Saw... not the horror movie

New York City’s Easter Parade has been a grand, annual tradition since the Civil War years. In our family, it’s been a grand annual tradition since 2007. See the “Eggstravaganza” of 2007, the chickless in NY of 2008, (plans scrambled due to mystery illness), 2009 was lost, and in 2010 the “Hat’s off” parade included all three of the family. Plans for 2011 are well in hand…sort of.

We started some six weeks ago brainstorming ideas, which solidified into pairs of insects on see-saws on the hats. No simple hats for us, no, an engineering challenge had to be a part of it. As a result, we are now proud owners of a hacksaw, hand sanding equipment, lots of ribbon and enough balsa wood to also build a pond skiff (because there’s a $10 minimum order).

Wings and things -- component parts laid bare

Heads, thorax and abdomen came care of papier mached strips of the New York Times, which took very well to our ministrations of Elmer’s glitter pens. Next came the wings care of recycled packaging — cardboard with a base coat of Ivory house paint from a sample for the butterfly wings, and Sharpie and glitter pen on plastic for the yellow jacket and other bug wings. Calvin was a great co-creator, making the bodies, the Monarch butterfly and pairs of wings.

Putting them together was easy — one glue gun please — but putting the see-saw into action was quite another issue. First of all, only some of the wood shipped was the light and soft balsa wood… some other being much harder other type of wood. So we were quite disappointed when it came to sawing some of our pieces. Thus the plan for the wide-planked see-saw had to be altered. Non-graduated chopsticks were substituted and the entire balancing process had to be re-thought.

We put our insects together. Calvin did the Monarch (bottom left) and yellow jacket (top right)

A trip to a neighbourhood hardware and housewares shop near work was a great field trip for Calvin. We finally made it out with cable attachments, padded tape and promises that yes, if he really wanted to earn a toilet brush with an ‘automatic open-and-shut’ holder  he could do that. (?!)

We inserted the chopsticks into the picture hangers that had been pliered closed, taped closely on both sides to prevent sliding and cunningly disguised with a seasonal and gender-appropriate ribbon. At the ends, we glued on a cable attachment with a flat top. The top provided a stable base for the insects to be attached, while the gut would be attached to the bottom and an inexpensive ring to old keys would be tied to the bottom to allow the wearer to ‘see-saw’ the insects.

Many new challenges abounded, some that I’ve not managed to surmount. The gut was too thick and permanently shaped into a slinky, so I substituted simple cotton thread. The insects proved to be bottom heavy and flipped upside down. Searching about with what to attach as counter weight I went through unseemly batteries, spare kitchen drawer handles, sundry metal objects in our toolkit.. before settling on borrowing Calvin’s glass beads. It has only, partially,  solved the problem.

Mad hatter selection: Jay's yellow, Calvin green and I'm reprising the egg topped with insects -- hopefully other, unlike Calvin, won't notice the hat repeat faux pas!

So we have Easter bonnets that are colourful and creative and provided many hours of fun to make, although not quite as well-implemented as one would have liked. (Those wide-plank see-saws would not have flipped upside down!) Ah well, let’s hope there’s no rain as we hop over to Fifth Avenue to enjoy everyone else’s headwear tomorrow morning… and hope they notice that ours moves!

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