Mechanical: Dave's Grave Digging Skeleton - Re-Engineered.
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Concord, NC

    Default Dave's Grave Digging Skeleton - Re-Engineered.

    Dave's Grave Digging Skeleton - Re-Engineered.


    This a project I actually completed for Halloween 2017, but have been lax in finding the time to take some decent pics and shoot a video of it in action.
    I always loved the Grave-Digging Skeleton, but always wondered if I could re-engineer it in a new way and with a different motor. I figured that since the arms of the skeleton are already attached to the handle of the shovel, why not figure out some way to actually make the arms move the shovel back and forth, instead of mounting the motor and crank right behind the shovel.
    This is what I came up with. I used this motor, which is readily available from many sources and is a bit cheaper in price than the wiper motors.

    It is really a 24 volt DC, 45 RPM motor, but it can be operated at half speed (23 RPM) at 12 volts DC. (Some of the torque of the motor is lost, but it has plenty to do the job for this prop.) I’ve used this same motor to power my Swinging Skeleton and many other Halloween props for many years with great success. This same motor is available from Surplus Center, Electronic Goldmine and AllElectronics in the range of $10 to $15.

    In a nutshell, the project consisted of removing the arms and using a length of ½” PVC pipe from shoulder to shoulder, with the arms attached at both ends to allow them to pivot forward and back.

    This motor was mounted in the rear of the pelvic area of the skeleton, with a long crank on the motor hooked to a bracket on the backside of the PVC (the piece with the arms attached). It’s mounted right in the middle of the PVC, where the spine is located. (Had to use a Dremel tool to cut out some of the plastic ‘ribs’ of the skeleton to allow for proper movement.)
    I then used some thin, flat aluminum metal stock to make my own mounts for the motor.
    (The plastic protection over the motor was installed temporarily to keep Trick-or-Treaters from pinching their fingers on Halloween night.)


    I used a heat gun to soften the wrist areas of the lower arms in order to rotate them 90 degrees for the hands to properly grip the shovel. Used the heat gun also to form the fingers in a curled position to fit around the shovel handle.

    Lastly, I added a small, 6 RPM Synchronous Motor inside the head of the skeleton to give him a side to side head movement. I even figured out a way to get some added jaw movement.


    The coffin you see in the video with him will eventually have another animated skeleton kneeling beside it attempting to pry open the coffin. The set-up would be a scene where the digging skeleton has partially unearthed the coffin and the second skelly is trying to free their friend from his tomb. I’m still working on that part, but it should be completed by this Halloween.


    Any comments are appreciated!
    Stamp out the Christmas Creep !

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  3. #2


    Nice work DaveintheGrave!

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Houston, Texas


    Very cool!

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  6. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Houston, Texas, USA


    I love the movement - the jaw and the head turning is really great! I didn't notice the actual coffin creeping open until a second view tho!

    Great looking setup - would love to see it with your other skelly like you're planning and all lit up.
    I'm a Halloween Bride! 10/31/2002

    Where there is no imagination there is no horror.
    ~Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  7. Default

    very good movement. seems so simple with how you put it together.
    Check out my YouTube channel learn how to Turn Trash into Haunts

  8. #6


    That is going to be amazing scene.

  9. #7


    Cool! That arm animation could be used for a lot of things.

  10. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    San Diego CA


    Pretty dang cool!
    Nice work
    "I love you in a murder of crows"

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