Introduction: How to Make a Cool Dragonfly Sculpture From Scrap Steel

Picture of How to Make a Cool Dragonfly Sculpture From Scrap Steel

Hello instructabling friends. Today I'm going to show you how to make a cool sculpture of a dragonfly out of scrap metal.

This will make an excellent Christmas gift. I always say that handmade gifts are full of love. I have made similar sculptures for my mother and my aunt. They are both keen gardeners, and they were both thrilled to receive a handmade dragonfly. These dragonflies can be placed in any garden to add a point of interest, or even attached to a plain concrete wall to add a feature.

You can of course adapt this project to suit your own tastes and resources. For example, you might prefer to use cardboard and hot glue if you don't have access to a welder. The choices are endless, and I will be really interested to see what you come up with.

If you like this project please consider voting for it in the Homemade Gifts Contest.

Step 1: What You Will Need...

Picture of What You Will Need...

For this project as I did it you will need the following materials:

  • Scrap metal (why buy metal when people leave it lying around for free?):
    • Something long for the body/tail; I chose an old bolt, it has a head already too.
    • Some sheet for the wings; I chose some stainless steel from an old submersible pump body.
    • Some thin rod for the legs; I had an old wire refrigerator rack.

Tools. There are always other ways to do things, so use your imagination if you don't have access to these.Here are the tools I used:

  • Angle grinder with:
    • Grinding disc,
    • Cutting disc,
    • Flap disc,
    • Wire brush.
  • Welder. I have an antique mig welder that still does the job.
  • Pliers.
  • Vise.
  • Wire brush.
  • Safety gear:
    • Gloves,
    • Ear muffs,
    • Face shield,
    • Leather apron,
    • Welding helmet,
    • Respirator.
  • Access to some inspiration for the design. I believe some people are gifted with a mind that produces inspirational ideas and designs; I'm not one of them. I use Google and Pinterest and the like. I search for images that clearly show the proportions I'm looking for and base my design on them.

Step 2: Create the Head, Body, and Tail.

Picture of Create the Head, Body, and Tail.

The hexagonal bolt head does much look like a dragonfly head so I used my grinding disc and then my flap disc to give it a more natural looking shape. It's not a perfect likeness, just a little more convincing to the eye.

Next I needed some bulk to the body. I considered making the body out of another piece of steel, but chose to create the bulk buy running some thick beads of weld where it was needed. Look at the pictures and I hope you will see what I mean.

The tail is simply the long threaded part of the bolt. I used the grinder to give it some shape, and I bent some curves to make it look like a natural creature rather than a factory made object. I followed shapes I had observed in online pictures of dragonflies.

Now is the best time to do any aesthetic grinding. Once wings and legs are on ot will be quite difficult.

Step 3: Wings

Picture of Wings

Dragonfly wings look incredibly delicate, but of course they are strong enough to maintain flight. I chose stainless steel because I happened to have some at hand, but I'm glad I did because it will remain shiny while the rest of the dragonfly will become rusty. I think this will portray the sense of delicacy, especially as they are light enough to vibrate slightly in the wind.

I made some sketches based on pictures I had seen. When I had a pleasing looking shape I cut one out and placed it next to the body. When I was happy with its appearance I used the paper cut-out as a template to mark the stainless steel.

I carefully cut the wings out using the cutting disc and then smoothed the new cut edges with the flap disc.

I then carefully welded the new wings onto the dragonfly's body.

The wings can be easily bent around a bit to get their position more natural looking.

Step 4: Legs

Picture of Legs

Being an insect the dragonfly is blessed with six legs.

I made my legs from the wire out of the old refrigerator rack.

I simply used the pliers to snip off three wires. Each one long enough to make a pair of legs.

I welded each wire to the underside of the body at its centre making two legs each. See the pictures if that didn't make sense.

To decide where each joint should be look again at some pictures. Try to determine how long each leg segment is compared to the length of the body. Mark where the joint should be and then bend them using pliers. Be careful not to bend back and forth too much or you could snap them. Cut the length at the foot.

Now stand the dragonfly on its feet and adjust them to make it stand in a natural position on all six of them.

Step 5: Finishing

Picture of Finishing

The dragonfly is now ready for a final tidy and adjustment.

Simply use the wire brush to rub away any soot from welding, and then adjust the wings and legs into a natural pose for a living creature.

Step 6: Conclusion

Picture of Conclusion

I found this little project to be pretty simple yet highly satisfying. My family liked the finished product and they are normally my harshest critics.

Now I have a tough job to chose who will receive this as their gift. Maybe I'll make some more and everyone can have one.

Thanks for reading my instructable. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope it has inspired you to try something like it yourself. If you do, please share a picture in the comments.

Please feel free to post questions or comments.

If you are interested in seeing any of my other work please check out my my website or my Etsy shop.

Oh, and I'm entering this in the Homemade Gifts Contest so please vote for it if you like it.

Comments

KoenB (author)2016-12-15

I love it! Projects like this make me wish for a welding machine!

PawnDrifter (author)KoenB2017-02-05

I really appreciate folks like cammers. Seeing the fun side is awesome and inspiring!

I can do most things related to house construction and electronics, but steel was new to me. I bought the largest 120V MIG that I could find at a price point that made sense for me.

Just get it and play. It's actually pretty awesome to be able to make whatever you want that will last for years and years. Man, if you can find a local person that has experience, it will save you tons of time.

I found this instructable highly useful:

https://www.instructables.com/id/Welding-Class/

For purchases, try Northern Industrial, Harbor Freight (don't do mail order there), or even OfferUp, 5 Miles or Craigslist. Don't buy your last welder first. Get started easy with 120V and see if you want to stay with it. No point in going for a professional-class welder right off the bat.

Most importantly, Eye gear, breathing gear, safety in general. The devil lives in machines - it is waiting for you to get careless just once - just for a half second.

Treat them all with respect and weld at will.

Good luck and once again - awesome stuff from Sir Cammers.

cammers (author)KoenB2016-12-16

Thanks. I do love my welder.

clazman (author)2016-12-18

You create people make me sick ;-)

Your decision to use stainless was thoughtful. I read the comment about the carbon steel contaminating the stainless if not careful. I would like to see the result of this contamination. It might add some character to the stainless wings.

I agree with the comment on possibly laser cutting the wings to create a lacy effect.

Kudos to you!

cammers (author)clazman2016-12-19

Thanks Clazman. I only ground the edges of the wings to neaten them, but I will be interested to see how it weathers. I'll try remember to post some pictures in a few months.

DonnH1 (author)2016-12-18

Very nice, looks like it's ready to fly off. Thanks for sharing then design. Thanks also to the people who contribute their suggestions like the one about separate buffing wheels for steel and stainless. I would not have known about possible rust on the stainless because of regular bits of steel embedding in it. Must remember that for my own future projects.

cammers (author)DonnH12016-12-19

Thanks. Yes that was a good point.

yorniloc (author)2016-12-18

Very cool, however it should be noted that you need to have a separate buffing wheel/sanding disk for the stainless. If you don't change them out you are introducing carbon steel to the stainless, and your stainless will rust

cammers (author)yorniloc2016-12-19

Good point. Thanks.

MaryT89 (author)2016-12-18

This is a wonderful project. The only suggestion I have is to do some cutouts inside of the wings to make them more delicate looking.

cammers (author)MaryT892016-12-19

Thanks. I did consider that, but I thought I would destroy the wings if I tried it. Maybe I'll try it on a larger model.

doitoitmself (author)2016-12-18

Very nice!. I've been thinking of doing something like this with soda cans. Afraid they'd be too sharp. Is that what the flap wheel does?

cammers (author)doitoitmself2016-12-19

Good idea. I think they would be sharp though. Maybe you could fold the edges over.
The flap disc is used for grinding more delicately than the grinding disc. You can get different grades depending on what you need it for.

kc cabinite (author)2016-12-18

Loved this. Very imaginative! Definitely gets my vote.

cammers (author)kc cabinite2016-12-19

Thanks.

baecker03 (author)2016-12-17

could use butter knives for the wings I believe... neat!

cammers (author)baecker032016-12-19

Good idea. They would be just yhe right shape.

watchmeflyy (author)2016-12-17

Great project and instructions. I also like your choice of stainless steel so that it would remain bright even as the body becomes rusty. :)

cammers (author)watchmeflyy2016-12-17

Thanks. I'll have to find some more stainless now for more dragonflies and perhaps some other insects too.

About This Instructable

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Bio: To see more of my work you are welcome to follow me on Instagram @cam_de_burgh
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