My first mistake was probably asking my 5-year-old daughter what kind of Halloween decoration we should build.
"A fire-breathing dragon," she said.
After chuckling about this, I decided to give it a try.
We had three weeks to complete our project for scaring the jeepers out of off all kids and parents in our neighborhood. My advice at this point (now that the project is over) is to listen to your kids and say yes to their ideas. It will make yourself do things that you could easily say you do not have enough time to do.
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Step 1: Supplies
- Gorilla tape
- Masking tape
- Hot glue gun
- Plastic wrap
- Cardboard (tubes, boxes)
- Tin foil
- 20 lb propane tank
- Propane torch
- LED lights
- Propane hose
- Fog machine
- Garden hose
- 2 x 4 board
- Plumbers tape
- Screws and washers
- Bluetooth speaker
Step 2: Modifying Propane Torch
I did this step first to make sure I knew how big to make the dragon's head. There must be enough room in the dragon's mouth to dissipate enough heat so the dragon itself doesn't light on fire. Using the brass fittings from Home Depot, I added a 12-foot propane hose extension between the valve and the torch. I used gas Teflon tape to seal all the fittings. I bent the wand for the torch to accommodate the placement in the dragon head as I was installing the torch. I attached the torch to the 2 x 4 using plumbers tape and 1 5/8 deck screws. I used several washers the help pinch the wand of the torch with the plumbers tape. I could now control the gas a full 10 feet away from where I would set up the dragon.
Step 3: Dragon Head Shape
With the torch for scale, I used three separate boxes to create the basic shape of the dragon head. Masking tape and cereal box cardboard added the extra contours that the boxes did not provide. I wrapped the whole works in plastic wrap to protect it from the paper mache process to come.
Step 4: Add Horns and More Shape to Head
After two rounds of paper mache, I added cardboard tubes for more shape and horns. I made the horns by twisting paper into cone shapes and attaching them to the cardboard tubes with masking tape. Then I completely covered the paper part of the horns with masking tape to protect it from the paper mache. I used tin foil and hot glue to add the eyebrows.
Step 5: Lots of Paper Mache
I slapped on three more rounds of paper mache. This process was therapeutic, but took it took lots of time (expect to spend 2 hours per round of paper mache).
Step 6: Combine Head and Torch
Using a utility knife I cut two holes in the bottom box to slide the torch through. I did not attach the torch to help in placing the lower jaw of the dragon's head. This also allowed me to take the torch back out for transportation and manipulation of the head. The dragon was getting big and was starting to take up lots of room at this point.
Step 7: Add Lights for Eyes
Using electrical tape I taped nine LED lights together in a diamond shape for each eye. This left me with two extra lights between the two eyes to allow for enough wire between the eyes. I hot-glued the wire to the side of the head and hid the battery pack behind one of the horns.
Step 8: Connect Jaw and Install Heat Shield.
Gorilla tape is awesome! I used masking tape to hold the lower jaw in place while I taped it up with Gorilla tape. I bridged the bottom jaw to the base of the head with three more cardboard tubes that I taped in place as well. Three rounds of paper mache on the bottom makes it all one solid piece. I used Gorilla tape to make sure the hole was big enough for the torch to be at least an inch away from anything made out of paper. I then hot-glued six layers of tin foil to the inside of the dragon's mouth to act as a heat shield.
Step 9: Add Tin Foil Teeth
I used more tin foil to make the teeth. Just smash strips of tin foil into the shape you want. I then hot-glued the teeth into the shiny mouth. It really started to look terrifying at this point.
Step 10: Add Nostrils and Hook Up Smoke
I hot-glued cardboard tube slices to the face to make nostrils. I then cut out the inside of each nostril revealing the two spare led lights between the eyes. This added a nice effect of glowing nostrils. I inserted the 10-foot garden hose piece into the dragon's head and sealed all leaks with tape and hot glue. The smoke coming out of the dragon's nose was my kids' favorite part.
Step 11: Set Candle As Pilot Light
This step made the dragon into a very scary dragon lantern. I had to extend the candle with an additional piece of candle position the flame correctly. Once the candle burned into a tall flame it worked perfectly as a pilot light for more an hour.
Step 12: Final Outside Setup
I clamped the dragon head to my scaffolding to create a cave-like look. The tarps also protected my pilot light from the wind. With a Bluetooth speaker for sound I was able to run the dragon sitting on the porch with my propane tank, fog machine and cell phone. The roar of the dragon combined with the flame scared some people and surprised others. We definitely warmed up everyone up on a very cold Halloween night!
Runner Up in the
Halloween Contest 2019