Clockwork Beetle





Introduction: Clockwork Beetle

About: 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 microcontroller (; now thinking about climate...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 6: Voila!

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



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    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.

    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.

    1 reply

    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.

    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?

    4 replies

    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.

    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.

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

    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.

    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.

    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.

    4 replies

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


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

    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.

    1 reply

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

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

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