How to Make a Model Oil Rig

By Richard Reyes
The distinctive crossbeams for oil rigs can be recreated with chopsticks.

The image of an oil rig spouting "black gold" has come to represent the prospect of immense wealth and the promise of industry. In recent years, that image has been tarnished by ecological disasters, such as the BP oil spill, but the cross-hatched tower of the oil rig is still a powerful symbol in America. Making a model oil rig with large chopsticks and Popsicle sticks, for a class project or presentation, is a simple task.



Structure

Cut off the rounded ends of eight Popsicle sticks. Set aside.

Snip four of the Popsicle sticks down to 2 1/2 inches -- 4 1/2 inches for the remaining four -- with perpendicular cuts.

Affix one of the short Popsicle sticks to the top, or tapered ends of your large chopsticks, one-half inch from the top with a double-sided loop of tape. This will temporarily secure your sticks to attach the bottom pieces.

Affix one of the long Popsicle sticks to the bottom, or wider ends of your large chopsticks with a double-sided loop of tape, so it is flush with the bottom.

Mark lines where the Popsicle sticks overlap the chopsticks.

Remove the tape, then snip the Popsicle sticks along the angled lines.

Glue the Popsicle sticks to the chopsticks with hot glue. Allow the glue to fully cool and set. Be careful to avoid the hot metal end of the glue gun.

Measure down four inches from the bottom edge of the top Popsicle stick and mark a line with your pencil. Measure one-half inch, then mark a line. Continue until you have three four-inch segments of four inches and three half-inch segments. There will be a one-half-inch gap on the bottom and top of the frame.

Attach five Popsicle sticks to the half-inch gaps on the chopsticks with tape: one for the top and bottom, then three spaced throughout the middle.

Mark the places where the Popsicle sticks overlap the chopsticks with a pencil.

Remove the tape, then make the angular cuts on the Popsicle sticks.

Glue the Popsicle sticks in place. This completes one side of the oil rig frame. Do not assemble the remaining four sides, as you will use this side as a template for the x-shaped crossbeams. Allow the glue to fully set.

Crossbeams

Flip over the completed side of the oil rig frame.

Cross two Popsicle sticks in the topmost four-inch gap between the half-inch, horizontal supports. Resize the "X" until the top and bottom edges of the Popsicle ticks overlap the horizontal supports. Secure the middle of the "X" with a double-sided loop of tape.

Flip over the template and the Popsicle "X."

Mark areas of overlap -- including the middle portion of the "X," in addition to the template -- then snip the angled marks.

Glue the "X" together along the short edges of the Popsicle sticks. Allow the hot glue to set. Create three identical x-shaped crossbeams.

Repeat these steps with the remaining two four-inch segments. Create three identical x-shaped crossbeams for each additional segment. Set the additional x-shaped crossbeams aside.

Glue the middle and bottom x-shaped crossbeams to the template. You will now have one completed side of the oil rig and the remaining x-shaped crossbeams for the remaining three sides.

Assembly

Repeat the steps from the "Structure" segment to create another side of the oil rig frame. This side will be positioned across from the side you used as your template.

Place the original template on a sheet of tracing paper. Outline the shape of the template.

Set your two, completed oil rig frames on edge, with the horizontal crossbeams facing out.

Set your two, completed oil rig frames on edge, with the horizontal crossbeams facing out.

Mark the edges of the frames with your pencil,one-half-inch from the top. Create markings for the half-inch and four-inch gaps, as you did in Step 8 of the "Structure" section.

Attach Popsicle sticks, horizontally, to the half-inch gaps you have marked with tape. Mark areas of overlap, remove the tape, then snip excess areas with scissors.

Glue the snipped Popsicle sticks along the edges of the frame. Glue the prepared, x-shaped crossbeams as well. Allow the glue to fully set.

Flip over the frame and repeat these instructions for the remaining side.

Paint the model oil rig with black tempera paint. Paint the inside and outside of your model oil rig on your scrap sheet of tracing paper. Paint the outside first. Allow the paint to dry. Flip the model on its head, so that the narrow end is the base, then paint the inside of the model. Allow the model to dry overnight.

Scuff the outside of the model with sandpaper, if you want to suggest age or wear to your model oil rig.

Tip

Affix the x-shaped crossbeams to the interior of your model oil rig.

44 Popsicle sticks are required for this project, but you should always have extra on-hand, in case you make mistakes.

Warning

Avoid the hot metal tip of your glue gun. Never leave a glue gun unattended.

About the Author

Richard Reyes began writing in 2005 at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he served as editor-in-chief of "The Muse" literary arts magazine. His work has appeared in "Poesia," "Plain Spoke" and "Product Design & Development." Reyes holds a Master of Arts in English and creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he is also completing his Ph.D. in English.