Introduction: Glowing Sugar Skull Halloween Decoration

About: I'm into Electronics, programming, electric guitar, woodworking, learning about website technologies (like jquery). Now if only I could locate some free time ...

This glowing sugar skull Halloween decoration is sure to be a hit in any west coast office!

Step 1: Introduction

Back in August I purchased a light up unfinished wooden jack o' lantern from Michael's (a craft store) to put on my desk at work for Halloween. It's great, but I also like "Day of the Dead" Calaveras, also known as Sugar Skulls. These brightly painted skulls are popular in California and Mexico. Unfortunately, there were no light up versions to purchase, so we have to make our own!

Step 2: Materials

  1. Day of the Dead card stock decoration (from any Halloween store) - less than $1.00
  2. Art Minds Wooden Gift Bag from Michaels - $1.19 Link
  3. Revell 1/8 X 6 X 12 Birch Plywood, part no. 88-7629 from Michael's - $1.80
  4. Color changing Pumpkin Light from Party City - $3.99 Link

Total Budget: under $8.00 !

Step 3: Tools

  1. Sharp Xacto knife
  2. Scissors
  3. Black sharpie magic marker
  4. Coping saw or jigsaw
  5. Awl and drill bits, 3/16" and 1/8"
  6. Clear packing tape or masking tape
  7. Sandpaper or wood file
  8. Aleene's Tacky Glue or any good white glue
  9. Size zero phillips head screw driver
  10. Hot glue gun and glue stick
  11. Wire stripper
  12. Soldering iron and solder
  13. Hemostats (optional)
  14. Electrical tape
  15. Two 6 inch pieces insulated wire, one red and one blue, around (20 to 26 ga)

Step 4: Cut Out Card Stock Sugar Skull

Using a sharp Xacto knife, carefully cut out the eyes, nose, and individual teeth. Once these details are removed, cut out the sugar skull head using a pair of scissors. Hold it up to the light and make sure all the cuts are clean and you have removed all the pieces completely.

Step 5: Trace Outline Onto Plywood Stock

Use a pen or magic marker to copy the outline of the sugar skull onto the 6"X12" plywood stock. Mark rectangles larger than the eyes and mouth, then make a triangle which is larger than the nose.

Step 6: Cut Out Skull From Plywood

Cover the outlines with masking tape or clear packing tape to prevent splintering. Using a coping saw or jigsaw, cut out the outlines of the eyes, nose, and mouth. A drill is handy for making starting holes for the coping saw blade. Once the interior cutouts have been made, cut the outside. Use sandpaper or a file to smooth all cuts.

Step 7: Prepare Light Box

Remove one side of the wooden gift bag by gently separating at the glue joint.

Step 8: Orient Light Box

Lay the gift bag on the rear of the skull cutout so it easily covers the eyes, nose, and mouth. Use a pen or sharpie to draw its outline on the skull. Next, mark the gift bag so you know what to remove to make it fit. Note that it may not result in a rectangle, but a layout which is more slanted.

Step 9: Finish Light Box

Use the measurements from the previous step to determine how to cut the gift bag. Again, taping the area to be cut, saw off the protruding handle on the remaining side, as well as any additional cuts so that it fits correctly on the back of the skull cutout. Use sandpaper or wood file to smooth the cuts. Cut out a piece from the first side removed in a previous step to cover the open side. Glue it in place with Tacky glue. Using the awl and/or drill bits, make a small hole (1/8") in the top rear of the light box with a 3/16" hole one half inch below it for the wires to pass through in a later step.

Step 10: Add Base

Draw a horizontal line on the back of the skull cutout in order to compensate for the tilt in the light box. Cut two pieces of plywood to fit. Attach the light box along the lines drawn previously using Tacky Glue. Attach the two extra plywood pieces to form an aligned base along the chin using Tacky Glue.

Step 11: Disassemble Pumpkin Light

These pumpkin lights are perfect because they have a switch on the side which separates from the light assembly and battery box. Remove and save the battery cover screw, the battery cover, and then the two exposed screws inside the battery box. Pull out the lights and the switch. Note which power wire (the red and blue) attaches where, and unsolder them from the battery box. Red should attach to positive; blue to negative; but check just to make sure. Also unsolder the switch circuit board from the two short blue wires. Strip all four exposed wires.

Step 12: Install Light

Here is a tip: Install the light BEFORE gluing the skull cutout to the light box.

Slide the two short wires for the switch through the upper small hole and the two longer wires through the larger hole. Use them to pull the light assembly into place at the top of head of the skull. Adhere the lights using hot glue. Since my glue gun is not long and skinny, I just put hot glue on a screw driver and dabbed it around the lights on the reflector.

Step 13: Attach Switch

Keep the short blue wires in place with tape while soldering the switch back into place. Don't worry about orientation, either wire can go into either spot on the switch. Hot glue the switch to the back of the box near the hole the wires pass through.

Step 14: Attach Battery Wires

Solder the red and blue wires from the box to the longer wires and tape them with electrical tape. Solder the new longer wires to the battery holders being sure to observe proper polarity; red to positive, blue to negative.

Step 15: Attach Battery Box

Use hot glue to attach the battery box to the bottom of the skull's light box. Use hot glue to attach wires neatly to the back of the light box. load with three AAA batteries and use the screw from step 11 to reattach the battery box cover.

Step 16: Test Your Work

Press the switch to activate the light; check to make sure everything is working. If not, go back over your work to check for mistakes like solder bridges, poor joints, batteries inserted incorrectly, things like that.

Step 17: Attach Sugar Skull to Cutout and Enjoy!

Hot glue dries so fast that you won't have time to make adjustments, so I recommend using Tacky Glue to attach the sugar skull face to the wooden cutout. After the glue is dry, take the black sharpie and color the wooden edge around the skull for contrast.

You're finished! Great job! Enjoy your work, then take to the office and make all your Halloween holiday coworkers jealous.

Halloween Decor Contest 2015

Participated in the
Halloween Decor Contest 2015