Frequent forum-goers may have seen a post I made asking for materials/ process advice. I was interested in gilding an item from my childhood insect collection so that it could be worn as a pendant, but wasn't sure about the best way to achieve this. Without the equipment to 3D print a replica (a good suggestion) and nervous about damaging the original, I decided to experiment with a new specimen I wasn't emotionally invested in to get a feel for the gilding medium and experiment with fortifying insects for use in jewelry.

In this Ible I'll be showing you how to relax a dried insect specimen and re-pose it to your liking, then show you the process I used to prepare and gild it for jewelry use.There's good info here for those interested in both true entomology and craft, so feel free to page through the steps to find the processes most relevant to you.

Step 1: Choosing Your Specimen

If you plan to this process all the way through gilding, I recommend working with an insect that is primarily made of a hard exoskeleton. Beetles will provide you with the most structurally sound surface area. Some wasps and spiders may be suitable, though their delicate limbs could be problematic. Squishy, meaty things like caterpillars are definitely not going to be a good fit for this project, as they do not leave an exoskeleton behind when they dry. Very hairy specimens are also not a good fit for gilding (sorry...no tarantula jewelry)

While you can definitely use the relaxing and drying techniques for moths and butterflies, I do not recommend trying to guild them because they're too delicate to remain intact during the process.

Purchased specimens --I went to a local entomology shop and chose this rhino beetle (exact species unknown) for it's size and durability. If you're looking for a good mail order source, a friend of mine recommended this place highly. They have a huge selection and very fair pricing.

FYI, even though purchased specimens are commercially prepared, they may be a little dirty and will almost definitely stink (this beetle STUNK). I mean, it is a dead thing. Delicate cleaning can be achieved with a moistened Q tip. That smell is not going to go away until we coat the insect with something.

Collected Specimens -- Collecting insects is a fun hobby that I really enjoyed as a kid. As an adult, however, I guess my views about life have changed and I would never catch something and kill it in a jar anymore. Not judging anyone who does use a kill jar --I totally get it, I just choose not to do it anymore and thus would only use things I find that are already dead.

If you prefer to work with found post mortem specimens, scout your environment for insect that have already passed and dried. Remember to look underneath objects in your garden or garage. Praying mantises in particular seem to favor hanging upside down from low places (like under a dumpster or fence gate) right before they die. Be delicate with any specimens you find as they are likely to be brittle.

NOTE: Before bringing outdoor insects into your home, make sure they are free of smaller pests (ants, maggots, mites) that may have been feeding on the organic material left inside the exoskeleton).

where dyou get metal leaf? have u tried electroplating the stuff yet? I bumped a thread or 2 in forums which pertain to yer query about electroplating non conductive stuff.
<p>Wow that is awesome Very Nice </p>
<p>ashleyjlong, wow, your beetle came out great. I saw one about an inch bigger while I was deployed in Honduras back in the early 80's. I flew the beetle on a kite string for a few minutes and then I let it go. I wish I had your instructions then and I would of made a necklace out of it as well, although I would have broken a few import laws getting the insect back into the U.S. Your instructions and photos were very well in order and self explanatory. Your suggestions on the use of different gold leaf and liquid leaf and the effects after clear coats come in handy to ensure the piece comes out well. Good luck in the jewelry contest.</p>
<p>Wow, this is very informative. Thanks for sharing Ashley~</p><p>sunshiine~</p>
<p>In college, I had an Industrial Practices class in which we learned investment casting. As a side project, I investment casted 2 entire bumble bees in solid silver. I never got around to polishing them out, but they came out very well. I even had almost all of the wings on one of the bees successfully cast. It's amazing how many &quot;hairs&quot; bees have! The silver picked up most of them as well. </p>
<p>I would love to do the Bumble bee.</p><p>How about making an instruct able in silver work please</p>
<p>That sounds amazing! I'm glad people have been contributing ideas for alternative methods, for those who aren't info have a real bug on their person.</p>
<p>hmm wonder if you could make a slip from art clay silver and just put a few coats on the insect? When fired, it would burn up the skeleton, wonder if a small hole should be left for gases? just thinking outloud... you could fire it in carbon to help hold the shape.</p>
<p>wow this is awesome thank you</p>
<p>Think this would work with a large dragonfly?</p>
<p>Ooh! Good find. I would suggest a double coat of resin and being very careful with those wings, but the body should actually be a pretty good exo to work with. If you are going to make it jewelry, I suggest a pendant on a medium-short chain. A long dangling necklace could risk damage to the long thin extensions of the body.</p>
<p>I was wondering the same thing. If you find a way to prepare the wings, would you please forward your findings to me?</p><p>Marion</p>
<p>Sure will</p>
<p>this is really cool, I have some gold leaf and had no idea how to do it. thanks so much!!! you are so talented!!!</p>
<p>Thanks! I think you'll have fun with the gold leaf. It's just so unbelievably light it feels like magic to work with.</p>
<p>Cool post. Going to try doing some silver lost wax casts. Good thing is that once you have the cast you don't need to worry about stinky bugs.. I deal with insect mounts for a living so get what you are saying... Pinesol and bug stink are not my favorite combos. Going to do a few practice runs with aluminum. If it works out will post an instructable.</p>
<p>Awesome! I was actually considering contacting a friend who does lost wax casting to see whether that's a viable method for more delicate specimens like a wasp. While this project was successful, I know making an actual metal replica is the ideal. I'll be interested to see how it goes!</p>
<p>Hi Ashley! Lost wax casting is excellent for preserving the most minute details. I worked in a dental lab for years and saw my peers do this very thing with all kinds of materials including insects. If you have acess to the equipment, it is instant gratification really! Stay creative and thanks</p>
<p>great job!!</p>
thx for showing the cool technique, but i feel so sad for the bug...
<p>I know what you mean about feeling sad for it. Since I love animals, I have had friends ask why I would be interested in a hobby involving dead bugs. On the surface it seems contradictory. For me, it all stems from a love and respect for the natural world. Creatures are amazing! As I mentioned in the Ible, that respect has evolved into an attitude where I would no longer kill the insect myself. In regard to purchased specimens, those are going to be found/ farmed around the world no matter what. In some third world countries, gathering these insects is actually an important source of income for the local people. Maybe this sounds a little silly, but my view is that it is more respectful to the insect that died to display it beautifully and show other people just how cool bugs can be than to have a dried specimen languish in a drawer or on a shelf unnoticed or uncelebrated. Wearing them as jewelry certainly won't be for everyone, but it's one option for honoring insects and starting discussions.</p>
You dont sound silly at all. And spark discussion you did!,i do agree with Part of your point of view!! That i understand and totally can tell you are an animal lover!! And we all have different ways of celebrating the beauty of life!! And true!! I appreciate your proavtive approach being a crafter of bug specimen!! As a science student, i too understand the need and application of specimens!! View ing the world as it is not as we want it to be, your proactive approach is indeed way better than those who turned a blind eye, worst, lock them in drawer out of daylight! I am interested in the skills annd techniques involved since its crucial part of human history! So as building pyramids and taxidermy as a historical and craftsmanship marvel! I just hope as we as a species advance, we can subsitute the slavery and over-the-top-hunting with new ifeas and solution someday!! Lets end on a lighter note, i may sound silly, but i kinda feel for the dead pets episode of porlandia haha.
<p>the children in africa could have eaten that bug!</p>
<p>Well, maybe if it were fresh. He'd be awfully crispy now. ;)</p><p>I've read some articles recently about the US exploring insects as food since they're a very easy to cultivate source of protein. Bugs could be on the western menu soon.</p>
<p>Been there, done that, not doing it again... even if there IS a zombie apocolypse.</p>
<p>While jewelry isn't my thing, I found this process fascinating and definitely will vote for you! I'm wondering if you could give me some advice for procuring/preparing insects to use as a positive mold? </p>
<p>My first recommendation would be to definitely use a well armored beetle, not something delicate. A second coat of resin might be a good idea as well. While I haven't tried this yet, my instinct would be to use mold making putty to create your first mold, then make a new hard positive from that. Using that durable positive for future molds is probably a safer bet for plaster or metal wok than the original insect. Another user below said they might experiment with lost wax casting and i'll be interested to see how that goes.</p>
<p>You can make a high detail and flexible mold from dimethylsiloxane mixed with acrylic paint. A commonly available source is type 1 window caulking silicone. Just spray your subject with mold release and mix your accelerator with the silicone in a sandwich bag. Cut a corner and squeeze it out on the subject. When it dries (about 30 mins) you can peel the silicone off the subject without damaging the mold or the subject. Silicone is temperature resistant enough that I can pour aluminum into it for solid casting.</p>
<p>My target, or at least one of them, would be Dobson flies or their larva; hellgrammites. Hellgrammites are the preferred as I am interested in this for my passion for fishing. I fish for smallmouth bass (catch and release) and have always wanted to try to make a soft plastic out of hellgrammites. I'm thinking if I prep it as you did with this but give it extra coats of the fiberglass that it may hold up long enough to use it as a positive mold. I'm also curious if you could tell me where I might find suitable specimens? Thanks again for this instructable; although, as I said, jewelry isn't my thing, this is fascinating and is a good example of how inspiration comes!</p>
This is awesome. I respect all living things, even bugs, as well. Part of life is death, and their are dead bugs everywhere. There nothing even remotely in bad taste about this, in fact as the author stated this is showing a reverence for the (already dead) bug. VERY well written ible (I loved the part about getting all up in the beetles armpits in particular), and beautiful result! Voted.
<p>Thanks for your comments and your vote! I'm really happy (and a little surprised) that this Ible has resonated with so many people. Getting people interested insects, even via dead ones, is a great first step towards conserving the live ones and understanding the ways they help our environment.</p>
<p>Great Post! I actually experimented with &quot;metalized&quot; insect jewelry several years ago with interesting and positive results. But there were some issues; which your filling of the body with Mod Podge and use of fiberglass resin (on the legs) would help resolve nicely I think. Brilliant! </p><p>Instead of foil leaf, I used an electroplating process for non-metallic items. While a little more laborious and costly (in terms of materials and time); the end result was quite astonishing. The nice thing about electroplating is that you are actually creating a metal exoskeleton which helps with weight and strength (useful for wings and delicate parts), and which still leaves the veins and other fine details highly visible. It can be successfully applied to dragonflies, butterflies, cicadas, leaves, crickets and any number of other objects/insects.</p><p>I am attaching a couple photos; I thoroughly enjoyed your project and creativity!</p>
<p>How an instructable about that process?</p>
<p>Those look amazing, could you please make an instructable on how to electroplate organic materials?</p>
<p>Thank you! I will try to do so soon. In the meantime, I found Caswell to be an excellent source for the materials and instructions to get me started. They now even have an organic materials kit (if you choose to go that route) which was not available when I did it. Spray on the sealer and copper conductive paint with a hobby airbrush; polish with a dremel and buffing pads (or q tips cut in half). Other than the electroplating itself; the instructions here are the same or superior to the methods I used for preparing the specimen.</p>
<p>Those are awesome! I second the request for an instructable on how to electroplate non-metallic items. This definitely looks like a great option for the more fragile insects. This is exactly the look I'm hoping for with the piece from my childhood collection.</p>
<p>Great 'ible! I enjoyed the easy reading and the fun you obviously had with it.</p><p>I used to teach biology classes in which the students were required to assemble collections. We would take a day in the field together to instruct them how to do so.</p><p>I injected the insects with acetone and an el cheapo 10 ml hypo. It took very little acetone and the results were immediate (went for the brain area on lepidoptera). It also made a lot of the butterflies stick out their tongues in a large coil in front of them (which the kids got a kick out of), so we would mount them with outstretched tongues for an educational point.</p><p>Another method I found for killing butterflies was about instantaneous as acetone. If it was sunny, hot day, after catching them, and inserting them into an envelope corner to preserve their wings, I would put them as far into the front window of my car as I could. On the right day, it took only seconds and the insect would be dead. </p><p>As to the relaxing box - I used to use mothballs to supposedly stave off mold. But I like your idea much better - moth balls failed. The Modge Podge and resin are also genius ideas.</p>
<p>Butterfly tongues are definitely cool --I can see why they wanted to feature them in the mounting process! </p>
<p>Will anyone say bad taste?</p>
<p>Here at the Instructables community we have a rule about being encouraging, positive, and inquisitive in our comments. Just because a project isn't &quot;your taste&quot; doesn't make it bad. As you can see, plenty of users are enjoying this. Instructables is a big place and I'm sure you can find something more your speed on another page :)</p>
So, there's no such thing as bad taste but wrong context you say? ;)
<p>Really just saying there's no trolling allowed on Instructables, all taste aside ;)</p>
<p>Actually jferva, there is opinion. Have you ever met anyone who says they have bad taste. It is just subjective.<br><br>I would not want a gilded insect or now having read the Instructable think I's bother with doing one. I might do an acorn though. It's a well written Instructable.<br><br>Who are you to be the arbiter of taste? Where are your great taste Instructables?</p>
<p>Such a great job! Wonderful! I also really appreciate what you say about kill jars. I'd like to make pieces that resemble scarabs or whatnot, but are made from other things. This is so great!</p>
<p>I wonder if you might even get away with using top-coat nail polish in place of the fiberglass resin, as it would allow for sealing with more detail?</p>
<p>Thanks for your comments! Scarabs are such a beautiful symbol in history. Part of the reason I chose this beetle was that it looked like an idealized mega scarab. I looked at buying a real scarab and they're actually a lot smaller than i thought!</p><p>I think it would depend on the top coat, and your ultimate purpose for the insect. The higher grade top coats I own for actual nail use are very thick and vicious, making an almost plastic layer on the nail. Those would probably be even more likely to pool and conceal detail than the resin. A thinner top coat or even a clear acrylic varnish (like the one I used as an adhesive) would preserve detail well. The trade off in not using resin is the durability factor. Resin will make something hard enough that you can bump into things without damage, whereas the nail polish is easy to use but won't fortify so much. You might be able to get away with it on jewelry for low risk areas, like earrings and pendants, but insects meant for bracelets and rings definitely need the hard stuff since they're at high risk of getting impacted. </p>
<p>You guessed well, because it actually IS a scarab, all beetles in the family Scarabaeidae could be considered scarabs The main difference between your particular scarab and the traditional Egyptian Scarab is that your beetle is in the subfamily Dynastinae, while the Egyptian Scarab belongs to Scarabaeinae.</p>
<p>I'm an entomologist and I've never seen anything quite like this. I will probably try it at some point. I have shared your instructable in the Cultural Entomology group on Facebook.</p>
<p>Very cool! Thanks for sharing it. I bet your pieces will turn out amazing since you'll be well acquainted with insect surface textures and can pick ideal candidates for leafing.</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an animation director by day and Queen of the monsters by night. I picked up most of my costume and prop building skills ... More »
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