Introduction: Graveyard Skeleton
It's finally October…the best time of the year!! We make lots of Halloween props, DIY Halloween decorations, and awesome spooky stuff this time of year and this skeleton "gravecrawler" Halloween prop is the newest thing we've added to our outdoor DIY Halloween decor.
These Halloween props are definitely easy to make. You can absolutely follow along at home and make this with just some basic materials. If you're looking for a fun weekend project to upgrade your Halloween decorations, this DIY project is perfect.
We recommend watching the video above and following along with the written steps!
Plastic Posable Skeleton - https://amzn.to/2Ven6oK
Spray Foam - https://amzn.to/2AJtUBg
Black or Brown Spray Paint - https://amzn.to/2AMe0Gu
Hot Glue - https://amzn.to/2ojodaF
Spray Adhesive - https://amzn.to/31PsXmX
Epoxy Putty - https://amzn.to/2OmBTMM
Nitrile/Latex Gloves - https://amzn.to/2QaOCVc
Hot Glue Gun - https://amzn.to/2Vi519C
Heat Gun - https://amzn.to/34uIBWR
Step 1: Disassemble Your Skeleton
These plastic Halloween store skeletons are usually put together with screws so that the joints can move, but even though they're "posable", they don't move anywhere near enough to make an actual good pose. They're very robotic and fake looking. So, we're going to disassemble and modify it so we can get it looking a lot better.
We start by removing the head, both arms, and both legs at the hip. Depending on your skeleton, you'll likely need a screwdriver and some pliers to do this. (The head should just pop right off.)
Step 2: Bend Your Skeleton's Spine
Since we want our skeleton to be crawling out of the grave, it's safe to assume he doesn't have a super straight back and perfect posture...so we're going to bend his spine so that his back arches. We want him to look like he's crawling out and dramatically reaching towards the nearest trick or treater!
A heat gun works well for this. Put the heat gun on maximum heat and heat up the plastic of the spine and slowly bend it back into an arched pose. This took around 5-10 minutes and we did it slowly so it wouldn't break. Once you've got it nice and bent, use a piece of string to tie the pelvis to the neck to hold it in the pose and let it sit for about an hour.
It's likely to spring back a little when you untie it, so bend it a little further than you need. Also, over time it will slowly bend back down so it's fine to go more than you need to and it will settle into less of a bend over time.
Step 3: Fill in Your Skeleton's Shoulders
A bit later when we reattach the arms to the shoulder joints, we're going to want more surface area to attach them to, since the shoulders are just big holes. To fill the holes, we used steel-reinforced epoxy putty. Similarly to epoxy resin, this is a two-part putty that gets mixed together and then it hardens shortly after.
We mixed some together and filled the holes of the shoulders, as shown. Definitely wear gloves for this!
In the video, you'll notice we attached a metal wire that we were originally going to use to assist with posing the arms, but this didn't get used at all so you can skip that entirely!
Step 4: Attach Your Skeleton to a Flat Base
We cut a piece of plywood that was roughly 16" x 16" to serve as a base for the whole thing. This is going to sit in the grass in our yard but we want to be able to move it around easily (and store it in the offseason) so the plywood will help with that.
To attach it, first, we positioned the skeleton torso by holding it at the angle we wanted and finding the best point of contact with the board. We then drilled a small pilot hole in the pelvis and screwed it to the base. If you find the right spot, this should only take one screw, but obviously put in a few more if you need to so it's sturdy.
Step 5: Create Your Dirt Mound Using Spray Foam
To create our faux dirt mound, we're using spray foam and then we're going to cover it with real dirt. Spray foam is basically a gap-filling foam that is generally used for insulation and other construction tasks. It's AWESOME for Halloween projects!
In our video, we should have been wearing masks/respirators when we were doing this; it's definitely not something you want to be breathing in. Always wear gloves and a mask/respirator when using spray foam!
We used the spray foam to create the perimeter of our dirt mound and then slowly built it up into the shape we wanted. Since it's so big, this took three bottles of it to do the whole thing. A slightly cheaper way to do this would have been to use another material to build up the mound and then spray foam on top of it to give it the final look...but we didn't think of that at the time. :)
Step 6: Paint Your Dirt Mound
Next, we painted the "dirt mound". First, we masked off the skeleton by covering the majority of it with a trash bag and then covering the rest with blue painters tape.
We used a black spray paint primer to cover the whole thing. In hindsight, a dark brown would have been a better choice but we used what we had on hand. Make sure to get paint in all the little nooks and crannies so you don't have random yellow spots in your dirt mound.
Step 7: Add Real Dirt to Your Dirt Mound
If you watched the video, you'll see we had a LOT of trouble with this step! We couldn't figure out how to get the dirt to stick to the spray foam properly and went through quite a bit of trial and error to get it right. Also, it's real dirt we got from our yard, so definitely an easy material to get. :)
First, we tried sprinkling dirt on while the spray foam was still wet. This didn't work at all.
Next, we tried spraying some spray adhesive on the foam and sprinkling the dirt on, that also didn't work. We tried a few variations of this in an attempt to figure it out, most of them failed.
Finally, we found that a LOT of spray adhesive and immediately aggressively putting the dirt down onto it worked best. This took a while but we got really good coverage for our efforts. There have been some great suggestions on better ways to do this like using a white glue and dirt mixture, for example, but at the moment this worked for us. Once it dried, we shook off all the dirt to see what remained and were pleasantly surprised that most of it stayed on.
We highlighted the above to point out that, sometimes things don't work out on the first try...or the second. The important thing is to keep trying and you'll find a way through. Half of the fun of making things is figuring it out along the way. :)
Step 8: Modify Your Skeleton's Arms
Once again, the "posable" skeleton is not really very posable at all, so we modified his elbow joints. We used a tool called a Rasp to carve out the inside of the elbow so it would bend in the direction we needed.
You can use this same technique on knee joints, hips, shoulders, etc. to give your skeleton more range of motion so you can actually pose him into a realistic pose.
Step 9: Reattach Your Skeleton's Arms and Head
Finally, it's time to reattach the arms and head. The skeleton's left arm was bent down as if he were leaning on it but it didn't have much weight to support so we started with that one.
We bent the arm into the right pose and then used the Hot Glue Gun to hold it in that pose. We then hot glued the top of the arm to the shoulder in the right spot. Our original intent was to use more of the reinforced epoxy putty to do this, but at the time the hot glue gun worked well. If you really want this to last more than one or two seasons, you should use the epoxy because the hot glue won't hold up. We intend to go back and reattach them properly with the putty later.
The right arm is extended outward in a grasping/reaching pose, so the shoulder joint needed to support the weight of the extended arm. We used the same techniques noted above to attach it but put some supports underneath it as it was drying so that it would support the weight until the glue dried.
The head was hot glued back on as well, and we tilted the head up as he's looking towards his hand. We kept the jaw attached and hot glued it open so it would stay.
Step 10: The Results!
We're super happy with how our Graveyard Skeleton came out! It's light and portable and can easily be moved around the yard from grave to grave in our Halloween Cemetery. We can also easily store it in the offseason for next year. It also looks great and the neighborhood kids love it so far. Best of all though, it was EASY TO MAKE! :)
Want to see more of our projects?
Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2019
Tip 3 years ago
This is our version of your skeletons. Still have to finish the second tomb stone and add some lights.
Reply 3 years ago
Whoa nice!!!! :) Looks amazing!
3 years ago
3 years ago
when are you making more dnd
3 years ago
Great photos. I love the spray foam/dirt idea. I may 'borrow' that one.
3 years ago
Looks great! I love your YouTube channel. I just watched the fire effect using lights and a fan, it was AWESOME! Keep up the good work!
3 years ago
My fondest memories of my childhood involve Halloween. These outdoor decorations bring all of those feelings rushing back. Awesome set up!
3 years ago
So realistic it sent chills up my spine ;D
3 years ago
This is great! That dirt mound came out really well :)
Reply 3 years ago
Thank you!! It was a lot of fun to trial and error our way through and figure it out. :)