Victorian Insectarium




Introduction: Victorian Insectarium

About: Hobbyist, part time college teacher regarding industrial design topics.

During this Summer/Autumn got some desert insects, specifically: Millipedes. Even if they look scary, they are great pets with a docile and calm temperament. They love to eat apples, cucumbers, and other fruits and vegetables.

I didn't want to have them in a classic plastic terrarium so i decided to build a new vivarium from scratch. I also did´t like the idea to have the classic brick shape container.

So I just needed a new home, not plastic, not all rectangular. I remembered I saw some houses pictures a few days ago, they were different, asymmetrical; then I made the decision to put together some ideas and create a new vivarium with a few Victorian design elements, but, at the same time it had to be simple.



- At least 12 x 72 inches 3/32 thickness clear glass

- (2X) 1/2 in. x 96 in. x 1/16 in. Thick Aluminum Angle

- Metallic Window Screen

- 12" x 24" rigid foam (Trovicel TM) or melamine

- 12" X 24 wood board


- Glass Cutter

- Coping saw

- Metal hand saw

- Scissors

- Cutting resistant safety gloves and googles

- 60 grit sand paper

- Transparent window Silicon

- Medium CA glue and accelerator

- Modeling clay

Step 1: Design

After some reading and research, I found some recommendations:

- Wide: at least the millipede total length

- Length; at least twice as long

- Height: not critical, but at least 1 1/2 the millipede total length. I estimated 175 mm for the walls.

Glass was selected as the wall´s material and a 1/2" aluminum angle to put all together.

On the image you can see the designed general top view and the individual section sizes (millimetres):

450, 225, 50, 50, 50, 248, 30, 30, 30, 30, 30, 30, 160

The vertical sections are just for reference, the final design doesn't have vertical aluminum segments.

Step 2: Design + Manufacturing

The idea was to use one single segment of aluminum angle for the base, avoiding several segments was a must to have better general rigidity. Each single segment is at least: 450+225+50+50+50+248+30+30+30+30+30+30+160= 1413 millimetres + a few more to compensate the manual cuts and bends= 1450 min

Having said that, to accomplish that the angle profile had to be cut partially and bent to form the general segment. The fist trial worked very good.

Step 3: Standardizing the Angle Marking Cuts

Ok, one issue is that based on the designs there were some cutting specific angles:

45° :


72° ?

75° ??

In order to have repeatable cuts I had to first have repeatable marks. Using a regular protactor was an option but that could take some time and check, after chech, after chech before cutting. To solve this I prepared and cutted my own rigid PVC foam (Trovicel) angle gages using just an x-acto knife. Of course you can have yours with cardboard or any other similar material.

Step 4: Mirror, Manufacturing 2 in 1

The design has one lower frame, and one upper frame. Both needs to have the exact same dimensions, cuts and bends, otherwise once the assemble comes it will be a disaster.

This was also an easy point, the key was to make a sandwich with 2 profiles and clamp them to each other to use one single mark, one single cut and one single bend.

Step 5: Mark, and Cut, Repeat

For the 72° and 75° cuts I also used a coping saw. The metal file was just used for the outer edges and 45 vs 45° to correct any small deviations.

A very important point: do not cut the last section according to the design! Remember, if you are marking by hand, cutting by hand, and bending by hand, you need to consider the tiny accumulated errors, just leave 1 inch at the end and do a final cut once all segments are bent.

On the second image on this step you can see the "design mark" vs the adjusted and final mark.

Step 6: Bend All Sections

Aluminium is very flexible and easy to bend, just use your hands to bend at each cut, remember to have the general design picture at hand for reference.

Step 7: Finish the Frames

On the first picture the original or per design mark is the upper one. The lower one had to be adjusted after the last bend was done. You only need to cut and add a couple of CA glue at the final open ends.

Step 8: Cut the Glass Sections

Before starting check again you are using your personal protection equipment. Glass edges and fragments could be dangerous.

Make sure you have a flat surface. Review the design and measure, once you have the correct distance use the mirror cutter to mark or score the glass, make sure to cover from the upper edge all the way to the bottom, use high constant pressure, just once, you don´t need multiple passes. Use glass cutting oil if you want, I didn´t use it this time.

Once the glass is scored I put a pencil under the mark and pressed both sides near the mark with my hands, very easy and direct once you have some practice.

There are 13 glass sections so be patience. Height for all parts is 175 mm. After cutting all the parts I sanded all the edges with a 60 grit sand paper and thick gloves.

Consider to have an additional glass sheet if you have never cutted glass. I had a problem with the first one :(

Step 9: Arrange and Mark the Parts

Then I moved to an upper surface to have better control and I identified the parts.

Step 10: Assemble the Walls

Add silicone to the angle and once you locate the glass, press it against the angle profile.

I used modeling clay to fix the upper corners and move from one wall to the next. It worked great. Once I finished to install all the glass walls I started applying silicon to the vertical wall to wall joints.

Step 11: Add the Upper Frame

Remove the modeling clay temporary clamps.

Add more silicon to the upper angle frame and install it.

I put some weight on top and let it dry for a few hours.

Step 12: Build the Roof Structure

I used 90° 1/2" x 1/2" angle to build the roof. To assemble it I just used CA glue.

The main sections length are: 450, for the first side triangle: 150, 150, 215, and for the other the same: 150, 150, 215.

Cut angles to the end sections, use CA glue and accelerator. Have patience, use additional clamps if you want because sometimes you need to glue 3 parts at the same time and 2 hands aren't enough.

Step 13: Install the Roof Cover and Sides

For the upper section I used metallic Window Screen. Cut the sections with sheet metal scissors, again, CA glue is your friend, use it for all the angle vs window screen interface (not just single spots), it will help you to have a more rigid structure.

Step 14: Build the Removable Access Sections on the Roof

To have access to the insects you can remove the complete roof, but, what if you have some jumping insects inside? That is why I decided to install a couple of removable sections on one of the roof angled sections.

Cut one by one the segments, Use CA glue and accelerator, once you glue the steel mesh each section is rigid enough to handle them with your hands.

Step 15: Integrate and Finish the Roof´s Front Section

For this you only need to use some more metallic window screen. Don´t leave any gaps as they will be used as escape points.

To complete the left side I used some thick paper masking tape and scissors. Go little by little cutting, trying and adjust until you get a good result. After that you only need to transfer the design to the metal screen.

Use the same approach for the right side.

Step 16: Install the Floor and Block Other Scape Points

I used rigid foam (Trovicel) for the floor, I just marked the outer part and then cutted around 5mm inside the marks. The material is super easy to cut and sand if some adjustements are required,

A scrap wood board was used as a general base for everything

Step 17: Add Decoration

These are desert millipedes the good news is they don´t need to have abundant humidity or other source of water besides the one is provided with the general food. I used a very similar condition found on their original location, stones, cactus and cholla cactus skeletons.

Step 18: Move Every One to the New Insectarium

Thats it, just after everybody moved to the new house they began to recognize the new place. All of them had a good supper as well !

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    2 years ago

    Great Instructable! Congrats with being a finalist in the Hand tools only challenge!


    2 years ago

    Love Love Love this!

    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    2 years ago

    Those bugs super creep me out but I am just loving this insectarium!