Thursday, July 05, 2018

Stick Insect Home

When it came to what to get our little four year old Rachel for her birthday, we couldn't go past insects. Pretty much nothing else in the world delights her like animals, especially the small kind that she can interact with easily. So despite our aversion to pets, we decided to get her some stick insects. This of course also meant making space for an enclosure and getting said enclosure. 

Obviously, I love to make things, and any excuse to use power tools, so I made the enclosure for the birthday stick insects. 

I talked to another kindy dad for advice on enclosure making, as he had made one for his son's stick insects and was a wealth of information. I was going to try to make it out of wood that we had here, but that proved difficult to get enough wood that was the right size, so we ended up spending some money on pine at Bunnings. 

I didn't get too many work in progress shots, because, well I'm bad at it, and I was busy making, but here is one of me with the drill that dad took.

I started making at my parents because I wanted to use dad's fancy electric saw, rather than hand saw all of the cuts myself. Once we finished the cuts, Dad was pretty excited to help out, so we just kept going. Here is my Dad being handy too. Maybe this is where I get it from?

Here is a shot of the frame almost complete, clamped together while the glue dries before we put the final screws in. On the ground, you can see the door frame and the drawer which were both ready to go at that point.

I wish I had more photos of the enclosure as it was finished that day, because it was beautiful and everything worked superbly. Unfortunately, I decided to paint it to help it last longer, and this, it turns out was the wrong decision. The paint, which took ages to do, because it was winter and I did it over three rainy days (drying time was so so so long!), ended up being way too thick. The door didn't fit anymore, let alone open and close with ease, and the draw at the bottom was just not happening at all.

I ended up having to sand back most of the edges and we even had to take some wood off the drawer sides to get it in. At this point, the beautiful enclosure that we had made felt like it was starting to be a little less than perfect. I was not to know, that this would in fact, get worse.

I was using a set of old handles that my parents had given me. Maybe they came from their cupboards when they redid their bedroom? Anyway, there were four, which was perfect for the drawer, the door and then two handles on the top so I could easily pick up and move the enclosure. Excellent.

Except that the bolts for these handles were twice as long as needed.

Sigh. Do we cut them down? Do we get new ones? Do we pad it out? I ended up padding it out. Luckily I had enough extra wood lying around to do it, but it was painful. The wood is not sanded back, or cut straight, or the same colour as the rest of the enclosure. For the drawer, I unknowningly put the handle too high, and when it was padded out, the drawer ceased to close at all, so I had to take it off, putty the holes and put it on again lower down.

By the end of it all, I really did feel like this enclosure was totally hacked together. Notice I have not taken close ups of all the hacking we did? I'm not proud of it.

I am proud though, that at the end of the day, it works. The fly screen is left over from when we put fly screens on all the windows three and a half years ago. I knew it would come in handy. Oh, and the latch that's on the front is from one of the doors around the house. Probably one of the first things we removed when we bought the house seven and a half years ago now, so that we could paint. I don't know why we kept it, but I'm glad we did.

The enclosure holds the two spiny leaf stick insects that we got for Rachel perfectly. She has called them Twiggy and Rose, after about two and a half days of deliberation. So far we have kept them alive and they seem to enjoy living with us. We are lucky to live close to a park and the forest which provide an ample supply of gum leaves, so feeding these little ladies is fairly inexpensive.

Rachel loves them too, and wants all visitors to have their own stick insect experience.

Here is the enclosure where it lives in our house on top of the bookshelf. It works and most days you don't even notice the hacking. Whew.

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