When we first decided to make angel wings, we took a look around to see what other people had done. We decided we liked the style of wings that were popular with Victoria’s Secret at the time. These wings had musculature to them and were fairly large so the trick was how to make them big and wearable.
Keep in mind that there are a lot of ways to make angel wings and the way we describe here is a good method if you want your wings to be big with thickness. This technique takes a lot of work though, so if you’re not interested in creating the musculature underneath, better go for another method.
We recommend building the wing harness first because then you can duct tape the harness to a chair and stick your wings in that while you work.
For the main “bone” of the wing, we always use PVC. We recommend using 1/2″ diameter PVC because it’s thick enough to be sturdy but lightweight. Plus it’s cheap and you can get it at Home Depot. We love Home Depot!
One PVC pipe can be cut in half and used to make both your wings. You’re probably going to have to cut it anyways to get it into your car. Take your cut PVC pipes and stick them in your harness.
You’re going to need a heat gun (also available at Home Depot: they’re used to peel paint off walls). Decide how you want your wing to curve and using the heat gun, slowly heat up the pvc where you want to put in a bend.
You only want to heat up the PVC as much as is needed to bend it. Try not to put in really sharp bends. If you overheat the PVC or bend it too much, you’ll weaken the PVC and it may crack when stressed.
To build the shape of the wing, we use a product called X30 expanding foam. A 1/2 gallon kit should be sufficient for a pair of wings. X30 is a product where you mix equal parts of A and B, stir well, and as the chemicals starts reacting, it expands like crazy and when it hardens, it creates a very light but incredibly sturdy foam.
You can use something else to build the musculature inside the wing. The first time through, Aimee built hers out of chicken wire covered with batting. We prefer X30 because of how light it is and how strong. Our wings have been dropped a lot and we’re constantly running into things or being run into. Wings haven’t taken a dent yet…
A couple things about working with X30:
- Cover your floor and do not do this inside. This stuff is messy. It gets everywhere and is very hard to clean up
- Wear clothes you don’t care about cause it will get all over your clothes and it won’t come out.
- Wear gloves! In fact, buy an entire box. We found it was easier just to strip the gloves and chuck them as they became covered in hardened foam.
The next step is to create a surface for the foam to rest on. At this point you’re going to have do some chair tetris-ing to lay the wing on it’s side. Duct tape is your friend here…
Take some wire and wrap it around the pvc to create a curved net-like structure. You don’t need a very heavy gage wire and you don’t need that much. You need just enough to hold a piece of muslin in place. Cut a fairly large piece of muslin, lay it over the wire, and duct tape it to the pvc. Again, this doesn’t have to be very sturdy. The muslin and wire won’t be supporting anything. It’s just there to catch the foam.
Now you’re ready to pour foam. Measure out equal quantities of X30 A and B product, mix them together and stir well. We find the easiest way to mix is just to stick your hand in the bucket and stir briskly. As the product reacts, it will start to heat up and expand. Take the bucket to your muslined-wing and pour it over the muslin. Make sure to spread out the X30 as your pouring.
The X30 will continue to expand for a bit and then harden. You can move the foam around as it’s hardening, but try not to mess with it too much. It’s actually a very quick process, so don’t dwadle as you’re pouring. It’s also not gonna be super pretty and smooth which is ok… that’s what the feathers are for. =D
Repeat the foaming process until you’ve built up the wing shape to your satisfaction. Make sure to cover the PVC pipe as well and you only need to cover the inside of the wing with foam. When you are finished, you can trim away the excess muslin and tada, you have featherless angel wing!
Of course now you need to repeat the process with the other wing. Have fun. =D
After you’re done covering both wings with foam, you can do some clean up work. You can carve away lumpy sections with a kitchen knife and sand it down with sandpaper. Don’t spend a lot of time doing this though as it really doesn’t matter what the foam looks like under the feathers. You can also spray paint the foam white if you’re worried that it will show through the feathers.
For feathers, we have always ordered from Rainbow Feather Company. We use bleached turkey rounds and flats. We’ve done 2 versions of angel wings. In version 1, we used the fluffy flat feathers to cover the majority of the wing and turkey rounds were used only for the long tail feathers. In version 2, we used turkey rounds to cover the entire wing.
Order more of whichever feather is going to be used to cover the bulk of the wing. Roughly, we’d say a pound per wing. This is a very subjective number though. You may find you need more or less depending on the size of your wing and how densely you lay the feathers. In either case, remember to ask for both rights and lefts when ordering the turkey rounds.
For version 1, we used hi-temp hot glue to attach the feathers and covered the entire wing. The long trailing feathers did not come from a big giant bird that grows 4-foot long feathers. (We get asked that a lot.) They’re about 10-15 regular turkey rounds glued together. You cut off the stem of the feather and then glue them over-lapping each other by 1/2. You keep adding feathers until you get the desired length and then hot-glue the large feather to the wing.
This is probably the only time we’ll tell you it’s ok to use hot glue to put your costume together. =D
The feathering we did for version 2 is a lot more work. When using turkey rounds to cover the entire wing, you need to pay attention to the placement of the feathers or the wing will look weird. Take a look at some pictures of bird wings to get some ideas.
For each feather, we took an awl and punched a hole in the foam. We then put some hot glue on the shaft of the feather and shoved the feather into the hole. You want to work your way from bottom up to the top, and you’ll need to do this on the inside and outside of the wing. The PVC pipe can be covered up with the fluffy flat feathers.
We had intended to add trailing feathers to this version as well, but ran out of feathers and time to order more. Lesson here: make your wings far enough in advance that if you need to order more feathers, you have time.
And that’s how HCC makes angel wings!