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Casting spider?

This may seem a bit odd, but bear with me, please.

We have been graced this year with an absolutely gorgeous orb-weaver
spider (Argiope aurantia), who has chosen to make her spectacular web
in our front window. For those of you who aren’t familiar with orb
weavers, they are the “Charlotte” from Charlotte’s Web fame -
yellow-and-black bodies and long graceful legs. They weave beautiful
webs with “signatures” (each spider’s is different, I understand) in
them. They range in size, but ours has a body about 1" long - about
2.5" from the tip of her front legs to the end of her back legs, I’d
guess. (More about them and photos here:

She’s spun her egg sac and now it’s only a matter of time until she
dies (first frost or earlier). When she does, I’d LOVE to make a
casting of her, but I’m not quite sure how to go about it. I’d like
to capture as much of the detailing on her abdomen as possible, as
well as the grace of those legs. So, any suggestions? Is
plaster/burnout the way to go? Or RTV? Or something else? Anyone
ever tried this successfully?

Karen Goeller
Hand-crafted artisan jewelry

I cast live flowers and others. I have never done spiders, but I have
done cicadas. I sprue the insect and invest it carefully… no
vibrater or anything that will disturb it while the flask is drying.
I burn out and cast with centrifical casting. I will try to send a


I have cast a few varieties of those crawly things, some beetles,
praying mantis, a dragon fly, and a black widow. I used plaster each
time with little problems. The solid parts of their bodies and the
small detail came out surprisingly clear. The wings and other
delicate thin areas were a different matter. Through some
experimenting we found that some additional “feeder” sprus helped
with some wax build-up in possible hollow cavities (mainly the
beetles). On one occasion with a large praying mantis we casted it
in five parts. As for your spider it will start to shrival up soon
after it’s departure so time is of the essence. Carefullly add wax
to some of the joints especially where the plaster will penetrate
into the body parts. Then position the legs where the tips join
together at their “toes” with a small bead of wax. Spru it as
needed. I burned out the flask same as any other small casting. Try
a couple other spiders first before the prized one.



I have successfully cast: spiders, very small frogs, crickets, bees,
beetles & dragonflies! Attach the sprue to the largest part of the
body. Vibrate the investment in the bowl; not the flask. Burn out as
usual. Calculating the weight is either an educated guess or use the
water displacement theory. Because the actual metal needed is far
heavier that the wax ratio! The only problems I have had in the past
were incomplete wings (too thin) and or breaking of legs. Sometimes I
coat them with wax or Elmer’s glue; very carefully! All of the
details will come out; and some you have never noticed before! The
underside of the beetle was actually hairy! And all of the bumps on
the tiny frog cast completely, his tongue was even sticking out!

Of course, I being the lover of critters that I am…I could only
cast already dead specimens! If you have more questions feel free to
e-mail me directly.

Best of luck
Nancy Anderson
Design Force
In hot and sunny Illinois!

Dear Karen

sorry but No, it will not work the way you picture it in your head.
those graceful legs and the beautiful coloration, well I used to try
and do the same as you did, I don’t anymore. I have tried every
possible way, to capture that grace and beauty, in the end it has
been disappointment after another, the closest I have come is with
the silicone molds, but still no cigar.

I am sorry ;but enjoy her while she is around, and let her go… I
have one of the same in my front door, well she started there, she
moved to the railing,and as she got bigger her web also got bigger
and now resides between the front window, the railing and door,about
14 inch web she about an inch and half in diameter, I did get sad
reading your email made me realize that she would die at first frost,
I was thinking she would migrate inside…

I have done a lot of insects from preying mantes to the regular fly,
they all loose all that ,and become this piece of metal, which is to
me a far cry from the beautiful being.

I have seen some amazing things done by metal smiths and sculptors
in fabrication mode making things and carving things completely out
of solid metal or wax.

maybe you could hold onto her as you model and work from her under a
scope and fabricate and carve her.

just an opinion
good luck

Atelier Babikian 54147
Philadelphia , PA.19105

Karen, Many years ago I cast a bumble bee and was able to get
incredible detail. At the time I had little experience so I think
that there was a lot of luck involved. Good luck.

Joel Schwalb

Hi Karen,

I have cast Black Widows and Wolf spiders here in lovely VA (I saved
a few of this year’s Cicadas for casting too). First, before the
creature dries out, I lay it out, spread out the curled up legs and
spray it with a light mist of clear lacquer. After drying, I mist
the underside. This keeps the legs in an outward position, and helps
to seal the porous body from damage during investing. I sprued them
in the underside of the abdomen, and cast them very hot, to ensure
that the legs fill completely.

Mark Moretti
Alexandria, VA

We have been graced this year with an absolutely gorgeous
orb-weaver spider 


I know this has nothing to do with the jewelry arts, but here’s an
interesting addition to the supplied on the link you
included in your post: I once saw a documentary on orb weavers which
use stabilimenta. The theory propounded there was that these zig-zag
patterns appear to insects as attractive flowers. The documentary
also asserted that the stabilimenta are redesigned every night.
(Maybe this does have something to do with design–variations on a

Del Pearson of Designs of Eagle Creek in Beautiful South Texas,
where we currently have three huge orb weaver webs on the front porch
of our store.

    Is plaster/burnout the way to go? Or RTV?  Or something else? 
Anyone ever tried this successfully? 

Hi Karen. While I haven’t tried this, I know another who has, and
have read about plenty of others. All, to my recollection, have
invested with a slightly long burnout cycle. The main tip I’ve heard
or read offered is, if the bug/insect/arachnid is recently dead, put
a tiny drop of superglue on each leg joint. That will keep the legs
in position when you pour the investment. Otherwise, they may bend
to a weird position, or break off.

I love the Golden Orb Weavers that set up residence in my yard, and
refer to them as “My Ladies” since the ones which are large enough
to notice easily are female. The webs, with their stabilimenta (the
criss-crossed part) are a thing of real beauty. If you’re lucky
enough to find the web intact when she dies, I learned a trick in
the Boy Scouts long ago; spray paint the web, then push a large
sheet of paper or cardboard up to it. Then, just clip the web’s
anchor lines. Beautiful! There seems to be argument on the web page
you posted about whether the web’s stabilimenta are used for
catching food, but I distinctly remember an educational program that
filmed a web with such a structure with UV film, then filmed flowers
with the same film (the program mentioned that most insects see in
the UV range). The flowers looked nearly identical in that format.

James in SoFl, where the worst of Hurricane Frances is over down
here (thank goodness for my UPS), but I wonder how the coralnut is
doing up north of me. Don, drop me a line.


I know whereof you speak - we had a relative of your spider, Argiope
trifasciata (the banded argiope) in our sweetspire bushes last
summer. She was absolutely gorgeous, with narrow black and yellow
stripes, as well as a silvery effect across the back of her abdomen
that was only visible at certain angles. She became like a sort of
pet; we would always check on her and see what she was up to. She
stayed in the same spot all summer, accumulating a whole pile of
little insect carcasses under her web. We haven’t seen any since, so
I guess that she never found a mate, but I have lots of photos to
remember her by.

It would be nice to be able to immortalize your spider in silver,
but while casting insects with hard exoskeletons is not hard to do,
a spider will present quite a few challenges. Spiders are very
soft-bodied compared to insects, and their bodies do not hold up as
well after death. Arachnologists are generally obliged to keep their
specimens in alcohol or formalin (rather than on pins), and even
then, the spider’s abdomen often collapses until it looks like a
fierce, leggy raisin.

I’ve cast a few insects successfully (and a few unsuccessfully) and
found that the trick with the insects is to keep them as fresh, or
at least as wet, as possible. I’ve had the best luck with
alcohol-preserved specimens. If allowed to dry out at all, the air
spaces inside the insect will have investment sucked into them
during the vacuum process, resulting in blowouts and areas too thin
to cast. Sometimes a beetle or other such critter will reveal all
sorts of delicate little structures that you didn’t even see until
you cast it and they break off. A way of dealing with this is to
fold all the appendages in as tightly as possible and seal them with
wax, but from an aesthetic standpoint, I don’t see how this would
work with your spider. Alas, the brilliant patterning on the abdomen
also won’t show up in a casting.

I’d imagine that probably the best thing to do is make a
representative memorial effigy of your spider, as opposed to going
the investment/cremation route. I think your design would look more
lively, and more like your mind’s own picture of the spider as you
saw it. But, all that said, don’t let any of this stand in the way
of a good casting experiment!

HTH, and good luck,
Jessee Smith

Hi Karen I got some experience in casting insects. It was a hobby of
mine. My workshop used to be in a hotel and the management was very
liberal with poison, much against my will. This resulted in many
insects being killed, thus many castings. I only used spin casting
and I only was successful about 80% of the time.

When your Orb spider has finished her egg sac, you might as well
catch her and kill her.

Reason ? As she dies she will crawl off somewhere and you won’t find
her, or she’ll drop to the ground and the ants will damage her.
Besides, they start shriveling up soon after they done the egg
thing. The best way to kill any insect is to put it in a bottle and
freeze it.

This also allows you to choose the time of casting. Also, only cast
insects in absolutely perfect condition.

I sprued up as follows:

On the thorax of the insect, at the bottom, I put the main sprue,
about 6-10mm thick. I make it as thick as possible, even as thick as
the width of the abdomen. An Orb spider has very thin legs. This is
a problem. You have to sprue each leg just above the foot, sometimes
on the shin and also on the thigh.( sorry, I don’t know the correct
names) With an Orb I would probably use 4 sprues on each leg 1.2mm
thick, only on the smooth parts. Also you have to thicken all the
joints with a bit of wax applied with a hot needle. If you don’t
there will be porosity there, and they will break off after casting.
Normally sprues will be about 1-2mm thick.

From the main sprue a 2.5mm sprue will go to under the pedipalps.
Always sprue underneath the insect. Thicken the joint with wax
between the head, thorax and abdomen if necessary A 3mm sprue will go
to under the middle of the abdomen from the main sprue. Your Orb
will have 35 sprues when you finished…

A spider abdomen becomes soft after thawing and deforms under its
own weight as it rests on the sprue.I think an Orb won’t ( I have
never cast one) but I think they have a harder skin than the soft
furry abdomen of say a Sun spider. Low temperature wax applied with
a very hot needle permeates into the skin without loosing too much
detail and solves the problem somewhat.

I have learnt that over sprueing is always the best. It makes
finishing of a real mission but it is better than having a miscast. I
always cast in silver and I make up a fresh alloy at 95% fine with
5% deox .I don’t use copper although I have been successful with a
97% solution. Fine silver does not work for me.

I use higher purity alloys because when the insect is sprued up it
is not in a natural position and therefore it makes bending it back
easier after casting.

I use Satincast 20. First I mix up some plaster and paint it on the
insect. Then as it starts to gloss over I mix more and paint on
more. I do this at least three times. If you let it harden too much
between the layers they separate and you get major flashing. As the
last layer glosses over I put the flask over and pour it full.
Obviously vacuuming is not an option.

I would use a 4 inch flask for that size spider and I would carve
the button cavity about a third larger, so you can put a LOT of
metal in. No less than 100- 150 grams.

I burn out for 8 hours at least. Centipedes, as they burn out, for a
long time smell like baking biscuits (no kidding) Most insects smell
like Satan’s own cesspool… Be warned=85 I use a normal cycle, then I
keep the temperature at 700 to 750 Celsius for at least two hours
sometimes more. I cast at 650-700 Celsius. I don’t get sulphur

I wind my (cheepo) spin casting machine two and a half times
normally, but for insects I add one more turn. As soon as the button
is not red in neon light I quench. I had never had temperature tear
yet=85 Cleaning up is a real hassle. I use diamond and tungsten carbid=
burrs and steel brushes.

I clean the oxide off with sulphuric acid, by heating the insect up
and then quenching it in cold acid. Man, I hate doing that! But it
works well. Sometimes a bit of chitin is stuck on top of the insect
but it usually blends in with the texture of the body.

I have found, trying to burn the Chitin (sp?) out of an insect is a
waste of time (for me). I just blast it away with the highest temp
and max power I can get away with.

Then Liver of Sulphur and a light pass with a steel brush. I have
often wondered if electro polishing would not be a better option, on
account of all the fine little hairs get broken off with a steel
brush., Maybe someone could tell=85

I have never been successful with winged insects, even if I thicken
up the wings with wax.

I have successfully cast the legs and claws of a road kill Pels
Fishing Owl. I know the bone did not burn out completely, being
calcium, so I assume that the silver encased it. I have never been
successful at casting sea shell or coral. I vulcanize it and cast

Go look at my website, under Objets’d’Art for pictures of some of
the insects. They not the best but they will give you an idea. A bit
macabre, I know, but all insects shown were either dead or dying.

Cheers, Hans Meevis

I just love Orchid.

I went to a class in (name reserved) and the teacher forbid me to
cast “organic items”. Well, since I’m just that kind of a sweet,
loving, gentle guy, , I absolutely had to try, and came out
with some beautiful leaves and acorns. The class wasnt long enough
for me to try spiders, bugs, crickets, etc, but I would love to and
there just isnt enough out there to figure it out and
get it right the first time.

Heres what I would like to propose. If all of you who have cast
little buggers, successful or not, would send me some as
to what worked and what didnt, I’ll put together a web page on the
process. Pictures would be fantastic. I’ll test it all and write it

Dont stop with just bug, but anything organic would be great,
leaves, cloth , plastic toys…I just read your post about saving
the web by spraying it and then cutting the anchor lihnes. Did
anyone try casting the Web?

What about butterflys, has anyone successfully cast one of these?

What about a centipede with all 100’s of its legs…not sure about
the number but whats a few hundred legs amongs friends?

Love and God Bless

An idea struck me while reading the latest post to this thread.
Apparently, a spider’s abdomen tends to collapse after death, and
the legs are very difficult to cast due to their size. I wonder if
dipping the spider into something to coat it, such as Opticon would

  1. prevent the abdomen from deflating and, 2) thicken and support
    the legs at least slightly. One problem could be burnout, but I
    suspect Opticon would burn out just fine.

Perhaps a spray-on clear polyurethane or enamel paint may also work.

James in SoFl

Spiders are very  soft-bodied compared to insects, and their
bodies do not hold up as  well after death. 

I speak from total ignorance here - but would freeze-drying do the
trick? Many university labs that have scanning electron microscopes
have this capability, because the specimen chambers must pull a high
vacuum and samples can’t conatin any moisture. Try a biology
department, or, if you’re near someplace with a big museum (like the
Smithsonian), maybe they could help. Of course, after freeze-drying
the specimen would be incredibly fragile, so you’d have to
spray-coat it with some sort of plastic or resin. There’s also
"critical point drying" - sort of like low-tech freeze drying, but
you really don’t want to go there.


Did anyone try casting the Web? 

A woman in a workshop I attended was wearing a very large orb spider
in a web…all done in silver. The whole pin including the web was
about 31/2 inches in diameter…and she said she cast both the
spider and the web. It was a beautiful job but she was reluctant to
divulge how she did it, because (she said) she had spent so much
time working out the process that she wasn’t about to give away her
secrets. So I will never know how she did it, but apparently it can
be done successfully.


I have seen lace cast in bronze ceramic shell ( I did the wax work
on the sprue but it was not my project) --larger scale than jewelry
but the work was just as fine. The stuff is a little tricky and the
mold and metal had to be hot with lots of feed head.

I have also seen some very fine work cast in iron at an exhibit in
2002. it looked good—again not my project.

I think you need to build up the web and probably a skin shell on
the spider with multiple thin spray coats of a lacquer. Spiders will
be more of a problem than actual insects that have a hard
exoskeleton shell.


Hello All,

I realize that this topic has pretty much run it’s course but I ran
across a good web page with info on this subject so I thought I’d add
it to the discussion.

It’s one of the many pages at Don Norris’ site, under the “Tip of the
Month” section, November '00, “Casting a Spider”,

Trevor F.