Introduction: Clockwork Beetle

Picture of Clockwork Beetle

I first saw a "clockwork insect" in my professor's office two years ago. I've since noticed them at steampunk fairs and online, and I think they're really beautiful. It makes a great conversation starter, and can even give rise to philosophical debate. And if you're very careful, you could turn it into fascinating jewelry!

I didn't have any immediate plans to make one of my own, but when I found this beetle dead but intact on the side of the road, I knew it was time to try my hand.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Beetle (find a dead one?)
Clockwork pieces (you can get these really easily on Ebay)
Silicone adhesive
eXacto knife/scalpel

Black fabric (to lay out gears on)
Twist ties

Step 2: Open Beetle

Picture of Open Beetle

This step is surprisingly difficult. Or maybe I just let my beetle sit around too long; perhaps it would be easier on a fresher beetle.

Lay out your work space: a work surface you can clean easily, ideally something disposable.
You'll need your scalpel, some tweezers, I used a pair of chopsticks occasionally.
Definitely prepare a cup of ethanol to sanitize things.

Hold beetle with tweezers where the thorax meets the abdomen. Carefully insert blade into the back end of the beetle. Work the abdomen apart from the wings. It will likely begin to pop! open.

You'll want to dip your beetle into the ethanol pretty regularly, if it's anything like mine. The alcohol will cut the smell. (Plus it gets bloody, and regular dipping helps wash the guts off.)

Step 3: Empty Beetle

Picture of Empty Beetle

Scrape out the insides as cleanly as you can. Dip and regularly change out ethanol.

Twist ties bend into a variety of shapes, and I found them quite helpful in scraping out the beetle's interior.

Get it as clean as possible; anything you don't scrape out will probably rot later.

Step 4: Assemble Gear Train

Picture of Assemble Gear Train

We can take a little break from the beetle. I left mine soaking in ethanol overnight (though that didn't really change anything- it even still smelled pretty bad).

Put your gears together in a way that will (a) fit into the beetle and (b) look like a working gear train. Mesh some teeth together.
It would be awesome if you could actually make this beetle do something with the gears- actually, if you manage to make a working gear train that interacts with the beetle, I'll give you a three month Pro membership if you post an instructable on it.

But I'm not quite that ambitious.
Glue your gears into position with some silicone adhesive.

Step 5: Insert Gears

Picture of Insert Gears

Fill the cavity of your beetle with silicone adhesive. Press in the gear train.

Step 6: Voila!

Picture of Voila!

A lovely addition to any steampunk entomologist's taxidermy collection.


spylock (author)2014-05-09

I will no doubt post a photo,I had your project in my mind through the whole winter,if I dont make an attempt Im liable to go mad,WE shall see what I come up with.

poisonhydra (author)2013-12-01

imagine a ton of other bugs done like this, then pinned in a large leather and wood box with a glass front so it looked like a steampunk bug collection.

spylock (author)poisonhydra2014-05-09

I think they look much better on their own because they would be individual works of art

,displayed in such a way that the whole bug can be viewed Though those signal bell type glass displays will likely be expensive.

spylock (author)2014-02-16

Suppose you use an old bug,I have a jar fly I would like to try this out on,but its hard as,well its good and dry.Do you think the alcohol will make him soften up a little,or think it would fall apart?

SelkeyMoonbeam (author)spylock2014-02-16

I haven't actually tried it, so don't try this unless you would be okay losing the fly in question, but I would pick a saline solution over alcohol to soften up a bug; salt water is usually a safer bet on animal parts.

spylock (author)SelkeyMoonbeam2014-05-09

OK Buddy,I had to kll a Japanese hornet yesterday,its the biggest one Ive ever seen at 3' straightened out,Im gonna follow your able,and it will turn out great.I will post a photo when done.Also does anyone know where to get those little glass display bells,as I dont know the real name for them,but will make a project look even better in that type of display.

SelkeyMoonbeam (author)spylock2014-05-09

I'm excited to see it! For the display– good idea. Try searching on "tiny bell jar"

spylock (author)SelkeyMoonbeam2014-02-16

Saline,I will give it a try,its a great instructable,some dude from a website called bug lab I think it is.Your bug looks as good as any of his,and he gets up into the thousands of dollars selling them.

awesomecreations (author)2013-01-22

Next up: Steampunk Scorpion!

spylock (author)2013-01-17

I dont know how many beetles Ive seen,and I just passed them by,now this summer I wont see a one.Tis my luck.

rtutwiler-halley (author)2012-07-10

I'm thinking maybe you used a bombardier beetle which use noxious chemical sprays for defense. My Fiery Searcher had no smell at all. I apologize for the glue still showing on the gears but I was in a hurry to post.

Oh, the wings are lovely!

Here he is without the pins. I named him John Clockwork Lennon (the assassinated beetle)

Okay that was a pretty clever name

If this joint had a like button, I would have pushed it for that pun!

Mic100 (author)2012-07-05

good job, it's a little more for nature, she makes beautiful things and a helping hand must not displease him, here is an example of natural decoration.

Ice Trojan (author)Mic1002012-10-02


fallout-fanboy #1 (author)2012-09-01

im a insect pinner and this will definetly make my collection!

jediwhiz3 (author)2012-07-30

WHOA! That is sooo cool! I wish I had some gears and stuff to do this.

techhobbit (author)2012-07-26

Well done. We don't have any beetles anywhere near that size! Maybe I( could do it with a rattlesnake head or small bird...

That would be SO cool. If you do, please show pictures!

shazni (author)2012-07-03

i guess there are no comments because everyone is probably flabbergasted and don't know what to say!
5 Stars for cleaning up the beetle and coping with the long will it take for the smell to totally go away?

SelkeyMoonbeam (author)shazni2012-07-03

Presumably, the smell will go away completely if you clean and sanitize it completely. I guess I didn't manage, because it still smells. I'm keeping it in a sealed container... though if it dries completely, I think that should cut the odor too.
The smell is from rot, which requires moisture.

I hope there's a desiccant in the jar? Otherwise you're just trapping moisture in there with it and the rotting will continue.

Brilliant! Yeah, I didn't do that. I couldn't think of one. I will put rice in it when I get home tonight.

If you have some silica gel desicant packs, put them in the oven at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour before *quickly* transferring them into a sealed container with the beetle. Otherwise, the silica gel is probably roughly saturated with moisture and won't do much.

paqrat (author)SelkeyMoonbeam2012-07-05

If you have any kitty litter around it should act as a desiccant. I've never tried it with any living things but it dries out cat feces pretty well.

DIWesser (author)paqrat2012-07-06

I did something similar a little while ago. The beetle I used had been sitting outside for long enough that it had dried out. Once there dry I find they don't have a smell. Considering the size of the beetle, the little packs of silica gel that come with a pair of shoes would probably work quit well.

cmskallen (author)SelkeyMoonbeam2012-07-06

Try borax, its often used to dry flowers so it might work well for this.

Trimini (author)2012-07-05

I made a couple of beetles of my own following your instructions. Very cool project. Thanks

rtutwiler-halley (author)Trimini2012-07-10

awesome. Love the dead animal saying too lol

DIWesser (author)Trimini2012-07-06

Very nicely done. I'm quite impressed with the wings.

SelkeyMoonbeam (author)Trimini2012-07-05


Trimini (author)SelkeyMoonbeam2012-07-05

Thank you :)

matthewtyler1 (author)Trimini2012-07-05

very cool. excelent preservation. what species if you dont mind me asking?

Mihailo1994 (author)2012-07-09


It's loverly!!!

javajunkie1976 (author)2012-07-07

For those who don't want to hunt around for dead bugs or don't want to deal with the macabre disecting, you can mold what you need out of plastic cutlery. The underside could be from a knife, the shell back could be from a spoon and the legs from heated sprue leftovers from plastic model kits. Then all you need to do is paint it and continue with the modifications described here.

Treasure Tabby (author)2012-07-07

But I kind of clear coated a dragon fly and I found that it grew mold on it anyways. It was already dried and stored away in an air tight container.

artworker (author)2012-07-04

The beetle can be preserved if you dip the final piece in diluted clear varnish and let it dry totally. The varnish will give a glossy finish to the beetle.

handy157 (author)artworker2012-07-07

Shellac may be a better choice than the varnish as it dries quickly and is less apt to discolor over time. The solvent is alcohol, so there may be less of an adverse reaction to the animal parts.

BtheBike (author)2012-07-06

this reminds me of the typewriter beetle from 'Naked Lunch ' . very interesting Ible

conmac863 (author)BtheBike2012-07-06

So you are the other person that watched that movie :)
Very under rated movie IMO.
Nice call !!

BtheBike (author)conmac8632012-07-06

Oh ,Yes. its a classic ,forever etch in my mind , for better or worse =)

BtheBike (author)BtheBike2012-07-06

becomingthebeast (author)2012-07-05

One of the first instructables ever to feature Necrophilia!
Amazing idea!

I'm not sure that word means what you think it means.

Well, it's a dead no longer breathes.'s basically manipulating the dead body of an insect...
to build art...
art is pleasant...and can be fascinating and enjoyable...

art-pleasure-something that is attractive,that fascinates...philia....

the only thing not fitting here is the "pathological part"...or is it? ;)

would you rather call this a "necromantic" instructable?

you are now entitled as necro-scarab-mancer.


paqrat (author)becomingthebeast2012-07-05

Perhaps necro-technician or necro-artifaction would be better terms. Necrophilia has come to mean having sex with something dead, preferably human.

Trimini (author)becomingthebeast2012-07-05

Actually, necrophilia quite literally means a sexual or erotic attraction and or manipulation of a corpse. Finding a dead thing attractive does not make you a necrophiliac, despite how much you may like the title. Unless you are rubbing on these beetles and getting off to it, I am sorry, they are just cool pretty beetles that happen to be dead.

About This Instructable




Bio: An engineer, seamstress, cook, coder, and overall maker. Spent a summer at Instructables; got a degree in E: Neural Engineering at Olin College; made a ... More »
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