Honestly, I think the stirrers are made from wood that doesn't quite make the cut for toothpicks or matchsticks. They aren't real uniform or strong but they are plentiful. Their quantity is their quality. Holding a few of the stirrers in my hand I fanned them out and started thinking about some possibilities. I looked at them from the side and the idea of a propeller immediately came to mind.
About 20 years ago my sister gave me a toy wooden helicopter. I still have it. It consists of a carved prop with a dowel down the center. You spin it in your hands and then give it one big push with your right hand and it flies several feet in the air. This is actually a really old folk toy and lots of toy making books out there have plans for carving your own. I decide to try and make one from the stirrers.
(A bit of honesty here. This is actually the second wood helicopter I've built. A couple of years ago I made one out of... you'll never guess... clementine box wood! But that is another story.)
In all honestly, you could probably just glue the dowel in place now and take it for a "spin." However, not being someone who is willing to leave well enough alone and being someone who just got a WHICKED COOL belt and disk sander, I felt the need to round off the edges and smooth it a bit and then finish it up by hand.
|The first stirrer is farthest to the left.|
The last one, farthest to the right.
|Not perfect, but that really isn't the point.|
So now, in the spirit of complete honesty, I have to admit that at first, it didn't work. When I tried to fly it the propeller was clearly generating thrust, but it went every direction but up when I launched it. RATS!
One of my daughters very nicely tried to explain to me that maybe coffee stirrers simply weren't made to be toy helicopter parts. However, I wasn't willing to accept defeat so easily. For centuries humans had dreamt of coffee stirrer power flight and I wasn't gonna let some silly thing like physics get in the way. So, after thinking though it, I realized that the problem wasn't the propeller. The problem was the central dowel. It wasn't long and or heavy enough. I dare say, I had a lateral stability problem. I swapped out the dowel for a longer one (about 8" long) and it immediately flew like a champ. (Note to the Nobel Committee - When you cut the check, "Toy Making" is two words.)
The dowel could probably be a little shorter, I'll tweak up the design in the coming weeks, but as it is, it's fine. It flies higher and is much lighter than my other two wooden helicopters. This was a simple toy to make and it would be hard to imagine a less expensive one. I might see about cranking out a half dozen of these "dragonflies" some afternoon.