Making a Monster / Step 2 : Bones of the Beast

Continued from – Step 1: Design the Beast

Full Disclosure – this project began before we decided to create our blog –  There is inadequate photographic documentation in this post and I apologize. I hope to do a better job with future posts.

The beast for this shoot needed to be large and foreboding, but it also had to be a wearable costume. So the framework we built the beast upon was a basic aluminum external frame backpack. These can be found in most sporting goods stores. I found the one we used on and paid about $40.

Throughout this post, you’ll see photos of Jesse “Roadkill” Wilson. She helped fine-tune the skeleton of the beast and I am eternally grateful for her wisdom.

The shape of the beast was achieved by fanning out a series of hand cut “ribs.” The majority of lumber used was cut out of 1/4” Luan. This is a thin plywood that is available at specialty lumber yards.
This shot shows the ribs in-place but not secured. We were still fiddling with the shape at this point. The great thing about this method of construction is that the spine allows for a great deal of adjustment before you screw it together.

A single solid rib was attached to the backpack frame to provide rigidity using lag bolts.

Blocking was used in the places where the back-pack frame had a curve. This kept the solid main rib straight. (see wide photo of frame above)

To allow hands-free construct the beast, we strapped the backpack frame to a hand truck.

All additional ribs were cut in the shape of an upside down letter “U.” This was so we could add the structural spines along the inside. Please note we cut three thin slits (notches) into the center of each rib. This is because using three spines is more structural solid than one or two.

Wedge shaped blocking was used at the base of each rib to help create a stable fan shape.Apologies – this photo was taken during the deconstruction of the beast which is why it is messy.

The spines need to be very tight to secure the framework doesn’t move, so a mallet is a handy way to hammer it all together. Worth noting the spines were not screwed to anything, the overall pressure and tight fit was all that was needed.

The mouth actually opened and closed. This was achieved very simply. The back of the jaw was attached to the main frame with zip-ties that were laced through eye hooks. The zip ties are adjustable. Transparent 100lb filament (fishing line) was laced through a series of eye hooks that led from the center of the lower mouth to the top of the mouth, to the back of the frame, and down the back. Look ma, it works!

It’s important to eat awesome protein-packed snacks when using power tools. Just sayin.

Below is a shot of the constructed frame prior to covering it with chicken wire. … the step that I …um… neglected to take photos of.

The last step is to cover the frame work with chicken wire. This creates a really strong and inflexible shape, that is also very lightweight. It also provides a million anchor points for the next phase which is to secure the skin.
More apologies – this shot was taken during the deconstruction of the beast.

Please go to  Step 3 : Cutting the Teeth to read more about the creation of this monster.