Animate a Cthulhu-Wand

I know it looks like I made another magic wand, but with good reason. I use it to showcase a very simple technique that you can use to animate things, i.e. make them move. And even better, you do not need microcontrollers, servos or electricity for it – springs and string are all that is required. You can combine that with more high-tech ideas, but it is a good starting point for Halloween costumes and decoration.

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What else can you animate?

As usual, the short answer would be “everything”. But if everything was animated, nothing would be animated (I know the comparison does not work well), so I will give you a list of examples that I have either considered doing or that I think would be really cool to animate. Seriously, some of those are going on my list. And I know, some seem a little complicated, but remember, you can go as complex or simple as you want – just aim a little above what you normally feel comfortable with.

  • Imagine a tentacle sitting on your front porch, coming out of the ground, apparently. Make a bigger version of this wand, use wax cloth instead of felt (to protect it from the rain) and make it so that when the string is pulled it will bend towards the walkway. But here comes the fun part – make a small ramp or something similar that people need to step on – not an obstacle, but something people will actually step on without much thought. Then, build a mechanism that makes the tentacle bend when someone steps on that. Yes, it could be a simple switch connected to a motor, but I imagine you could go low-tech there as well and work with a reverse pulley to turn a little movement into enough to animate the tentacle.
  • Animating a tail for a costume seems like an obvious choice, but actually, I think there are better ways to make a tail that can go in all directions. Instead, when it comes to costumes, I would use this technique for tentacles (duh), snake hair or overly long claws. Small wings would work, too, although they are probably not very good at actually spreading feathers or something similar. If you do it right, combined a few pieces with different motors (or a gearbox) that continuously pulls and relaxes the string, you can get cool “background” motion for your piece.
  • Consider a “helping hand”. Something with fingers that grip in their “relaxed” state, i.e. when the string is not pulled. It could hold, say, a towel. And you could theme it as a zombie, a robot, a bird’s claw, a knight or, again, something unspeakable. Now, if you pull the string with a foot pedal, for example, the fingers would straighten and the hand would release. Someone could then use the towel, then place it back and release the pedal.
  • With a little improvisation, you could use the same technique to make your own Dune-style sandworm. And since I am old-school, I’ll go with the classic design with three jaws. They do not even need to actually articulate – a single joint would work quite well. Unless you want the jaws to bend out slightly. And depending on your use case and which state should be the more common one – open or closed – you should design your worm accordingly.

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Wand more?

Yes, I need a new pun. But since this project is, in fact, a wand, why not check out the other wands I made? Then again, maybe you thought this was a weird one, so how about more weird stuff? Either way, I hope you can use this technique and be inspired by it.

Last but not least, if you make something that moves, wriggles or even just twitches using this, please send me pictures. I would love to see and possibly share!

Thanks for stopping by, and remember to be Inspired!

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