Once upon a time I was asked by a friend ( who happens to be a Theater director ) to make a functioning claw for a fantasy animal ( ie. Virtually no reference pictures in nature to work from !)
Director Friend : " Oh and by the way...it needs to be able to drag a pan of lasagna off the stage. "
Me : " Sure , Okay ! "
- Retractable Aluminum Rake ( Amazon.com )
- Painters Tape
- Floral Wire 16 gage Craft Stores / Hardware Stores or online ).
- Hot Glue Gun / Sticks
- Pool Noodle foam pieces ( Dollar Tree if in season / online if not. )
- Styrofoam Floral Arrangement Rings ( Dollar Tree ).
- Orange cloth ( we used a couple T-shirts on clearance at Craft Store )
- Fishing line ( 30 pound at most )
- Sewing Needle / large Upholstery ( Straight )
- Electrical Tape
- Plastic Table cloth in colors of choice
- Recycled Water or Milk jugs
- Paper Towel tubes
- White Duct Tape
- Spray Paint ( off white / beige )
- Large Feathers( Amazon or craft stores.)
- Empty glue stick cylinders ( or similar size shape items )
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Step 1: Disassembling the Rake Lever
Since the length of the rake itself was still a tad too short for our final design , we needed to insert a wire attachment to lengthen it ( more on that later ). Fortunately this was an easy take apart !
Step 2: Making the Claw Talons
Taking the painters tape, we sectioned off the rake prongs to desired number of talons.
After taping in the fully opened position, we double checked where the tape would end up once retracted. This will be our guide for gluing our Pool Noodle pieces.
Step 3: Shaping Begins
Having some leftover pool noodles from a previous project, we fashioned a few pieces together with hot glue and slipped over each section of painters tape, securing with more hot glue.
Note : If using a Low / High temp Glue Gun you will need to work quickly.
Pool noodle material melts quickly and so its a trial and error learning curve.
Low temp should work for some areas but occasionally you may need to use
the higher setting and it will burn your fingers if you are not experienced
with this tool !
Step 4: Extending the Handle and Retracting Lever
With a little trial and error ( basically attaching several pieces of floral wire together ) we placed a cardboard tube over the original handle and attached an empty glue stick cylinder as a handle. The Cardboard tube allowed for the maximum amount of movement and also a guide for the wire attachment ( taped to cardboard tube but still able to slide back and forth over rake pole inside / underneath. ) Secured with as much electrical / or duct tape as necessary.
Full Disclosure : We used a heavier, thicker cardboard tube for the handle extension, which we attached directly over the black handle area. One could try using multiple layers of paper towel tubes if you cut down the side and slide one inside the other, but it depends on how many extra length you need. The structural integrity begins to weaken the longer it gets with this method.
Also, the red plastic "Candy Cane" piece was a found object lying around the house but you could use a second empty glue cylinder for this 2nd handle. The person operating the final claw would be working in low light to the side of the stage so it was important to hold it with one hand and pull the lever for the claw opening / retracting , with the other hand. In the event the front handle was hard to see , or broke off ( due to the size of prop and its location on rake ) the back handle would be there for back up.
Step 5: Adding More Structure and Details
Taking our floral rings we slipped 2 full length wires though each of them ( leaving about 3- 4 inches space between each ring ) and then slid them over the handle and down towards the center of our Claw. Once we secured to rake with more wire, we began work on the rest of the talons.
Using more of our orange pool noodles we worked out a piece that needed to "float" above the rest of the rake mechanism so as not to impede its movement. That meant it needed to attach to the base of the prongs without it moving the full length of the horizontal retracting bar.
We achieved this by making a 3 piece noodle section ( allowing us to attach a 4th non-moving extra claw ) with electrical tape and wires for shaping it. By keeping it loose / non attached at the wider/ top section and only attached to the beginning of the pole / handle.
Step 6: Creating Nails and Skin
Using our Milk / Spring Water jugs we had spray painted, we cut out some pieces in the shape of a "chicken nail" ( or "dragon" nail depending on your perspective. Artistic License in full effect ! )
Found our T-shirt material and began to hand sew a very loose glove shape around the talons with our Fishing line, which had 2 benefits :
1 ) Fishing line is much stronger than standard sewing thread.
2 ) I am not a very neat seamstress ( all stitches were virtually invisible ! )
Step 7: Finishing Touches
Once we attached the Chicken/Dragon nails, we realized they needed to be longer and more pointy for the overall size of our prop.
Made some cardboard tube cones and covered them in White Duct Tape, then painted to match the existing plastic milk jug material. Secured them in place with Duct tape and Hot glue.
We then got out the plastic Table Cloth and cut the bottom ( non folded section ) into "Feathers". We then placed these over our T-shirt "skin" and the rest of our structure.
While at the Dollar Store we happened to see some Pool Kickboards that were just what we needed for creating the DRAGON SCALES !!!!
These fit together edge to edge with small bits of floral wire, then Duct Tape running the length underneath.
Hot glued each row of scales to Plastic Table Cloth - with a slight overlap.
Step 8: Last But Not Least....
Whats a "Chicken Dragon " without FEATHERS ?!!!
More Hot Glue, a few more Dragon Scales, and it was Show Time !
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