Glass Door Cooler Dermestarium

I’ll start this tutorial by stating that this Dermestarium verges on ridiculous, and was designed by me, for me, to fit my needs and wants specifically, and very well may not fit the needs of most people. But it is unique, so I figured I would do a full write up on it anyways.

If you follow my work on social media then you know my bone work is done inside of my snake room, which, if I may say so myself, is pretty cool. I always hated the fact that my chest freezer Dermestarium looked out of place in this room. I’m an artist, and to me, aesthetics matter. I also always wanted an all-in-one unit where I could dry the animals in preparation for the beetles, hang beetled animals before removal to allow beetles to escape the piece when finished, and one I could look inside of without opening to check on progress. I had started to formulate this idea about a year before I actually built it. I also wanted it to match my snake cages, including the day and night lights that are inside of my cages and work on timers automatically. So when a local restaurant was getting rid of a double door cooler, I jumped at the chance to take it off their hands for free. It then sat in my garage for a few months while I thought about it. That’s just how my mind works. I plan things thoroughly before beginning a project, but I’m flexible and make changes as needed during the process.

While you’re reading you’ll learn why I chose certain features and what my plan was. You may also notice the pictures aren’t in order. In one step I strip and paint the inside, but in a later step, the pics show the inside unpainted. This is because I was making changes as I went along, but wrote the tutorial in the order it should be done.

So here is what I did, and why I did it.

Full Disclosure: I never finished this tutorial. Sorry…I just didn’t. But I do still use this Dermestarium and love it. If you’re capable of building it you should be able to easily fill in the blanks.

Need Supplies Cont.

Tools

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the actual cooler before I started working on it, but it was basically this model pictured here, but used, and in fairly rough shape cosmetically. It has sliding glass doors on both sides, front and back. It is a Pass Through Commercial Cooler. This design had many benefits over a normal single sided cooler.

Before starting, you can remove the old compressor or not. I chose not to out of pure laziness. It’s hidden anyways, so I didn’t mind it being there.

My first step was to remove the back doors and replace them with a piece of Plywood cut to size. This was a benefit to this design over a standard cooler. I could drill and chop as needed. The wood just slides up and in just like the doors. I painted both sides and edges with black paint before siliconing it in place. I then painted the entire cooler with black paint.

I also replaced the missing grill footer (You can see it below the glass doors on the pic of the stock model) with a piece of plywood cut to fit and painted it black as well.

Next I drilled 6 1″ holes using a 1″ hole saw and drill across the back. I then installed 1″ louvered vents with insect mesh built in. This is where fresh air will enter the Dermestarium. The vents simply pop in and fit nice and tight.

I used self tapping screws to attach the radiant heat panel to the top center of the top inside of the cooler. I then drilled through the back at the top and ran the cord through to be wired to the thermostat in a later step. I siliconed the hole afterwards, as with all holes with wires throughout the build.

*PICS COMING SOON*

The next step was ventilation. I used a 4″ hole saw towards the top of the back and cut a hole. I then traced the shape of the 120mm fan around the hole, slid a 1/8″ drill bit through the screw holes of the fan and twisted it to mark the holes. Then I set the fan down and predrilled the fan holes.

On the inside I installed a metal mesh screen cover for computer fans and, using the mounting bolts that came with the fan, slid the bolts through the mesh cover and through the predrilled holes. Then I slid the fan over the bolts and next the fan shroud that hooks up to a 4″ vent hose. I then tightened the nuts, slid the hose on, and tightened the hose clamp.

For the window exit side of the vent, I just cut a piece of wood wide enough to fill the width of the window and around 8 inches tall. I then cut a 4″ hole in the center, painted it black, lined all sides with foam insulation tape, popped in the round exit vent listed in needed supplies, put it in the window and closed the window on the wood. Then I just hooked up the vent hose. Easy peasy….

 

After the vent I installed the lights. I used led rubber coated light strips with adhessive backing, the same lights in each of my snake cages. I used 2 white strips, and 1 blue strip with about 3″ cut off to keep the night lights from being too bright. I drilled a small hole at the top of the back and ran the wires through. I installed the 2 white strips into one DC female end, and the blue on it’s own. In my situation I had an extra male end hanging from each cage stack so I just plugged them into that to work on the same timers as my cages. If I hadn’t have had that, I would have used a DC plug and and a timer plugged into a wall outlet.

I installed the Inkbird thermostat in the lower wood kick plate I added early. I cut the hole, slid the thermostat and retainer clips in place, and then wired it to a plug and to the heat panel. 

Instead of explaining how to wire this model of thermostat here, just google “wiring stc-100 chest freezer” and check out the plethora of pages with instructions on this. There are also videos.

*PICS COMING SOON*

For the actual containment of the beetles I wanted to use a glass aquarium in the bottom, but since none of the commercially available ones fit, I measured and had a local glass shop cut 5 pieces of glass for me.

I then taped for clean silicone edges, leaving a gap of glass along each tape line exposed for the silicone to adhere to. After taping, I applied a bead of silicone along the top outer edges of the bottom piece and the 4 overlapping butt joints of the side pieces. I then used more tape to hold everything in place. After that I siliconed the seams and smoothed it out with my finger. After about 20 minutes of setup time, while the silicone is still soft, I removed the inside tape, but left the tape on the outside that was holding everything together. I let it cure overnight and then put it in place.

 

I wasn’t happy with the bulky shelf that came with the cooler, and I only had one and needed two. The top one for drying specimens before the beetles, and the bottom one for placing beetled bones to give hidden beetles time to escape and drop back down into the main colony. I ordered wire shelves and cut them to fit. The install was straight forward. Just screw the brackets to the back wood panel and put the shelves on.

While I was at it, I removed the shelf mounts for the old shelves and painted the rest of the inside black.

 

One thing that happens to most, if not all, Dermestariums is a Gnat outbreak. It sucks, and is quite annoying, but I installed a simple solution in this build. A bug zapper. I chose a small LED model that puts off no heat. I cut the power cord in half, wired it to male and female connectors, and then ran the cord (with the connector temporarily removed) through a small hole I drilled in the back of the cooler. I reattached the connector, plugged them together, and plugged the bug zapper in. It worked well, and can nip an outbreak in the bud before it even starts.

The doors were very loose due to old seals and would slowly slide open on their own. There was also a gap between the doors that would easily allow flys and gnats inside. To kill 2 birds with 1 stone I just used foam insulation tape between the two doors. It worked perfectly. It is now sealed and no longer opens on its own. Simple solution!

Here it is, the finished Dermestid Estates, as I’ve been calling it. A ridiculous, overdone, Dermestarium. It is not only highly functional for my specific needs (Small to medium birds and reptiles almost exclusively) but it looks great while functioning.

I’ll eventually build a cabinet on top of it to make it the exact height of my snake cages, and to hide the auto watering system for my cages that I keep on top of it.