Inspired by the recent 3-D re-release of the Nightmare Before Christmas and a photo of a similar puppet, this 8' Jack Skellington puppet was actually a last minute costume idea my wife and I put together on a whim over the course of a week or so. This instructable will show you how we accomplished it so you can make any large puppet based on this design, and more importanly, how you can improve on our results.

About 50 feet of 1" PVC pipe
1" PVC pipe joints: Nine elbows, Six T joints, One cross joint
Two .5" x about 45" dowels
duct tape
black felt
black foam sheets
white felt
3/4" or 1" braided elastic strap
pipe cleaners
3 or 4 yards of black pinstripe fabric

electric drill
needle and thread
glue gun
exacto knife

The structure of the puppet, supports and shoulder harness consist mostly of
1" PVC pipes and joints (you might notice a 1.25" cross joint in the chest in
my photos -- Home Depot was out of 1" cross joints, so I used this with some 1"
to 1.25" couplers instead.) The PVC can be cut with a hacksaw with little
effort, and I drilled through with just a regular drill bit -- whatever came
with my wife's drill. Remember to take into consideration that about .75" of
the pipe will overlap with the elbow, T, and cross joints when designing your

Step 1: Construct the Skeleton

The skeleton starts with a large cross built out of the cross joint and 4 pieces of pipe: neck, shoulders, and trunk. (See scale drawing here for our lengths -- we wanted our Jack to be 8' tall with his legs bent.) Plan on the neck pipe extending all the way through to the top of the head, actually slightly longer than in the drawing. Also, it's not reflected in the drawing, but I cut a section out of the trunk pipe a few inches below the cross joint to insert a t joint and cut a few inches off the bottom of the trunk for another t joint -- these joints will connect the skeleton to the harness later.
Now I know what I'll be busy doing this weekend.
this inspired me to make this:
That looks great! How did you make the hands?
the hands were my neighbors old giant troll costume gloves, and the frame was made with bamboo, and it was covered with new trash bags. the head is an old lamp i found in the trash, which i gave a new orange paintjob, and then i misted the orange paint with black, so it looked distressed, i also colored the inside black, so it would look dark and deep.....
could you tell me the approximate lengths of each piece of PVC?
I'm sorry, being a NBC nerd, that doesn't look to much like Jack.
What could someone who wanted to make this project do to make it more accurate? It would be good to have your suggestions here. The shape of the head is a little wrong, but that was a first time sewing project for us.
The fingers are a little short and plump though... You should go around town singing "Jack's Lament"!
I think it looks pretty accurate.
OMG. This is an amazing Idea. If you don't mind, i think I might modify a few bits of the Design. For one, the harness is slightly too bulky. So I was thinking about what if you modified a Marching band Drum harness like this one: <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.woodbrass.com/images/woodbrass/PEARL+COMPETITOR+BASS+DRUM+CARRIER.JPG">*Harness*</a>. <br/><br/>And then, instead of attaching the feet directly to your feet, what about attaching the feet a little bit away from your own feet and have shoes that have a little thing in front where jack's feet attaches to(if that made any sense.).<br/><br/>Finally, Articulated hands. Using the same principle as <a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Science-Fair---Articulated-Hand--20">Articulate Hand Instructable</a>, have articulate hands. This would be fairly easy.<br/><br/>I have been trying to think of a way to make the mouth be able to open, but unfortunately, I have no conclusion due to the fact that while operating this puppet, you will have all your arms and legs busy. And you could use your head, but It would become uncomfortable after a while having to move your head. In the end it might look like an epileptic guy is stalking Jack Skellington.<br/><br/>I guess you could turn to a mechanical aspect of making his mouth open, but I would like to keep this away from electronics.<br/><br/>I am going to be taking this out to Comic-con!<br/>
I just realized I sounded a bit judgy. Sorry about that, didn't mean to come off that way. This was really a great idea. It is a heck of a lot better than this <a rel="nofollow" href="http://images.buycostumes.com/mgen/merchandiser/11457.jpg">costume</a>! lol<br/><br/>But really, amazing job. <br/>
Ha ha... not judgy, just enthusiastic! I can't wait to see your modifications. One possible option for a mouth mechanism would be to have only one articulated hand, or tie the mouth into the articulation for one hand, so the mouth opens and closes when the left hand does, maybe. The frame is definitely a bit bulky, but the price was right for me =). Check out the modification that bryandhispup did on the last page for a better design. <br/><br/>At any rate, if you put up an instructable, drop me a note, cause I'd love to see it.<br/>
This was a FUN Build! Totally easy, I modified it to be a Scarecrow and modded the harness a bit. He will be used over and over for years to come as it is basically a perfect skelliton starting point. Hoping to get alot of smiles and hugs this year. I will be experimenting with the leg joints a bit. and I already modified the arms. I used the PVC for the upper arm then placed a T Joint at the elbow. I used 1" dowel rods 36" long and used 21" for the arm and the rest that hangs out the back made perfect controls. put in a screw on either side to hold it in place. Now you have pivot, BUT the arms are stuck at 90 Degree angle. WORKS GREAT! Thanks Again!
Great! Glad you had fun with it. If you're not planning on doing your own instructable I'd be happy to add a photo of your scarecrow to this instructable with credit to you. Cool modification of the arms.
gonna sound stupid, but how much does 1" pvc cost per foot?? i usually just use the stuff at my stepdad's work, but they don't have fifty feet.
3.00 US for 10 feet. give or take a dollar or 2
Can't remember what I paid, but I just checked my local Home Depot online and they seem to be selling it for $3.18(US)/10 feet. Not terribly expensive.
thanx. that means, about 15.90 for fifty feet. not too bad at all.
ok if you have kids that trick or treat since you used the silver pinstrips you could wear all black and paint yo pipes and walk with yo kids to make it more hallo-weenie
I'm working on making a smaller hand puppet version of Jack. NBC is my favorite stopmotion animation movie ever!
Sweet! I'd love to see how you put it together. Planning on writing up an instructable?
Maybe soon. I'm still looking for that freakin' glue gun I had lying around. But when I'm done and satisfied, I'll make an instructable.
wow this is cool just too bad you couldent find some black n grey pinstripe material anyways NBC is my favorite movie in general :D
Yeah -- it would have been nice. This material was okay with us, though, because the silver pinstripes were shiny and metallic, which worked well in dim light. Also it was on sale.
Oooh! Guess who's going to be loitering on my porch come October.... This is great! Thanks for posting it!
Cool instructable (I'm not saying that just because I love the movie, either)! You should do a short puppet show.
I should try this with a <strong>BoneJangles </strong>puppet....<br/>
That would be sweet! You could highlight it with blacklight paint or glow-in-the-dark paint, too.
Black lights and Glow in the dark would be great for BoneJangles (like in the Remains of the Day song), but would <em>also</em>great for an Oogie Boogie puppet as well. And with 8 feet, it would be so lifelike!<br/>
Fantastic! I love it. It would be great to see a video of it in action. One question: Why did you have the legs bent all the time instead of having them framed out from your body like the rest of him so they look like they are walking? Anyway, I think I know what I'll be for next halloween. Great job!
Mostly just a lack of time... I was hoping that, with the elastic around my shoes (rather than my knees as above) the legs would just hang pretty straight. I wanted them to be always slightly bent at the knee to make him look gangly, with my feet in place of Jack's. It didn't really work out that way, though; they were too wobbly and got tangled up, so I moved them up my legs to keep them out of my way while walking. My next plan would have been more rigid joints, but I think your plan would work even better. Do you mean something like a dowel connecting your leg to Jack's leg just above the knee and at the foot?
I think you could have just twined another peice of pipe between the femur pipes to keep his legs spread apart some while keeping them able to move around mostly free of one another. Aside from that I'd just paint the frame black so it's less noticable. Great work on it as a whole though, the cat's head was a nice detail and the whole thing is very clean looking.
Yay!! i have an aunt that works at a craft store, so i can use her discount. but on the joints, could i use anything except twine, it doesn't seem too practical.
You're exactly right! The twine worked perfectly for the arms for me, but lousy for the legs. I mention somewhere in the instructable that pivoting the knees and hips on a bolt might work, and I'd be interested to see the results if someone tried it. Joknrok below suggested that the twine joints might work if the legs were also framed out from the body like the chest was... like a dowel from the puppeteer's thigh to Jack's thigh and foot to foot. Any improvements you come up with would be appreciated.
Wow! That probably looked fantastic going down the street at night- especially when you're dressed all in black. I saw a guy that made a StarWars General Grievous puppet costume using a similar method.
I'd love to see the Grievous costume! That sounds awesome.

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