How to make a set of feathered wings:
This tutorial is both a listing of what I've done to make my wings as well as a compilation of knowledge and information I've discovered from various other sources.
Note - Making these wings has been(and still is) a dynamic process. I am constantly changing and fixing things so some of the images may be from a previous version. If you have any questions, suggestions, or just general feedback, feel free to contact me!
1. Determine size and shape of wing and feathers Show/HideDo you have a specific species in mind? Take a look at the anatomy of a wing and feathers, and do your research to find out what you want your wing to look like. Google Image Search is your best friend.
Once you've familiarized yourself with wing and feather anatomy, and determined what you want your wing to look like, you need to figure out the size of your wing and feathers.
Major points to consider are the height of the wings, from your arms down to the bottom of the feathers, and the length of the wing, mainly the leading edge feather from your hand to the tip of the wing.
When deciding on the length of your feathers, you can try the following:
1 - Take a picture of yourself, arms spread, with a ruler/measuring tape.
2 - Superimpose an image of the wing(from a reference image) onto your photo.
3 - Using the ruler/measuring tape on the image, determine the dimensions or a scaling factor of the wing and feathers.
You can also make test feathers out of cardboard or some other material to check you final measurements
There are also many useful resources out there for determining your feather length. The Feather Atlas has some very good scans and measurements of the feathers of different bird species that you can use, just remember to scale them up to your size. Using a resource like this will also help you shape your feathers accurately.
2. Creating a Harness and Wing Under-Structure Show/Hide
The harness portion can be created pretty much any way you see fit, as long as it provides an attachment point for the wings.
(A) - Attachment area for the secondary feather pull string, clip not needed.
(B) - Attachment point for the fabric of the coverts
You could use a dog harness, if it fits, or make your own.
I just used random straps I had lying around and created a harness that goes around my middle, and then has two more straps that run over my arms.
For the secondary feathers, you will need a pull string.
The pull string should be a little longer than your arm, and should be retractable when you let go and not catch and stay out. The reel of the pull string should attach to your harness somewhere around point A, and the other end of the pull string will eventually attach to your primary feathers.
For the primary feathers, I used a glove and a piece of plastic.
The glove is fairly simple to make, it's just a tube that fits your hand with a hole for your thumb (Image shows the back of the glove). You can look on google for a fingerless glove pattern, or just measure your hand.
I then cut a piece of flexible plastic about the length of my hand(not including fingers) and drilled holes for each primary feather and a few smaller holes to sew it to the glove. If you're sewing it down, make sure to only sew along the top, the bottom needs to be open. (I had already drilled holes on the bottom before I realized this, also the last zip tie should be replaced with another screw) Mouse over to see with feathers attached.
3. Make feathers Show/Hide
1 - Get together materials for making your feathers, in this case a roll of Creatology Fun Foam from Michaels.
2 - Measure and cut out your feathers as per your calculations from Step 1.
3 - Mark a line down the center of the feather to be the shaft (slightly off center for some feathers)
4 - Score the foam using a sharp object such as small plastic rulers to create "barbs".
The harder you score the feather, the more visible your lines will be. I found that the lines tended to fade after scoring so deeper would be better.
1 - Make your feather shaft. For most feathers you can just use a line of hot melt glue.
2 - The outermost primary feather needs to be strong, so I used coat hanger wire for the shaft.
3 - Make a few small cuts at the edge of the feathers.
4 - Colour and pattern your feathers the way you like.
I based mine off an adult peregrine falcon, so I spray painted the back sides of the feathers black. The markings on the underside were made by taping the markings with painters tape, and then spray painting black. I later realized I wanted the underside to be a little lighter in colour, so I hand painted a light layer of white over top of everything.
I finished my feathers off by painting them with Modge Podge to make them shiney and to protect the markings, but it made them a little tacky and sticky to the touch, so I do not recommend using this. The stickiness caused some of the black to peel off when resting on the feather shaft, as well as causing the feathers to stick together a little, especially when the wing is left folded for some time.
Primary feathers need a hole at the base to allow them to pivot. I recommend strengthening the hole with something such as a grommet or just some hot melt glue.
Secondary feathers need eye hooks/screw eyes to allow them to slide along the pull string.
Fun Foam is not the only method of making feathers of course, feel free to check out these other ideas or come up with your own.
Faux Fur Feathers - Instructions for creating feathers out of faux fur
Faux Fur Feathers - Instructions for creating feathers out of embroidery floss and wire
Fabric and Wire Feathers - Instructions for creating feathers from fabric and wire
Featherless Feather - No instructions, just images
TruWings - No instructions, just an image
Paper Feather Tutorial - Instructions for creating feathers from paper and wire
DIY Fabric Feathers - Instructions for creating feathers from fabric and wire
DIY Paper Feathers - Instructions for creating feathers from paper
Quick Fake Feathers - Instructions for creating feathers from paper
Fake Feathers - Instructions for creating feathers from fabric
4. Assemble the Wings Show/HideWhen assembling the wing, you want to make sure the feathers lie/overlap in the proper direction for the side of the wing. For the back of the wing, the leading edge is at the bottom of all the feathers when folded.
1 - The first and last primary feather should attach to the plastic with a screw
(make sure they're not too tight)
2 - The rest of the primary feathers then attach with zip ties/zap straps
3 - Trim the feathers near their attachment site to allow free movement
1 - Slide the eye hooks onto the pull cord
2 - Attach the end of the pull string onto the screw of the last primary
These feathers don't need to be trimmed, I had already trimmed trimmed them for a previous set-up
To keep the feathers even when the wing spreads:
1 - Take some fishing line and weave it through the feathers about midway down
2 - Continue weaving through both the secondaries and the primaries
3 - You may need a second row of fishing line in some of the longer outer primaries to keep them from bending
4 - Glue the fishing line into place at the center of the feathers to keep it in place
5. Coverts In Progress
6. Arm Cover In Progress Show/Hide
1 - Cut out two rectangles of fake fur, the length you want for the marginal coverts or wing lining
2 - Sew the two rectangles together so one forms the front of the wing and the other the back
3 - Attach one end to the glove and the other end to the harness. If you attach it to the harness with a buckle, you can then make the wings removable
4 - Cut the rectangles to be the right shape for wings, instead of rectangles
This is as far as I've gotten for now, but the next step is to cut a few triangles out of the bottoms of each side to look more like feathers, and to pattern the white fur.
Here are some other links I found useful:The Feather Atlas for looking up measurements of different feathers
Gyrhawk's wing details
Sunnybrook's Realistic Wing Tutorial
I had already decided to try fun foam for my feathers, but seeing some of the wings created by Danielle Hurley showed me it could be what I wanted.
There are also a bunch of links in the "Make Feathers" section for different ideas on how to make fake feathers.