Introduction: Steampunk Violin Beetle

Picture of Steampunk Violin Beetle

(Updated) What do you get if you take one broken violin, a little free time, some steampunk and a gmjhowe?

Well you get the Steampunk Violin Beetle.

It has fully articulate legs and wings, with a carapace that opens and closes.
You can even use the legs to wear the Violin Beetle on your back.

Update: - I decided that this was missing something, I had been playing around with various parts for the head, I suddenly found a piece I had lost and was originally planning to use. Hence we have a updated picture to reflect the new addition. There is also a bonus picture featuring my beautiful wife modelled the beetle when worn on a back.

The main body is made from an old violin whose back was splitting away from the body, I was planning to take the back off so I could glue it back on, however the back then came off in its two halves and in a moment of inspiration I decided to make this.

So read on to see how I went about it, and be sure to vote for me in the Hurricane Laser contest.
(you may be thinking, well, he has laser cut bits there? Well, I use a shared laser cutter that does not belong to me, and I have to travel over an hour to get to it while paying $15 for train tickets)

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools
Materials Needed
  • Old Violin (Try and find a broken one, its a shame to ruin a working instrument)
  • Metal Bearings
  • Assorted Nuts/Bolts
  • Laserable Plywood
  • Stiff Brass hinges or Lego Bionicle Parts
  • Sugru
  • Varnish/Wood Wax
  • Wood Glue
  • Drill
  • Hole Cutters
  • Sandpaper
  • Access to a laser cutter
  • Hot glue gun
  • Stanley Knife/Boxcutter

Step 2: Disassemble the Violin and Remove the Back.

Picture of Disassemble the Violin and Remove the Back.

Most of the violin parts are easy to remove.

The strings can be unwound and removed, then you will find that the bridge just falls off. The tail piece should then just unhook off the bottom.

The chin rest can then be unscrewed  by turning the posts with a small screwdriver.

The most difficult bit is removing the neck, you don't need to remove this, but i feel it looks better without.
As you can make out from picture my violins neck was already snapped towards head. I had planned to glue this on when I was still planning to repair the violin.

Afraid there is no easy way to go about this, the neck will be a separate piece, its a case of pulling, twisting, hacking and bending until the neck comes off, then cleaning up the joint with sandpaper.

Finally we want to remove the back, most cheaper violins have the back made from two pieces which will naturally form our beetle carapace. My back was already starting to come away from the body, so this made my job easier, I basically ran a knife blade along the seam slowly levering the back off.

Step 3: Bearings for the Carapace

Picture of Bearings for the Carapace

Here we need a couple of bearings that will allow the carapace to swing open.

I had a couple of bearings left over from when I was working at a print works. They were just the right depth for me to attach to the body and support the carapace.

First, lets drill a couple of holes onto the carapace sections and attach the bearings. Next we want to place this together and ontop of the violin and roughly mark out holes in the body.

Once you have marked the whole cut out some holes a little larger than your bearings with a hole cutter.

The trick to getting a perfect fit with the carapace to the violin is to put the two carapace sections on the body and tape them in place. Turning over the other section of the bearing should sit just through the holes with a little bit of a gap on all sides.

Finally we use a hot glue gun to fill in the gaps and therefore make the seal on the bearings.

You can see on the last picture that my bearing holes were a little off centre, but it doesn't matter as the glue gun fills these in nicely.

Step 4: Optional Step - Sand and Wax/varnish the Violin

Picture of Optional Step - Sand and Wax/varnish the Violin

I wanted to create a more vintage feel for the violin so I sanded down the body and waxed it.

You can use varnish, but I found that the various gluing that happens in the next few steps bonds better with a waxed surface, or if you wish you can sand the wax a bit to get a nicer surface to glue onto and touch up with wax afterwards.

With varnish it would be best o leave the violin sanded down until you have glued everything in place.

Step 5: Cut and Glue the Legs

Picture of Cut and Glue the Legs

Next we want to start work on the legs. This is the element where I used a laser cutter.

Essentially, until I had access to the laser cutter this project stood still for about a year. I was fortunate to get access to the laser cutter and it took a few months before it clicked it would be perfect for the legs.

I have attached the files for the legs here, along with a PDF that has all the pieces including both types of wings.

The legs are designed to work in layers four. This creates a joint where two layers sit between two layers, and allows for a bolt to join the two allowing the legs to be positionable.

Glue these sections together with wood glue as per the picture.

At this stage you can bolt them together, which will help with placing them in the next step.

Step 6: Attaching the Legs.

Picture of Attaching the Legs.

The first thing is to decide where you want to position your legs. 

Because I wanted to be able to mount this on a persons back I decided to use bolts through the front two legs. The gap between the two wood sections allows you to easily place a bolt through it and through a couple of drilled holes in the main body. I then used wood glue to add a less wobbly joint.

Optionally you can use hot glue gun to fill the gaps between the wood allowing you to screw into them to mount the legs, I did this with the back two legs on my violin.

As always a little modification is needed and I ended up trimming the middle legs to seat them closer to the front legs.

In deciding where to have the legs it helps to have an extra set of hands to hold them all in place to see how they work.

Finally I made a nice join by mixing some sugru to make a deep brown/purple colour to give the legs a more organic attachment.

Step 7: Hinge the Wings

Picture of Hinge the Wings

Our final step is to make some wings.

This is where using a laser cutter really shines, actually cutting out the detail on these wings by hand would be very hard, not doubt requiring several attempts due to them being easy to break.

Here I show two sets of wings, and with attachment methods.
With both methods I used a spare bit of ply to make a level attachment board, glue this in there with hot glue.

The first set of wings I made were smaller, and fit inside the body of the violin, these were light enough to be held in place using a little jointed lego and some screws.

I then decided that I wanted bigger wings, but still wanted them to fold up inside the body, so I then developed a two section wing, which is joined in the middle with a small nut and bolt, this was too heavy for the lego so I made a new hinge method using a couple of brass hinges. These were screwed into the base plate, then bolted to each other and bolted onto the wings.

I originally tried covering the small wings with paper and fabric, but I found the skeleton look of the wings was more popular with friends and family, so decided to stick with that.

Step 8: (Updated Step) Give Him a Face.

Picture of (Updated Step) Give Him a Face.

I wanted to give the beetle a bit more personality, so I went about making a face.

This was mainly made from found parts, the front section really makes it work and is another old press piece. The trick is to really look around and collect bits that might work. I tend to spend a few hours just playing around with bits till something looks right.

The wooden section is laser cut and was originally meant for another project, however it just so happened to fit perfectly in with the beetle head. I have attached those files here too.

The layers of Ply and glued together with wood glue, the majority of the sections are added on by drilling holes and screwing/gluing in place.

The head is attached with a single metal rod, which is placed into matching size holes on the violin and head, this allows a little side to side movement as well as removing the head for transporting.

Step 9: Fin

Picture of Fin


This has been my most epic project for a long time and I am glad I took the extra effort of taking pictures along the way to share you with all.

I hope you enjoyed it, I encourage you to have a go at your own versions, I reckon you could add these legs onto all sorts of things!

If you do, be sure to leave a comment. If you liked it be sure to vote for me, or follow me to see any new projects of mine in the future.

- gmj


gmjhowe (author)2012-09-14

Oh, and if anyone is worried about me destroying an 'expensive' violin by mistake, I actually checked the name on the label(shown) with my friend who is an expert on instruments. He said he never heard of a maker by the name of 'Cremonenfis', I explained it had a '170' followed by a lightening bolt, and he said that didn't ring any bells either.

EnchantedCroissant (author)2015-08-14

I have an old violin I used about 6 or 7 years ago its too small for me and one string in broken off completely and the others are loose and waaay out of tune. Would this be bad to break? Its just a stentor so it would only cost 160 for a brand new bigger one and I'm already getting that.

squishyjoss (author)2013-10-27


KatherineSchreiber (author)2013-09-06

good one

Jim Davidson (author)2012-10-29

Absolutely Awesome!!! I was considering doing a SP Violin as a crossbow...Thanks to you it with definitely be a bit more 'Oganic'!!!

Spl1nt3rC3ll (author)2012-10-03

Wow, this is just too cool. I love when relatively ordinary objects are made into something incredibly creative like this, well done!

gmjhowe (author)Spl1nt3rC3ll2012-10-04

Hey! Thanks!

Also, where have you been? You have come out of hiding for the past two years to make this comment! Does this mean you are making a come back? Get yourself back in the secret chatroom if you can remember where it is.

roanmartigan (author)2012-09-18

Yeah, I am an instrument expert myself, and Cremonienfis does not sound familiar. Probably a cheap Italian knock-off of a nice Yamaha violin.

PKM (author)roanmartigan2012-09-28

You're an instrument expert and you've never heard of Stradivarius? I really hope you're joking...

roanmartigan (author)PKM2012-09-29

Your sarcasm detector appears to be off :-D

etopsirhc (author)2012-09-17

very nice , though i would have turned the neck/head of the violin into the head/horn of the beetle

cheesegrass (author)2012-09-16

You should make a transformer violin next. :)

gmjhowe (author)cheesegrass2012-09-16

Thats not a bad idea at all, I can use very similar legs, I just cut the violin up so that it unfolds with the legs.

mommyhen42 (author)2012-09-16

yep no worries about this violin. Here is what I found on the label.
Have you found a violin with the label "Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis"? Keep cool. It's almost certainly a fake. Labels such as "Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno 17", followed or not by circles with crosses,

Kiteman (author)2012-09-14


gmjhowe (author)Kiteman2012-09-16

Thank you sir.

Kiteman (author)gmjhowe2012-09-16

(But, wait, where are the photos of it being worn?)

gmjhowe (author)Kiteman2012-09-16

(Working on those today, along with another notable improvement!)

Kiteman (author)gmjhowe2012-09-16

(Oh? Settles back in anticipation.)

Kiteman (author)Kiteman2012-09-16

Oh! I like the update!

gmjhowe (author)Kiteman2012-09-16

ZING - Updated with more personality and a back mounted picture.

ekaran6630 (author)2012-09-16

this reminds me a Russian children's story book character, Great work!

gmjhowe (author)ekaran66302012-09-16

Thanks, which children's story book is that?

Kiteman (author)gmjhowe2012-09-16

Possibly something by Kafka?

gmjhowe (author)2012-09-16


zomfibame (author)2012-09-14

very cool piece of art. ... kinda' reminds me of stuff my grandfather used to make.... but none of his had moving parts like that.

gmjhowe (author)zomfibame2012-09-16

Thanks! Do you have any pictures of his things to share?

cynssc (author)2012-09-16

Good idea!! Very nice!

gmjhowe (author)cynssc2012-09-16


Beekeeper (author)2012-09-16

I like the book press in the background of one of your photos. Do you repair books as well? I have lots of old ones, some from the 1700s, that need attention.

gmjhowe (author)Beekeeper2012-09-16

Thanks, its a lovely bit of equipment to have, I don't restore books, but I do occasionally bind them. Also very useful for a lot of things that need pressure applying. Despite its smaller size, this thing weighs more than my wife! Cast iron from what I can tell.

hammer9876 (author)2012-09-16

Now, I won't be able to sleep with my old violin in the same room. (shiver)

Great job! And congratulations on being "Featured"!

I like the piece, I just feel bad destroying any kind of musical instrument.

I agree, this is why I make a point of telling people to repurpose broken cheap instruments instead of ruining one that works. This violin have both a split back, and a broken headstock. While a broken neck can be repaired fairly easily the break was in the headstock and the tension of the strings would have rebroken it too easily. I could have ordered a new neck, but the cost of a new neck would have been more than buying a violin of better quality.

ARIrish (author)gmjhowe2012-09-16

Regarding the label, this link has a bit more information about what exactly the 'cremonensis' part means, but why you shouldn't worry anyway:

nerd7473 (author)2012-09-14

Well neat

gmjhowe (author)nerd74732012-09-16


amandaghassaei (author)2012-09-15

wow, really nice work! love the surreal gif too!

gmjhowe (author)amandaghassaei2012-09-16

Thanks! It was originally a video, but I decided it needed to be a gif.

Plus gifs look great in the new picture layout.

St Jimmy (author)2012-09-14

With regards to the picture of the label, that says Stradivarius, basically the most famous violin maker of all time. If it was a genuine Stradivarius, it would be extraordinarily rare and expensive. Don't worry though, it's almost certainly fake.

Winged Fist (author)2012-09-14

Nice job! Happy to see it was only a 308 year-old Stradivarius you repurposed and not something really valuable -- like a prop from The Red Violin;-) 

nnygamer (author)2012-09-14

I'd take the end of the neck, the scroll and tuning pegs area and use them as a head bolted in the already available hole.

gmjhowe (author)nnygamer2012-09-14

Thats a really nice idea, I think if my scroll had not been broken I might have tried that. Afraid it got lost months and months ago though!

randofo (author)2012-09-14

Okay... that is pretty awesome. I am impressed.

gmjhowe (author)randofo2012-09-14

I know I must be doing something right if I am impressing randofo. Plus I was well overdue for an awesome project.

Pixie Puddle (author)2012-09-14

I love this it looks fantastic now it is finished, well done bro, :)

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a British Graphic Designer and Photographer, when I am not working, I spend my time making an array of projects. I used to ... More »
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