Paper Crow Skeleton




Like the Internet, this skeleton is made up of a series of tubes. If you don't like rolling small paper tubes, this may not be a good fit for you. My approach has been a bit loose (measure no times, cut twice) so if you are creating this you will have to play around a little bit and find out what works for you.

The whole thing probably took ~40 hours, but some portion of it was trial and error so you could probably cut it by a decent amount. It was very inexpensive to make, and resulted in a reasonable approximation of what I was looking for.

I am no biologist, nor do I aspire to be. I set out to make something that is only recognizable as a bird's skeleton about the size of a crow. Some of the bones are more faithful reproductions than others, but none of them would be mistaken for the real thing. The crow also ended up with 4 or 5 extra vertebrae because that is how long I wanted the neck to be.

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Step 1: Materials

To make this skeleton you will need some materials:

  • 2 sheets of letter sized paper
  • roll of masking tape
  • palette for your glue (made of something that won't absorb glue)
  • thin sturdy tool for applying glue precisely
  • hobby knife
  • decent scissors
  • white glue

In addition to the hard materials you will also require some reference materials, use the Google Machine, it should provide you with what you need.

Step 2: Crow's Feet

I wanted to start with the skull, but couldn't figure out how to go about it so I started at the feet. They were relatively straight-forward. Just make some small tubes, each digit ends up being about 2cm long, so make your tubes accordingly. Glue the small tubes together at the angle you desire, and stick the claw on the end.

The crow's legs have three large bones, the femur, fibula, and tarsometatarsus (see picture 3). The fibula has a lot of small pieces, make it as ornate or plain as you like. The toes you made go in one end of the tarsometatarsus, you may need to cut the ends at an angle to fit them nicely. Jam them all in with some glue and adjust their position once the glue gets tacky enough to hold them.

Step 3: Synsacrum

This is a fusion of the 3 pelvic bones, I created it by first rolling a tube about the same length as the fibula and curving it slightly, then sandwiching it between two pieces of paper with enough glue to make the paper easily manipulated. Bend the paper while it dries and in short order it should firm up and hold shape. I didn't take into account how long it needed to be and had to add an extension to the bottom end :(

Step 4: Caudal Vertebrae + Pygostyle

Make some vertebrae, they consist of a short tube (~2mm diameter), with a longer tube pinched and glued perpendicular. The vertebrae all get stuck on a thin tube together and then that tube is glued into the bottom of the synsacrum.

The pygostyle is like some sort of bird coccyx (not a biologist) I just folded a piece of paper into a small triangle with a bit of depth and soaked it in glue until it stayed. Cut a hole in the pygostyle and attach it to the caudal vertebrae.

Step 5: Sternum

Make a sternum.

I made mine a bit too large, in retrospect I would have liked it better sized to the same length as the synsacrum. It was made by laminating 3 layers of paper with a significant midline protrusion, and then just holding it in place for a minute while it dried. After it is completely dry, cut out the appropriate shape

Step 6: Ribcage

There are six ribs, so make six more vertebrae. Because the rib tubes need to be significantly long (between 8-30cm) and long tubes are difficult to make of a consistent and small diameter, I made them in small sections (5cm) and joined them with tiny inner tubes as can be seen in the first picture.

Make a ~10cm tube and attach it to the top of the synsacrum, then slide the ribs onto it and glue them in place. Make the appropriate bends, mine were a little bit more angular then I wanted, so I tried to re-bend them unsuccessfully. Use the masking tape and get all the ribs placed appropriately, then slather the inside the the sternum with glue.

The uncinate processes come off the smallest five ribs and slant up and towards the back. Make some tubes, cut their ends at an angle, and then glue them in place!

Step 7: Attach Legs

Glue the femur to the synsacrum pointing forward, the glue needs to be very dry at each joint before gluing the next bone on. Maybe 15 or 20 minutes of drying for each joint. I used masking tape again here to maintain the limb position while drying.

You can see me grabbing by the sternum here, I recommend it. Once the limbs are on the thing will be significantly more fragile, try to hold it from the sternum or synsacrum.

Step 8: Collarbones + Furcula + Scapulae

Make some more tubes, flare them, and cap them at one end. Now you have a pair of collarbones. Glue the collar bones on the inside of the sternum pointing up.

Make a 10cm tube and pinch it into the shape of a wishbone, this will be the furcula. Attach it to the tops of the collarbones. the bottom of the furcula will end up suspended in a little hollow of the sternums main protrusion.

Laminate some more paper and cut it out into elongated triangles, bend them gently and glue them to the collarbones pointing back, over the ribs.

I also elongated the spine, and added a bunch more vertebrae, maybe 3 or 4 cm past the collarbones.

Step 9: Wings!

Look at the pictures, make some tubes. Some large, some small, some straight, some curved. You can see in the first picture how each wing will be laid out. as well as some close ups for the individual bones. Of note: each bone is only capped at one end and left open at the other, this will make them mate nicely when assembling.

Step 10: Attach the Wings + Digits

Similarly to the legs, each joint needs to be dry before gluing on the next bone or it will warp under the additional weight and your crow will be lopsided. I found it to be quite difficult getting the joint angles in each wing symmetrical, use lots of masking tape and if necessary, let your little pile of glue dry out until it's already tacky before applying it.

Step 11: Skull - Failure

The beak was laminated like the other flat bits, the lower jaw extends back and splits in two. I spent a lot of time attempting to make a decent skull. I came up with a number of different iterations but this one was the cleanest. Regardless, the first attempt resulted in a skull which was too small. You can see it in comparison to the skeleton in the last picture.

Step 12: Skull - Success

I learned! That is a picture of me measuring something. You can see the flattened skull in the second picture. Folding it up consisted of starting at the beak and overlapping each section slightly until you end up with a skull. Make a small hole in the base of the skull for mounting to the spine, and then glue it all together.

Step 13: Finished!

It's done! mount as you like, I strung it up from the ceiling.

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    35 Discussions


    4 years ago



    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is impressive! I like your approach about going slow and enjoying the process. I try to do that in my projects, too.

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Beautiful work, love it! You're definitely one step ahead in the papercraft world!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I did some googling for images but couldn't find any of the birds. I do like the art direction in grim fandango though.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Super-clever use of materials! My hat off to you and your admirable attention span. :)

    1 reply

    5 years ago

    nice, this was the first thing I've checked out on hear. very creative. I have to try this

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I'm glad you liked it, please post yours on here with the 'I made it' button if you make one!


    You definitely should! A cute little animal like a kitten skeletonized would make a nice juxtaposition :)