I am one of those people that goes a teeny bit over the top for Halloween. We constructed a pretty elaborate pirate decor last year; so I needed to seriously upgrade my costume. I figured that constructing stilts would provide some giant-ness and a peg leg to boot. As with all my best ideas, I end up discovering that this has been done elsewhere (damn you internet); there have also been many great stilt costumes on instructables.
The basic concept for the stilt build was from an excellent video by Stiltman with a few modifications to account for my bulky frame and available materials. I have a fake foot at the base of one of the legs, and a magnetically attached sword that kids can mercifully remove from my leg for me. I designed and built some super simple arm extensions with working hands: these provided a few hilarious moments (stealing candy from kids or spooking adults who don't expect the hand to squeeze back). Overall the reaction was tremendous, and I was able to direct some extra traffic to my dark corner of the street.
SAFETY WARNING: Silting may be more dangerous than you think; I haven't fallen yet, but imaging your entire weight falling onto your elbows from 7 feet... Your reflex would be to try to land on your feet, that is NOT going to happen. I strongly recommend watching this video before testing out your new stilts.
Step 1: Collecting Your Materials
The instructions from the Stiltman call for 2" by 2" hardwood for the main stilt beam. I didn't have appropriate wood, but I had a few nice pieces of pressure treated 2" by 6" leftover from a deck build. This gave me a very solid structure to use and also a somewhat simpler design overall.
- 8 foot long 2" x 6" hard wood (mine was pressure treated pine, which is not ideal)
- 6 foot long 2" x 3" hard wood for the uppers that hold your calves (Stilman used 2"x2" but I had one side blow out on me).
- Old pair of shoes or boots
- 1 foot of 8" diameter PVC tubing (ABS not as recommended by Stiltman)
- I used some hockey knee pads I found in a clearance bin.
- Some strapping to attach stilts you calfs
- I used some hockey tape
- 4 x 4" Lag bolts or large diameter wood screws
- 12 x 1" wood screws
- 8 x 2" wood screws
- 6 washers with a hole narrower than the 1" screws
- A pair of old shoes or boots
- Giant plastic clown shoe
As for the giant pants I was fortunate to have a huge amount of silky black material donated for such projects, and some leftover white linen for the sleeves.
- 4 meters of pirate pant material
- 2 meters of pirate sleeve material
- 3 meters of elastic for sleeves and pants
- Sewing skills and tools
For the fake shoe I used the following:
- Clown shoe covers from the Dollar Store (2$)
- Some brown and grey spray paint
- Sand paper
- A steel hanger
- Some staples
For the arm extensions I used the following:
- 2 fake hands (opposing) from the Dollar Store (8$)
- 2 grabbers from the Dollar Store (4$)
- A little extra stuffing (batting)
Step 2: STILTS: WOOD WORK
As mentioned previously I borrowed heavily from the video by Stiltman. I used what I had on hand and over-engineered the some pieces to account for my weight and softer wood (trimmed 2" by 6"). The use of the 6" wide wood allowed me to simplify the design somewhat from what Stiltman recommends, but obviously increases the weight.
I elected for 29" height for the stilts which may be a little high for a beginner (I have done a little in the past). The 2x6's were trimmed lengthwise to about 3 inches with a circular saw to reduce weight; the top of the piece was left to the full 5.5 inches. I used a handsaw to finish the cuts to avoid weakening the support by pushing the cuts to complete them. One of these supports showed some cracking along the grains, so I put in a few long wood screws across the cracks after pre-drilling.
I used the the left over pieces from the previous step to make the support for the shoe. I measured from the back of the heal to just past the ball of the foot; your toes aren't going to make contact with anything anyway. The 3 inches (1.5" + 1.5" from the two peices) was sufficiently wide to fit the shoe comfortably and screw the center of the shoes.
I initially used two peices 2"x 2" of spruce as the "uppers" to attach to my calves. The length of these is basically heel to knee plus 6 inches. I had been careful to predrill the holes, offset in the grain and use chunky wood screws; but one of these split in mid walk... See the photo, it was really scary. I switched out that side with a 2" x 4" and added a few extra screws into the other side.
Step 3: STILTS: ATTACHMENTS
The old cross country ski shoes I used actually turned out great because the soles are so stiff. I clamped the shoe in place and drilled the holes as best I could into the center of the support. I then used regular wood screw with a washer to ensure that I had a more or less flush surface. The knee pads were fastened much the same way. I tried to predrill into hard plastic parts to provide additional stability.
I use hockey tape liberally to keep the stilts fastened to my legs.
Step 4: STILTS: FAKE FOOT
I bought some clown shoes from the dollar store, sanded the surface to increase the adherence of the paint. I then painted with whatever I had on hand, I used the grey to give a little extra texture. The plastic shoe was not sufficiently stiff to keep its shape, so I bent a hanger into shape and stapled it to the stilt. I was worried about tripping on the contraption so I raised it a few inches from the base.
Step 5: STILTS: AGEING OF PEG LEG
If one of the stilts is to look like pirate peg leg, then we need to dress it up to appear to have some serious maritime mileage. The wood was pressure treated and so had a greenish tinge that I wanted to remove. I used my zombie hunting machete and an angle grinder to round the edges and give the wood a worn feel.
I wanted to let the kids interact with my costume so I designed a system where a sword was stuck in the peg (attached with a magnet). I was begging kids to help get the sword off for me, as it was soooo painful; the kids were too awestruck to get the joke, but the parents had a good chuckle. The magnet was harvested from a hard drive, please see this instructable for the step by step. I used a glue gun to attach some leftover brackets from an Ikea project.
Step 6: LONG ARMS
I wanted to biggie size my upper body too, otherwise, you are just another dude on stilts. I bought some fake hands and some grabbers from the dollar store. Empty the stuffing and cut the thumbs off from the hands. Insert the grabbers into the hands with one side inserted in the index and the other out the thumb hole. Fill the thumb with craft glue and stick it on the other side of grabber. Bridge the gap with some band-aids to hide the exposed grabber. Cover the grabber with some sleeves and stuff these with some batting.
Step 7: PANTS AND SLEEVES
Disclaimer: I am totally out of my depth here. My mom was in town visiting and I put her to work to make these during my work day. I helped with coming up with a super simple pattern and some of the cutting. If you want to actually learn anything about making pants please check out other instructables.
I tried to make these as simple as possible, because I was putting my mom to work. The pants are completely reversible, straight legged, and basically fool proof. See the patterns, which show what measurements to take. We made a curved pattern out of a cereal box. You need to cut two identical pieces; except if you are making a peg leg, in which case you need to make one shorter... Sew the pieces together as shown by the color coded image.
The sleeves are basically tubes with elastics at both ends. I don't know how the frilly sleeve bits were made, let me know if you have any good links for these and I will include them.
Step 8: LEARN TO STILT
SAFETY WARNING: Underestimating the danger of stilting will be your downfall. I highly encourage you to watch this video by an expert and respect the process. I haven't fallen yet, and don't intend to.
- Find a nice spot to get set up. I was using a tall compost bin, which was not ideal because it is relatively wobbly. I also suggest having someone nearby that can help you in case you get into trouble. I was happy to have my wife nearby when my upper split in mid step.
- Find a pole of some sort to use as a cane. I had an old cement spreader which was light and stiff.
- Strap on the stilts. Don't rush, you need the stilts to stay attached to your calves, or you'll be in big trouble
- Hold on to something solid and stand up.
- Take small steps and pick up your legs. Ideally you have a little run along which you can walk back and forth.
- Once you are comfortable enough to let go, grab your cane, but stay close to your wall or fence. The cane will not save you in case of tripping, you need to concentrate on lifting your legs and watching where your next step is landing.
- You think your are ready to let go of the cane? Stay close to your fence or wall for emergency support.
- Take your time, and enjoy.
I tend to go back to step one each time I put them on, just to give my muscles a little time to remember the movements.
Step 9: RESULTS
This project was a blast to build and show off, the only negative comment I got all night was that my head was too small... Gotta work on that! I'll keep my eye out for other opportunities to gear up. I am not an expert in many aspects of this project, so if you have some tips or notice that I broke some cardinal rules, please let me know and I'll be glad to make the corrections.