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In addition to my collection of skulls, I've collected several rats over the years - some of them expensive, but some of them just the typical Dollar Store variety. Here are a few basic enhancements that can be made easily to bring them up to a more realistic level.

Step 1: Supplies and Tools

Dollar Store (or the equivalent cheap-goods store in your country) plastic rat
Whisk broom - black bristles, again from the dollar store.
Craft needles - regular needles may be too thin, so get some heavier duty ones. My dollar store had these too!
Wooden dowel - size that fits comfortably in your hand. You may also use the handle of a wooden spoon, I think the dollar store sells those too.
Small side cutting pliers. Guess where you can get them if you don't have some already? :-)
Small bottle/tube of liquid latex - places that sell Halloween makeup usually have this, so try your pharmacy, department store, or your favourite Halloween store, or possibly even the dollar store - you don't need much.
Gloss Mod Podge or other GLOSS sealant - your craft store should have this, though check at your dollar store in the craft aisle.

Step 2: Tool Construction

Take the dowel/wooden spool and cut it to the appropriate length - it should be about as long as your hand is wide, plus a little bit.
Proceed with CAUTION:
On one end, embed the point of the needle into the wood. Try to centre it, and then insert it as deep as you can.
If possible, and you have a small enough drill but, make a little hole first so that the dowel doesn't split. I just used a pair of pliers and pushed it into the wood.
Look at the eye of the needle. Take the cutters/pliers and cut the end of the needle off about halfway through the eye. This will leave you with two prongs.

Step 3: Create the Whiskers

Not being an animal expert, I'm not sure if there is a proper number of whiskers that appear on either side of a rat's muzzle, and whether it differs for other animals. Based on the size of the rat, and simple geometry, I've decided to have 4 whiskers on each side.
Cut several bristles off the broom, making them as long as you can.
Fold two of them in half to form a V shape (or an upper case lambda character...)
Insert the point of the V into the prongs of the tool.

Step 4: Insert the Whiskers

Proceed with CAUTION:
With the two bristles between the prongs, press them into the desired location on the side of the rat's muzzle. Do this carefully, using just enough pressure to make sure that you don't poke it right through and into your leg/arm/child. hey, I'm all for blood and guts at Halloween, as long as it's not real...spending Halloween in the hospital getting stitches would not be fun.
Press the tool deep enough that the eye of the needle completely disappears into the rat.
Hold the whiskers with your fingers while you extract the tool. If the whiskers come out, just use the tool to insert them again.
Do the other side (unless you plan on having an extremely insane looking rat!).
If desired, arrange the whiskers so they are not grouped all together. (Sorry, real whiskers aren't in multiples of two, they are usually individual, so we have to give the "ilusion" that they are real. Hey, what do you expect for a buck...)
Use a drop of liquid latex where the whiskers insert to seal them in.
Trim the whiskers to the appropriate length if necessary. I'm not sure if all animals are this way, but cats usually have whiskers about the width of their body - this allows them to determine if they can fit through a hole...

Step 5: Other Enhancements

Often the toys/props from these cheaper stores aren't produced with quality in mind so some of the paint may not be lined up. Often, the whole prop may be glossy, or more frequently have a matte finish. (This one was glossy as you can see...) The problem with the matte finish is the eyes aren't shiny like real, wet eyes are. Use a small quantity of the glossy sealant over the eyes, nose and toenails to add a little realism.
Casting lines.
Often these props also have lines from the molds. These may be able to be cut off with a craft knife. Check one on the underside of the prop to see if the underlying plastic is a different color than the prop itself. If so, you can trim these molding lines flush with the texture of the prop. If your cut reveals a different color, you will probably want to leave them - unless you want obvious lines or desire to paint them..
Alternate eyes
If you have a rat that is hard plastic and appears to be hollow, you can make the eyes glow, sometimes. First, find something that has a red LED on it - a toy, remote control, mini-flashlight, etc., and will fit inside the rat. Cut a hole in the bottom, pour in some of the gloss sealer and spread it around. This will make the insides nice and shiny and will reflect the light better - you can also use white paint as well. Carefully cut out the eyes. Insert the LED into bottom of the rat and turn it on. (Please do not use a light bulb - the heat in such a confined space can be dangerous!).

Step 6: Display

Rats aren't the most tidy animals. When you display them, put them in an appropriate scene. Buy a fake arm/leg/hand/finger/skull from the Halloween or department store, add a bit of "bloody" newspaper and some tin cans.

Do this to your other rats, mice, cats, dogs, weasels, etc. As you can see, I've attached whiskers to many of my animals. Sorry, I haven't displayed these properly, yet...
ENJOY!
<p>Exciting bunch of props. Check this website halloweencostumesale.com for some more exciting halloween props.</p>
love your rat collection ! I get a lot of possibilium and even props from the various dollar stores including a good number of these rats which we scatter throughout the haunt where a lot of detail really isn't needed. However, if we do decide to create a scene with a focus on rats I'll have an idea how to kick them up a notch ! Thank you for sharing your work
I loved the haired black one!<br>
Why not buy rats that look good to start off with? Time is money after all so you're really not saving that much money in the long run. Its fun that you're into realism though, Halloween rocks when decorations and props are done realistically.
There are a couple of reasons - I do buy some more realistic/grotesque props and even most of them didn't come with whiskers, even though they were in the $25+ range. Another is that some people just demand on buying cheap props and shop at the dollar stores for their decorations exclusively. This is a way to add a little realism on a budget and get people into realizing that creating halloween props really isn't that tough. They might start with this little tutorial and eventually build themselves a larger, more elaborate prop that they never would have undertaken previously. It's fun to turn people into "doers". Thanks for the thoughts on realism, and the name/origin of the tool below. I knew I'd seen it somewhere, but never knew the name.
It's a neat idea, probably useful for other beasties as well. I especially like the tool - is it your own idea, or a neat way of cheaply copying an existing tool?<br/><br/><em>...real whiskers aren't in multiples of two...</em><br/><br/>If you bend your whisker very close to the end, so that one side of the V is only a couple of millimetres long, more like a number 1 than a V, then the short end will disappear right inside the &quot;flesh&quot; of the rat. It may even lock the whisker in place more firmly, I'm not sure.<br/>
He's copying an existing tool here, its called a splincher and is used in doll making/wig making to insert hair into a dot matrix to simulate hair follicles, or plugs.
I might be wrong, but I thought I saw or read somewhere about the pros using a similar tool - though finer, as is the hair. I saw the broom and thought they'd make good whiskers, so went looking for some needles to test it out. If I need longer whiskers folding them into a 1 should work pretty good, thanks for the input!
Cool idea! My first thought was the same as Kiteman's. I have another alternative idea that might be work pursuing. Get a hypodermic needle. It should be the diameter of the whisker. Stick the needle into one side of the muzzle and out the other. Insert whisker in the needle until it protrudes from the sharp end. Grab this end of the whisker and retract the needle, leaving the whisker going in one side and out the other. This should also be more secure.
That should be &quot;... might be *worth* pursuing...&quot;.<br/><br/>Also, the *inside diameter* of the hypodermic needle should accomodate the diameter of the whisker.<br/>
This would work well, but might not be as fast - it's hard to get the bristles between the prongs, I'd have a tough time "threading" them into a needle. On the other hand though, if I need to add a bunch of whiskers to a large prop you could fit several into the "needle" end of a turkey baster. Might not work as regular whiskers, but I bet you could have some strange aliens this way! Thanks, I'll have to try this next year.

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