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· Registered
2,287 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
And we're off!!

Instructor : DaveintheGrave

Project: Bobbing Skull Behind Tombstone

Project Date: To start in February

DaveintheGrave will follow with a materials list, tools needed list, & perhaps if he has a picture of what we're making so we can promote it on the "General Halloween" board for all members to see. A set of instructions would be nice so we can start getting familiar with what we are about to build.

Please NOTE: For students participating in this class please remember all your questions & conversation should get posted in the adjoining thread that goes with project 1, this way only building instructions will be in the teachers section, this was suggested by a few of you so the building instructions are easier to follow.

If for any reason the instructor cannot teach or something comes up please notify me as soon as you can & we will schedule who ever is in line next.....please be aware my friends if this takes place there will be some delays in the building schedule but Hey lets just see how it goe!!


· Funeral Crasher
7,461 Posts
Hey everybody,
This post will hopefully answer some of the questions that Muffy had come up with concerning the start of the project.
#1) I should be able to have a complete parts/materials list by next week or sooner. I'll try to write up a quick over view of the prop and how it works. It's really not too difficult to make.

#2) I don't think this particular motor is available locally. This is the motor I used from Electronic Goldmine:
Super Power 12VDC Gear Motor-The Electronic Goldmine
This motor runs at 5 RPM and has really good torque. But probably any small gear motor of roughly the same RPM's would work. Right now that motor is $8.00, but it has been on sale for $6.00 in the past. I see a 500 milliamp AC/DC adapter for $3.00 from the same place.
Heavy Duty 12VDC 500ma Adapter-The Electronic Goldmine

A soldering iron is needed to attach the wires from the Adapter to the Motor.

#3) Here is a video of the prop in action. I'll take some still pictures and post them ASAP.

The students can call me Dave or Mr. Grave. LOL

· Funeral Crasher
7,461 Posts
Muffy--on your question about the size of the tombstone, the one I used was one of the large ones from Walgreen's. I think it's 36 inches (3 ft.) tall and about 16 inches wide.
I'll measure it to be sure.

· Funeral Crasher
7,461 Posts
I thought I would try to post some info. to give everyone a better idea of how this prop works. If anyone has any questions feel free to ask anytime or PM me.
Here's another video showing the prop in motion with the tombstone removed:

Here's a few still pics of the motor setup:

The mechanism I used for this prop is called a "Crank Slider". Here is a couple of links that sort of show how it works:
Cams and cam followers
The length of the crank on the motor determines how HIGH the head behind the tombstone will go. We can adjust the width of the side to side movement by either RAISING or LOWERING the Pivot Point (the eye-bolt that the rod holding the skull goes through).

(Click on the left side "Animation" on the link below)
Walter Ruffler - Paper-Machines - Designs - Crank Mechanisms

I used this same exact mechanism on the Cauldron of my Stirring Witch:

Hopefully this information will help those of you who might be intimidated by mechanical devices.
I plan to have the materials list posted soon.

· Funeral Crasher
7,461 Posts

{Dave could you do me a favor and give me a measurement of the main board you attached everything to. Also a measurement on your PVC tube and metal slide? }

The main board on the base of the prop is 13 inches wide, and 10 inches deep. The thickness of the board is about 1/2 inch.

The rod I used is actually a 5/8 inch poplar dowel rod. Mine's 30 inches long (I used a 3 ft. Tombstone).

The metal slide is actually called an "eye bolt". It has an inside diameter of just under one inch.

I hope to have the part list posted by Friday. There is some leeway on certain parts that can be used. For example you could use PVC (I think PVC would slide better), but would need an eye bolt with a larger inside diameter. Or you don't even have to use an eye bolt--just make the section of wood that holds the bolt a few inches longer and drill a hole for the rod (probably somewhere in the 3/4" to 1 " diameter).

· Registered
352 Posts
I was thinking of another way to power some of these props. I believe that old computer power supplies would be a great way rather than having a bunch of wall warts. Several props could be powered from one supply without any problem at all. With the computer PS you can wire props to run off of 12V or 5V very easily. 12v is very common for motors and 5v is common for things like LED's.

Here's a link to order the Molex connector for the end of the power cable:
4-Pin Pass-Thru Molex Power Adapter Housing and 4 Metal Pins (Female Housing/Male Pins)-Best Computer Online Store Houston Buy Discount Prices Texas-Directron.com

Here's a diagram to how it should be wired for the correct voltage.
PC peripheral power connector pinout and signals @ pinouts.ru

Note: the diagram is for the connection with the female pins, which is normally on the power supply. The connector for the prop will have the male pins instead. The correct wiring should be reversed when looking at the pins.

· Funeral Crasher
7,461 Posts
Just a quick note to everyone--most, if not all, of the parts I used in building this prop can be substituted with a similar type part. Pretty much any low RPM gear motor will work, as long as you yourself are able to attach the crank to the motor shaft and mount the motor to a wooden board. I know a lot of haunters use Windshield wiper motors for props, but I have built probably a dozen animated props and have never used a wiper motor. (I think a wiper motor would be overkill for this particular prop.)
I'm alway for using what I have "lying around" before going out and paying $$$ for parts, that's for sure.

I plan to list the parts I used for this prop and also add "or similar" where applicable (which will pretty much be almost ALL of the parts).
Rev. Noch--You're right about the computer power supplies. I myself have never used one for a prop. I just use the wall warts because they are cheap.

· Registered
352 Posts
Just a quick note to everyone--most, if not all, of the parts I used in building this prop can be substituted with a similar type part. Pretty much any low RPM gear motor will work, as long as you yourself are able to attach the crank to the motor shaft and mount the motor to a wooden board. I know a lot of haunters use Windshield wiper motors for props, but I have built probably a dozen animated props and have never used a wiper motor. (I think a wiper motor would be overkill for this particular prop.)
I'm alway for using what I have "lying around" before going out and paying $$$ for parts, that's for sure.

I plan to list the parts I used for this prop and also add "or similar" where applicable (which will pretty much be almost ALL of the parts).
Rev. Noch--You're right about the computer power supplies. I myself have never used one for a prop. I just use the wall warts because they are cheap.
Perfect, sounds good. I just figured I'd throw that one out there for my fellow haunters that may have an old derelict PC that they could scavenge parts out of. It's especially useful if they will have more than one prop that they want to run.

· Hauntless
9,669 Posts
Just a reminder: The instructor thread is for the instructor's posts only. Please post questions to the instructor in the student's thread. That way, this thread will be an easy referral thread in the future and not grow to become a confusing hard-to-follow tutorial.

Thanks :)

· Funeral Crasher
7,461 Posts
Parts list



(1) 10” X 13” section of 1” board (or similar) For BASE of Prop.
(1) 13” section of 1” X 2” board (or similar).
(1) Length of 1” X 3” board (or similar). We will be cutting this in sections.
(1) 5/8” wooden Dowel Rod (Approx. 30” Long) (1/2” diameter PVC pipe can be substituted)


(7) Deck Screws—2 ½” long (or similar).
(4) Wood Screws—1 1/4” to 1 1/2” Long.
(2) Large Wood Screws—1” to 1 ¼” Long, #10 or #12 size (or similar) to Mount motor to board.
(1) ¼” Diameter #20 Machine Screw, 1/2” Long. (This one is important for mounting
the crank to the motor.)
(1) ¼” Lock Washer
(1) #10 Machine Screw, 2 ¼” Long or Longer.
(5) #10 Nuts
(3) #10 Lock Washers
(2) #10 Flat Washers
(1) Eye Bolt, 1” inside diameter across. (Lowe’s part # B4340 should work.)
NOTE: If using PVC pipe instead of dowel rod, a piece of wood with a hole drilled
in it can be substituted.
(1) Section of ¾” wide Aluminum Stock, 5 ¼” Long (or similar).


(1) 5 RPM, 12 volt DC MOTOR (or similar) From Electronic Goldmine.
(1) AC to DC Voltage Adapter, 12 VOLT, 200 to 500 milliamp rated (or similar).
(1) TOMBSTONE (Stryrofoam). I recommend 3 ft. tall (or similar).
(1) Styrofoam SKULL (or similar).
(1) Small section of ½” PVC Pipe. (Enough to make two ½’ long motor spacers.) [or

(Mounted on Tombstone)

Option 1: Blucky Hands

(1) Blucky Skeleton Hand
Black Acrylic Craft Paint
One foot of Thin Wire (To attach hands to stone.)
Off-White or Bone colored Acrylic Paint (or use a blucky arm bone piece).

Option 2: More Realistic Skeleton Hands

Coat Hanger Wire (about 3 to 4 feet.) [or similar]
Masking Tape
Paper Towels
Elmers Glue (to make Paper Mache solution.)
Latex Paint (any color).
Acrylic Craft Paint (whatever color you want your hands to be).
Clear Coat spray paint


Electric Drill
Soldering Iron / Solder
Hacksaw (to cut PVC pipe)
Wire Cutter / Stripper

· Funeral Crasher
7,461 Posts
Frenchy---I don't see why a rotisserie motor wouldn't work. As long as it's got fairly good torque it should do fine.

Rev. Noch.--If you're talking about an actual bucky skull (not a Blucky from Big Lots), I'm pretty sure that would be WAY too heavy. At least for this motor. The bucky hands would probably work, since the hands are mounted on the tombstone itself.

· Funeral Crasher
7,461 Posts
"I'm about to build my tombstone was wondering How tall and wide I should make it. "

I used a Walgreen's tombstone that about 3 ft. tall and 18 inches wide.
But really, you can make it any size you want. We can change the length of the rod that holds the skull for heighth and adjust the pivot point (eye bolt) for wider or narrower side movement.

· Funeral Crasher
7,461 Posts
Tutorial for Skeleton Hands

NOTE: The skeleton hands I make for myself have only four fingers. Only reason is it's easier and takes less time. Plus since most of my props are seen in the dark, nobody notices a missing finger. However, if you prefer to have a thumb on your skeleton hands we only have to add one more piece of wire.

Step 1
Take your clothes hanger (or other sturdy wire) and cut one piece approximately 12 inches long. Cut one more piece about 10 and 1/4 inches long. Bend each wire into an uneven "U" shape. See picture below for reference. The top piece is the 12" one, the bottom piece is the 10 1/4" piece.

Step 2
Use a "twisty-tie" to connect the two pieces where they meet at the bottom. See pic below.

Step 3
Take your roll of masking tape and pull off a few inches of tape and roll it into a ball shape. I think mine are about 1/2 inch in diameter. Use two tape balls per finger and stick them right on the wire. These will end up being the "knuckles" of the fingers. See pic below for reference.

Step 4
Using the masking tape, run some tape along the top side of each finger (over each knuckle), then all the way around the bottom side of each finger. (If you want to add a thumb to your hand, now is probably the best time to do it.) See pic below.

Step 5
Use a pair of scissors to cut the tip of each finger into a point. Then tightly squeeze the tape on each finger, allowing the contours of the knuckles to stand out. See pic below.

Step 6
Now here is where the hand starts to take shape. Bend a curve into each finger while also separating the fingers (if necessary) and positioning some fingers lower or higher than others to make kind of a menacing "grab" look to the hand. See pics below for reference.

Step 7
Now the hand is ready for the paper mache. Mix one part Elmer's Glue to two parts water for the paper mache solution. Take some paper towels and tear them into thin strips, approximately 4 or 5 inches long (do not use scissors). If the paper towels are 2-ply, I normally separate them before tearing into strips. (The thinner the towels, the easier to work with.)
See pic below.

Step 8
Dip the strip of paper towel into the mache solution and, starting at the bottom of the first finger, wrap it around the finger. Keep going with another strip untill the finger is completely wrapped. Repeat the process for the remaining fingers and also add a few strips across the bottom of the hand to give a little more "meat" to the hand. Set the hand aside to dry completely.
I'll have a reference pic of this completed step shortly in Part 2 of the tutorial.

· Funeral Crasher
7,461 Posts
Skeleton Hands Tutorial, Part 2

Ok--here's what your hands should look like after Step #8 and your hands have dried completely.

Step 9:
Paint the hands with some outdoor latex paint (any color). One or two coats should do.
I used white in the pic below:

Step 10:
Find an acrylic paint in the color you want your hands to be. Either paint them a solid color or what I do is dilute some brown paint with a little water to give the hands a light "wash" of
color. (See pic below) OPTION: I also cut some fingernails out of gallon milk jug materials, glued them on, then painted them a different color.

Final Step:
Coat the hands with clear coat spray to seal them.

· Funeral Crasher
7,461 Posts
Alternate (Easy) Skeleton Hands

Here is a quickie way make some skeleton hands for the tombstone.

Take one Blucky hand and some black acrylic paint to highlight the details of the parts of the hand. After drying, use an exacto blade to cut off the plastic tip at the end and then slice the hand along the seam into two halves.

Use the exacto blade again to cut between each finger to seperate them. After that bend the fingers slightly to make it look more realistic.


· Funeral Crasher
7,461 Posts
Tutorial for tombstone peeper



(These first few steps are probably the most frustrating steps of the project. I prefer to get these out of the way first.)

1) Take the ½” long, ¼” diameter #20 screw and hold it on top of the square hole in the motor shaft. You will see the screw is slightly bigger than the square hole in the shaft. What we want to do is use a screwdriver to force the screw into this square hole, basically “tapping” a threaded hole for this screw, which will later hold the crank to the motor. Use a pair of pliers tightly around the outside of the motor shaft to hold it while using your screwdriver and turn the screw clockwise and force it into the square hole. It might help to brace the motor against a wall or table top (while still holding the shaft with the pliers) to be able to use enough force to get the screw started. Be patient, sometimes it goes easy, sometimes it takes a while. Once the screw starts to rotate into the shaft hole, try to keep the screw as straight as possible as it goes further into the hole. Keep turning it until the head of the screw is about 1/8 inch above the top of the motor shaft. Just leave the screw in for now.

2) Use a pair of cutters to snip away the top portion of the black plastic that covers the two copper colored pins coming out of the bottom of the motor. Take some needle nosed pliers and carefully bend each pin upward slightly. This will give us more room to use soldering iron. Cut the round plug off the end of the DC voltage adapter, separate the two wires and strip them back about ¼ inch. (I usually solder a short section of wire to each pin and then later solder my DC voltage adapter onto those wires. However if you prefer, you can solder the wires of the DC adapter straight to the pins.)

NOTE: I prefer for the motor shaft to rotate in a COUNTERCLOCKWISE direction. That way the force of the crank is pushing toward the same direction that the screw was tightened (Clockwise), as opposed to having the shaft turn Clockwise, which could possibly loosen the crank screw. Just touch the two wires from the DC adapter to the two motor pins (or the two wires coming from them if you’ve done that). If the motor turns Counterclockwise you are fine, if it doesn’t just switch the two wires and it will turn the opposite direction. Make note of which wire goes where before soldering.

If you have someone to help you, have them hold each wire to its respective terminal pin while you solder them. If you are doing it by yourself, try to melt a blob of solder onto the end of the wire, then hold the wire to the terminal pin and hold the soldering iron on the UNDERSIDE of the pin to heat the pin and melt the solder at the same time. This is frustrating sometimes, but it will work. I don’t usually put any heat shrink or tape on these terminals after soldering, but you can if you want.

3) Cut a piece of flat aluminum stock approximately 5 ¼ to 5 ½ inch long. This will be the CRANK for our motor. Drill a hole at one end just slightly larger than a 1/4" inch. (I used a 17/64 drill bit.)
TIP: When drilling through a thick piece of metal I start with a very small drill bit and then keep using slightly bigger bits until I finally move up to the size bit that I want the hole to be.
At the opposite end of the crank drill a 3/16 inch hole (if you are using a #10 bolt for attaching the dowel rod). The centers of the two holes should be roughly 4 1/2 inches apart. Once your holes are drilled, remove the ¼” screw from the motor shaft and slip a ¼” lock washer onto it. Insert the screw through the large crank hole and then screw the crank onto the motor shaft until it is tight.
Take the 2 ¼” (or longer) #10 screw / bolt and insert it from the underside into the small hole we’ve made in the motor crank. Add on a #10 lock washer and use a #10 nut to tighten the bolt to the crank.

Your Motor Assembly should look something like this:


1) Take your 10” X 13” piece of wood that you will use for the base and drill three pilot holes along the front part of the board, approximately ¼” from the front edge. (One hole near each end and one in the middle.) Then place the 13 inch section of 1” X 2” wood on top of the 10 X 13 piece, centered and flush with the front of the board (on top of the holes you just drilled). Hold the two boards in place and turn them upside down for the purpose of drilling PILOT HOLES into the 1” X 2” section. NOTE: A Pilot Hole is a hole drilled in the wood (before the screw is put in) that is a smaller diameter than the screw. This helps guide the screw in and also keeps the wood from splitting as the screw goes in. Drill through each of the three base holes into the 1” X 2”. Screw the two sections together using deck screws. NOTE: I used 2 ½ “ deck screws on this prop when I built it, but a deck screw any where from 1 5/8” to 2 ½ “ will work.

2) Saw a 10” inch section of the 1” X 3” wood. This will be the piece that the motor will be mounted on. Stand it on one end and center it on the back side of the 1” X 2” on the Base. (See Pic)
Drill two pilot holes and use two of the Deck screws through the front to secure it to the base section.

3) Only two of the three motor mounting holes will be used to secure it to the board (the top and bottom holes). Take the short section of PVC pipe and cut off two 3/4” long pieces to use as spacers for mounting the motor. The shaft of the motor should be centered in the middle of the 10 inch board, about 6 inches from the bottom. We need this space in order for the motor shaft to rotate freely. Mark the top mounting hole and drill a pilot hole. Then add your PVC spacers under the motor and check the height. You may have to slightly trim one or both of the spacers to allow the back side of the motor to sit FLAT against the board. Put a spacer under the top motor mount hole and screw in the mounting screw. Repeat this step for the bottom mounting hole. Plug in the motor just to make sure your motor shaft rotates freely.

4) Saw a 6 inch section of the 1 X 3” board. This will be the upper vertical section that will eventually hold the horizontal eye bolt piece.
NOTE: There are two reasons I make this vertical part in two sections. One is to allow me to be able to adjust the height of the eye bolt if necessary. Also to give the tombstone an upper mounting surface that is even with the lower mounting surface (see diagram).
Drill two pilot holes on one end of the six inch piece. Hold it flat on the FRONT side of the ten inch section. Adjust the height of it until the top of the 6” board measures a distance roughly 14 ½” from the bottom base board. (See diagram) Once that is done, drill through the two holes in the 6” section to make pilot holes in the 10” section. Use two wood screws to secure it.


· Funeral Crasher
7,461 Posts
Tutorial Part 2

5) Take the Dowel Rod (or PVC pipe) and cut it to measure 30 inches. Drill a hole through it about ¾” from the bottom. Use a drill bit slightly larger than 3/16”.
On the long bolt at the end of the motor crank add in order a #10 nut, a #10 lock washer, another #10 nut and a #10 flat washer. Screw them on the bolt until they are at the bottom, out of the way for now. Slide the dowel rod onto the long bolt. After that add in order a #10 flat washer, a #10 nut, a #10 lock washer, and another #10 nut. Just leave all nuts loose for now until we align the dowel rod with the eye bolt in a later step.

6) Saw a 3 inch section of the 1 X 3” board. This piece will be put on top of the 6 inch piece, after mounting the eye bolt to it. If you are using the Lowe’s eye bolt I recommended (#B4340), remove the nut that comes with it and use a hacksaw to cut off about one inch of the threaded shaft. Take the 3 inch piece of wood and put it in a vise with one END of it facing up. Drill a 3/8” hole in the center of this end. (Start with a small drill bit, then work your way up to the 3/8” bit.) The hole should be drilled about 2 “ deep.
NOTE: For the peeper mechanism to work correctly the eye bolt needs to be able to turn slightly as the dowel rod makes the rotation. The 3/8” hole we just drilled allows that free movement. The purpose of the next step is to make sure the eye bolt doesn’t fall out of it’s hole while the dowel rod is moving.

7) Re-position the 3” piece of wood in the vise with the TOP facing UP. Measure about ¾” to 1” from the end (where we just drilled the 3/8” hole). Then use a 5/8” drill bit to drill a hole (right on top of the 3/8” hole) all the way through the board (also crossing through the 3/8” hole). Remove from vise. Hold the nut that came with the eye bolt in the 5/8” hole, insert the threaded end of the eye bolt into the 3/8” hole and thread it onto the nut. Keep turning it until the center of the hole in the eye bolt is 1 ½” from the edge of the board. Slide the eye bolt/wood piece onto the dowel rod and down until its end rests on top of the 6” vertical piece. Drill two pilot holes and secure this section to the 6” section using two wood screws.

NOTE: An option for step 6 and 7 is to just use a piece of wood with a 1” to 1 ¼” hole drilled in it as a guide for the dowel rod. In doing this you would not use the eye bolt. This method is an easier alternative, but you will achieve a smoother movement in the mechanism by using the eye bolt method.

8) Center the bottom end of the dowel rod on the crank bolt so that it is even with the top end (in the eye bolt) and the rod is straight. Turn each #10 nut with the flat washer next to it toward the rod. Leave about 1/8” space between each washer and the rod. Alternately hold each nut (next to the flat washer) with some pliers while tightening the other nut and lock washer tightly up against it. This will lock them in place and keep the dowel rod from coming out of alignment.
Plug in the power to test for smooth movement of the motor shaft and the dowel rod.

9) Cut off a section of pool noodle about 7” long. Trim it on the sides so that it will fit inside the skull. Depending what kind of skull you are using you may have to trim it a little or a lot. Then insert the end of the dowel rod into the hole in the noodle and slide it all the way on until it meets the skull. (If you are not using a Styrofoam skull, use whatever method you choose to attach it to the dowel rod.)

10) Position your Tombstone against the front of the base assembly. Center it up and drill three pilot holes. One hole near each corner at the bottom of the tombstone (drilling through the 13 inch 1x2). A third hole in the middle of the stone, going through the upper 1x3 board. Use 3 of the long deck screws to secure the tombstone to the base assembly. Putting a flat washer on the deck screw before inserting it will help to better hold the stone to the base.
Plug in the unit and test the movement of the skull. If the skull is peeping too high or too low, adjust the height of the dowel rod. If the skull has too much or not enough side-to-side movement, we will need to raise or lower the eye bolt. (Raising it will DECREASE the amount of side-to-side movement, lowering it will INCREASE the amount of side-to-side movement.)

11) To mount the “Blucky” style hands to the tombstone, poke two small holes at the wrist part of the hands and use some thin wire through the hands and the tombstone to secure them. I then used some bone colored acrylic paint on the side of the stone to make it look like arm bones attached to the hand.
If you made your own hands (using the wire and paper mache) bend the fingers around the side of the tombstone to make it look like they are grabbing it. Use some thin wire through the hands and the tombstone to secure them.

12) The very last thing I did was drill a hole in the base board big enough to allow a wooden stake or some re-bar to be hammered through it for stabilizing the prop when on display in the yard.

That’s it! It’s finished!!
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