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Steampunk Butterfly

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16 Wings down front
14 Wings up complete

A Look at Butterflies

11-11-17   For this project I am making a Steampunk  Butterfly. This one is a Christmas present for my oldest daughter. I asked her what she thought would be a cool creation. She said she really likes butterflies so here I go.

11 Blue Butterfly
10 Monarch

I found a couple of butterfly pictures I could use to get the proportions correct. One side view with wings up and the other a top view wings spread.

12 Plans

Similar to the Wasp I made last summer I am going to use a 6-32 threaded rod as the base for the body of the butterfly.

Gears for the Abdomen

13 Gears

I sorted through my gear supply coming up with a range of large to small gears.

17 Gears on shaft 1

My plan is to thread these gears onto the rod with 1/8th inch spacers in order to create the abdomen. The end of the rod  had a 6-32 brass acorn nut threaded on to act as a stop.

16 machining spacers 1
15 machining spacers

I used the lathe to bore out some 1/4 inch brass rod with a 9/64th inch drill. Then the rod was cut into small brass spacers 1/8th inch in length.

The spacers and gears were added alternately with the diameter of the gears slowly increasing to the maximum diameter of 1 1/2 inches then tapering back down as the abdomen approaches the future location of the thorax.

The completed abdomen made from gears and a threaded rod. The next step will be the thorax. It will need to accommodate not only six legs, but also two sets of wings. I want the wings to articulate from a spread wing to folded formation.

A Knurled Handle for the Thorax


10 Brass Knurled Piece

For the thorax I used a knurled brass knob that I found in my junk bin.

11 cutting plug

One end of the knob had a 3/16th inch threaded hole in it for mounting it to whatever device it was originally made for. This I plugged with a bolt which was then cut flush with the brass.

12 Abdomen + Thorax

A hole was bored down the length so the thorax could be slid onto the body.

The thorax had three slots milled into the surface. Two for mounting the wings and the remaining one for mounting the legs. The slots were drilled and tapped for mounting future pieces.

The two shorter slots are for mounting the wings, the long slot on the bottom will be for mounting the legs.

19 brass legs

The legs will be bent from 1/8th inch brass rod. The mounting bracket is made from a 1/4 x 1/4 inch brass piece. The bracket was drilled so it could be attached to the thorax

18 leg mount

The leg mounting bracket attached to the thorax.

A Butterfly has Six Legs

20 bending legs

A metal jig was used to bend each leg to the correct angles for the joints.

21 rear legs

Holes were drilled so the legs could be slid into the sides of the bracket. These will be soldered into place when completed. Here can be seen the completed hind legs slid into the mounting bracket.

23 middle legs

The middle and hind legs.

24 ready to solder

The six completed legs inserted and ready to be soldered in place.

Side and top views of the legs and thorax mounted to the body. Soldering has been completed permanently attaching the legs to the bracket.

I used some small clock parts as feet for each leg. The forelegs act more as feelers for the butterfly so are mounted a little higher and have a different  foot shape.

27 feet attached

The butterfly so far. The legs, thorax and abdomen are completed. I may do further embellishments on the legs, but my next step will be creating the head.

The Head and Eyes


10 starting materials

For the head and eyes I planned to use two marbles and a steel tube.

11 drilling and tapping
12 head + eyes

Various holes were drilled and tapped for mounting the eyes and other head components.

A brass fastener was fabricated to hold the head piece in place.

17 Tongue

A clock spring was cut and fastened to the head to serve as the tongue.

In this phote the eyes were wired into place with 18 gauge copper wire.

The copper was soldered in order to secure it in place.

23 Head eyes attached

Here is the the head mounted to the body. After the antenna are added I will start on the most important part- the wings.


10 Antenna attached

I cut two curved sections from an antique clock chime to serve as antenna. These were inserted into the holes pre-drilled into the head piece.

A Butterfly Gets It’s Wing Mounts

Wing mounting brackets were cut, drilled and bent into shape.

13 wing bracket mount

The brackets mounted with screws to the pre-tapped thorax section.

A 9/64th inch hole was bored into some quarter inch rod and these were cut to length. A 6-32 screw holds the rods to the brackets.

16 Ready for wings

The wing sections will be soldered to the quarter inch rod section of the bracket. This will allow the wings to be moved up and down. There are four wings sections in total and these are the next step of the project.


10 Brass Blank

The wing mounting part of the hinges will be fabricated from a 3/4 inch brass plate.

The hinge pieces were cut shaped and drilled.

Holes were drilled and tapped into the quarter inch brass rod. Matching holes were drilled into the plate sections. For soldering the plates will be held to the rod with brass screws. After soldering the bore down the center of the shaft will be re-drilled for mounting.

15 Hinge mounted

These are the completed hinges after soldering, re-boring and mounting to the thorax.

17 ready for wings 2

The butterfly ready for wings.

16 ready for wings 1

Another view of the metal butterfly. The next step will be making the wings.

The Wing Design and Pattern


I first cut some paper patterns for the front and rear wings. The front wings will have brass gears mounted to a copper wing. The rear wings will be brass with a clear watch glass mounted to one section.

The patterns were laid onto the metal and traced with a permanent marker for cutting.

14 Copper wings

This is a picture of the front wings after rough cutting temporarily mounted to the body.

15 Brass pattern

The rear wing pattern traced onto the brass plate.

16 both wings

Here are all wing segments laid out under the body in the approximate final location.

17 Wings with gears

These are the wings with the gears and watch glasses laid in the areas where they will be mounted. Holes will be cut for some of the gears and both watch glasses.

18 Ready for holes

The hole layout sketched onto the wings ready to be cut. Here can also be seen the drill holes added to the wings for mounting to the hinges.


Today I cut the holes into the brass and copper sheet metal for mounting the gears and watch glass. Above left is the front wing with holes cut. On the right gears are laid in place on. The gears will eventually be soldered to the copper.

12 Wings+holes+gears

Both front wings ready for soldering.

13 rear wing with hole

The rear wing has a larger hole for mounting the watch glass. The glass will be held in place with clips screwed to the surface.

14 Wings with holes

The wings so far. Next will be some mounting and drilling that will finish the wings.

Some additional gears were added to the top and bottom of the wings.

In order to mount the watch glasses to the rear wings they were drilled and then some 4-40 brass nuts were soldered over the holes.

The wings were mounted to the body. The weight of the wings will require a spanner between the wings in order to support it.

A Support for the Wings

The spanner was made from two pieces of copper cut from a ring. The ring was a copper gasket used in a high vacuum system.

The spanner required two brackets to be attached to the wings. These were fabricated from brass scrap. The bottom on each was drilled and tapped for mounting to the wing. The top was drilled and had a channel cut into it for attaching the spanner.

The brackets were attached to the center of a gear in each wing.

25 spanner + bracket

The spanner was then attached to the brackets.

Side and back views with the wings up and the watch glasses temporarily mounted with screws.

Two views with the wings spread.

31 wings open 2

So this is where I am so far. I need to come up with some finished mounting for the watch glasses. I think I will also flip them so they will be convex instead of concave when viewed from the top with the wings open. The wings will be polished up a bit and then varnished. I’ll do some other finishing touches and of coarse make a mounting base. The metal butterfly is very close to completion with plenty of time before Christmas.

Some Paint and Finishing Touches


I added some paint to trim out the openings and make the gears look more aged.

The edges of the rear wings were outlined in black. Similar outlining was done to the front wings only in red.

15 Wings up back

Top view with wings up. The watch glasses are visible in this picture.

16 Wings down front

Front view wings down.

17 Wings down bacl

Another view.

18 Close up head

Close up view.

A Base for Legs to Stand On

Oak base cut out and holes drilled for the legs.

21 base stained
10 Felt for base

Base after staining(top). The base was varnished and a felt bottom was added.

And finally a gallery show of the completed butterfly on its stand.

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