How To Make a Punched Tin Dragonfly

Punched tin Dragonfly

Several requests have arrived from the blogiverse for a tutorial for making a punched tin and bead dragonfly. So here it is!

NOTES before we start:

** Wiring on the wings is a bit tricky and I have done my best to make the process clear. If you will follow the written steps, you should have no problem creating your own dragonfly. However, if you have a question, don't hesitate to write me.

** And keep in mind that attaching the wings to the body with wire is optional. Any embellishing glue like Jewel-it can be used to attach the wings to the body. I have often used glue and most of the time the bond is permanent - most of the time.

However, I have come to prefer using wire to attach the body to the wings. And that is the technique I will describe here. The punched tin butterfly tutorial covers using glue.

** Your dragonfly will be very happy in your garden as garden art as long as you use  aluminum pop cans for the wing material and polymer clay such as Sculpey for the body beads. Both materials are completely resistant to water damage.


To create the wings, refer to my tutorial for punched tin butterfly wings. Dragonfly wings are created using the exact same technique.

FYI - the wing span of this particular dragon fly is 7 1/2" because I am using rather large beads for the body. When I use 6mm rounds for the body, the wing span is usually about 4".

After drawing paper patterns for the upper wing and the lower wing, trace them onto the aluminum you have chosen to use. (If you are not sure of a shape - go here for help!)

I use roof flashing most of the time; however, recycled pop cans and disposable aluminum pie tins work well also. Foil sold for tooling is, in my opinion, too flimsy, but it too can be used. However, if you do chose this last option, it might be best to imprint your design on the wings using a tooling stylus.

Annette uses her Cuttlebug to imprint designs on pop cans! Might make some very interesting wings!

tutorial image 3

Tools are very basic - a light weight hammer, nail and tin snips. And for the beaded body - wire cutters are about all that is needed.

tutorial image 4

Once the wings have been completed, select your beads.

Gypse Trade Beads

For the dragonfly pictured, I used 10 Gypsy Trade Beads (which can be ordered from Elysian Studios Components shop), 7 - 8mm iris rounds and 7 - 6mm iris rounds. These last are common beads and can be purchased at almost any bead shop. I order mine from Fire Mountain.

I use 28 gauge colored craft wire to string the body beads and to attach the body to the wings. Any color wire is fine but the gauge is very important. Most of the bead holes will need to accommodate two wires so 28 gauge is essential.

tutorial illustration 2


Note added 8/18/12:  You will find step by step images showing how this is done at the bottom of this post "Kid Friendly Version of Punched Tin Dragonfly (or Butterfly)"

1. Cut a piece of wire 36" long.

2. Place a 6mm bead on the wire and place it right in the center of the wire so that there are 18" of wire on each side of the bead.

3. Bring the two 18" pieces of wire together and string as one wire through 4 - 6mm beads, the 8mm beads and all the Gypsy Trade beads except the one chosen to be the "head".

Be sure to snug the beads close together as you string.

4. Once you have reached the last body bead, separate the two wires and thread each through a 6mm "eye" bead, then through the "head" bead and finally through the opposite "eye" bead. Once both sides of the wire have been strung through the "eyes" and "head", pull the wire as snugly as possible so that the "eyes" are right next to the "head", and there is as little distance as possible between the "head" and body.

Needle nose pliers covered with a protective sheath is helpful for this step.

5. Now cross the two wires under the "head" and wrap them around the "neck" 4 times. See the close-up below to view the neck wrap.

tutorial image 5

At this point, you are READY TO ATTACH THE WINGS to the body.

tutorial illustration 2

6. Before proceeding with the attachment process, punch holes in the wings as shown on the above diagram.


** If you prefer to simply glue your wings to the dragonfly body, punch only #1 holes and complete step 7 before applying glue. However, if your dragonfly is large like mine, punching two sets of holes for wires - one set in the top wing and one set in the bottom wing - will provide better stability when the dragonfly is attached to an object.

** The distance between the two #1 holes is approximately 1/2 inch. (distance is exaggerated on the diagram). The distance between #2 and #2, # 3 and #3 - etc, is approximately 1/4 inch.

7. Cut a separate piece of wire about 8" long. Place both ends into the #1 holes and pull flush against the top surface of the wing. On the underside of the wing, wrap the wires around each other a couple times to secure and then lay the ends out toward the wing tips to keep them out of the way while attaching the wings to the body.

8. Hold the body over the top surface of the top wing and place the ends of each body wire into holes #2 and pull the wing snugly against the body.

9. Bring the two wires up from the under side of the wing through the #3 holes, cross the wires and then slide both wires between the first and second body beads and then back down through hole #3.

10. Place the bottom wing below the top wing and thread the two wires through holes #4. The top wing should just slightly overlap the bottom wing.

11. Pull the wings snugly together and against the body. The wires are now underneath the bottom wing.

12. Cross the wires and then thread them through holes #5.

13. The wires are now above the bottom wing. Cross them and slide them between the space between the two beads closest to the #5 holes just as was done in step 9. Now reinsert them into holes #5 so that they are again at the underside of the wing.

14. Twist a few times to secure.

tutorial image 6

The underside of your wings will look like this.

Secure your beautiful dragonfly to the object of your choice by twisting each set of wires together. (Your dragonfly will be secured in two places.) Usually a couple of light twists will be sufficient.

Ideas for using and displaying your dragonflies can be found here.

Punched tin Dragonfly

And you are done!

Again, if you love the dragonfly but are concerned about usng metal, you might like this tutorial for making the very same dragonfly with "faux punched tin" metallic paper wings.

And you might like to check out this tutorial for making a "faux punched tin" angel ornament using metallic paper.

Hi there! I know this has

Hi there! I know this has been posted for a while but I just stumbled across it. I've tried using the link for the Gypsy Beads and it seems its been gone for a number of years. Could you tell me what size are the 'rondelle' beads you used so I can find a substitute?
Thank you so much :-)

Yes sadly, the maker gave up

Yes sadly, the maker gave up making them some time ago.  I really need to go in and update that post.  If by "rondelle" you mean the body beads, the widest is about 1 1/4 cm and the smallest about 1/3 cm in diameter and about 1/3 cm in thickness.

This is by far the most

This is by far the most beautiful dragonfly I have ever seen!!!! (besides a real one) SO color full, awesomely done, instructions that donot boggle the mind. I can hardly wait to try this out! Thank ever so much for sharing and I signed up for your blog updates. Your a true artist!

Beth, the answer either!  Yes

Beth, the answer either!  Yes - many polymer bead artists have stores on Etsy.  But Ireally love my Gypsy Trade Beads from Elysian Studios in the Component Shop referenced as a link in the tutorial.  Hopefully she still sells them.

To put these in the garden

To put these in the garden you said that you need to use polymer clay beads. Are you able to buy beads made of polymer clay or do I need to find polymer clay and make the beads from scratch?

These are amazing! What a

These are amazing! What a great idea! I'm going to try them on a smaller scale to add some textural interest to a beaded wreath I'm making.

These are really really lovely. I'll also do a big one for my garden - I have some copper sheet I can use for that.

Thanks for posting the tutorial!

Thank you so much for

Thank you so much for stopping by!  I hope you will psot your giant copper dragonfly!!!

These are really delightful

These are really delightful little critters. I have found it useful to use embossing tools to make the patterns. I have a set which has different size round ends, so not much chance of accidentally making holes. Also I use a small rubber mat which helps to indent the marks and so eliminate holes in the work, and I can just do it quietly on my lap, (I use a smooth tile underneath) and don't need to use a hammer. You are so good at describing the methods, and hope my suggestion will also help some people who have the tools I mentioned, especially on metallic food containers, which require very little pressure. Thanks again for your tutorial. :)

Thank you Vivienne!  I really

Thank you Vivienne!  I really appreciate you sharing your technique with my readers.  Many of them are into using  softer metals - especially aluminum cans and food containers and your ideas will be most helpful i am sure.

Thanks Pam, Just got back

Thanks Pam, Just got back from my holiday in sunny Spain, so just got your reply to my comment. Thanks for taking the time to write. I have made a couple of the lovely dragonflies re your instructions and they turned out really pretty!Thanks again x

I can't wait to try the

I can't wait to try the butterflies and dragonflies!

I love it, this is really

I love it, this is really pretty. Well done!

this is totally brilliant,

this is totally brilliant, what a winning design, thanks for the opportunity to brighten up my garden.
Great stuff.

Love it! This is going on my

Love it! This is going on my list of future craft projects. I really need another hobby. Thanks!

Oh wow Pam, this is GORGEOUS!

Oh wow Pam, this is GORGEOUS! I love the beads you used for the body... so beautiful! And the level of detail you put into your tutorials always blows me away. Thanks so much for covering everything, I love it and I always learn so much! I'll be linking!

Very, very cute...

Very, very cute...

Gosh, that is one adorable

Gosh, that is one adorable dragonfly! Thanks so much for going through your process so thoroughly Pam. You are exceptionally kind to do so!

OMG! This is so cute. I

OMG! This is so cute. I love it. One thought I had is are the edges of the wings sharp? I know a 6 year old that would love to make these but I don't want any accidents.

I was just thinking what a

I was just thinking what a cute idea for kids, then saw your post, my mind strayed to plastic folders and a large straight pin. Would turn this into an easy to do kids project and they could pick the colors, or a soda bottle, but not sure if it would lay flat. Definitely will be trying this with my children, maybe metal ones for me

Wanda - the material you use

Wanda - the material you use for the wings has a lot to do with how sharp the edges of the wings are.  Aluminum pop cans and saved pie tins , while there is always the potential, are much less sharp that other metal materials. 

Here is a link to pictures and tips shared by a teacher who taught the butterflies to her class.

I have another idea but since it is going to be a part of a Christmas ornament - I will send that tip by e-mail!!! :-)

I was thinking how great

I was thinking how great these would look on a Christmas tree. You would only need to put a clip underneath to attach it to your branches! Can't wait to try that!

Both dragonflies and

Both dragonflies and butterflies are fabulous on Christmas trees!  in fact - the first butterflies and dragonflies i ever made were ornaments!

Check out my butterfly Christmas tree here at the very bottom of the post.

I just wore mine onto the branches.

Amazing! Those beads are

Amazing! Those beads are gorgeous. Pam, you do an amazing job with your tutorials. They are very precise and smooth which makes them easy to follow. Thank you for all your hard work bringing us these projects.

Thank you Robin for you sweet

Thank you Robin for you sweet compliment!  And you are most welcome!  I totally love putting together tutorials. 

Wow- I can't wait to try this

Wow- I can't wait to try this myself! Thank you for posting this fabulous tutorial!

Thank you Erin for making

Thank you Erin for making those "fabulous" beads!!!

Butterfly next!!

Thank you so much!!! This

Thank you so much!!!
This dragonfly is so beautiful!
I'll try to make one for sure!

Wooh, this is soooo pretty.

Wooh, this is soooo pretty. And the shade of purple is so perfect with silver! Great job!!