We never thought there could be 10 other things you could do with insect pins besides pinning them until this article called Insect Pins for Everything appeared in Threads Magazine in 2008: “Insect pins: superfine and rust-resistant. Forget bugs, this very skinny (size 00 -0.3mm) and flexible spring steel pin is a great choice for fine fabrics. Originally created for insect collectors and entomologists, the double-coating of black enamel—to, yuck, resist insect fluids—makes them easy to see, plus they’re rust-resistant.”
Here are just 10 novel uses for these versatile pins…11 if you count pinning insects.
Note: we now use indigoinstruments.com; ignore image references to our original domain, indigo.com
The conventional use of these pins is of course to pin insects for collections. We greatly appreciate the permission to use this photo taken by Stephanie Lind, PA artist who is making a collection of non-endangered insect pollinators.
Butterfly Art w/ Insect Pins
The “Butterfly Effect” by Jennifer Mark is a 4’ x 26’ installation which used over 840 hand cut aluminum butterflies.
Each large butterfly represents an employee & the order that each joined the company with notes written on the back with their intentions for their community, their company, their favorite client and themselves.
This is another image from Jennifer Mark called Morpho Woman. As the name suggests, this is a composite made up of paper Morpho butterflies pinned by each employee as a team building exercise at Nike.
Collages-Flowers & More
These 2 artists below offer an entirely different perspective on imaginative uses of insect pins for purposes of creating stunning artworks of flowers & other imagery.
This collection of works by Anne Ten Donkelaar is truly outstanding. In the image below you can see the pins holding up the objects but they are otherwise generally hidden. Be sure to visit the entire collection by clicking on the image below.
This collage by Emily Dorr also makes effective use of insect pins to create a nice 3D effect. The one shown below is a smaller piece but if you click on the image below you can appreciate the true breadth of her work including large murals.
Insect Pin Nozzle Cleaners
Nozzles come in many sizes for use in engines, paint sprayers, fountain pens & more. Many have hole diameters which are smaller than our smallest insect pin, the #000 at 0.25mm, but the sharp tips may still be sufficient to clear blockages. Click on insect pin diameters & go to the bottom of the page to see the entire list. Because the thinnest pins are very flexible, we recommend using them with a hemostat or tweezers as shown in the picture.
An engineering company needed to make very small but consistently sized holes. For them, stainless steel insect pins offered a low tech, low cost solution for prototyping a design for a high tech problem in biotechnology.
Museum Textile Conservation
This image of a silk tapestry was sent to us by Robin Hanson of the Cleveland Museum of Art. The pins are hidden at the top & back but are used to secure the material to a frame of sense styrofoam like material. More examples of these beautiful works can be seen at Floral Delights: Textiles from Islamic Lands.
This image was sent to us courtesy of the Currier Museum of Art in NH on loan from the Harn Collection at the University of Florida who told us : ” At the advice of a conservator specializing in textiles we chose insect pins because they are thin and won’t damage the warp and weft of the fabric. We prefer the uncoated ones as the coated ones have to be cleaned with acetone to get the coating off of them. We also like them because they are virtually invisible even though we may have many in the garment. We insert them in a particular way that is safe and supportive for the fabric.”
Neuroscience: Insect Pin Electrodes
We noticed that several orders had gone to researchers in Neuroscience Departments. Two entirely different applications have made use of the uncoated stainless pins & the enamal coated ones.
On the website Research Gate. Eric L Hargreaves of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital replied to the question: What are the best electrodes available for in vivo LTP induction? Answer: …on the other hand if you are not doing CSD, and are not trying to get MUA or single units, then simple wire electrodes, or electrodes made from insect pins and insulated except for the tips will cost a lot less.
Another neuroscientist, Tom Jhou of the Medical University of South Carolina noted that in his work: “We use the insect pins to anchor wires into the holes of tiny circuit boards. We need uncoated pins because they have a conductive surface. These boards help us to record spiking activity of individual neurons in the brain.”
She also advised us that puppeteering is one of the oldest uses for insect pins & was pioneered by Ladislas Starevich in a stop motion film done in 1912 called the Cameraman’s Revenge starring….insects!
An usual request came in from an artist who was making a painting for a blind girl. The artist wanted to annotate the painting with raised dots without damaging the canvas itself. She came up with the idea of using insect pins whose large heads emulate braille dots.
The nominal diameter of the pin heads is 1.1-1.3mm which is nearly the 1.4mm size of standard Braille raised dots. Unfortunately, the painting was not available for publication so an example using slightly smaller label pins is shown below.
Surely one of the most imaginative uses of insect pins in art is this work by Steven Spazuk of Montreal who sent us these images. Basically he took cardboard & coated them with a thin smoke layer, had butterflies walk across them to create tracks & then cut the materials into squares to make a mosaic. However, this description doesn’t begin to describe how neat this is so please see his video. The text is in French but no words are needed to appreciate this.
Insect Pin-hole Cameras
With high quality, low cost digital cameras available to everyone, a pinhole camera to take a photograph seems rather quaint. However, it is a very useful method for teaching basic principles of optics involving focal length & diffraction. The technique requires a very precisely made hole & our sampler pack of the 10 sizes of insect pins allows for detailed exploration. Dan Pickard of Seattle, WA sent us this picture of a conch shell that he developed on photographic paper.
Pinhole photography can also be done with a digital camera in place of film & it adds a whole new range of possibilities. Information on this can be found at how to make a pinhole camera, pinhole SLR cameras & how to calculate the size of the pinhole.
What makes this especially interesting is that here we have biology (insects) meets physics (optics) meets biology (evolution). The July 2011 issue of Scientific American outlines how the evolution of the eye came about. Animals such as octopuses have excellent vision & do so without a lens…exactly how a pinhole camera works. This topic was also shown in exquisite detail in episode 2 of Fox Networks Cosmos.