Life-Size Jack Skellington




Introduction: Life-Size Jack Skellington

Meet Jack Skellington. He may look familiar, and that's because he's the star of Disney's Nightmare Before Christmas.

I'm going to show you how to make a life-sized Jack made out of PVC and other materials. This took me a couple of months to complete, and even longer to write this tutorial.

If you want to see my other projects or keep up with my life, my headquarters is at

Step 1: Gather Materials

If you click on any one of the materials, it'll take you to Amazon to show you prices, and other info. I love amazon because with prime, I can get materials shipped to me in two days for free. I don't like shopping in person very much and I wasn't in any hurry, so it worked well for me.

For the Base

  • A board or plank of wood for the base. Mine is 16 inches wide and 27 inches long and I actually got it from browsing the neighborhoods that were having junk picked up that week. I was determined to get it for free, and I found one!
  • 1-1/2 inch floor flanges, you'll need two of these.These are to attach his legs to the base.
  • screws to attach the flanges to your board that correspond with the holes in the flanges and the thickness of your wood.

For the Head

If you want to use regular Crayola air-dry clay (which I do not recommend) then here are some additional things you need:

  • coarse grit sandpaper
  • fine grit sandpaper

For The Body

I recommend getting the PVC pieces at a local hardware store in person, that way you can easily return the pieces if they don't fit. I had to go back and get the right pieces a handful of times.

For The Hands

For The Clothing

  • solid black fabric 2.5 yards or thrifted black slacks and jacket
  • needle and thread (and/or a sewing machine)
  • hot glue gun
  • Crayola air-dry clay or Sculpey for bow-tie centerpiece
  • small piece of cardboard for the bow
  • a large black button (I made mine out of polymer clay)
  • white fabric paint

Step 2: Constructing the Body: Cuts

There are the list of cuts for the body parts. I used a hacksaw which worked extremely well, use any saw you prefer. I also have a circular saw and a jigsaw, but those are intimidating so the hacksaw was perfect for a little lady like me.

Cuts List

For the 1-1/2 inch PVC, these are for the body:

upper arm: 1 ft 6 inches (2 of these)

forearm: 1 ft 2 inches (2)

upper leg: 1 ft 8 inches (2)

lower leg: 2 ft 5 inches (2)

neck: 3 inches (1)

shoulders: 2 inches (2)

torso: roughly 2 feet (1)

For the 1/2 inch PVC, these are for the fingers:

thumb beginning: 1.25 inches (2)

thumb middle: 1.4 inches (2)

thumb end: 1.9 inches (2)

finger beginning: 1.75 (6)

finger middle: 1.4 inches (6)

finger end: 1.75 inches (6)

Once you have everything cut, it would be wise to label everything just like I have done. It makes everything tons easier.

Step 3: Constructing the Body: Actual Contruction of the Body, and Attaching the Base.

We all know this song:

The leg bone's connected to the knee bone,

The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone,

The thigh bone's connected to the hip bone,

The hip bone's connected to the back bone

The back bone's connected to the neck bone,

The neck bone's connected to the head bone,

Now shake dem skeleton bones!

The finger bone's connected to the hand bone,

The hand bone's connected to the arm bone,

The arm bone's connected to the shoulder bone,

Now shake dem skeleton bones!

If you don't know the song, I'm shocked. It's a favorite of mine, personally! You probably don't need my help constructing your PVC stick man, but in case you do... I drew this awesome diagram for you!

I recommend starting with attaching the flanges to the base and working your way up. You'll need screws of course, but the length of the screws depend on the thickness of your wood.

Step 4: Giving Him Some Meat.

I stole one of my husband's old white t-shirts. I believe this is either a large or extra-large. I taped up the holes with duct tape. I stuffed him with the innards of an old pillow. Not much to this step, but it needs to be done or else they'll think Jack has a tapeworm.

Step 5: Construction of the Hands

  1. Take your wooden beads, and find a way to easily paint them black. The easiest way that I've found to do this was to slide them onto a wooden chop stick. It's easier to do this part separately then trying to paint them once the hands are constructed.
  2. Now take a square of the hardware mesh, slide four 9-inch sections of armature wire through the mesh, about 3 tiny squares apart and twist the bottom end once so they won't budge.
  3. Next, assemble the fingers as I have shown. It goes like this: pvc-ball-pvc-ball-pvc-ball. The pieces for the thumb are smaller and belong either on the left or right end.Leave about an inch or two of wire at the tip of the fingers so you have room to adjust the tightness if you need to.
  4. Drill 4 small holes in the top of your PVC cap, in a row, like fingers. Jack only has 4 fingers per hand.
  5. Stick each finger's wire in it's own hole.
  6. Flip the cap over and twist the wires together extra tight.
  7. Adjust the wires at the tip of the fingers to make the fingers as tight as possible. This gives them the ability to pose.
  8. Cover the tips of the fingers (the black bead and wire) with white Crayola Model Magic.
  9. Cover the mesh on the wrists with white Crayola Model Magic.
  10. Paint the PVC pieces white to cover up any writing.
  11. Attach the hand to the arm with the PVC cap, stick the excess wire into Jack's forearm's tunnel.

Step 6: Sculpting and Painting the Head

I started with my 8 inch (in diameter) Styrofoam head. I wanted to use an air-dry clay this time, because I wanted it to be much lighter than my werewolf project. Also, I didn't want to put my Styrofoam in the oven and potentially burn down my house. Safety first, ladies and gentlemen.

Let me also add, that Crayola Air-Dry Clay was the worst clay I've ever worked with and recommend actually using Model Magic for this part too if you can. Heed my warning.

  1. Study pictures of Jack Skellington on Google. On your styrofoam, draw out where you want his eyes, his nose, and his mouth to be.
  2. Google sculptures of Jack Skellington that shows the depth of his eyes, and the curve of his nose. Once you've got all that...
  3. Start carving out the area for the eyes, and mouth with a kitchen knife. The nose pops out rather than in, so you won't need to carve out the nose.
  4. Cover the head in a thin coat of clay except for a little space on the bottom, where we'll attack the head to the neck.
  5. Sculpt his nose and his brow bone, and his mouth if need be.
  6. I chose a Jack expression that was pretty easy as far as sculpting goes. I also wet my hands to smooth out the clay. This was my first time using Crayola and it was hard to get used to.
  7. Leave it to dry overnight.
  8. When you come back to Jack in the morning, you'll see he'll be cracked like the Savanna desert if you've used Crayola's regular air-dry clay. That's fine, because you can sand him. And sanding removes the cracks.
  9. Sand him with a lower grit (more coarse) sandpaper, and then a high grit (finer) sandpaper to smooth him out. If you've used Model Magic, ignore this step.
  10. But really, I'd rather that you use Model Magic and NOT Crayola's regular air-dry clay
  11. Get to painting. His eyes, nose holes and mouth is black of course and the rest of his head is white.

Step 7: Measuring and Cutting the Clothes

This is definitely the most difficult for me. I'm not that great at sewing personally.This is what took the majority of the time.

I suggest you study the construction of pants, and jackets. You'll need to make 2 long "tubes" out of cloth basically for the arms and legs. Then, construct Jack's crotch area with cloth (I called this his underwear, because without the pant legs this is what it looks like).

The jacket is the most difficult part. I recommend thrifting some black slacks and adjusting it to fit your Jack, the same with the jacket. Once you've got everything just right, take it apart and lay it somewhere to paint the stripes with your white fabric paint. They don't need to be perfect, since in the movie they're far from perfection.

I attached the pant legs and arm legs to the rest of the suit using Velcro, just in case I needed to take him apart for whatever reason.

His bow-tie was made out of cardboard with fabric hot-glued to it. The stripes we added, and next the bat was added. The bat was made out of Sculpey and paint. You can use Crayola Model Magic.

I elected not to give Jack shoes. Sorry that I'm not much help with this step! It's tough!

Step 8: You're Almost Done!

Well, you are done. You just need to perfect your piece.

  • Look for areas that may need extra attention.
  • Lint roll his suit
  • And give him something to hold and a place to put him! :)

For Christmas, I plan on giving him a Santa suit including a beard, just like in the movie. I'll add that step when it's complete. Jack will be ready for both Halloween and Christmas.

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoy your new Jack :) More Nightmare Before Christmas projects coming soon!

Check out my other projects on my blog!

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    Tip 1 year ago

    Hi! I’m an art teacher and I have a tip in regards to sculpting the head. I know you were saying that the crayola air dry clay is awful, and you prefer model magic, but I would like to make a suggestion that I think will help change your feelings. You purchased a styrofoam ball, put the clay around it, let it dry, then discovered cracks in the morning. The reason there were cracks is from the styrofoam ball. Clay (even air dry clay), shrinks when it dries, therefore if you do not use an armature with some “give”, the clay will begin to shrink around the form as it dries, which is why your clay cracked. If you had used a newspaper ball wrapped with masking tape, for example, the clay would have been able to shrink and would have dried without cracking (And would have saved you money on the styrofoam ball). Also, different thicknesses of clay dry at different speeds, so, I would have recommended covering it with a plastic bag, then exposing it to air for a few hours, increasing it every day, to gradually dry the piece. Hope this helps in your future creations! You are truly talented!


    Tip 1 year ago on Step 5

    Thank you for posting this. We made this - the knees say they are street elbows, but they should be regular elbows. The street elbows should be used at the "pelvis" or you can use regular elbows and just put a 2 inch pice of PVC between the elbow and the "T".....this makes the pelvis a little wider but barely. The only thing I would suggest is making the wire used for the fingers a little longer than suggested. It just gives you some more to work with. I did use another tutorial for the head and the clothes on YouTube...24Boothy. She does a great job showing how to create a pattern creating the clothes using wrapping paper or freezer wrap. I would not have been able to do it without the pattern. I also made the head out of paper mache, sealed with DryLock, and painted, to save money and I covered his wrists with white duct tape. For shoes, I took a pair of my daughter's rain boots and wrapped them in saran wrap, then I put black duct tape over top. I then cut the shoes off from the bottom and slid them off the boot. I was then able to slide them on Jack's feet. Thank you so much for this tutorial.


    6 years ago

    Perhaps I'm missing something but: how are you attaching your T-joint to his legs (I.e. His hips)? Did you use threaded connections or are there connections that are not listed? Also: "street" joints are smaller on one end than the how are you attaching your knees? Apart from that, this is an awesome idea! Thank you for sharing!


    7 years ago

    This is probably my favorite instructable ever!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I know I've overlooked it, but what is the PVC measurement for the torso? My wife really wants this for our party in the UAE. Should make everyone think of Halloween back in the USA. You did a great job, thanks for sharing.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I'm so sorry that it's taken me an entire day to respond! I went and measured him and I'm getting 24 inches from the bottom of the cross (his chest) to the bottom of the top of the tee (his crotch area). :)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Unfortunately I didn't keep track, but I should have. I'm estimating that I spent around $200 for the materials, give or take.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Amazing! Well done and good directions. I wonder if you couldn't do paper mache for the head, might be lighter than the clay? Also, drill out the bottom of some thrift store shoes and they could slip down over the flanges to finish his feet. Voila!

    This is way cool.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! Paper mache, or even paper clay would work great for the head. I'm going to add shoes when I dress him up for christmas, and that's exactly what I was going to do :)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent job! He looks perfect. Major props!