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92 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There's an old zombie tale my great grandmother used to tell me about an ancient zombie ritual. I've lost most of the details, but I do remember the chant they used …

O Skelly Tree, O Skelly Tree, how loathsome are your branches.
O Skelly Tree, O Skelly Tree, how loathsome are your branches.
Bedecked with veins, O Skelly Lord
Now bring us brains for our zombie horde
O Skelly Tree, O Skelly Tree, how loathsome are your branches …​

Total Price = $17.05 (price breakdown below)

For reference

Paper mache paste ($2.77 for 64 oz batch)

  • Methyl Cellulose ( $2.33 each for 64 oz, paste recipe uses 48 oz = $1.75)
  • Elmers Glue All ($14.09 for 128oz = $0.11 per oz, paste recipe uses 8 oz = $0.88)
  • Sta Flo starch ($3.50 for 64 oz = $0.05 per oz, paste recipe uses 2.64 oz = $0.14)

Paper mache clay ($2.70 for ~ 5lb batch (fits in (2) 32 oz yogurt containers))

  • Paper mache paste ($2.77 for 64oz, clay recipe uses 32 oz = $1.39)
  • Cellulose insulation ($10.75 per bale, assume batch of clay uses 1/25 of bale -- it's actually less than that, but it's a good number -- 1/25 of bale = $0.43)
  • Joint Compound ($13.50 for 128 oz = $0.11 per oz, recipe uses 1 cup = $0.88)

Blood on the cheap ($2.03 for 4oz)
  • Washable School Glue ($1.99 for 8oz, recipe uses 4 oz = $1.00)
  • Red food coloring ($2.99 for 1oz bottle = 6 teaspoons, recipe uses 2 teaspoons = $1.00)
  • Blue food coloring ($1 for 4 .25oz bottle = $0.25 for blue, 5 drops = $0.03)

Skeleton Torso = $4.59
  • Recycled Office Paper (free)
  • Newspaper (Free)
  • masking tape ($.99 per roll, used ¼ roll total for all props = $0.25)
  • paper mache paste ($2.77 for 64 oz, or $0.04/oz, used 6 oz (for strip mache) = $0.24)
  • paper mache clay ($2.70 per batch, used 1 batch = $2.70)
  • Glue sticks ($0.05 each, used 2 = $0.10)
  • Shields-All ($24.75 for 128oz, or $0.19/oz, used 2oz = $0.39)
  • Behr Exterior Black Paint ($24.57 for 128/oz, or $0.19/oz, used 3oz = $0.58)
  • Oops paint ($5.00 for 128/oz, or $0.04/oz, used 2oz = $0.08)
  • Acrylic Craft paint ($.99 for 1oz, used ¼ of oz total = $0.25)

4 Skulls = $5.96
  • Recycled Office Paper (free)
  • Newspaper (Free)
  • Dollar store skull ($1.00)
  • Paper Packing Tape ($3.85 for 55 yards, or $0.07/yard, I used 7 yards = $0.49)
  • Stretch-tite plastic wrap ($10.50 for 750 feet, or $0.014/foot, I used 12 feet = $0.17)
  • Green floral wire ($2.76 for 100 feet, or $0.03/foot, I re-used 2 feet = $0.06)
  • paper mache paste (see calculation above, I used 6 oz = $0.24)
  • paper mache clay (I used 1 batch = $2.70)
  • Shields-All (I used 2 oz = $0.39)
  • Black Paint (I used 3 oz = $0.58)
  • Oops paint (I used 2 oz = $0.08)
  • Acrylic craft paint (I used ¼oz = $0.25)

Intestines = $4.45
  • 5/8 inch dowel (1 used = $1.98)
  • Stretch-tite plastic wrap (I used 24 feet = $0.34)
  • Blood paint ($2.03 for 4oz, I used the full batch = $2.03)
  • Oops paint (I used ½ oz = $0.02)
  • Paste wax ($4.99 for 16oz, or $0.31/oz, I used ¼ oz = $0.08)

Veins = $1.22
  • Bamboo skewer ($1.99 for 100, or $0.02 each, I used 3 = $0.06)
  • Stretch-tite plastic wrap (I used 10 feet = $0.14)
  • Blood paint (I used 2 oz = $1.02)

Head and Hello Kitty Ornaments = $0.32
  • Cardboard (free)
  • Paper mache clay (I used left over bits from the 2 batches calculated above)
  • Green Floral wire (I used 4 feet = $0.12)
  • Glue sticks (I used 2 glue sticks = $0.10)
  • Color print printout (1 = $0.08)
  • Elmer's glue stick ($1.00 for the stick, I used 1 swipe = $0.02)
  • Black, Oops & Craft Paints (incorporated into amounts calculations above)

Blood Ornament = $0.51
  • Clear glass ornament (Christmas decoration = free)
  • Blood paint (1 oz = $0.51)
  • bits of clay & masking tape (incorporated into amounts calculated above)

Other Decorations
  • Battery powered Christmas lights (Christmas decoration = free)
  • Sprig of evergreen tree = free

Image heavy tutorials follow in next post.

· Registered
92 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·

Here's the Tutorial breakdowns ...


I used the Zombietronix.com biped calculator (http://www.zombietronix.com/calculator_biped.php) to get my measurements, and made the torso based on a 6' skeleton. I also owe enormous thanks to Stolloween (www.stolloween.com) for clay recipe I based my clay on, and skull ideas, Spookyblue (http://spookyblue.com/halloween/skulls/paper-mache-skull.htm) and Stiltbeast (http://www.stiltbeaststudios.com/) for skull replication ideas, and Stiltbeast again for the Intestines tutorial (
) (so just in time, for me) and Blood recipe (

Skeleton Torso Part 1

Cut basic sternum shape out of cardboard.
Roll full newspaper sheets around the ⅝" dowel to create newspaper tubes. Secure with masking tape.
Flatten newspaper tubes and attach to sternum with masking tape. Encase sternum in sheet clay, and let dry.

Cut newspaper tube to size for spine. Add tube for shoulder bones.

Scrunch newspaper into equal size balls, wrap with masking tape, attach to shoulder tube ends with hot glue.
Add second tube doubled for upper spine. Bulk out newspaper tube with crumpled newspaper to form a little more bulk. Cover with sheet clay, let dry.

Add collar bones to shoulders, strip mache and let dry

Strip mache the ribs to add rigidity and wrap around yogurt containers to create torso shape.

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92 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Skeleton Torso Part 2

Lay out ribs with spine and decide placement. (Note this is a different skull … due to $20 limit, I couldn't use the copy of the $15 foam skull. Paper mache props are cheap, but not that cheap.)

Cut ribs to size and attach to spine with hot glue. Attach collar bones to sternum. Wrap sheet clay around ribs and let dry. (Note, I'd do this differently -- I'll experiment with sheet claying at the step where I'm wrapping the ribs around the yogurt containers. Much easier to wrap them flat, and shape them, than shape, and then wrap the clay. )

Cut newspaper tubes to size for humerus bones and attach to shoulder balls with hot glue. Strip mache to secure. Let dry.

Add different size bone balls to end of humerus bones.

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92 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Skeleton Torso - Part 3

Continue sheet claying skeleton until fully covered and rigid enough.

Skull Tutorial
Note, if I did it again, I'd make all the skulls using the tape copying technique listed below.

Take dollar store skull, split in half along seam line. Tape together.

Wrap with 3 layers of strip mache. Let dry. (This shows first layer)

Cut copy off skull. Leave back hinged for easy reassembly.

Cut lower jaw from copy. Strip mache to secure back together. Let dry.

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92 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Skull Tape Copying - Part 1

Note, I'm using the dry paper mache skull instead of the original dollar store skull because I broke it when removing it from the paper mache. :) Also I didn't want to mess with removing all the lower jaws.

Take dry paper mache skull, wrap floral wire along center seam line, leaving about a 2" gap, and long (~ 2-3" wire ends). Tape down with masking tape. Wrape skull in plastic wrap. Tape down with masking tape. Leave wire ends exposed.

Follow the stiltbeast clear packing tape technique, (
) but use paper packing tape instead. Tape skull with 2 layers of paper packing tape in opposing directions, leaving the ends of the wire exposed. Hold one end of the wire, and using needlenose pliers (to save your fingers) pull other end of wire up to split the tape (like opening a cigarette pack).

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92 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Skull Tape Copying - Part 2

There will be a 2" area still attached at the back. Removed taped skull copy, stuff with newspaper and tape seam line. (repeat.)

Add 3 layers of strip mache to give a firm enough shell to clay. Let dry.

Add sheet clay.

Add thicker clay for eye socket details and teeth. Let dry

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92 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Heads & Hello Kitty

Roll balls of clay. Poke with skewer to create facial details. Let dry.

Print Hello kitty graphic on color printer and cut out. Cut matching circle shape out of cardboard. Use glue stick to attach print to cardboard. Attach floral wire to back with hot glue.

Bloody Christmas Bulb
Drop 2 dried bits of paper mache clay into the clear glass christmas ornament. Roll a small maggot sized worm out of masking tape, drop into ornament also. Dribble in blood gel along sides to coat worm and clay bits. Let dry.

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92 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Veins and Intestines

Follow Stiltbeast tutorial for Intestines ([
), but use ⅝" dowel instead of steel conduit pipe. Wipe butchers wax on dowel to prevent wrap from sticking. (Not sure it was necessary, didn't do it to the wooden skewers and the plastic never stuck.) Wrap plastic wrap around dowel, and shrink with heat gun.
For veins, do the same thing, but wrap plastic wrap around a wooden skewer.

Scrunch the plastic down the dowel or skewer, accordian-like, in between plastic layers -- it gives it more ridges.
Sensitive content, not recommended for those under 18
Show Content

Paint with Stiltbeast's Blood-on-the-cheap recipe (
). Bake with heat gun to speed drying and set the blood to the plastic. Let dry.


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92 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·

Basecoat with Shields-All for water resistance.
Then basecoat with black.

Dry brush with off-white oops paint.

For Bones

Brush wash of Brown Iron Oxide. Pat dry with paper towel.

Brush a (much more) watered down wash of pigskin. Let dry

Dry brush Oyster White over the piece. Drag brush over piece to pick up high areas with white, then use a circular scrub motion (with very dry brush) to get a fuller coverage on the skulls and bones.

If you feel it's too white at the end, or you want some variety in color, make a final wash of a mix of pigskin and brown iron oxide and lots of water, and brush that over the final piece. The skull on the right, below, has this final wash added.

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92 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)

Basecoat black, dry brush off white for highlights.

Green heads: Wash flesh color over head. Pat dry. Wash green over head. Let dry. Coat with Shields-All for final shine and protection.

Orange head: Basecoat off-white flesh color. Mix burnt sienna and faux glaze, brush over head and wipe off (antiquing technique). Let dry. Final coat with Shields-All.

Mini skull: Wash very watery pigskin over skull. Let dry. Coat with Shields-All.

Hot glue floral wires to back.

Assemble and begin chanting ... "O Skelly Tree ... "

Minions not included.

· IN MEMORIAM - A Wee Bit Wicked....
8,680 Posts
:jol: Bmaskmaker, I love the Skelly tree! This is a cool prop and I can't believe the amount of work you put into it. I love the making of the skulls and all the creativity you put into this prop. Kudos!

P.S. I love the minions!!!:D

· Super Moderator
68,195 Posts
"Minions not included" - good thing, because that would have blown your budget:D

Very charming tree and perfect for the haunter who loves to blend the holidays:)

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks everybody. The one minion was desperate to please, as always, but not entirely sure what the situation required ... and the blonde minion was pretty blase ... "What's this, can I eat it?" ...

Thanks for all the comments. It was a fun build and I learned a lot.

One of the biggest accomplishments for me in this, is the clay skull detailing. I've had a tough time with that. I keep thinking I'm doing a thicker layer of clay, and then the piece dries and I paint it, and the detailing seems pretty anemic.

I have Stolloween as inspiration, so I set myself the challenge of doing intentionally thicker clay. My test piece was the section of vertebra (you can see it in the 3 skulls pics). I put the clay on 'too thick' and then waited to see if it would dry. :)

It dried fine, and after being painted it doesn't look thick at all. Need to go thicker still to get to a Stolloween level of detail, I think, but I broke my initial barrier, so I'm happy.

I want a graveyard this year, so I need to start cranking out some tombstones, and I've got some pumpkin ideas percolating too. This definitely helped kick start me into gear.
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