Introduction: Paper Machine: Dancing Ghost

Picture of Paper Machine:  Dancing Ghost

I love to explore the process of engineering and how machines work by using paper. Paper is readily available. The only essential tools are scissors and a bit of glue. Anyone can try it.

This ghost is not only a paper machine that you can actually move, but it is also contains actual Halloween candy.

Step 1: Paper, Printing, and Cutting

Picture of Paper, Printing, and Cutting

I recommend that you use card stock since you will need the extra strength that you cannot get from ordinary copy paper.

You will need a good pair of scissors. I did not need a craft knife to cut out the holes in several pieces but it may help some people to use one.

I usually cut out the holes first and then the outlines of each piece--less risk of tearing that way.

Step 2: Scoring and Folding

Picture of Scoring and Folding

Once all the pieces are cut, score on the dotted lines. Scoring helps give sharp, straight edges--especially for the long edges of the box. I use a ruler and an empty ball point pen to score.

Pre-fold on the dotted lines. This will allow you to see what will connect where on the finished piece. I tried to show what will get glued where on the shaft of the crank. It can get a bit tricky to get everything connected correctly. It actually took me a few tries to get everything the right size and shape to work well.

Step 3: Glue and Gluing

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It is important that you choose the right glue. Glue sticks are convenient but they do not provide a strong enough bond for a project like this. I use Elmer's but most liquid white glues will work. Use as little glue as possible so that it dries quickly and without a mess.

I start by closing up the edges of the inner pieces. These pieces are not marked with letters since they are fairly simple to work with.

Apply a thin layer of glue to the tab. Wait for 30 seconds or so to allow the glue to get tacky. You can skip the wait time if you are using tacky glue or if you are lucky enough to have slightly dried out liquid glue.


Hold the 2 parts together and count to 10 slowly. This gives the glue a chance to grab hold before you set it aside and work on the next piece. Let these first tabs dry before moving on to the next step.

Step 4: Basket That Holds the Sucker Stick

Picture of Basket That Holds the Sucker Stick

If you are going to use a small (dum dum sized) sucker, you may not need to reinforce the little basket that holds the stick. If you are planning to use a tootsie pop sized sucker, a single layer of cardstock is not sturdy enough. Glue the two layers together to provide the extra support.

Step 5: Assembling the Shaft

Picture of Assembling the Shaft

I start with the middle piece and work toward the ends.

Step 6: Installing the Shaft

Picture of Installing the Shaft

Slide one end of the shaft into the hole in the side of the box. Gently work it around so that you can get the other end through the opposite side hole without tearing anything or crushing anything.

Step 7: Attaching the Handle

Picture of Attaching the Handle

Step 8: The Ghost

Picture of The Ghost

I cut the corners off of a facial tissue--it is not totally necessary but I felt like it. I also chose to put a few small pleats around the edge of the tissue. This just gave the ghost a little bit of shape.

Put a small dot of glue on the top corners of the box. Position a sucker through the hole in the top of the box. Crank the basket so that it pushes the sucker as high as it will go. Cover the sucker with the tissue ghost and stick the tissue to the glue dots. Let the glue dry.

If you glue the tissue to the box with the basket holding the sucker in its lowest position, it might tear when you crank the handle.

Sometimes I put a spot of glue on the top of the sucker before adding the ghost.

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Bio: I have taught math for 30 plus years. I am one of the crazy ones who actually think math is fun. I am still adapting ... More »
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