Instructables
Picture of Santa's Elves Yard Display
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After years of Christmas plywood cutout characters, we decided to follow the 3D trend and build some happy elves for our yard this year.

The elves are wooden skeletons with newspaper pressed and taped all around to form the shapes.  Two coats of paper mache, bits of clay added, gesso, paint, and waterproofing and they are ready for display!

 
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Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools
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The basic materials are:
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2x2, 1x2, 2x4 lumber
dowels
newspaper
masking tape
posterboard
brown paper bags
paper mache - we use PlayBOX wheat paste 3lbs
paper clay - Creative Paper Clay Co.
gesso - Liquidtex surface prep
wrapping paper
decoupage - Mod Podge
Drylok Extreme Masonary Waterproofer paint without sand (UPDATED 12/2013)
Acrylic paints
Krylon acrylic crystal clear satin spray paint for waterproofing

Basic tools:
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Craftsman jigsaw with foot switch
drill with large bits
paintbrushes
medium fine sandpaper
hot glue gun

For the animated elf spinning package:
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gear motor - Solarbotics GM21 $20
1/2" PVC pipe
Copper pipe
2 scavenged scooter bearings
5/16" plain steel rod
5/16" ID steel coupler
14ga steel sheet 9"x9"
Styrofoam brick
2 AA batteries and holder
hot glue and gun
misc washers, allen set screws, hookup wire

Step 2: Skeleton

Picture of Skeleton
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Build a skeletal structure for your happy little elf out of 2x2 and 1x2 pine.  The feet are 2x4 pine for weight and stability.  The joints are pinned with dowels and wood glue.

The arms and legs are 7/8" hardwood dowels.  They are pinned and wrapped with paper mache strips of grocery bags.

Step 3: Filling the frame

Picture of Filling the frame
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Lots of newspaper and masking tape!

Shape the body, head, arms, hands, and feet by crumpling up newspaper and taping it to the skeleton. You can round out things with more tape.  More tape is always the answer! 

Add elements like hats and collars with heavy posterboard paper. Check eye positions with colored paper cutouts.

Make it pretty firm so it will keep it's shape when paper mache'ing in the next step.


flamingo.mall2 months ago

Amazing, I presented this idea and this is the result... thanks so much¡¡

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blipvert (author)  flamingo.mall1 month ago

Awesome! Thanks for sharing, the elves are busy all over the world.

I want to make some of these but spooky style for Haloween! This tutorial is great, thank you so much for it!

anapet016 months ago
Sooo cute
lgreen211 year ago
Wow! Love this!!!!!! Do you take orders?
What a creative mind.
taria1 year ago
I love this! my only question would be, when you added the brown paper everything looked boxy, but after wards it didn't, how did you do that part? did you add extra for the pants and such?
blipvert (author)  taria1 year ago
That was a picture we slipped in. Being so messy, we didn't take any brown paper covering pictures of the elves. This is a Pinocchio pinata with paper towel tubes for arms and legs instead of wood dowels.
The clothing was done with poster board just like the hat and collar in the previous picture. Paper mache with newsprint then brown paper. It can get a bit soggy but everything works fine if you do it in sections and let it dry between coats.
taria blipvert1 year ago
okay I see, do you have a finish photo of this one? I would love to see it as well. Of course I was going to make your elves for myself, but I ran out of time doing things for everyone else. now Christmas is gone and they would look odd sitting outside my house/apartment during the summer time unless I dressed them in hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts...lol
blipvert (author)  taria1 year ago
Here is a picture of the finished Pinocchio pinata. It does take planning, especially since paper mache' dries much quicker in warm dry weather. Good luck and post your summer elves!
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mygibzone1 year ago
What a FANTASTIC job! I am a huge fan of paper mache. This display looks better then any you could buy in a store! I really LOVE it!
cdahl1 year ago
wonderful job
wendpc1 year ago
muito boa criação amigo, gostei e vou fazer pra familia.
Poderia me dizer que carro é esse laranja na garagem?,estou muito curioso pra saber
blipvert (author)  wendpc1 year ago
Hello! It is my 1973 DeTomaso Pantera. It is very original condition and great fun. Here it is parked on a mountain trip, thanks for asking! http://goo.gl/gaAfE
Your elves have such amazing personality. Love the vintage feel. I can't wait to try them and agree with the person above who said you should be designing for a department store. These are wonderful!
P.S. Marine varnish after you've done all your painting on papier mache is supposed to work well outdoors.
Telluride2 years ago
Would you be willing to make these to sell?
tsylvia2 years ago
I was wondering how well the elves held up outside in the elements?
blipvert (author)  tsylvia2 years ago
They did get a little soggy with the rain but didn't turn into mush. So we overpainted them with outdoor primer and repainted. They have held up well this year with a few rainy days. Good question, one we were most curious about as well.
kitchin013 years ago
EXACTLY what I have been looking for!!!!!
Absolutely brilliant
blipvert (author) 3 years ago
Thank you all for your kind words and voting us into top finalist spot for the Krylon competition! Stay tuned for more fun through the year.
mary candy3 years ago
oh gorgeousss !!!
wizgirl3 years ago
awesome!
I'm happy you won. Really well deserved.
seamster3 years ago
Well-deserved win! Congrats!
These are so great! Now you just have to hide from all the neighbors who come begging to know where you found these smashing elves :0) I see orders in your future.

seamster3 years ago
You gotta love the newspaper and masking tape technique. You can make just about anything. These turned out great!
love2cad3 years ago
These are great!! Would it be possible to get a few dimensions? Such as overall height, hip and shoulder width. You seem to have nailed the scale and I would love to try and recreate one. Thanks!!
blipvert (author)  love2cad3 years ago
Thanks everyone for your great comments. Here are the dimensions of the 4 elves from left to right in inches:

                     Package Elf   Back Pkg  Front Pkg  Spinner
hat height      17                     20               20              13
head height  10                       9                10              10
head width    10                     10               10              10
head depth    10                    10               10               10
upper arm      11                      9                 9                  9
lower arm        9                       7                 6                  5
hand length     8                       9               10                  7
torso length   12                    16               18                21
torso width     12                    10               11               10
torso depth    12                     10                8                  8
thigh                  7                     13              13                12
lower leg        12                       9                 8                10
foot length      10                     11              10                10
foot width          5                       5                 5                  5
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Enjoy!
blipvert

great.. thank you for the dimensions.
They are very very cool. Way better than any store bought decorations. Beautiful job!
lemonie3 years ago

High-quality stuff there!

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Honus3 years ago
They look awesome- I bet you're the envy of your neighbors!
l8nite3 years ago
AWESOME ! Halloween is our BIG holiday but we do string a lot of lights and stuff for christmas, Im going to fav this page and keep it in mind for next yr
Mekasia3 years ago
Spectacular!!! It's a bit late for me to start on them for this year, but I think this will be a project to tinker with next year. You could easily sell these for a tidy profit.
Amazing. You should be designing the Holiday windows for some high end department store.
BrittLiv3 years ago
They are really cute!