|Written by The Warden on Thursday, 10 December 2009 22:17|
Here is a nice method of creating lifesized mannequins. The costs are minimal, but they require an ample amount of time to make. Utilizing this method, your full sized display props will be almost fully poseable!
Most people use PVC to build frames for display dummies. While this is a tried and true method, that is fairly quick and easy to do, you are stuck with one pose. However you build it, it will pretty much stay that way for good. Using my method, you will be able to bend your prop at the knees, waist, shoulders, elbows, neck, and even ankles!
Using PVC you are also limited to the angles offered. There are a few, but still limited. The pipes are cheap, the joints are cheap, and it's pretty easy to do. So if this is the method you wish to use, don't bother reading this article, because I'm using 2x2 wood with metal strapping for the joints.
This article will show you how to build a display prop dummy, about 6' 2" tall, as I used myself for reference. :)
Here is what you will need to build one life sized, approximately 6' tall display prop dummy.
The most expensive part of this project, if you don't already have something that will work, are the tin snips. You need to have some way of cutting the metal bands. These bands are thicker than standard sheet metal. The drill bits can pretty much be the cheapest you can find. They're only going to drill into soft pine, so nothing fancy is required here. The tee nuts, are used instead of nuts and washers (or even locknuts) for their stability and ease of use. They are designed to sink into the wood and hold on for dear life, therefore eliminating the need to hold a standard nut with a second wrench while tightening the bolt screwing into it. These are typically used for building furniture, but you can find them at any hardware store. As mentioned in the list above, try to find them in bulk, or you will pay a lot more than you should for them. You will also need a saw for cutting the 2x2's. A chop saw is best suited for this purpose, but you can use a circular saw, or even a hand saw should you need to.
Normally, I work as I go, making the cuts for the pieces as I need them rather than all at once before I begin, then assembling them as I work my way up to the last piece, the neck. But they can all be cut first so long as you know the proper measurements. Just label all the pieces as you cut them.
If you are not following these guidelines for a 6' prop, then if possible, start with an actual person, the height of which you wish to build your prop. As mentioned, I used myself for this demonstration, since I needed a prop about my height, so this one will come out to around 6' 2" tall. Whatever height you go with, you will essentially be measuring each and every one of their appendages (aside from some obvious ones we prefer to keep private so to speak). Keep in mind here when measuring, that you are building a skeleton. So you need to visualize the bones of your subject when you measure, and measure from joint to joint. Padding will fill out the muscle tissue later.
Cut two 2x2's at about 2-3 inches shorter than the length of the subject's feet, or at 7" if using a 6' prop. Cut two more pieces the length of your subject's calves, or at 16 1/2" for our 6' prop. Cut four pieces of the metal banding so that you have 5 full holes. Cut right in the center of the next hole. Refer to my crappy drawing at right, to get an idea of what your pieces should look like.
Drill a hole through the foot pieces right where the calf pieces will attach. You want this to leave some "heel" as shown in the photo. Place a metal band on each side of the foot piece, thread a bolt through all three pieces, and fasten with a tee nut. These tee nuts are designed to drive into the wood as the bolt is tightened, but they will work just fine here on top of the metal band. If you wish, you can use nuts here instead, just be sure to either use locknuts, or lock washers with the nuts.
Now attach the calf piece, leaving about 1/4" gap between the wood pieces, and mark two holes in 2 of the openings of the bands. You want two holes drilled through this piece, or it will be flimsy. Then drill those holes, and attach the calf to the metal bands on the feet with 2 bolts and nuts.
Thighs & Hips
Now measure your subjects thighs from just above the knee, to the hip. Cut two 2x2's to that length, or to 17 1/2 for our 6' prop, and attach them to the calves using only one band each, placed on the back of the leg. This allows bending of the knee. Be sure to use 4 bolts on each joint. 2 on the thigh, and 2 on the calf. Place the bolt through the backside, using the tee nuts on the front.
Now you want a measurement across the hips, but only from the points where the legs meet the hips. Not all the way across, as padding will fill out the rest. Attach the piece of 2x2 that you will cut to this length, to the legs with 2 more brackets. These ones you want attached in the front. You can only use one bolt on the hip at each leg since the hip is attached horizontally. But this is ok, because it will also allow movement of the legs from side to side. Just be sure to leave some gap between the leg pieces at the hip when attached.
Abdomen & Shoulders
The adbomen will get two pieces of 2x2 side by side, about 2 or 3 inches apart. Again, measure your subject from the horizontal hip line, up to the shoulder line, and cut two 2x2's to this length. Attach them to the hip, putting the connecting bands in the front, so that your prop can bend over if needed.
Measure your subject across the shoulders, from joint to joint. Not all the way to the outside. Again, as stated before, padding will fill out the muscle tissue. We are building a skeleton here, so measure the bones. The shoulders get attached permanently with the 2 drywall screws, as no flexibility is necessary here. Drill pilot holes with your 1/8" drill bit through the shoulder piece, and attach the piece to the 2 abdomen pieces with the 2 screws.
Now measure your subjects upper arm bone, and cut two 2x2's to this length. These will get attached to the bottom of the shoulder ends as shown. Place the pieces together, leaving at least a 1/2" gap between them, to allow for movement upward as well as down. Mark and drill your holes. Attach the pieces, then bend the arm down after they are attached. Use 2 bolts on the shoulder piece, but only one on the arm piece. This allows you to bend the metal strap for up and down movement, as well as swivel the arm for forward and backward movement.
You will do pretty much the same thing at the elbows. After measuring and cutting your forearm pieces, attach them with the strapping on the front/top portion of the elbow, with 2 bolts on the upper arm half, and one bolt on the lower arm piece. Again, this allows full range of movement of the elbow. Remember to leave a gap between the 2 pieces, about a 1/2" or more.
The forearms may look stubby. This is because, when you add hands, the best method is to use dowels. Drill holes into the end of the forearm the same size of the dowel, and glue it into the forearm, as well as your hands. If you are just using something like stuffed gloves, they can just hang on the dowels attached with small screws, rope, or whatever you can conjur up. You can come up with your own design at this point as well, to determine the best method to suit your needs.
The neck piece can be whatever size you feel it needs to be. Generally, I make mine about 8" or so. Just long enough to hold a full mask in place. If you have a foam filled head you will be using, you can skip this piece, and just use a dowel. Drill a hole into the middle of the shoulder piece, and attach your dowel and head. Again, whatever works for you here is best. :) If you do use my method, be sure to attach the neck with another 1/2" or so of gap between the neck piece, and the shoulder piece, to allow for full movement. Use one bolt on the shoulder piece, and 2 in the neck piece, and you can swivel it from side to side, as well as bend it forward and backwards. On this piece, you can place the band in the front or back. It really doesn't matter, as movement will be the same. However, I generally place it on the backside.
I haven't padded another one yet to show pix, but I will before this Halloween (2008). You can use pretty much anything that will work here. Padding from craft stores costs too much IMO. I've been using "egg crate" padding for bed tops from Big Lots for all my padding needs. It's still not terribly cheap, but it's the best I've found so far. Basically, you just want to wrap each portion of the skeleton with padding, and duct tape it around. You will use the tape to "sculpt" your muscle tissue. If you find spots that are too high, wrap them up tightly with tape to bring them into shape. The entire padding does not have to be taped. Just use enough to hold it together, and make the muscles look right. This does however, also depend on what you plan to do with the dummy. If it will be wearing a robe, padding may only be necessary in the shoulders and arms. A Grim Reaper for example would work this way. If your dummy will be fully clothed, then the better you make the body look with the padding, the better the finished product will look.
More to Come
This is pretty much a complete article, but I plan to add more detailed photos. We didn't have time when we built this one, but I need 2 more dummies, so I will be documenting as well as video taping as I go, then this page will be updated one more time with better details!
Pictured here is Bill from Nightstalker Productions with his soon to be Michael Myers dummy, which was the result of these photos! His legs may look awkward, but remember, they're adjustable, and we just tossed him upright to take some pix.
To be continued...
|Last Updated ( Wednesday, 12 May 2010 00:43 )|