Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Naturalization of Insects - Bis

Hello again dear friends!

It's my pleasure to present you another insect naturalization and framing project. This one is a bit more ambitious; I have inserted 6 magnificent specimens in one large shadow box.

The way I proceeded was the same as in this earlier tutorial: On Mounting and Naturalization of Insects

However, I decided to use a new kind of frame, which is much larger, and opens from the back, not from the front like the first frame I used.

Thus, here begins my marvelous journey.

First off, you probably recall the process of relaxing insects; it is very important so that when you "pose" the specimen, parts of it won't, well, fall off.

Here you can see a magnificent specimen of Dorcus Alcides sitting in the relaxing chamber. I simply added warm water and a bit of bleach to some paper towels underneath the critter; when the chamber is closed, the ambiant humidity softens the insect's articulations. It takes a while, though; and with very large beetle, one can simply drop them in boiling water for a couple of seconds. Don't do it with more fragile specimens though, or else they might break.

It is then simply a matter of installing  the specimens on pieces of foam or whatever pinning board you have at hand, and pin them in the position you wish to keep them. There is more details on the post I linked to earlier.

While your specimens dry (which can take a while too), don't forget to eat! Nothing excites more the mind and taste buds than the fresh smell of Naphtalene. Thus, making yourself some wet burritos in the same spot you prepare your insects is simply essential.

Once your belly is full and your insects are still drying (told you, it takes a while! they'll be ready when the limbs will become stiff.), it's time to work on the frame. Here you can see the frame I used, a shadow box priced at around 10$ of a large enough size to accomodate all my specimens.
To prepare the frame, all I did was sand it lightly so the stain has some pores to grip.
Since we'll be staining the wood but not the glass, it might be time to protect the glass with some good old tape.
Now you just have to choose, stir, open and use a can of wood stain of a color suiting your palette. Some brands of wood stain recommend the use of a brush, but I found using a slightly damp rag to apply the stain is much more satisfying. A couple of layers will probably be necessary, depending on the color you wish to achieve.

Afterwards, the frame backing must be prepared; after all, your specimens will be pinned down, and a piece of hardboard isn't the easy thing through which one can insert pins. Thus, I strongly recommend cutting down a piece of foam (be it polystyrene, extruded, or plastazote foam) to the size of the boxe's inside, and gluing it down to the frame's backing.

Here you can see I used extruded foam. Now you will probably all agree that this naked pink foam is an absolute horror to the eyes, so we shall hide it. I simply glued to the foam a piece of bordeaux felt, bought for 50¢ at a craft store. Then, you can try sliding the panel inside the box and see if any adjustments are in order.
Looks pretty good doesn't it? you can see I also added a couple of layers of varnish to the wood. Makes the color and the grain pop out. Afterwards, it is simply a matter of writing down the specimen's names and provenance, by hand on a piece of fine paper, or in a text editing program, choosing a font which strikes your fancy and also stays readable. I tried two different fonts, and finally stuck with the cleaner, more official looking one. I then cut out the labels, and gave them a nice tea bath to give them the nice "antique" look you see there.

And then, the fun part: all that is left is to place the (Hopefull) now dry insects on the pinning board, by their labels, trying to find a pattern that is pleasing to the eye.

It is generally at this moment you'll realize your labels are too big/small or that the font isn't as readable as you thought. Feel free to adjust accordingly. Afterwards, simple close the frame and gaze thoughtfully at this marvelous work of art nature has helped you create.


  1. You are so fantastically talented and hilariously funny. Love the bugs. Nice stuff, once again :)

  2. Thank you! comments like this make my day! ^^

  3. Nice job :D Can't wait to try that myself. (one more thing I'll be copying you -_- )

  4. Hey, I bought the same camera as you, so don't feel like a copycat, you're not alone ;)