Paper Mache Skeleton - Monster Hands

Sinister hands

Donald Sutherland in Invasion of The Body Snatchers

I can't think of another feature that has given me more trouble than hands, and I've made a slew of bad ones.  If they didn't resemble rakes, they looked like a pair of gloves digesting a flock of grub worms.  I mean, I look at these things on the ends of my arms every day, so you'd think they would be as familiar to me as the back of my ... (heh)

The breakthrough came with the Grim Sisters.  Those were real hands; sinister, true manos, hands of fate.  I made Crow's hands using the same technique to prove to myself it wasn't a fluke.  The secret?  A bent piece of cardboard.

For the two people who caught it; sorry, couldn't help myself. For everybody else, click here, then get yours here.  Or better yet, the MST3000 version.

The secret to making realistic skeleton hands:  Step 1 - drink a case of Mountain Dew

Donald Sutherland in Invasion of The Body Snatchers

There are two things I've noticed while going back through the photos of this project.  The first is that I should probably lay off the hillbilly juice, and the second is that I may as well just repaint my workbench every spring.  Some of these detail shots are nuts trying to figure out what the heck I'm looking at.

Start off by rolling up some newspaper finger bones.  Length is up to you.  I like mine extra long - 6" to 8"; exaggeration is a key component in monster building.  About three inches of that length will be used to attach each finger to the palm.


Crow's palms are cut from thin cardboard, and so far the best cardboard I've found comes from a case of soda.

Draw a featherless turkey

Trace around the outside of your hand, and the curve between your fingers.  We're not making the whole turkey, so don't bother tracing all the way around.

Now connect the curves

Draw the "knuckles" as inward-pointing curves.  We're going to wrap the cardboard around the ends of the finger bones.  Cutting the knuckle sections in a curve makes for a cleaner wrap.  Now lay out your fingers to get an idea of how they'll look when wrapped.  You don't want all the fingers to be the same length.

Wrap each knuckle around a finger, rolling the cardboard toward the palm. 

Don't trim off the excess finger bone inside the palm.  These extensions help keep the fingers from drooping, and will also add some continuity when it comes time to skin the palm.

Okay, I know it doesn't look like much yet, but now comes the really cool part.

Skeletons hate "jazz hands"

If you have a reputation among local law enforcement and spend much time under their direction with your hands flat against a wall or the hood of a cruiser, then listen up.  You need to hear this more than the rest.

Human hands are almost always curved.  Not just the fingers, but the whole hand. 

Bend the cardboard, or to put it more accurately, curl the cardboard gently around an imaginary axis running down the length of the hand.

Our hand now appears more natural, less like a flag.  Even the fingers look better.  We've gone from worm-filled glove to scary monster claw.  Add a piece of duct tape to the inside palm to keep the shape.

To keep your finger bones from uncurling, add a piece of tape to the inside of the curl. Suppose you curled one of your real fingers.  How would you tape it so that you couldn't uncurl it?  Use the same technique on your skeleton fingers.

Add a wood splint to the underside of pointy-fingers to keep them pointy.  A couple of tongue depressors or some extra cardboard taped to the palm will prevent drooping at the wrist (editorial comment goes here), and serves as a handy place to attach the hand to the arm.

Continue: Good grief, how long is this thing?