How to turn your prop’s head!
(or “Head on a Stick”)
Ok, this is my first how-to and a pretty short and basic one, at that, so please be kind!
I was asked to create some instructions for how I made my
caretaker’s head turn with a servo. The pictures are a bit blurry,
but the diagram at the end should give you a good idea of how
it all fits together.
All it really is, is a pipe with head shoved on one end and servo
attached to the other end.
You’ll need to build a pvc frame body first. Since there
are many different ways to do this, based on YOUR prop,
I won’t go into detail here.
I used 1” schedule 40 pvc pipe for most of the body,
which is available at Home Depot, Orchard Supply,
or any other big hardware store.
Then glued all the pieces together with pvc cement.
You should do the cementing outside with plenty of ventilation,
that stuff is brutal! I don’t have the exact size for the reducer
bushings mentioned below, you’ll just need to try everything
in the hardware store to make sure everything fits.
The two important pieces in your pvc body are two 1- 1/2” cross slips.
One sits flat at the waist to hold servo with big cross horn,
or in my case a servo turntable, and the other sits on it’s
edge nearer the neck, which is where the pipe that turns
the head goes through. How you attach the servo or turntable
to the waist cross slip is up to you, but the servo turntable I
used had 4 mounting points for screws. Also, for the waist
cross slip, you’ll need to use reducers on the left and right
side pipes to get your 1” pvc leg pipes to fit. I also, used a few
straight and curved pvc couplers.
The servo turntable is available from a few places, I got mine here for $30.00:
Robust Turntable Kit
I think E-Clec-Tech is just an awesome place for haunter parts,
they have all kinds of cool stuff, but If you are handy
and have the proper tools, you could probably make your own,
or, even cheaper, use a big servo horn on
your servo like this:
Monster Arms (double)
The way I put together the pipes, the servo does not need to
hold most of the weight anyways, it just needs to be able to
turn the pipe, and thus the head.
So, I attached one end of the pipe to the turntable with servo
mounted inside it, ran the pipe up through the neck cross slip
and used a pvc coupling to attach to a pipe sticking down out
of the rubber head I used.
To create a neck pipe coming out of the neck of the rubber head,
I just shoved the pipe into the neck and used expanding foam
insulation, also available at the hardware store, to secure it.
You could do the same with a wig head, if you are using a wig head
Between the neck and the first cross slip (the one nearest the neck),
I attached reducer bushing, right one the pipe, with the lip facing
I think mine was bigger than the one inch neck pipe, but one
end was also a bit bigger than the cross slip pipe opening, and the
lip of the bushing allowed it to rest on the edge of the cross slip, and
support the weight of the head. Pipe coming down to the servo,
therefore, needs to be a pretty exact length.
On the turntable, I attached another reducer bushing, smaller
end up, to accept the neck pipe. I just used wire. It looks terrible
but functioned nicely. I also attached the turntable to the pvc coss
slip with cable ties, I know, very high tech, LOL! I also drilled holes
through both bushings with pipes inserted, and shoved some
machine screws through with nuts to secure the screws, since
you don’t want any part of the pipe sections to move.
A bit surprising to me, the whole thing ended up working
Once the body and turning head mechanism are done, just
attach the servo wires to a servo controller of your choosing.
I used a servo recorder from Servo City, which allows you
to record animated movement, and then play it back in a loop.
You can see it here:
Servo Recorder/Playback Controller
This one can actually control 4 different servos.
I believe, again, there are cheaper devices to do this;
one is called a Puppet 1 board, available here:
Blue Point Engineering LLC. - Servo Controller Device Products
Blue Point Engineering is another just fantastic place
to get prop electronics and mechanical stuff.
Here's the diagram of how it all comes together:
Anyway, I hope this short how-to is helpful to you and
will assist you in making your prop come to life!
Here's the video of the finished turning head: