Introduction: Big Pine Ladybird

About: Make it so.

This pine ladybird model is 18cm in length; compared to a real-life 4mm pine ladybird, this is 45X bigger! It's made using simple model making tools and techniques and can be made from start to finish quickly.


  • Chemiwood Block
  • Files + Rasps
  • Sandpaper
  • Milliput + Armature Wire
  • Body Filler
  • Epoxy Glue
  • Primer + Acrylic Paints + Lacquer
  • Masking Tape

Step 1: Blocking + Shaping + Plans

Before we start, there is a PDF (in both A4 & Letter size) of my CAD drawing included of the beetle. The design is not set it stone, rather, a guideline for proportions and orthographic views.

Most of the ladybird is made from a single block of chemiwood. Chemiwood (also known as prototype board, RenShape, tooling board etc) is a urethane based material designed to be easy working with tools and blissfully easy to sand.

The block is pre-cut and squared for the profiles to be traced on. The side was cut first on a band saw followed by the top to remove excess material. The same result can be done with a coping saw, albeit, not as cleanly. From this block the form can begin to take shape. Using rasps and files the material can be removed to form a compound curve along the block.

To maintain a consistent curve, I made a styrene template generated from the CAD drawing; this helps with symmetry. Continue shaping until you're satisfied with the overall shape and symmetry; it's at this stage you'll want your form to be complete.

Step 2: Smoothing + Detail

At this point my form is at a stage I like. Chemiwood is amazing when it comes to surface finish and a 120 grit will take off rasp and file marks with ease. After tools marks are removed, a further pass with 240 grit and 400 grit brings the form to a blissfully smooth surface.

Referring to the CAD drawing, trace the detail lines onto the beetle. Following these lines scribe them in with a needle file. Go nice and slow, it's way too easy to take off more than you expect.

To shape the lip under the belly of the beetle, I used a needle file to file off a couple millimetres around the belly to give depth.

Lastly I used a coping saw to cut out a wedge between the separation line along the body to re-sculpt later.

Step 3: Refinement & Legs

If you've taken too much material off or want more control over an area, you can add material back on with Milliput (Plumbers Epoxy, Apoxie Sculpt etc) and body filler. In my case it was the rim around the body and the transition line. To exaggerate this rim I added Milliput around the edge and blended with body filler, followed by sanding. These materials blend and stick well with chemiwood once cured.

The line I filed along the body was misaligned and was refilled and re-filed. To blend the transition under the belly I used Milliput to fill the gap and smooth along the surface.

To emulate the legs use armature wire (at least 3mm diameter) and form your leg shape. Drill holes into your beetle to position the leg properly and assure the shape is right. Clad with Milliput on top.

Step 4: Head

Keeping the head separate gives more control when it comes to shaping. Again, using the CAD as a basis the head shape was roughed out from a small off-cut of chemiwood with a scalpel, needle files and 240 grit sandpaper. Just like the rim around the body, adding the eyes on with Milliput is far easier than trying to relief cut them out.

For the mandrels they are done the same way as the legs, just with thinner wire. Essentially, every step taken to make the body is applied to the head.

Step 5: Paint

Now to bring the beetle to life: with paint! Chemiwood is porous and needs sealing, if you don't your paint will soak through like a sponge. I use spray filler primer to build up a smooth coat. When primer has dried, it can be sanded with 400 grit for a smooth base.

My ladybird is 3 colours: white, red and black. Naturally, light to dark is the process for most paint jobs so this beetle starts with a white base coat. Anything that was going to stay white I masked off, like the front of the body and the head detail.

For the red spots on a pine ladybird I wanted sharp, crisp edges with a bit of texture. I opted to brush red with intentional brush strokes over a large area and mask using the template. I cut out the design directly on the surface.

For the black I also painted with acrylics but slightly thinned, getting consistent coverage over the beetle. Once all paint is dry the tape can carefully be peeled back.

Assembly is as simple as gluing the head and legs onto the body with 2-part epoxy glue. For the final touch, spray gloss lacquer over the beetle to simulate the slick look that ladybirds have.

Step 6: Complete

Now take your beetle into the woods and take some nature shots :)

This block technique of model making is extremely versatile and can be applied to a whole host of projects, not just beetles:) it's my bread and butter when it comes to quick and effective model-making, such as my Mario Kart project

Super-Size Speed Challenge

Second Prize in the
Super-Size Speed Challenge