Make: Projects

Ant Farm Room Divider

Divide and enhance your space with carpentry and computer skills.


Step #1:

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  • Using the miter box to make a 45 degree angle, cut 2 of the pine planks at 4+1/2' lengths, and 2 at 3' lengths (measurements given are from the longest mitered ends).
  • Lightly sand corners and edges of the cut ends.
  • From the tip of a 1/2" drill bit, use masking tape to mark a length of 2".
  • With a pencil, mark points on the long side of each of the 3' sections, centered at a point 8" from each end of the narrow edge.
  • Drill a hole at each of the marked points, using the 2" marking on the drill bit as your stop guide.
  • Brush away sawdust from each piece.

Step #2:

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  • Clamp 1 long frame board to a table, and then clamp the short frame board flush with 1 end, clamping across the joint and making sure that the corner is square.
  • Drill a 1/8" hole through the edge of the short board and into the mitered end of the long board.
  • Unclamp the corner and apply glue to both faces, then re-clamp and screw the corner together using 2½" drywall screws.
  • Wipe off excess glue, repeat for the other 3 corners, and let the whole thing dry.

Step #3:

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  • Remove 1 side of the protective plastic sheeting from 1 piece of plexiglass.
  • Lay the plexi on the floor, exposed side up, over newspaper.
  • Start by creating a horizon line, about 14" from the top edge of the 3' end of the plexi.
  • To mask the horizon line and tunnels, tear the masking tape in half lengthwise, and working in sections, use only the torn edge for the template lines.
  • From the horizon line, create your network of tunnels, roughly 2" in width, by either using this design as your guide, or creating your own.
  • Tape off one 2½" border along the 3 edges of the plexi below your horizon line.
  • NOTE: To cut plexiglass, score a deep line, using a straightedge. Sandwich the plexiglass between an straight board (like a 2X4) and a table with the scored line about 1/2" away from the edge of the table, and clamp it in place. Put on your safety goggles. With even pressure and a quick downward motion, snap the plexiglass along the line.

Step #4:

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  • With newspaper, cover everything above the horizon line.
  • In a well-ventilated area suitable for spray painting, place the sheet of plexi - masking-tape side up - over the newspaper.
  • Loosely sprinkle the aquarium gravel over the face of the plexiglass, making sure the gravel doesn't clump or cover solidly.
  • With the granite finish spray paint, spray the entire prepped area, coating evenly and lightly (better to do 2 light coats than 1 heavy coat).
  • Dry completely, for at least 4 hours.

Step #5:

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  • Carefully lift the plexi upright, allowing the gravel to fall to the newspaper.
  • Use a dry paintbrush or whisk broom (or your hand) to break loose any gravel that adhered to the paint.
  • Collect the gravel and reserve.
  • Brush the painted surface clean, and using the white spray paint, evenly coat the entire gravel-treated surface of the plexiglass to an even opacity.
  • Dry completely, then remove the masking tape.

Step #6:

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  • Lay painted side down, onto the floor or a large work surface.
  • Take the second piece of plexiglass, remove the protective plastic sheeting from both sides (or only one, if the sheeting is clear), and place squarely on top of the first.
  • LIghtly tape the corners in place to keep pieces from moving.
  • Again, mask off the template for the horizon line, the network of tunnels, and the border, but this time using your first pattern as your guide, tracing through the plexi.
  • Once the template is complete, separate the plexiglass.
  • With the second one, place newspaper above the horizon line.
  • Cover the unmasked side with the reserved protective sheeting.
  • Repeat the same gravel/painting process as before.

Step #7:

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  • Once the paint is dry, scan the ant silhouettes provided here to a maximum height just short of 2"(144 pixels).
  • Print. To get more ant action, flip the scans horizontally and print again, using mirrored images to give your ants more variety.
  • Lay a plexi sheet over the newspaper, painted side up, and position the printed ants underneath it, inside the tunnels and along the horizon. (Don't overcrowd — it looks nicer if you allow ample space between ants.)
  • With the fine-tipped paintbrush, trace-paint over the ant template using black acrylic paint. Dry.
  • Repeat the process on the second sheet of plexi, placing ants in the vacant spaces left on the first sheet.
  • The purpose here is to give your ants three-dimensional appeal, without overlapping ant images on top of one another.
  • Allow to dry.

Step #8:

Ant Farm Room Divider
  • There are 2 pieces to the curtain rod: a narrow end that slides into a lager rod. Unscrew the narrow rod from the larger one and separate.
  • Unscrew the spring from the narrow rod and remove.
  • Measuring from the rubber-tipped end, cut larger rods down to 21" with a fine carbon steel saw (your remaining piece will be around 5+1/2" long, bearing 1 cut end and 1 finished end).
  • With wire cutters, cut each spring to 14".
  • The narrow rods will have 1 rubber-tipped end and 1 unfinished end.
  • Note the dimple stamped into the unfinished end. This is used to guide the rod along the spring for adjustment, and we need to keep it.
  • Measuring from this end, cut each rod to 14". Then take the rubber foot off of the finished end and put it onto the end you just cut.

Step #9:

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  • Lay the framework on the floor. Working on 1 end of the framework, fill 1 of the drilled holes with hot glue, and insert the 21" rod.
  • While the glue is setting, use a square and a level to establish a straight positioning of the leg. Repeat with other 21" rod. This will be the bottom end of the divider.
  • Working on the opposite end of the framework, repeat the process with the 5+1/2" lengths of the remaining larger rods, inserting the cut edges.
  • Once the glue has set, screw each spring, cut end first, into each of the 14" narrow rods, leaving 2" of the spring exposed.
  • Firmly slide each of these rods into top anchor rods.
  • From here, you will be able to screw down or unscrew the narrow rod — just as you would a curtain tension rod — to adjust and secure the divider to your desired ceiling height.

Step #10:

Ant Farm Room Divider
  • Lay one of the plexi panels, painted side down, over the framework and center it.
  • Make marks along the edge of the plexi at 9" intervals, centered over the frame. These marks are where you will drill holes to attach the panels to the frame.
  • Take the panel off of the frame and drill a 3/16" hole in the panel at each mark. Be careful not to press too hard while drilling to avoid cracking the plexiglass. Repeat with second panel.
  • Lightly wipe away dust and fingerprints from the painted sides of the plexi with a soft towel and glass cleaner, being careful not to affect painted areas.
  • Lay the framework over newspaper and secure each side of the plexiglass; space the screw/washers at 9" along the top and sides of the framework.
  • Screw the panels onto the frame using the pan head screws and washers, making sure the panels are centered on the framework.
  • Now set up your divider in a spot where you can marvel at your farm while enjoying a new atmosphere.


This project first appeared in CRAFT Volume 01, page 86.

  • Miss.Fanny

    i love this idea i had the same idea except it was for a real ant farm :D and instead of sand’ id make it with space gel so it could be illuminated :D
    i do love your room divider tho! i think your art work is great!
    its super fun and reminds me of something you’d see on pee wee’s play house ( which i LOVE)