Matrix Fry, the Dragon

Matrix Fry, the dragon

Matrix Fry, the dragon

Unrelated to anything, but a nice diversion from a rather stressful week: I made a dragon. Out of printer ribbons. This is its story.


Where I work, one of the customs is to leave unwanted materials on a table in the staff lounge. Most of the time, it’s review copies of (often ludicrously horrible, but sometimes worthwhile) books, but periodically there will be other things like posters, old conference swag, or office supplies as well.

A couple of weeks ago, a bunch of printer ribbons appeared downstairs.

It was a fairly ludicrous sight. As even the oldest and most decrepit printers–the ones that a few employees have managed to squirrel away in their offices rather than having to use the common ones–are at least inkjets and have been for much longer than I’ve been there, it seemed unlikely that these printer ribbons would ever be used for their intended purpose again.

Assorted printer ribbons

The printer ribbons, relocated to my apartment.

I figured it would be fun to do, well, something with them. But it took a few days to think what that something might be. Fortunately, nobody leapt at the opportunity to take the ribbons and build their own something with them in that time. And so, upon developing a plan, I claimed this priceless historical bounty.


Assembly began with disassembly. Fortunately, this turned out to be a simple task. The two sides of the ribbon cartridges weren’t even glued together. One gentle hit with a hammer made the seam big enough to slip a screwdriver in and pry them apart.

Printer cartridge disassembly

Printer cartridge disassembly (with old button from improv show, to demonstrate size and that I didn't bother to clear my workspace)

This is what the inside of a printer ribbon cartridge looks like. The ribbon itself is a single loop, so if you need an excuse to philosophize on the infinity of all existence, you’ve got a clear opening.

Inside of a printer ribbon cartridge

Inside of a printer ribbon cartridge

I tried to use the cartridges whole as much as possible. For the legs, this wasn’t too tough; turned upside down, the cartridges look at least vaguely leg-and-foot-like. It worked for the body, too, and so with a bit of hot glue, I had this:

Matrix Fry, leg and body assembly

Matrix Fry, leg and body assembly

The tail was a bit trickier, and did require some cutting of the cartridges. The only vaguely appropriate tool I had for the job was an little ancient hand saw. With a fair bit of work, I’d separated the rectangular bases from the pointy prongy bits of several cartridges. They all got used in the tail, though; the bigger rectangles formed a section that joined up with the body to transition to the smallest prongs. These last bits I nested inside one another to make a semi-rounded, serpentine tip. Attached to the body, it looked like this:

Dragon body and tail

Dragon body and tail

The neck and head came together pretty much exactly the same way. After that, I used some of the thinner sides of the cartridges to armor plate (read: fill in the holes of) the body. The result:

Matrix Fry: Body completed

Matrix Fry: Body completed

Making the wings had to wait until the next week. I wound up gluing together a few binder clips (which appeared downstairs at the same time as the printer cartridges, for reasons that I haven’t contemplated) to make the framework for the wings, and wrapping those frames with printer ribbon.

Matrix Fry's wings, completed.

Matrix Fry's wings, completed. Plus my hand. Together they kind of look like some Frankenstein's bat thing, no?

After all of that, it wasn’t terribly hard to attach the wings to the body, and Matrix Fry is ready to fly.

Front view of Matrix Fry

Front view of Matrix Fry

Matrix Fry from below.

Matrix Fry from below. He is obviously angry and maurading, and preparing to stomp or breathe something at you. Try not to get into this position again.

The Name

It took a bit of consideration to come up with the dragon’s name. Matrix, as you might guess, comes from dot-matrix. Fry comes from Stephen Fry, whose work I’ve been consuming like crazy lately and who seems to be generally awesome.

Kingdom on Hulu

While making Matrix Fry, I got through several episodes of Kingdom on Hulu.

He seems to be the kind of person who already has a dragon named after him, but if not, allow this to fill that particular niche.

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