5 Tips on How to Make a Prototype

A physical prototype can be one of the best ways to describe your Invention idea. But how do you go about getting one? Well, you can hire someone to make it, or you can build it yourself. In this article, we will go over 5 Tips on how to make a prototype of your invention yourself.

How to make a prototype by hand.

Making a prototype yourself can be an intimidating task for the inexperienced, but it can also be very fun and rewarding. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or be very technical. Here are 5 tips on how to make a prototype for your invention by hand.


There are four main points to consider. 

  1. It doesn’t have to be perfect
  2. Start with Off-the-shelf items
  3. It’s really just Arts and crafts skills
  4. Use regular Hand tools
  5. Check out your local makerspace

1. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

As a matter of fact, it shouldn’t be perfect. If you are spending a lot of time perfecting your prototype, you are more than likely not going to proceed past the hobby stage.

Spending extra time to make the perfect prototype is a tall tail sign of an inventor that isn’t going to succeed.

It’s a character trait that isn’t conducive to understanding entrepreneurship in most cases. If your invention is the exception to that, it would be rare.

This should be a down and dirty, rough looking thing when you are done. Don’t overthink it, you can do that later. Remember the reason you are making the prototype and stage you are in.

There is an old acronym that very much applies to prototype building, and that is: Keep it simple stupid (KISS).

When it comes to the 5 tips on how to make a prototype by hand, making sure you aren’t trying to make it to complicated is perhaps the best tip of all.

2. Start with Off-the-shelf items.

No matter what your invention is, there are probably some existing products out there that you can cannibalize for mechanisms, enclosures or materials.

Even if your idea is completely new. Some product, perhaps a completely different niche with a completely different purpose, can likely be used to save you time developing the prototype.

The best way to do this is to have an idea of the basic characteristics of your idea, then just start walking store isles. Think about each characteristic beforehand and think about what other type of product might share it and what type of store might carry it.

Big box retailers and home improvement stores are often a great place for this because of the sheer number of different types of products on their shelves. But it really depends on the nature of your idea.

The best way to reduce cost and time building your prototype is to not have to reinvent the wheel. This strategy can also really help later on when you move into official design as well as finding a manufacturer.

If your design includes characteristics that certain manufacturers already make, you are leaps and bounds ahead. This can often significantly reduce design time. But it can also significantly reduce manufacturing cost and complexity as it means there are already manufacturers that make what will get you part of the way there.

Sometimes, especially if you can leverage existing components exactly, you can greatly benefit from economies-of-scale. This means, if a manufacture has to make 1,000 of something for you, it is one cost. But if they are already making 10,000 of that same thing anyway, taking on your 1,000 will save considerable cost. This also allows you to leverage other people’s Research & Development resources to give yourself a head start. 

Using off-the-shelf parts is a great way to keep costs down while giving yourself a head start.


3. It’s really just Arts and crafts.

You can also do quite a bit with materials you find at your average hobby shop or arts and crafts store.

These are great places to find raw materials for cheap that you can cut with scissors and super glue together. You might even already have things sitting around the house that you can use.

Depending on the purpose of your prototype, this can be just what you need.

It’s also often easier to enlist help from friends and family if you are working with foam and construction paper than it is with machinist equipment and welders.

Yes, even professional inventors and and large corporations sometimes use super glue and arts & crafts suppliers on their early prototypes.

4. Use regular Hand tools.

Don’t be afraid to use hand drills, utility knives, saws, glue guns and other basic hand tools. Whatever you have available is perfectly ok to use.

Even if you don’t have the right tools for the job, try to think of ways to improvise. Don’t forget to wear ear protection and safety glasses when necessary.

You might ask friends and family if they have any tools you can borrow. This can also be a great way to start the conversations that might lead to partnerships or even networking for potential investment later.

5. Check out your local Makerspace.

If you live anywhere near a major city, chances are there is a Makerspace nearby.

These are establishments where you can go to build whatever. They usually have hobby or even professional grade equipment on site that you can use to build some amazing things.

They often have people on staff that can give you tips and pointers, as well as classes to help you learn.

These are also great places to meet like-minded builders, entrepreneurs, visionaries, and just otherwise creative people. If you really want to be an Inventor, surrounding yourself with other Inventors is a very smart move.

InventorGenie has one of the largest Directory of Makerspaces in North America, we encourage you to check them out.


Bonus tip.

    • McMaster-carr: For a handy person that builds a lot of prototypes, McMaster-Carr can be your best friend. They stock an incredible amount of raw materials, mechanisms and other products that can be an amazing resource for inventors. And they ship fast!

Finally, We hope you have learned a thing or two from are 5 tips on how to make a prototype.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and have to start over. That’s the point of this round of prototype building. To learn. 

And don’t forget to have fun.


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