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B.Y.O.B.: (updated) Make your own skeleton

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Build Your Own Bob.

For those of you who may not know, Bob was my answer to a problem I had in that I don't care for blucky's and couldn't really afford a Bucky, plus I wanted something light.

THIS thread, however, is going to not just include how I built BOB, but also the (many) lessons I made from making Bob, and improvements to the process that have come about.

This will also not be mechanical in nature, but just a nice, static skeleton. The intent is for something simple enough for anyone to follow.

Now, I am in the process of building the new Bob, but, given the proximity to Halloween, and the number of requests I've gotten for this info, I decided it was best to post-as-I-go, then do a full write-up at the end. For those that want to start. I have an hour or two a night to work on it, so it might take a little while, but we'll get there. I'll focus on the 'difficult' parts first.


As mentioned, Bob is made from Paper Mache. There are as many recipes for paper mache as there are people who use it. If you have any questions, I would refer you to the Stolloween basics article.

For the purpose of this guide, "Mache" will refer to strips of paper layered with the paste, while "clay" will refer to paper mache clay.

If you want my recipe for Paper Mache paste, it is located here. It is certainly more involved than most recipes, but has a unique property of being somewhat flexible when dried.


What you are going to need for this project:

Cardboard (minimum 15" x 33")
A stick (spine) ~36" (doesn't need to be exact)
Newspaper torn into strips
Paper Mache paste
Paper Mache clay
Tape Measure
Pipe insulation
tape (preferably duct tape)
Zip ties
paint of your choice.

Strongly recommended items:
Wire clothes hangers (dozen or so) *Or equivalent wire
Construction Adhesive of your choice (I am using Loctite Power Grab)
Wire cutters for that wire ;)
exacto knife

Nice to have items:
Plastic tarp for work area
Fan/hair drier to help dry the mache
extra time.....

Alrighty then. I'll be back with some measurements and pics as soon once I figure out how to get them off my wife's camera.

Edit: Seems she took the camera with her tonight...might have to wait till tomorrow.
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· Super Moderator
6,564 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·

Now, one could argue the 2 most difficult, and important, parts of building a skeleton are the chest, and the skull.

We'll be addressing the chest here first, as there's plenty of skulls one could attach if they don't want to make their own.

First, we need to make the spine. I apologise that I do not know just where on here I read this technique, it's not 'mine'.

So, take your stick. I'm using EMT conduit because it's cheap, light, and hollow (for rebar), but virtually ANYTHING could work....broom handle, tree limb..... And, cut your pipe insulation to about 30". Wrap that around the center of your stick, leaving a couple inches at the top and bottom for the skull and pelvis to be added, respectively. (Though, if you just want a torso, or a headless skeleton for some reason, of course don't bother with those)

Then take you Zip ties and cinch them down, spacing them every inch or so to create the spine.

Now we need to make a template for the ribcage.

So, get out your tapes.

Non of these need to be exactly precise, so don't fret too awful much.

If you're using the wire, as recommended, we need to cut lengths of:

12 1/2"
17 1/2"
2 pieces @ 28"
2 pieces at 33"

Now we need to take our cardboard. First thin we're going to do is draw the breastplate center. This is 7 1/2" long, just freehand a rough long skinny oval shape in the center there.

Next, place the 12 1/2" piece of wire across the top of this, and trace it with a magic marker. OR, if you are not using the wire, draw a line 12 1/2" for the top rib there.

Now, from each end of of this line, we are going to measure down 14", and make a mark. This will serve as a guide for where the BOTTOM of the ribcage will be.

Now, simply place the wires on the cardboard/measure each line in order from shortest to longest. You want approximately 3/4" space between each at the breastplate, and about 1 1/2" space between them at the ends. This means they each need to progressively bend more. By rib 6, you should have something of a notch in the center.

Rib #8 does not go all the way to the bottom, however, we will freehand that one by measuring approximately 2" from the breastplate, then drawing that rib to the mark at 14" we made earlier.

When you are finished, you should have something like this:

If you intend to corpse your skeleton, and wish to hang it later, save one of the hooks from the hangers, like I have pictured. You can mache it straight to the skull, the snip it off once corpsing is done.

It took me approximately 2 hours to make this template and cut it out, but I was distracted by kids, and measuring and photoing everything for this, so I'ld guess at an hour for someone without such distractions.

· Super Moderator
6,564 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Now for the fun.

So, you've got the template measured, drawn, and cut. Take a moment to say to yourself, the hard part is over. Really, I promise.

If you are using the wire, you will want to tape each wire to the respective rib to hold them nice and firm in place.

Our next step may be obvious. We need to attach the ribcage to the spine.

This is simply a matter of taping the ends of the ribs back to the spine. If you're using the wire, bend the wire to fit. It CAN be done without the wire, since my first Bob didn't use the wire, but it makes the mache slow going.

Make sure you start a couple inches down from the top of your spine, to allow for a neck.

Yes...that's electrical tape instead of duct tape. I'm ignoring my own recommendations...:eek: I'm apparantly OUT of duct tape, so was making due.

It might be usefull to make/find a stand to hold the thing upright while you mache. I'm reutilizing an old spiral christmas tree stand I saved from the trash for just such things.

Now, go to town with your mache.

I like to start at the spine and work to the front, myself. With the wires, it probably doesn't matter quite as much. If you didn't use the wire, I'ld say that's definately the way to go.

It's probably going to take me several days to get this ribcage finished, however, so we'll be back with the collar bone and shoulder blades once that's done.

This is where fans and hair dryers will help speed the process.

· Lord of the Cemetery
2,091 Posts
Great how-to so far, Unorthodox..
I am interested to see how you will be forming the pelvic bones.

If i may be permitted to give credit where it's due, I believe the zip tie spine idea was first posted here by the ever ingenious Herman Secret.

· Super Moderator
6,564 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I am interested to see how you will be forming the pelvic bones.
Me too....:confused:

Heck, I'm making this up as I go. ;) (not totally, there is some kind of plan)

If i may be permitted to give credit where it's due, I believe the zip tie spine idea was first posted here by the ever ingenious Herman Secret.
Thank you, I was hoping someone could remember.

There's so many things here I read, learn, and file away. I remember the techniques, but can't find the things again to give credit once I use them.

· Super Moderator
6,564 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Well, I just stuck in a movie last night, and finished off the ribs.

While I'm waiting for this to dry, I'll post the next, rather optional step.

If you want nice smooth ribs, and your mache has left a lot of crinkles (my bob 1 did, Bob 2, I left a lot more space between the ribs and he's nice and smooth), You'll want to grab your clay now.

I'm still working on a recipe for my paper clay, so I'ld refer you to Stolloween again for ideas on that.

Anyhow, just got over your ribs with the clay to make them nice and smooth. If you'll allow me to use a bit of that cooking show "here's one I prepared earlier" picture (again, different bob):

If not using the wire, you'll want to take this a little at a time. With the wire, go to town.

We have a lot of smaller bones to make now. I hope to be able to get to that this evening, then we can begin assembling them by Sunday. However, my 3 year old has come down with something, so I may be preoccupied.

· Lord of the Cemetery
2,091 Posts

· Super Moderator
6,564 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Looking good...
Although with all the work you put into the ribcage, I was sort of expecting a somewhat scarier face...or is it modelled on Johnson724's member's photo..


The original Bob's big grin is a great big joke. It always cracks me up knowing that is under his current visage.

Other hidden quirks include green eyes, a pink 'heart' drawn on the ribcage, random doodles over his arms (my 3 year old colored all over Bob one night...), and the word "truth" etched into his forehead (homage to the original reanimation (golem) stories, for the lab).

· Super Moderator
6,564 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Alrighty then.

Scapula and Clavicle templates (shoulder blade, collar bone)

For the Scapula, we need to measure out a triangle at 6.5" sides. Then, I just freehand a rough shape into the triangle:

I do want to note that these need to be fairly heavy duty, so add a couple extra layers when you mache. The original Bob suffered only one break during corpsing, and it was the clavicle/scapula.

Next, the clavicles are just a straight 7" strip.

However, when you mache, you want to curve them, just a tad.

There's really nothing preventing you from going on to make the rest of the bones all at once, I just don't have time myself.

Attaching the Scapula and Clavicle...I'm pulling out my construction adhesive.

There's really no reason not to mache them in place, other than I'm lazy, and I suck.

So, a little glue here, a little there, and tada!

You want the ends of the scapula/clavicle connection to be about even with the widest portion of the ribs. The painters tape there is probably superfluous. The glue has a highe enough tack to hold them just fine, but just in case the cat come to 'investigate'...

With the powergrab, and a little water, you can smooth out the glue easily. Can't really coment on other brands of adhesive.

With my chest now done, I'm at a crossroads. Arms...or legs? Both present the builder with numberous decisions.

· Super Moderator
6,564 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Yeah, sorry. I took Sunday evening and Monday off from Bob.

We are at a crossroads where you, the builder, need to begin making some decisions on how you want your skeleton to work. I'll outline the means I've come up with to accomplish a number of tasks, however.

First, the Humerus, Radius, and Ulna (arms):

The Humerus (upper arm) measures 10" long, 2" wide at both ends, and 1" wide in the middle.

Just use your tape to shape the things. A ball at the shoulder, a cylinder in the middle, that flattens out at the elbow. Then, mache on over it.

Now, the Radius and Ulna (forearms), there's 2 means. If you are going to want your wrist to rotate, you'll want to make them seperate. And we'll discuss how to accomplish that after I get pictures of it on Thursday.

However, if you are going to have a static pose, for a groundbreaker, or something similiar, there is really no reason to make this more difficult, and just make one template for the both, and glue the hands right to it.

In any case, these measure 9" long, and 1/2" wide. You want a slight bow to each, or if you want to get REAL technical, the Ulna has a slight "s" shape to it. We're not going quite that accurate...though I had been considering it, but it was getting complicated with the hands...this project has given me a whole new perspective on skeletal design...

Anyway, back to the tutorial. Agan, tape to form the bones, then mache over them.

Or, the easier single template design (with hands glued on):

Speaking of hands, I cannot do any better than this tutorial here. Just using your mache clay. I just trace my own hands for measurments.

From here, if you know a pose you want the arms in, it's just a matter of glueing it all in place. I'll be articulating Bob's arms on Thursday, a day to dry, probably be able to post the process on Friday night.

Meanwhile, I'll be starting on the pelvis and legs.

· Super Moderator
6,564 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Oh, I felt bad taking the break. I really did. I just needed a break from Bob Jr. here. I worked on OTHER things for a couple nights, but it was always in the back of my mind I really SHOULD be getting around to more Bob.

I'm glad you're finding this usefull!

Keep on me and don't let me get too sidetracked. I sometimes need that push.

I am going to be slowing down with the legs, however, as the original Bob still lacks them, so I'm making 2 sets at once. But, the good news is plans have changed for this evening, I should be able to do some articulation tonight, and work towards getting the pelvis and legs, if drying time goes well, done this weekend!


Up to now, Bob has consumed:

1 Diapers Box salvaged from the recycle bin
1 Sunday Newspaper.
1/2 roll electrical tape because I'm out of duct and didn't bother to go to the store.
small amount of painters tape again, 'cause I'm too lazy to go shopping for duct...
1 cup of flour (I make my recipe in half-batches these days)
3/4 tube of Power Grab. 1/2 for the mache paste, 1/4 for the shoulders
8 clothes hangers.

He's easily under $5 in construction costs.

· Super Moderator
6,564 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Shoulder articulation:

If you are wanting to articulate the shoulder, here is a means I come up with that gives pretty decent range of movement.

You will need ~3" lengths of your hanger wire.

We are going to bend and glue one in place with your construction adhesive right at the shoulder so it makes a more or less straight bar across the gap:

Then, bend another piece to fit to the Humerus. This is where I'm not even sure how to describe what's going on...but I'll try to get the point across.

The wires will just hook together.

This allows some rotation between them, but there are limits. You want to make sure to set the limit where you want that rotation to be. The best way to do this is to set one extreme first.

For me, I am never going to want this arm to come back behind the skeleton, so my limit was to have the elbow on the table, flush with the spine. Then arrange the wires so they could not rotate 'back' any more before glueing it all in place. Does that make sense, I hope?

(See how the wires cannot rotate any further clockwise...)

(Glued in place with the humerous)

Shoulder limit arm down.

Shoulder limit arm up.

This is a fairly decent range of motion, but not perfect. The wire blends in fairly well, and should be easy enough to cover up when aging or corpsing.

Elbow articulation option 1.

Elbow articulation can be accomplished by much the same means. Wire hinges:

Glued into place at either end, you have a quick and easy elbow.

(pic from original Bob using the easy forearm template, not current one)

In fact, by attaching a seperate radius and ulna each by a single such joint here, then another single such joint at the wrist, some wrist rotation could actually be accomplished.

I have a plan to better accomplish that using guitar strings in place of this wire at both the elbow and wrist, but that is going to have to wait for a while. I was informed my plans need to really accelerate on my laboratory this year, so I need to get cracking on that.

The good news here, though, is I need to make Legs for the original Bob (huge part of the lab) anyway, so we'll just be focusing on the legs here until that is done, then we'll go back and catch up the rest.

· Super Moderator
6,564 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
We hit some crappy weather this weekend which really impacted my drying times. Especially since my hair dryer finally gave out in the middle as well. And I had some family commitments which left me with less time on this than I would have liked. So, not quite as far as I had hoped.

And, some 'mistakes' have been made. (not really, but well, I'll explain later)

So, the Pelvis....

this really comes down to 3 bones, and I'm still at work with it. I came up with 2 differing methods on the pelvis bones. I'll post them both, and you can determine which is going to work for you.

The tail bone, first of all, though.

I'm just going to post this here. This is my tracing of a portion the pelvis (I decided on 2 templates to make a pelvis bone), followed by measurements on the tail bone, femur (thigh), and tibia (shin). The Tail Bone is in the upper right hand side there.

Since it's hard to read, it's 3" wide. It's 4 1/2" long, and the straight notches on either side are 2" long. So, you could draw a rectangle 2" x 3", then measure down another 2 1/2" in the center there, and draw a triangle. Sorry for not getting a better pic of the thing.

Now, this has a curve to it, and a cross section of the bone is shown on there as well, so once curved, it should be 3" long.

The thing is rather angled where it will connect to the pelvis as well, so here is a photo of how mine is attached to Bob:

This is where my 'mistake' was made. While this angle at the top of the tailbone is VERY accurate with the angle a real tailbone hooks to the spine, a real spine is not straight, it bends. This is making this Bob's pelvis look rather odd right now. I'll probably just add a lumbar bend to my spine when I'm done, since it's EMT conduit and I have a bender, but I'ld recommend, were I to do it again, to just make the angled portion of the tailbone nearly parallel to the spine and bend the 'tail' portion more backwards.

On to the pelvis template.

There are 2 ways to do this, so, METHOD 1:

First, by my tracing above, you can see it's 8 1/2" Long, 4 1/2" wide. That widest part comes 4 1/2" down from the top.

An easy way to accomplish this is to measure that 8 1/2" line. Measure down 4 1/2", and measure to the side of that mark 4" on one side and 1/2" on the other, make yourself some triangles off these marks, then freehand the shape with those triangles as a guide:

You'll need 2 of these, then we mache them together.

This is when method 2 struck me...why not do them together in 1 template?

As a side note here, I VERY MUCH PREFER the case of soda cardboard here to the corregated for this particular bone.

The 1 1/2" in the center there corresponds to my tracing, but I'ld probably shave that area to 1", myself, and likely will, since I have not quite gotten around to that particular area with the mache yet.

I did get this attached to Bob, but it was still wet, and no pics just yet.

The femur templates, again, above, bottom center.
16" long, 3 1/4" wide at the hip, 1 1/4" wide in the center, 3 1/2" wide at the knee. (4 legs for my 2 Bobs)

As with the Humerus, it's a ball at the hip, a cylinder in the center that flattens out towards the knee. If you really want to get technical, you can add a slight 'y' at the knee for super accuracy.

I have not gotten around to my tibia's yet, but you can see in the pic above the general shape top center. They measure 14" long, 3 3/4" wide at the knee (this actually takes into account the fibula at the knee as well for simplicity of the knee joint, so you want to lopside one side. ), 1" wide in the center, 2 1/2" side at the base (again, this accounts for the fibula for simplicity of the joint, so you want that lopsided to one side)
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