How to Corpse a Skeleton (The Quick and Dirty Way that DOES NOT Involve Latex)

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What you'll need.
A Skeleton
Clear Plastic Tarps
Variable Temperature Heat Gun (I assume it's possible to do this with an embossing heat gun, but don't. Get a proper one.)
Wood Stain
Brushes (I used both sponge and bristle brushes)

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Step 1: Mummy up your Skeleton

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Sounds exactly like what it is. Wrap a layer or two of plastic around your skeleton. Then get ready to hit it with that heat gun.

Update: This project was inspired by Allen Hopps who showed us how to make human pelts out of trash bags. I thought, 'I wonder if drop cloths would work on skellies,' and they did! (I did find out later that Allen also had that idea...)

Step 2: Melt it

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After you've wrapped a layer or two of plastic (and it's totally fine to have one layer in some places and two layers in other places), you'll want to get out your heat gun. Essentially, you're shrink wrapping the skeleton in plastic tarp. If you burn through the tarp that's totally okay. The more "holes" in your flesh, the more realistic it looks.

Step 3: Lather, Rinse, Repeat

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Flip your skeleton over and hit the plastic on the back with the heat gun. Notice how the spots where the plastic tarp ends meet give the feel of tendons.

Step 4: Back to Front

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And again on the front. (And again, on the back.)

Step 5: And... Paint!

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Wood stain provides wonderfully realistic colour tone for fleshy skeletons. For my "Burnt Offering" skeleton I used a dark stain (Jacobean) and for my "Flayed Man" I used a redder stain (Red Mahogany). The "White Oak" stain is also great, depending on your desired final effect.

Step 6: Details

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My "Burnt Offering" has a lot less meat (since he was meant to be BBQed). This effect was achieved by fully coating the corpsed skeleton with the wood stain (sponge brush).
My "Flayed Man" has more meat (since he only lost his skin). This effect was achieved by very lightly drybrushing (bristle brush). I did this in two coats. Please, notice the details on the back (pictures four and five) where the "overlay" of the plastic seems more lifelike.

SparkySolar9 months ago

OH MY GOD this is awesome

Spyridoula Nemesis (author)  SparkySolar8 months ago

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it! :)

ElDusto10 months ago

Fantastic! I made this for forensics training at work. Great Instructable!

Spyridoula Nemesis (author)  ElDusto9 months ago

Awesome! Thanks so much!

Hello: After you were all done did you have any trouble with the joints

not bending or plastic getting messed up?

Love your skeletons.

Thank you for the compliment. No, the joints still worked after the corpsing. If you have any plastic that comes loose in an area that has a lot of movement, you can use a spray adhesive to reattach it. Personally, I like Super77 by 3M, it's the only propellant adhesive I've found that won't melt styrofoam, and I use styrofoam to make my tombstones.

mbecks1 year ago
wow super great effect with such simple ingredients. where do you get the skeletons?
Spyridoula Nemesis (author)  mbecks1 year ago
Thanks! These are the "Pose and Stay" skeletons that I got at Costco last year. You can find five foot skeletons for ~$50 at Party City, Garden Ridge, Walgreens, and the Halloween stores that pop up each year. Apparently Menards (if there's one close to you) has some on sale for $30 each right now. Also check out Oriental Trading Company, they sometimes have deals.

I'm about to publish an Instructable for the mini skeletons (five inches instead of five feet) to articulate movement. Just in case you can't get your hands on the larger ones in time. :)
just imagine if you took one of those teaching skeletons, removed all the hardware and did this. People might soil themselves.

I would LOVE to corpse a bucky! Unfortunately, they are way out of my budget... Maybe someday. :)