It's almost that time of the year, and in the spirit of truly terrifying (and affordably priced) props, here is my own DIY skull lamp. Use it to cast a little light onto those dark corners of your favorite haunted mansion!
Step 1: Get Inspired by the Totally Awesome Designer Edition...
So, have you seen this pic floating around the net lately?Gorgeous, right? We have artist Alex Garnett to thank for them...but at almost $200 a pop and sold out on Etsy, they are waaayyy out of my reach.Luckily, it's almost Halloween (yay!) which means...skulls galore! I was downtown today with my friend Claire and stumbled across some cheapie plastic guys that are going to do the trick for me to help get me through until I make enough money to either buy the real thing, or figure out how to cast these suckers in something other than plastic. Stay tuned...I do want to try to cast one and then see if I can do a cold porcelain mold on that and see how that turns out...but that's later...for now, we'll just stick to the cheapie process!
Step 2: Your Materials List
YOU WILL NEED: PLASTIC SKULL -- You can pick these up either at any Halloween store, Michael's during the Halloween Fall season, or online through Ebay all year long. My cost: $8.98 each (x4) = roughly $40 after taxes.
NOTE: I'm gonna STRONGLY suggest you do NOT use foam skulls. Sure, it's tempting. They're super cheap...easy to modify, and readily available. They're also NOT SAFE and when they get too hot, can emit toxic fumes. Remember, this is Halloween...we love scary...but not real scary.
LIGHTING KIT: I got a pre-fab kit from Lowe's called the Candelabra Base Switch Cord. It came with an 8 foot cord, light socket and rocker switch all pre-assembled. This version is really bare bones (ha, no pun intended) and the cheapest option I could find...you can get much fancier with swag kits, etc...but for this attempt, I went cheap. My cost: $5.98 (x4) = 23.92
LIGHT BULBS: We need light! Make sure if you get the Candelabra base listed above that you make sure you get the right size bulbs...both wattage size and base size. Candelabra bulbs have a much smaller base than regular bulbs and you don't want to buy the wrong ones and have to go back. I found a 4 pack of Soft White Energy Efficient bulbs on sale at Lowe's for $13.98. Score!
PENCIL: To trace around your light socket.
DRILL WITH 2 BITS: You'll need a small bit to drill your pilot holes and a second, larger bit to make your socket hole. I got lucky and had a circular bit in my kit from a door install I did a few years ago, but you can use any drill bit and I'll explain that trick later in step 4.
Step 3: Getting Started
Okay, now you've got your supplies...let's get started! The first thing I did was take the jaws off of all my skulls. It's a personal preference...you can leave them on or remove them...but I liked the look off. They were attached with a dot of glue on the inside that just popped off as soon as I unscrewed them. Super easy!Now that the jaw is gone, I no longer have a full skull...just the cranium. Save the jaws...I don't know what I'm doing with mine yet, but I'll figure something out.
(OPTIONAL): Luckily for me and this project, the bottom of the skulls was just a gaping hole so I didn't have to do any additional base removal to allow light to shine out...but if your cranium has a "bottom," now is the time to remove it. You'll want to not only do that to let out light but also heat as this is just a plastic skull and any light bulb is going to get warm (we'll talk about that more later)...
Step 4: Use Your Pencil!
Trace the socket of your light fixture at the point on your skull where you want to suspend it from. I chose the center of my skull rather than further back like in the original because of the way the opening on the bottom is positioned. At this point, it's totally up to you and where you want to put it.
Step 5: Drill, Drill, Drill...
Drill a tiny pilot hole in the center of your marked circle. This will help make cutting your hole out much easier in the long run. Once you have your pilot hole drilled, switch to your larger drill bit. Like I said above, I got lucky and I had a hole bit from a door install earlier that just happened to be the absolutely perfect size for the skulls. If you don't have one, you can skip drilling your pilot hole and use your regular drill bit to drill circles along the line of your socket hole.
Drill them close together but not so close as to overlap and try to stay just INSIDE your circle...it's better to make the hole too small and enlarge it than too big. Measure twice...cut once. If you've done them close enough, you can either literally punch out the plastic with a little force, or use nippers or a small hand saw (or even an Exacto knife or blade if your skull material is softer...very carefully) to pop out the hole.
If you've made the hole the right size, the candelabra socket should fit perfectly in it. Just snap it in place using the side wings to secure it to the sides of your hole.
Step 6: Let There Be Light!
Screw in your bulb. Make sure to check that the bulb is sitting in the center of the skull and not touching any sides. Traditional bulbs get very hot...and although the new energy efficient bulbs are a bit cooler...they still get pretty toasty ...and you don't want to melt anything or start any fires.
** Personal side bar ** Ideally I'd like to revisit this project after the holidays and see what I can do about switching out the setup I have now for ultra cool (both in temp and look) LEDs...but that's another day. For now, we'll stick with this. I am using 13W CFL bulbs in "soft white."
Flip the switch, step back and enjoy! That's all there is to it!
Step 7: Final Wrap Up
I'm using these for a Halloween party I'm throwing this year (stay tuned...MANY more tutorials coming from that) and will be hanging them from the tree in the back yard to illuminate the common area. Each skull throws out a nice pool of light and spaced out, will be a great addition to the "atmosphere." I might either paint or wrap the white cords in black material to help hide them at night...the white isn't my idea of perfect, but was the only color available at Lowe's when I went today and I'm too impatient to order black or go to a different store...so for now, they're white...but no matter what...LOVE HOW THIS LOOKS!
TOTAL COST FOR MATERIALS: Each skull cost me roughly $20.
TOTAL TIME COMMITMENT: Less than 1 hour from start to finish doing all 4 skulls. (Honestly, writing this tutorial took more time than assembling the skulls.)
So there you have it. Skull pendant lamps for a fraction of the cost of the originals. You can personalize them any way you'd like...maybe some dripping blood? A new coat of paint? I might go back and darken the eyes so they really stand out, but for now...I'm happy with the results.
** Remember, these are made out of PLASTIC so please, be EXTREMELY careful and make sure to keep an eye on your light to ensure it's not melting/smoking. I would suggest going straight to LED lights if you can afford them and ABSOLUTELY if you insist on ignoring my warnings and use Styrofoam anyway.
And regardless of what type of skull you use...as this does involve heat emitting items (your light bulb), make sure to keep an eye on this once you plug it in...at least for the first few times just so you get a good idea what it does when it's been on for a bit. And please, please please please...do not leave this light on unattended...Halloween is meant to be scary...but not THAT scary!