"More squirrel than squirrel" is our motto.
So I ran across a random tweet and someone was asking how to make a squirrel tail needed for a costume. It's that season again, well, it occurs year round for many people.
I took that as a challenge to see what I could come up with since there doesn't seem to be any good info out there on how to make a life-like and good moveable squirrel tail wearable. So use this as a jumping off point to make your ISO standard squirrel tail. You can further include animatronics with motors, electronics, and mechanisms if desired. For now, if you need this, appropriate for kids of all ages*, get started...
Make this Werewolf tail backpack too! https://www.instructables.com/id/ISO-Standard-Werewolf-Pack/
*Not a toy. Pull string may be hazard. Use with adult supervision.
Step 1: Supporting Elements...
This project was built from odds and ends so make do with what you have on hand.
Cardboard was scavenged from an empty shipping box.
Corrugated cardboard is great for forming the back mounting plate/belt holder and the main spine/support for the tail.
I had some faux fur left over from a previous project.
You will also need a short piece of aquarium air line tubing or maybe a piece of thick rope to simulate the flexible part of the tail.
A short piece of stiff wire helps to form the curve in the tail.
I used some elastic banding(sewing notion) to keep the tail upright but you can use a bunch of big rubber bands or find an elastic hair band to use.
The first thing to do is to make the baseplate which is curved to fit your lower back when it is worn.
Just glue together layers of cardboard bent to shape. Laminate and glue as many layers of cardboard to make it stiff. Prop in position for the glue to dry and it will hold its shape.
Note there will be no measurements, just cut things out to fit and go with it.
The base plate has 4 slots cut in it to pass a wide belt through so we can wear it.
I peeled the outer paper layers of the cardboard and used that to paper mache and seal all the exposed corrugated carboard edges. It helps to stiffen up the structure when the glue is dried.
Make a curved bottom part of the tail support piece.
Make a shorter "flap" piece to transition the tail's "S" curve. I glued on piece of scrap fabric that will become the hinge to make the parts moveable. Use any piece of durable cloth that is flexible/foldable and try not to glue in the joint.
Step 2: Almost at the End of It...
Glue the hinge parts to make up the complete tail. Baseplate to main tail section. Tail end flap to the main tail section.
When the glue is dry, Attach the piece of flexible tubing to the flap piece. Eye it all to adjust the length of the tail by taping up and folding over any excess tubing at the end.
You can now make the faux fur tail cover.
It is essentially just a tube of fabric closed off with a pointy end. Since you are going for the squirrel look, It is flared out around the upper middle and is broader than a straight tail of most animals. Cut a piece of faux fur pelt that is a somewhat larger than your tail structure so that it will cover and accommodate some movement. Also don't forget about allowing a bit for seam allowance. You are working with thick faux fur so be generous.
The trick to working with faux fur is to use a sharp razor knife to slice on the back side of fabric to cut in order to minimize the mess. Pull apart the cut line and then groom all the loose fibers away from the cut edge before working with it. Scissors would cut the "hair" all kinds of ways and leave you with a big mess and the fur all uneven on the cut edge.
I am lucky to have a serger so I just folded the length of faux fur over and serged the seam. A serger trims the edge and makes that binding stitch to encapsulate it all at the same time so it is great to work with one. I did serge the tail opening edge first just to clean things up a bit.
Turn the sewn tail cover inside out and groom out all the fibers caught up in the seam. It's so fluffy!
Step 3: Fine Tune It for Fierce Mode...
To complete the internal structure of the tail, I added a stiff wire brace to form the curve of the drop for the S shaped tail.
Squirrel tails are twitchy on the end. I wanted to incorporate some movement. To keep things simple, the animatronics is provided by tugging on a string. We have the technology to motorize the tail though...(Makecode, Circuit Python, sensors, Adafruit CRICKIT)
The upper part of the tail hinges so I could attach a pull string to the flapper mechanism. The weight of the rest of the tail and being limited in the fabric tail cover will be the return action so we don't need to add a spring or rubber band there. I glued a plastic straw to act as a guide tube for the pull string. It is covered with paper mache to reinforce its bond to the main tail piece. The force of the string had ripped off the straw held on with just packing tape.
Nylon kite string makes a good pull cord because it is thin and strong. Fishing line has a lot of stretch to it. I tied the pull end to a popsicle stick to make it easier to use. Use anything to make it comfortable to use and easy to find when you are reaching around back to find the string.
When the main tail portion is returned to it's upright position, it needed a stop block. I just glued up a quick cardboard angled T-shape and glued in position. I punched holes with an awl so I could run 2 elastic bands through and tie them up to keep the tail upright. When worn, the main tail will also be bouncy to add to the realism. You could replace the elastic bands with just a pull string so you can entirely relax and flatten the tail into a fully dropped position.
I used a bit of fiberfill batting to just fluff out the tail portion that draped over the metal wire. You can also fill out the tail further down away from the flapper mechanism.
While I was making this, I thought about making a custom Flying Squirrel/Super Acorn/Squirrel Girl emblem belt buckle with cardboard and paper mache. But hey, it's whatever you want it to be.