Welcome to my first instructable! Just prior to last Halloween I discovered paper mache. Now I am hooked. I love being able to create so many different things using inexpensive household items. I made my elf life sized and displayed it in my front yard, but you could also scale it down and use it for an indoor decoration. For this project I raided my cupboards and recyclables, and took the opportunity to use up the collection of partial paint cans forming in my garage. By getting creative with misc. items I had on hand I was able to do this project for under $20.
*Glass mannequin head (optional, you could crumple up newspaper and shape it into a head and secure with tape, or use a plastic jug).
*Your choice of paper mache paste
*Paper towels(good quality)
*Duct tape and/or painter's tape
*Newspaper or grocery bags
*Your choice of homemade air dry clay
*4 feet pvc pipe (1 1/2 inch)
*90 degree pvc elbow
*2 liter soda bottle
*2 metal coffee cans
*Hot glue gun and glue sticks
*Dress or your choice of outfit
*3/4 inch plywood 4x8 feet
Step 1: Making the Head
Mix up your paper mache paste. I prefer a basic recipe simply mixing equal parts all purpose flour and cold water. 1 cup of each should be enough for your base layers. I would also recommend adding about a teaspoon of table salt to prevent mold growth. Tear paper towels into strips. You could substitute with newspaper. Next I coated my glass head with a layer of dish soap as a release agent to prevent paper mache from getting stuck to the glass mold. Some people use petroleum jelly or even cooking spray. Spread paper mache paste onto strips of paper towels and cover your head mold with 2-3 layers. If using a cloth like paper towel, 2 layers should be sufficient. You can store any leftover paste in the fridge(it stays good for a few days). Let it dry for approximately 2 days. Take an xacto knife and make a slit down the back of the head beginning at the top of the scalp. Carefully pull off your paper mache. Next tape up the seam with duct tape, stuff with plastic bags or newspaper and tape up the bottom. Cover the taped up seam the another 2 layers of paper mache.
Step 2: Adding Facial Details
Prepare your homemade clay. I used a baking soda clay. Playdoh would even be fine. You'll be covering it with paper mache later, so it doesn't have to be anything fancy. Use your clay to form a prominent nose and elf ears directly onto the head, smoothing down the edges. Allow to dry around 1-2 days. If you have any issues with your clay not staying on, you can glue it after its partly dried.
Step 3: Attaching the Torso
To form the(optional) "spring" for the jack in the box , I used hot glue and caulking to fuse 2 metal coffee cans together. This worked great as a stand to hold up the elf from this part of the project on. Stack them together with both of them facing upright. Drill a hole into the bottom of one big enough to snugly fit the pvc piping into. Next you'll grab your circular saw and cut about a 3 foot piece of pvc pipe. Attach the pvc to the neck of your elf using duct tape. To form the shoulders, I cut an opening through the side of a 2 liter bottle and slid it onto the pvc pipe. You can smooth and shape the shoulders using newspaper and painters tape. Mix up another batch of paper mache and add a couple more layers, focusing especially on securing the top of the pvc pipe and covering your clay ears and nose. This should be your final round of paper mache so make sure everything is covered well. The only part of the pvc pipe you'll need to cover is the top and the tape you've attached it to the head with. Allow it to dry once again.
Step 4: Making the Wooden Box
Cut your plywood into 4 pieces measuring 2 feet × 2 feet. Screw (or nail) all the 4 sides together. I decided not to put a bottom on it to avoid any damage from pooling rainwater. I cut a strip of wood and affixed it inside the box about halfway through to make a platform to hold up my elf. Next measure and cut the top and the hinged lid. Depending on the thickness of your wood your measurements will be about 2 feet × 2 feet 1 1/2 inches. Screw to top piece on. Take your jigsaw and cut a coffee can sized hole in the center of the top. If you are not including the coffee can "spring" cut it the size of your pvc pipe. After this you can make your hand crank by cutting 2 small pieces of pvc and connecting them with the 90° elbow. Using a drill and/or jigsaw cut a hole in the side of the box the size of your pvc pipe. Take caulking or a glue gun and secure your handle in the hole. For the round part of the handle I took a ball (foam/rubber?) and cut an opening in it, then slid it onto the end of the of the pvc, using caulking for an adhesive. Attach your hinges and lid.
Step 5: Paint and Final Assembly
Before you paint make sure your paper mache is 100% dry. You don't want to seal in any moisture. Give your elf a few GENEROUS coats of paint. For your wooden box 2 coats will be plenty. I used some leftover interior paint, this will seal and protect your creation. This part is crucial, paper mache can easily survive the weather if its sealed property. After that's dried you can finish painting the details on your elf and box . I mainly used cheap acrylic craft paint and spray paint at this point. Now you can get your elf dressed, using plastic grocery bags for stuffing. Place your elf into the jack in the box put the wig on her. I was worried it might fall off so I used a rubber band and headband for reinforcements. Now she's all set. Thank you so much for checking out my project. I hope you enjoy making it as much as I did.