It's mid-September here in Texas and we are full swing with Halloween prep for next month! These realistic-looking Skull Candle props have been on our list for a while so we're happy to check off another awesome DIY Halloween prop that is super simple and fun to make!
This project is really easy. All you need is a plastic skull prop, some candles, some wood stain, super glue, and a bit of creativity! Whether you want some really fun interior Halloween decor or you're looking to level up your outdoor Halloween decorations, this project will definitely get you there!!
We recommend watching the video above and following along with the written steps!
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Step 1: Staining the Skull
Our first step is to stain the plastic skull, which is going to give it a grungier and more uneven texture. This helps to make it look scarier and a bit more realistic.
To do this, we use a dark-colored wood stain and spread it very liberally all over the skull. We make sure to mix it well and use some protective gloves when we do this part to protect our skin. It's important to apply lots of the stain so it gets into all the little cracks and crevasses.
After about ten minutes, we use a clean rag and wipe off the majority of the stain. We don't do this perfectly evenly though, as we want to leave some sporadic darker spots to give it a more uneven texture.
Let the wood stain dry for at least 24 hours before proceeding!
When you use this oil-based stain on wood, it penetrates into the wood fibers and takes about 24 hours to dry. In our case, the skull is plastic so there is nowhere for the stain to go so it rests on the surface and takes even longer. Give it at least a full day, potentially two days depending on your climate.
Step 2: Deciding on the Composition
We then stained a few more skulls so we had some options for how to set up our prop. We ended up going with three of them and taking off the removable jaws so they sit a little flatter. We also think this gives them a scarier look when the jaw is gone.
We also had quite a few candle options so we spent some time deciding which candles to use to give it a nice style and composition. Since we had three skulls, we obviously needed three candles...but which ones?!
If you can manage, we recommend using different size and shape candles on each skull. That little bit of variety can add a lot to the appeal of your project and take it from "generic store-bought Halloween prop" to something unique and awesome.
Step 3: Figuring Out How to Attach the Candles...
If you're watching the video (linked in Step One), you'll notice at this part we definitely had some issues properly attaching the candles to the skulls. The easy way would have been to use a glue gun, but as long as the bottom of the candles were flat there wouldn't be much surface area to glue. Also, the glue gun didn't come to mind as an option so we ended up trying some different techniques and improvising. :)
The top of the skull is obviously not flat but the bottom of the candles are. We thought we could use the Heat Gun to heat up the wax on the candle and then press it down hard onto the skull to mold it to the right shape. That didn't work at all.
Next, we tried holding the candle in place on the top of the skull and using the heat gun to melt the wax around it, hoping it would stay in place. That also didn't work at all. Not even a little.
Next, Jay thought we could use a spoon and heat it up with the heat gun to carve out the bottom of the candles into a dish-like shape. Guess how well that worked?! (Hint: Not at all.)
But...we persevered in the end. In the next step, we solved it! Well, Jaimie did.
Step 4: The Solution: Heat Gun + Spoon + Superglue!
Finally, we got it! Jaimie had the bright idea to heat up the rounded back of the spoon with the heat gun and press it into the candle to shape it into a dish so it would sit better on the rounded top of the skull. This worked really well once the spoon was sufficiently hot.
Next, we used some superglue to attach the candle to the skull and we took our time to position each one properly so when the skull is sitting flat on the ground they will stick straight up. Surprisingly, the superglue stuck the wax to the plastic quite well. Super indeed!
This whole saga of how we attached these can be seen better in the video linked above. This was a great example of how if something doesn't work right away, just keep trying and riffing off your idea and eventually you'll get somewhere!
Step 5: Other Options for Attaching Your Candles
Obviously, there are some other ways to do this! For example, one of the candles had a tapered bottom so we were able to drill a small hole in the top of the skull and then stick the candle in there firmly.
Another option, if you can access the inside of the skull, is to drill a screw or place a nail facing up and stick the candle down onto it.
You can also use a glue gun to hold them in place.
There are lots of options for this that we didn't think of in the moment but thanks to some awesome folks in the community we've seen plenty of other ways to do it.
Step 6: Using Wax to Fill in the Gaps
Now that the candles were held in place, we used another candle and carefully dripped melted wax into the cracks along the edges of the candles. This held the candles firmly in place once it dried.
Depending on how well you shaped the bottom of the candle, you may have a pretty large gap here. This is why the earlier steps of rounding out the bottom of the candle were worth it because at this stage it doesn't take much to fill it in and secure everything.
One of us holds the skull and slowly rotates it while the other holds the heat gun and drips the wax into the edges. Worked perfectly and went very fast!
Step 7: Adding the Final Details
The last step is to give it some detail and style! At this stage it's likely that you've got some relatively clean looking skulls with some candles stuck to them that look they were just unwrapped from the store. Since we want to add some sufficiently spooky Halloween detail, we're going to melt things up and take it to the next level.
Let the Candles Burn Down
The first thing to do is simply light the candles and let them burn down for a while. We want the top of the candles to be concave and this is best achieved by letting them burn naturally. This could take a while but it's worth the wait.
Next, we'll use a similar technique to the last step and start dripping wax everywhere using another candle and the heat gun or simply from lighting the candle and letting it drip. (The latter is better for detail since the heat gun tends to blow the wax around but takes longer.)
We'll drip loads of wax onto the skulls themselves and along the sides of the candles, building up some nice thick drip patterns which give it an AWESOME look.
Lastly, we'll use the heat gun, where necessary, to melt any big unwanted clumps of wax and give it a more natural look. This part is optional but can help if you have big chunks of wax or any parts of the candle that still look fresh from the store that you want to melt down a bit.
Take Your Time!
This is the part where it all comes together. Have fun with it. Enjoy it. Take your time. Make your skull candle props look amazing!
Step 8: The Results!
If you've seen our other Instructables, you know we love Halloween and we're always challenging ourselves to come up with project ideas that are both easy to make and give you a high-quality result. This is definitely one of those projects you can make yourself and we hope you do! Please send us some pictures, we'd love to see them. Happy Halloween!
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This is an entry in the
Halloween Contest 2019