Overview

This guide will take you through the process of building your own Humble Velocipede.

The Humble Velocipede is a playful desktop toy designed to scuttle over countertops and coffee tables. The design of this toy was inspired by Theo Jansen's Strandbeest creatures, and combines 3D printing with some custom hardware to put the beauty of Jansen's walking mechanism in your hands.

The beauty of this design is that anyone can find joy in the animal-like movement of the walking mechanism. Unlike other versions, this particular design employs five parallel sets of legs. The odd number of legs breaks up the pattern of coordination, rendering its motion even more visually appealing.

Read on to learn how to build your own!

What's in the Kit

This Crankshaft Kit contains only the essential components you need to build your own Humble Velocipede.

Crankshaft Kits are available for purchase here

Ligaments are also available for purchase here

CRANKSHAFT (x1)- The crankshaft is made from a single steel rod bent into a resilient core which is responsible for coordinating the movement of all the legs. The crankshaft is normally partially obscured by ligaments in an assembled model, but is also a beautiful object all on its own.

HIP SHAFTS (x2) - The hip shafts act as pivot points for all the legs and are made from hardened steel that will hold up to extensive use over time.

JOINT PINS (x40) - These pins act as joints for the machine, providing strong and low-friction connection points between the ligaments and the legs. Each kit comes with a couple extras thrown in just in case. 

By the numbers

One Humble Velocipede consists of 86 printed parts and 43 non-printed parts for a total of 129 individual parts. The rigid skeleton that holds the machine together is composed of 9 elements, while the other 120 parts form the legs and walking mechanism, all driven by the central crankshaft. Of the printed parts, there are 9 unique shapes that, when assembled, form 61 moving pieces.  

But that's enough of that, let's get to printing!

Printing Instructions

STL files can be downloaded for free from Thingiverse

If you don't own a 3d printer you can have these parts printed for you locally through 3DHubs

Print settings may vary between printer and type of filament used, but in general you should be safe with the following settings:

  • 20% infill / 1.5mm retraction
  • 2 shells
  • 80mm/s print speed 
  • 0.20mm layer height / 0.4mm nozzle

A Taxonomy of Parts

All of the parts have been given pseudo-anatomical names, which helps by making them easy to organize and refer to.  

Below is an explanation of each printed part that goes into making a Humble Velocipede.

Legs

The Shin

Print time: ~4h

The Thigh

Print time: ~5h

The Ligaments

Anterior Collateral Ligament (ACL)

The ACL connects the Shin to the Thigh, and is the most visible of all the ligaments.

Print time: ~1h

Posterior Collateral Ligament (PCL)

The PCL serves as the connection point between the shin assembly and the hip shafts. 

Print time: ~1h

Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL)

The LCL is the longest of the ligaments. It connects the intersection of the Shin and the PCL to the crankshaft. 

Print time: ~30m

Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) 

The MCL is the smallest ligament. It connects the top of the thigh to the crankshaft. 

Print time: ~20m

The Plates

Breastplate

These four plates form the central part of the skeleton of a Humble Velocipede. 

Print time: ~2h

Endplate

The endplates act like bookends which capture the hipshafts and protect the internal mechanism. 

Print time: ~40m

Top bar

The top bar is the key to finishing any Humble Velocipede. This bar acts as a spinal column to hold the rest of skeleton perfectly rigid. This version twists 90 degrees once inserted through the plates to lock everything into place.

Print time: ~15m

Prepare the Thigh Assembly

After printing all the parts, the Thigh, MCL, and ACL will need to be put together in preparation for assembly.

Make sure that the MCL (the shorter of the two ligaments) is always oriented in the same direction!

Prepare your Parts

Before assembling a Humble Velocipede, it's a good idea to check the hole sizes of your parts. 

It's important that there is as little friction as possible between all the joints. Holes should all be to spec, but it never hurts to double check

Hole dimensions

Breastplate hipshaft holes: 5/64"
Ligament pin holes: 1/16"
Ligament crankshaft hole: 3/32"
Breastplate crankshaft hole: 7/64"
Endplate crankshaft hole: 2/3"

If you don't have calipers or a set of drill bits handy, an easy way to standardize all your hole sizes is to use this precision screwdriver set

The 1.8mm (dark gray) and 2.4mm (green) size screwdrivers are perfect for checking your hole tolerances.

Use the green screwdriver to check the larger of the two holes in the ligaments.

This is the hole through which the crankshaft will pass, and widening it to exactly 2.4mm (0.094") will give it just enough clearance to make it around the bends.

Use the gray screwdriver to ream out the smaller ligament holes.

These are the holes through which the 1/16" spring pins will pass. Checking them with this screwdriver will ensure they have enough clearance to rotate freely.

Don't forget to check the small hole in the PCL.

Use the hipshaft to check that it can pass easily through the larger apertures on the thigh and PCL. 

You should feel a small amount of friction when passing the hipshaft through the breastplate. This is ok. These parts will form the frame of the machine, which should be as rigid as possible.

Lastly, check that the top bar can move freely through the keyhole in the top of the breastplates. It should pass loosely when flat, but once rotated 90 degrees it should lock firmly into place. 

If the assembled frame feels rigid and the hipshafts can spin freely through all the thighs, you should be all ready to assemble your Humble Velocipede!

Go on to the next page for full assembly instructions!

Assembly Instructions

The assembly process is broken down into ten phases, shown here in ten animated GIFs. 

Scroll further down for detailed step-by-step instructions. 

Phase 1 

Setup

Phase 2 

First set of legs

Phase 3

Second set of legs

Phase 4

Add second breastplate

Phase 5

Add third set of legs

Phase 6

Add the next breastplate and fourth set of legs

Phase 7

Add final breastplate and fifth set of legs

Phase 8

Start adding shins

Phase 9

Add the rest of the shins

Phase 10

Finish by adding endplates and top bar

Detailed Instructions

Phase 1 - Step by step

To begin assembling, first find the crankshaft and thread it onto one of the plates.  

Insert the two hipshafts into the two small holes in the plate and lay it on its back, point facing down.

Next, grab a ligament and thread it onto the crankshaft. Make sure the indent is facing outwards, away from the breastplate.

Grab a thigh assembly (thigh + MCL + ACL) and thread the ligament onto the crankshaft, also keeping the indent facing outwards.

Once this is in place, push the hipshaft into the thigh, but before going all the way through, place a tendon into the gap in the thigh assembly. Now pass the hipshaft through the assembled parts.

Thread the next thigh assembly on, this time reversing its orientation so the indents of both of their ligaments face each other. Then place a tendon into the thigh and pass the hipshaft through, as before.

Congratulations! The first stage is complete. From here on out, the assembly process will be quite simple.

To continue the assembly, slide the hipshafts almost all the way through the plate, so about 1/2” are still poking out.

Phase 2 - Step by step

Now thread a ligament all the way down the crankshaft, being mindful that it’s oriented so the indented side faces away from the first breastplate.

Repeat the process of adding ligaments, thighs, tendons, and plates.

Continue to slide the hip shafts forward as more parts are added.

Phase 2 complete!

Phase 3 - Step by step

Add another plate by threading it onto the crankshaft, carefully guiding it around corners.

This is a delicate dance.

By now your machine should be beginning to take shape and you should be getting the hang of the assembly process. 

Onwards!

Phase 4 - Step by step

Thread on another plate.

Phase 5 - Step by step

Once all 10 thighs are in place, shins can begin to be added to complete all the legs. Find some shins!

Phase 6 - Step by step

  1. Take one pin and use it to hold the ligament and posterior tendon together. 
  2. Place a second pin into the top hole of the shin.
  3. Connect the pin to the anterior tendon (the one that’s part of the thigh assembly).
  4. Rotate the shin so that you’re able to press the pin holding the posterior tendon and ligament into the shin.
  5. Make sure that each shin that is added is oriented so that its large, flat side is facing outwards.
  6. Find the corresponding half of the shin and fit it onto the first half, matching up the pins with the holes and pressing the halves firmly together. One down, 9 more to go!
  7. After all the shins are on, take your Humble Velocipede for its first test walk. If there are any issues, now is the time to fix them. Check that everything is oriented correctly, and there are no places that catch and prevent the Humble Velocipede from walking smoothly.
  8. Once you are confident with your assembly, insert the top bar through the holes in the top of the breastplates. 
  9. After the top bar is centered so that the ends line up with the crankshaft and hipshafts, take your endplates and press them on.
  10. You’re finished! If you’d like to make your assembly a bit more permanent, add a small dab of super glue to the ends of the hipshafts before putting on the endplates. This should hold it together permanently. 

Troubleshooting

Your machine should be loose enough to spin the crankshaft with your fingers. 

If your machine is not walking properly, check that the ligaments are all oriented in the right direction. These machines can be unforgiving of assembly errors, but can be taken apart and fixed without too much trouble. 

Tips & Tricks

It helps to add a little oil to the joints.

Rigorous exercise will also work out any kinks over time.

Things to watch out for

Misplaced hip shaft

The MCL must always be oriented correctly.

Incorrect orientation

Backward shins

Variations

This design is very malleable and open to reinterpretations, improvements, and upgrades.

It is possible to motorize these machines as well for remote control fun!

A guide to build a larger version of this walking machine has previously been published here:

https://www.instructables.com/id/Strandbeest-Inspired-3D-Printable-Walking-Machine/

This version uses a fully 3D printed crankshaft, which makes the assembly process more complex.

The Humble Velocipede is a continuation of this Kickstarter project, which succeeded in 2012 (bamboo Velocipedes are no longer being produced).

If you'd like to buy one already assembled, an assortment of Humble Velocipede prototypes are available for sale here:
https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheHumbleVelocipede

The digital simulacrum is always available to play with here:

http://smallwondertoy.co/

 

This guide was first published on Jun 30, 2017. It was last updated on Jun 30, 2017.