wings were finished, final fitting to the body was checked. Both wings were placed in the shoulder sockets and the cables retracted to hold the wings closed. Things I am looking for now include how well the wings merge to the body, and where scales are needed to continue the pattern down the body. Small hook and eyelet fasteners are used to snug the wing shoulder fabric tight to the body.

Any trimming of the foam or building up of the body is done at this point, before fabric covers the areas. Minor changes can be made by stitching additional scales and fabric over the existing shape, but I try not to do this more than necessary.

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