Introduction: Recycled Metal Bug

About: Waste materials recycled into jewellery, accessories, home decor, garden art.

A step by step guide on how to make a simple Metal Bug, for your garden or home, using recycled materials and rivets.

> Suitable for aged 8 - adult.
> Children must be supervised and assisted, as power tools are involved.
> A basic knowledge of using tools is assumed, and a workspace with a fixed vice is essential.

Once you’ve mastered this little bug, and got to grips with the drilling and riveting, the possibilities are endless, and you can then embellish your bugs with added recycled components, colour etc.

More details on those coming soon!


> The recycled components:

1: An empty and washed nitrous gas canister.

- IMPORTANT - Make sure the canister is EMPTY by checking the end - if it has a hole it’s empty. (See pic above ^)

2: The bottom of a drinks can

- If you have followed my first tutorial - the tin can flower - this is where you can make use of the bottom of the can you have already washed and cut.
If not go here for instructions on how to cut the can safely:

3: Plastic Tubing (optional)

> Other components:

1: Washers
- 3 different sizes, 8 in total.
I’m using 2 x m5, 2 x m4, and 4 x m3, stainless steel penny washers. But you can use whatever you have to hand, as long as the smallest ones have a hole no bigger than 3.5mm, to fit the rivets.

2: Pop Rivets
- I’m using 3.2mm diameter - 10 @18mm long, and 4 @8mm long.

TIP: Have a few spare long ones in case of mistakes!


1: A fixed Vice
2: Battery Powered Drill (with a 3.5mm metal drill bit - preferably titanium or high speed steel (HSS))
3: Riveter (aka rivet-gun)
4: Hammer (preferably ball pein, but not essential)
5: Tin Snips
6: Centre Punch
7: Pliers
8: Marker Pen
9: Jewellers Doming Block and Punches (optional)
10: Scissors (optional)

You will need a solid wooden workbench to work on.

> Protective Equipment:

- Gloves (when cutting the can)
- Safety Glasses (when drilling)

Step 1: Washer Eyes

The eyes are made up of 3 layers of different size washers, which we can shape with the use of the jewellers doming block and doming punches.

If however you don’t have a doming block, (which you most likely don’t!) they look equally as good layered up flat.

If you are using a doming block - select the appropriate size holes and punches for your washers, and hammer (hard) until nicely rounded.

Then hold the largest washers you are using (flat or domed) onto the ‘head’ end of the gas bottle, so you can work out where your eyes are going to go. Mark a dot with the marker pen, in the centre of the washer - this is where you’ll be drilling a hole for the rivet.

Step 2: Drilling the Holes for the Eyes

Secure the gas bottle firmly in the vice.

Position the dot so that you can hammer and drill at a 90 degree angle to the vice (ie: straight down).

Before drilling, we MUST use the centre punch, and hammer, to mark a dent for the drill bit to sit in, or it will slip all over the place.

Give the punch a good whack once or twice to make a good dent.

Then use the drill, keeping it at a 90 degree angle to the vice, so that you are pushing straight down (this minimises the risk of slipping, or breaking the drill bit).

> Prior knowledge of using a power drill is assumed here - always supervise a child, and wear safety glasses where necessary <

Drill all the way through the steel, into the hollow cavity.

TIP: Check for large shavings (called swarf) appearing when you drill - this tells you the drill bit is sharp and doing its job properly. If the shavings are tiny, and/or its taking ages to drill, then your drill bit is most likely blunt.

Repeat on the other side.

Step 3: Marking All the Holes

Mark dots for the mouth, antennae, wings and legs, with the marker pen.

> It’s important to take your time here to get everything lined up with the eye holes you have already drilled, as it’s very easy to end up with a wonky bug, if you’re not careful!

Step 4: Drilling All the Holes

As you did with the eyes, punch a dent before drilling, and keep the holes in the centre of the vice, so that you are drilling straight down, turning the bottle and tightening the vice as you go.

> Don’t forget to also drill the hole larger at the tail end, so you can fit a rivet in there too.

Step 5: Preparing the Bottom of the Can for the Wings

Using the tin snips cut close to the bottom edge, (wear gloves here if you need to - the aluminium can will have very sharp edges, so take extra care).

Then pinch the sharp edge in with the pliers, to create a neatly crimped edge.

Step 6: Cutting the Wings

Cut the can bottom in half so that you have 2 wings, and fold over the cut edge, pulling and pinching with the pliers (it’s a little trickier than the last step), to eliminate the sharp edge.

Then lightly hammer the fold flat (with the rounded end if you have a ball pein hammer)

Step 7: Texturing and Punching Holes in the Wings

If you want a bit of texture on your wings, you can lightly hammer with the rounded end of the hammer, onto the wooden workbench, to create a slightly dented appearance.

We now need holes in the corners of the wings, to be able to rivet them on.

Use the punch, and hammer it straight through the aluminium into your wooden workbench (or a scrap piece of wood) to make a hole big enough to fit the rivet (in this case approx 3mm)

Step 8: Riveting on the Eyes

Using the shorter rivets, hold onto the stick (shaft) end, and load up the washers (flat or domed) onto the fatter end of the rivet, upside down - small first, then medium, then large, then place it into the eye socket.

Keep hold of it all, whilst putting the stick end of the rivet into the rivet gun.

IMPORTANT - Keep the handles of the rivet gun completely open until the nozzle hits the bottom of the stick. Don’t start squeezing the handles together until it is firmly all the way down.

Squeeze the handles together whilst still holding all the washers in place. When they start to feel secure, you can let go, and use both hands to squeeze the handles (as it gets tough) to ‘snap’ the rivet.

> If the rivet doesn’t snap when the handles are closed, open it right out again, until it clicks, make sure the nozzle is at the bottom, and squeeze again. Repeat until it snaps.

Repeat with the other eye, and see your bug suddenly start to take shape 🙂

Step 9: Riveting on the Antennae and Legs

We need to use the longer rivets for the antennae and legs, as we don’t want to snap them off.

> The longer they are the more we have to play with, before they snap.

Fit both rivets into the antennae holes loose.

> It’s important you put them both in at the same time, so that they both fit.

Don’t worry if they stick out a bit, or are at odd angles, as they will push down as you rivet them in, and you can bend them into place with the pliers after.

Work the rivet gun as you did with the eyes, but this time you are just looking at getting them securely fixed, NOT going as far as snapping them.

TIP: You will be squeezing and opening the riveter handles a few times as the rivets are longer. With practice you’ll be able to tell when to stop, as the pressure increases just before they snap, but for now just take it slowly, checking as you go, and when it feels secure, stop.

Repeat this with the legs - putting them in loosely in pairs, otherwise you’ll end up not bring able to fit the last one in!

CAUTION: There is a fine line between securing and snapping, and mistakes inevitably happen!
If you snap one by mistake, don’t worry, it can be rectified - the rivet can be drilled out, and re-done.

> Have some spare rivets in case this happens.

Step 10: Bending the Legs and Antennae, and Adding a Tail and Proboscis

Use the pliers to bend the legs and antennae into shape.

Rivet the tail end the same as you did the legs, and bend up with the pliers.

For the mouth - Use the last long rivet, even though it probably won’t fit all the way in - have it sticking out a bit, and rivet it on like that. It’ll look more proboscis like.
Then after it’s secured, trim the stick end shorter, using the cutting part in the pliers, and bend slightly.

Step 11: Attaching the Wings

Use the remaining 2 short rivets, and 2 small washers, to rivet the wings on. Remembering to go all the way and snap the rivet this time!

Step 12: Rubber Feet (optional)

As an optional extra, you can add small bits of plastic tubing to the feet, to cover the sharp ends, especially if it’s going inside.
It needs to be the right size to just push on, and not fall off.
This is not at all essential, especially if it’s going outside. Only if you have some available 🙂

Step 13: Craft Kits Also Available

If you’re interested in making one of these, or similar, but don’t have the materials, or tools, I can put together kits for you.
These will range from simple to more advanced.

If you don’t have access to a vice or a drill, then I can also supply the gas bottles pre-drilled.

Craft kits are supplied with or without tools included.

Do let me (or the Big Skill) know if you’re interested in a craft kit. 🙂

Step 14: Video Link

Here is a (partly time-lapsed) video of me making one of these bugs, which you might find helpful.

Good luck!