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Winging It


I'd pity the dragon who had to fly with a wing this thick. Unfortunately, most manufacturers of metal figures produce wings with little more realism. The steps below outline the process I used to remake the wings for my Blue Dragon, one of the dragons from Ral Partha's "Dueling Dragons" set.

Tools & materials needed...

You'll need a scroll saw (hand or electric), metal files, aluminum foil, rubber cement spray, padded forceps (e.g. wrap a few layers of tape around each forceps tip), soldering iron (preferably with variable heat control), scissors or hobby knife, tape, & toothpicks (flat, rounded-end kind). If you use a hand saw, a vise would be helpful to hold the pieces steady.

Warning! Don't do anything stupid! If you don't know what "stupid" means, stop right here.

  • Be sure to wear safety glasses and to observe all manufacturers' safety precautions when using the equipment suggested in this how-to.
  • Knives will cut skin as easily as they cut plastic!
  • Flying bits of snipped-off plastic are attracted to eyes!
  • Hot metal looks like cold metal long enough to burn you!

Step 1...

With the saw, carefully cut out the wing membrane areas between the phalanges. Two of these areas are marked with a big brown X in the photo. Smooth and shape the phalanges with metal files. Once separated, you can CAREFULLY reposition them. AVOID bending them too often -- you'll fatigue the metal. If you do manage to break one off, re-attach it with a cyanoacrylate glue.
If you haven't figured out what phalanges are by now, go grab a dictionary.

Step 2...

Lay the wing skeleton on paper and trace the shape each membrane segment. Draw a border equivalent to the diameter of the phalange. Cut out each wedge. In order to give the wing some "billow", you need to widen the wedge: cut most of the way down its middle, spread it apart and tape it.
Use your paper wedges as patterns to cut out a double thickness of aluminum foil. One piece of foil will attach to the top of the wing; the other to the bottom.

Step 3...

Working with one membrane segment at a time, apply rubber cement to one side of the aluminum wedges. Carefully join the matching wedges, being careful that the edges that are to join to the phalanges line up, but stay open. You should have a 'Y'-shaped edge that will wrap onto the top and bottom of the wing.
Hold the foil piece with taped forceps and move it into place. Use a toothpick to work the foil edges around and onto the skeleton.

Step 4...

Once the membrane is in place, use the toothpick as a burnishing tool to seal the foil edges. Clean up any torn foil edges and make sure there are no gaps or tears.
When all wedges are placed, use a toothpick to texture the wing. The wing is now ready for attachment to the body.


As a final touch, I used a soldering iron to carefully melt and re-point the wing claws. If you want to try this, first practice on some of the metal fragments from step one. Hold the iron to the claw just until it melts, then pull the iron away. This will draw the melted metal out to a point. You can now do your final positioning of the phalanges and shape the membranes.

The finished Blue Dragon is here.