Halloween already?

Every year Halloween sneaks up on me and it’s suddenly too late to create all (or any!) of the wonderful prop ideas I had throughout the year. I promised myself I’d start in July this year, and so here I am with a project underway.

We have a large black iron gate across the side driveway that would be perfect to have a horde of zombies trying to get through it. I made a quick sketch of the idea.

sketch of the zombie project

We’ve been trying to think of the best way to accomplish this for at least a couple of seasons. I even bought some Schedule 20 3/4″ PVC pipe for armatures at one point, but I never got beyond that.

I finally decided to take some inspiration from people who make their own custom dress forms or body twins for sewing clothing. I already knew about the duct tape method but I wasn’t sure what I’d stuff it with, how to make a whole body or more importantly; how to make more duplicate zombies without having to tape Wire up 10 times.

A lot of this project is theory to be tested, so what I start with here is not necessarily how the project will be completed.

Duct tape, ready for action!

Step 1.

Wire, my zombie model, put on some old clothes so I could duct tape him from neck to ankles. This was a lot of fun for me. Not so much for him, although he was a very good sport. The standing still and getting hot under all that unbreathable duct tape.  He was very happy when I cut it all off. Except when I made him nervous with the scissors up against his skin. Pffft.

I started with one leg, and then cut it all the way up to the upper thigh to keep Wire cool. I cut on the seam. Which made cutting much harder.

Wire's leg all duct taped up.

For some reason (it sounded really good at the time), I moved onto the torso. I started taping at the bottom of the t-shirt, across the hips, careful to only tape the t-shirt and not more of the pants. I stopped just below the armpits, then taped over the shoulders and around the neck area. I then had him hold one arm out (for authentic zombie positioning) while I taped the arm from the shoulder to the wrist. I then cut the sleeve all the way up to the shoulder. Realizing I could start at the wrist and go up to his bicep without him having to hold up his arm for so long, I did this for the second arm. By this point, he was very hot and sweaty and ready for me to cut the whole thing off! I cut the last arm, then up the back. It took a little over 1 roll of duct tape.

Looks like an old sci-fi show costume

What I would do different next time

  • Pay a lot more attention to where I plan on cutting.
  • Tape up the two legs up to the top of the thigh and only cut to the thickest part of the calves to remove the taped up pants.
  • Start taping at the wrist and work up to the shoulder so the shoulder is free for as long as possible.
  • Not worry about positioning  since I decided to cut and cast all the parts separately anyway!

Step 2.

Cut and cast parts! My idea here is that if I cut up the duct tape body into major sections (torso, upper limbs, lower limbs) that I can position them however I’d like. We’ll see!

Looks to short to be a lower leg, huh?

Above is the lower leg cut off at about the knee and well above the ankles (those will be sculpted later with the feet). It’s being stuffed with pages from a telephone book. I’m still considering using spray foam, but I’m worried it will take 80 cans of it to fill every piece. I thought I’d try paper first since it’s free.  It’s a little lumpy so far. But, since the zombies will be wearing clothes, I’m not sure it matters. I taped up both ends of the section so it looked like a silver log.

The lower leg with paper wads for stuffing

Since this is all experimental, I’m going to go all the way through with one section to see if my idea is going to work.

Step 3.

Wrap the duct tape in plaster bandages. I happened to have some around for miniature scenery. It was just enough to cover the lower leg in 4 layers.

Plaster bandages - this was tons of fun to apply

I was really hoping to cut the plaster today, but I’m lacking bandage scissors and it’s not dry yet anyway.

What I would do different next time

  • Leave a hole at the bottom and top so I can cut the darn thing off! oops.


The next step will be cutting off the plaster, perfectly in half to create a mold. Inside the mold, I’ll press in papier mache pulp (wallpaper paste and paper-pulp insulation). I’ll be following this method if you want to peek ahead.

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