Hey everyone - looking for some ideas on how to articulate the hands and fingers of my Walgreen's skeleton. I have him sitting at our piano and would like to be able bend his fingers for better effect. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
I was looking at mine last night and decided that cliping the bones at the joints and inserting pieces of coat hanger secured with hot glue might work well. I was lucky enough to get 7 of these guys, so I'll hopefully experiment with one this weekend. I want to replace my latex skeleton that I have used as our organist for years. Here's the old guy.
Here you go. I have a technique that turns out some really good looking and pretty sturdy articulated skeleton hands out of you Walgreens skeleton’s hands, or even the hands that come with the inexpensive grave zombies like these. I didn’t take pictures throughout the process, but wish I would have; maybe next time.
As you can see, just like the walgreens skeleton hands, they are molded flat, with no articulation at all, and looking like… well, like fake plastic skeleton hands. With a little work, you can transform them into something pretty impressive and much more real looking. Note: This is not a simple heat plastic and bend technique. There is a little more work involved with what I've done, but the results are so very worth it.
Anyway, you remove your hands from wherever you’re getting them. Being very careful not to cut off your own fingers, use a sturdy utility knife to cut through each finger joint. Each finger has three knuckles; the one near the tip, the next one in the center of the finger, and the one where your finger connects to your hand. There is actually another joint where the bones that run through the hands connect to the wrist, which is hidden in a live person’s hand, but clearly visible on a skeleton. On a skeleton that part of the hand actually looks like the longest part of the fingers, but don’t be confused, it the hand, so don’t cut it off the wrist bone. You should have a wrist bone, with four hand bones sticking out like this.
As for the thumb, this is the exception to the rule. You are going to remove the entire thumb from the wrist bone. Later, it will get rotated to the under side of where it originally was. If you hold your own hand in a C shape, then turn you palm down, you’ll notice your thumb is actually more on the underside of your hand; the palm side. It’s really only on the side of your hand when you hold your hand flat. We don’t want flat skeleton hands, so the whole thumb, hand bone and all is getting relocated, but that’s a few steps away. IMPORTANT: Keep your finger bones in order. In other words, I wouldn’t throw them in a pile, because trying to figure out later which bone was where… well, unless you are an orthopedic doctor, it might be a bit challenging. You could number them with some tape and a pen, or with a pencil, number right on the bone. Pencil will easily rub off later when you no longer need the numbers.
The next step is to take some medium grit sand paper or nail file and knock down all the little molding lines left behind from the manufacturing process. Do this to the edges of every bone; wherever you see plastic that probably shouldn’t be there.
Now, I like my skeleton hands slightly spread apart, like in the picture. If you leave the hand bones where they are, the fingers will all remain close together, which is fine if that’s the pose you’re looking for, such as when grasping an object. Use your own hand a reference. Whatever you’re going to do with the skeleton hand, hold your own hand in that position to get an idea of where the bones should be and at what angle. If you’re going to spread them out slightly, like a claw pose, then you’ll need to spread the hand bones apart slightly. What I did, if you look closely, is slightly bend each hand bone to the side, pulling it away from the hand bone next to it. Then fill in between the two hand bones with some hot glue, basically building a spacer out of the glue which, when hardened, will keep the hand bones position away from each other.
Remember, as you assemble the finger bones, by the time you get to the tip, the gap between the tips of the fingers will be much wider than the spacing at the wrist bone. Like drawing an angle; the father each line gets from the corner, the farther apart they become, so keep that in mind. Again, use your own hand as a reference. When the glue is hardened, your hand bones will be where you eventually want them. REMEMBER, when you make a relaxed claw pose with your own hand, if that’s the look you’re going for like I was, look at the back of your hand with your palm down towards the floor. Notice your index finger his higher (farther away from the floor) than your little finger. The back of your fingers in this pose will make sort of a stair case, descending down towards your little finger, so the hand bones of your skelly need to end up that way as well.
The next step is to connect the first finger bone of each finger to the largest knuckle, where the fingers connect to your own hand. You are basically going to glue them all back together from where you cut them off of, but now at the desired angle. This is where you’re fingers will start their bend. Hot glue them on, at the angle you desire. You will have some gaps, where the bone was cut from. In other words, it’s going to look like you cut a bunch of plastic bones apart, then glued them back together, but didn’t seat them in their original cut line. Don’t worry about getting the joint looking real at this point. It’s the angle you’re working on right now; again using your own hand as a reference to get the angle you desire. Do this for each finger bone on each finger, all the way to the tips, always using your own hand as a reference.
After you get all the fingers reassembled where you want them, turning your skelly hand to look at it from all angles to make sure it looks natural, now it’s time for the thumb. Starting with the hand bone part of the thumb, rotate it a little towards to palm side of the hand. (Remember holding your own hand in the C shape to see where your thumb should be?) As you reassemble the thumb bone, take note of your own hand. The thumb makes a somewhat horizontal turn inward towards the center of your palm. The tip of the thumb pointing towards your other fingers, rather than at the floor like the tips of the rest of your fingers.
Now that the hand is all assembled, go back over each joint adding more hot glue. You are now building bridges that look like cartilage. Lay some glue in the gap, let it harden, lay some more in, let it harden, and so on, until each joint has enough glue in it to fill the gap. As I’m finishing each joint, I take the side of the metal tip of my gun and sort of wipe it across the glued joint, to create a smooth shallow valley across the joint. This is more real looking than a perfectly flat bridge of glue.
As you can see in the close ups, my hands have a rough texture all over them, like they were painted with a textured pain. These hands are on my FCG, so the bumps are the result of me mixing some powdered RIT whitening agent with a little water, enough to make a thin paste, then painting it all over the hands. These tiny little crystals form in the mixture, causing the textured effect. Personally, I think it looks even more realistic with the tuxture. Now the hands glow blueish white under a black light, as does the entire FCG. Mine has a skull head, rather than a styro wig head; hence the skeleton hands.
I’ve also made hands like these out of Styrofoam. The process is much the same, starting with individual bones, and building a hand. Maybe in another tutorial. Best withes.
I'd be happy to trade a pair of these hands, in whatever pose you like, for a FCG motor if anyone is interested.