Nightmare Before Christmas: Life Size Jack the Pumpkin King

12:14 PM

What's This?
My Halloween project this year.
What's This?
A life size Jack Skellington.

You may remember how we really like Nightmare Before Christmas at our house.
Like my son's Jack tee shirt, or my painting.

But this year my son and I busted out all the stops and  made our own Jack to greet our friends on our porch this Halloween.  It all started with my watching the special features on the DVD and really wanting my own Jack Skellington in our Hallween decor.  I paid close attention to his proportions, clothing, and details to hopefully end up with a good depiction of the original character.  
I'd hope Tim Burton might approve of my rendition.

Let me introduce you to him:
He's over 6 feet tall, but he can't stand on his own unfortunately.
All his joints are movable in his arms, legs, and each little finger.

He's waterproof to live outside on the porch.
He cost us $15.00 (he's made with a lot of our left overs from other junk)

Jack likes to lounge around and enjoy a book, 

Take a break to chat with friends,

Play a little piano,

Sneak in some video games,

Lounge in the sun with a cold drink,

Potty Break,

Finish his day with a cup of hot chocolate. 

Happy Halloween!!

Of course I'll show you how we made our Jack so you can make one if you think this isn't too creepy.
For a few days he's just sat in our armchair in our front room.  
I kind of forget he's there, so when my friends/ neighbors have popped in and his white creepy face is smiling at them as they come in it's been fun to see different reactions.  

To see how RJ and I made Jack Skellington
 {with free pattern for bat wing bow-tie}

To start off, the basic components of Jack's body are a solid wood "spine" with paper mache clay coating for the chest and head.
Arms, legs, and hands are wire, with paper mache clay finger bones.

Clothes were hot glued on.

After the overview, we'll break it down.

1. Paper Mache Body
For the spine to support the body, I bought a 1" dowel.   I trimmed up a scrap 4x4 hunk for the pelvis and with a spade drill bit, made the 1" hole for the dowel to go in, using wood glue to secure it.
Next I built his chest and head with newspaper, masking and duct tape, and finished it off with floral wire to give the paper mache clay something to hold on to.
I used this recipe for paper mache clay.  This stuff is awesome and dries fast and rock hard.
**Things to know about the clay.  You can find linseed oil in a hardware store next to mineral spirits or paint thinner in the paint department.  Joint compound is by the spackle in the same paint department.
To make the toilet paper for the clay a finer pulp, I would tear it in hunks and fill my blender half full of toilet paper, then fill it 3/4 full of warm water and frappe.  After all the toilet paper was churned to a milky pulp, I'd dump it in a mesh strainer and sqeeze the water out, then followed the clay recipe from there.****

I let my first clay dry overnight and realized I had an oval shaped human head and needed it more spherical like the character.  So I just added more newspaper in the areas I needed to beef up and also added more depth for eyes and a nose shape.  Then the second head coat of clay went on.  For my second batch I used my blender first as mentioned above, and the clay was much smoother.  You can work with it as you would regular clay, smoothing it with water as you go.  It's pretty awesome stuff.

2. Make Hands
  For the hands, I wanted to be able to shape the fingers, making him really come to life.  So I took 14 guage wire and duct taped 5 pieces (approx 20" long each) to a cardboard "wrist".  Then I used the newspaper/ masking tape/ floral wire to coat the wrist.  For each finger bone, it was just beefed up messy masking tape and floral wire.
Then I just applied the thin coat (1/8" to 1/4") of paper mache clay around each bone.

3. Paint
I used exterior white paint for his head and fingers.  The black was latex paint I had, but I'm sure regular cheap craft paint would be fine.  Because Jack is going on our porch as Halloween decorations, I also painted a layer of outdoor polyurethane on him to further seal all the mache.

4. Add Arm and Leg Wire
The wire for the arms and legs are super thick wire.  I don't know the gauge, but I bought it at Home Depot in the fencing section.  It's too thick to cut with wire cutters, so I had to use a hack saw.
The arms are one long wire 60" long, and the legs are a single wire long 100" long.
I drilled through the pelvis with a 3/8" drill bit, and threaded the leg wire through.
I didn't drill through the 1" dowel, because I was drilling blind into the body.  If I made another one, I would have drilled before adding all the mache and put a thick straw through the hole in the dowel to build the body around it.  But for this first guy, I just drilled into each shoulder only through the mache layer, then just jabbed my arm wire through in front of the dowel spine and out the other shoulder hole.

5. Add Sleeves and Pants
Before you put his huge hands on, you have to dress the limbs.
I just cut strips of fabric 3" wide and sewed up one side.  To turn such a long skinny tube right side out, I used a safety pin.  Only pinning it to one layer, you can turn the safety pin down the tube, and work it's way all the way to the other end, coming out and having your tube turned right side out.

I just hot glued the long sleeve tubes to the body. 

6. Attach Hands
Now with the sleeves/ pants on you can hoist them up.  I just twisted the finger wires up the arm, around each other.  To keep the wires a little tighter, I covered the twisted wire arm with duct tape.

7. Glue on Suit
For the rest of his suit, I just glued it onto the body.  First I used a scrap of white satin to glue on his chest for the shirt.  Then I just took strips of the striped fabric and glued it around in hunks for the jacket.  I tried to match up the pinstripes, but it didn't always work out.

I did sew tails for his jacket, basically with 2 pieces of fabric, I sewed a "w" shape to give two pointed tails.  I then turned it right side out and hot glued it on his back with the tails dangling.

8. Bat Wing Bow-tie
The bow-tie uses wires to make it scrunch creepily.  
Click HERE to print my basic bat wing bow-tie pattern.

I made the bow tie in two halves.  Each half has two pieces of fabric, each with fusible interfacing ironed on the back.  

To make the bow tie easier to shape, I next sewed floral wire to the edge of each piece using a zig zag stitch.  The wire was sewn on the back, so when I put two together, the interfacing and wires were in the middle of the sandwich where you couldn't see them.  
To connect the two layers, I just zig zagged around the edges once they were layered with wrong sides together.
To attach my finished bat wings to his neck, once again I just used a bunch of hot glue.

9. Boots
He has really tiny little boots.  I thought about getting little baby dress shoes from the thrift store, but just hacked out little wood boots from scrap 2x4 hunks instead.  I drilled a hole in the top of the shoe to glue the leg wires into and painted them black.

Then Jack is finished and you can enjoy a creepy Halloween! 
To position him outside he'll be sitting in a chair with floral wire around his neck and fastened to the back of the chair to keep his head upright.
It was kind of a long project, especially with the overnight drying time for all the paper mache clay, but we made it a little bit at a time, so it took a while.  It was so fun and we've had a blast hanging out with Jack since.  I think maybe next year I'll make him Sally to sit next to him....then they could hold hands.
And if you're wondering, I still haven't figured out how I'm going to store him after husband is still waiting for an answer on that one.
Happy Halloween!

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  1. This is so awesome! I'm passing this around to my friends so they can see your superb taste and creative skills!

    I'd store him under a bed during the year if he fits.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. So fun! I love him playing the piano most!
    Although, since we are potty training at our house -- the potty break is close to my heart ;)

  3. I am pinning this to make next year! I would do it this yearr, but I am such a procrastinator I know it wont happen til next year anyway, lol! Love the potty break photo! SO creative through and through! :)

  4. you are hilarious! your Jack is awesome and i love how you posed him in different places. the piano and the toilet are my favorites.

  5. I don't do Halloween at our house but if I did I would want one of these! You are so creative and you inspire me to accomplish my own projects! I always look forward to your posts:)

  6. You are hilarious as usual and so creative. I guess I haven't looked at this blog in a long time. These things you make are incredible, Jessica! I looked at the clothing and wished for every piece (especially the yellow coat and turquoise ruffle jacket). Just had to let you know that I think you are a creative genius. And I wanted to pass on what my 4-year-old Julia said as she was sitting on my lap watching the pictures scroll down. "I just can't worry about any of these pictures... they are all so beautiful!" (Not sure why worrying would be involved anyway, but obviously there is no need for it here!)

  7. This is AMAZING! Oh my! I so wanna do one of these! And I think that Jack can just hang around in the garage and help the hubs with any honey do's :)

  8. I love how you posed him in all those pictures! I actually laughed out loud at his potty break! That is awesome :) lol!!

  9. Brilliant Jess. Mom and I are laughing and in love! We both love the piano and my favorite is Jack gaming with RJ boy. I hope you make a million dollars off of this one.

  10. holy crap, do i love this! jack is a favorite around our house, too! zero the dog is the second fav. you are brilliantly creative!

  11. how cool, I love all the photos of him! Thanks for sharing.

  12. that is the awesomest thing ever. EVER.

  13. Jessica.....I am killing myself laughing at have him in suck lifelike/realistic positions!!! You have such a creative and imaginative mind! Love IT!!!!

    AND you know fav is him with the quilt....reading a book! this i am going to save, maybe not create him this year but for sure next. My dh's birthday is Oct 31 and this will make a great guest at his bd party next year! I love that RJ just is so candid with Jack! You are a hoot!!!


  14. Definitely our favorite halloween movie. My kids would LOVE him. Thanks for the "pattern"!!

  15. OMG I am in love... This is magnificent!!! And the poses are incredible! You even have him on the loo hihihi. If only I'd have time to make this, I totally would. Really really well done :)

  16. Oh yes, the piano pic from behind could have come straight from the movie!

  17. Maybe you could make Zero out of the 'frozen' cheesecloth look... like they do for lots of ghosts around halloween.

  18. He is really fantastic! My eldest would LOVE if we had him living in our house! Thanks for the instructions!

  19. Wow. This is fantastic. I'm so impressed!

  20. This is absolutely amazing! My 17 year old daughter is going to love this. She'd keep it in her room year 'round as she is a HUGE Nightmare Before Christmas fan.
    I definitely ant to make her one. I'm just not sure if I'll just do it as a household Halloween decoration or make it a Christmas gift for her.
    Thank you so much for sharing how you made him!
    PS: According to my daughter, tomorrow (October 13) is Jack Skellignton's birthday! Be sure to give him a hat and post again! :)

  21. This post is a prime example of why I love you!

  22. Amazing! I am speechless. Great work!

  23. That was awesome. I giggled all thru that!

  24. OK, that is seriously amazing. And as for storage, I think you should just build him a little life size coffin box. Then you can tuck him under a bed or in the garage and he can be happily dead till next year!

  25. HOLY MOLY!!!!!!!!!!!

    Too awesome!!!!

  26. Totally awesome! He is very funny and creepy at the same time. I loved him reading a book, and of course on the potty. I think he needs a coffin type storage box. Or just make him some other outfits for different times of the year.. Make him a Santa hat or something. Love it!

  27. Jack is adorable and he looks like he's adapted well to the family!

  28. This is GREAT! Going to have the kids help me make him. Had to show my husband the different pic.c of him. Not sure which pose is my favorite, between the potty break and the one with your son playing games. Thinking to myself... do I really want to share him with my friends? Or keep him to myself. o.k. I'll be nice and share, like you did. Thanks for the diy.

  29. Love it - it made me smile and you clearly had a blast posing him around the house.
    Stephanie @ All Artful

  30. Ha ha! You are hilarious!!! My favorite was the ones of Jack on the toilet and playing video games next to RJ. Too funny.

  31. AMAZING!!!
    Love the photos all around the house, and then you show how to make him wow haha well done fab post
    Thought you might like my machinima version of This Is Halloween
    Happy Halloween ~

  32. Wow I just ran across your page looking for Nightmare Before Christmas decor for my house for the upcoming Halloween/Christmas season. I'm a bit late for any projects like this for Halloween this year...and I'm certainly not as crafty as you are, WOW! But to have a lifesize Jack with a Santa suit would make me jump up and down and clap my hands! LOVE the poses you put him in! You should make the photos into a photobook for your son to read to him. I know my daughter loves when I make story books from photos. Thanks for the inspiration and keep on crafting!

  33. WOW. This is absolutely amazing and exactly what I needed to get motivated to start making my own NBC props this year!! =) Thanks SOOOO much for sharing!!

  34. I finished my Jack!! Thought I'd share with you the photos I took of him around the house:

    Thanks again for the awesome tutorial!!

  35. OMG this is so awesome. what a creative idea.

  36. OMG ! i looove this ! i shared the link here :

  37. Simply great!!! but I couldn't find the bow tie pattern....


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