Last year at the November 1st, after Halloween sales I picked up a 12 foot tall Hanging Clown prop, which on its own looked pretty good, but I thought it would look even better as a Jack-in-the-Box. With visions of micro controllers, pneumatics, and a sound-track, it was an ambitious goals, especially without any experience in putting something that complex together. Skip ahead 11 procrastinating months, I realized that all that wasn't going to happen, so I focused on creating a great box for Jack, adding LED lights for eyes, and and armature to hold him up, which will be the focus of this instructable.
Step 1: Materials and Tools List
The Jack-in-a-Box Prop consists of a hanging clown prop available at almost any Halloween store, an armature to hold the clown up, and a box for him to "pop" out of. Depending on the amount of time you are willing to devote to this project, you can save time and money by using a cardboard box instead of building a wooden box. You can also save on paint by using paint you already have or buying the "oops" paint at the hardware store if you're not to picky about the colors.
1 - Hanging Clown, I got mine last year on November 1st at the after Halloween Sales. A quick Google search revealed several different types, so search around until you find one you like.
16 - Plastic Skulls approximately 5" x 3"
2 - 1/4" 4' x 8' Plywood (I used Luan AC plywood as it was the cheapest plywood at Lowes that would require the least amount of sanding.)
4 - 2" x 2" x 8' Furring Strips
PVC Pipe and Fixtures:
2 - 1 1/4"" PVC Pipes
2 - 1 1/4" 90 degree elbow connectors
2 - 1 1/4" Tee connectors or you can use a 5 way connector if you have time to wait for shipping
1 - 1 1/4" cross connector
24 - 1 1/2" L Brackets
2 - 130 degree Cabinet Brackets
1 box - 1/2" Wood Screws
Paint and Finish:
1 quart Black semi-gloss
1 quart Purple semi-gloss
1 quart turquoise semi-gloss
1 quart Gloss Clear Coat
1 quart gray primer
1 can Plastics Spray Primer
2 cans Gold Metallic Finish Spray Paint
1" Painters Tape
2 - 10mm Diffused Red LED lights (Reused from the throwies built at the Maker Faire 2006)
1 - Resistor
1 - 9v Battery Connector
1 - Switch
Speaker wire or similar wire
Table Saw or Circular Saw
Router and round over bit (Optional)
Soldering Iron (Used for LED eyes)
Wire Stripper (Used for LED eyes)
Sandpaper, various grits
paint brush and/or paint roller
1 can Great Stuff Foam
1 tube Liquid Nails or other similar construction adhesive
Step 2: Frame Construction
4 - 2" X 2" X 8' Furring Strips
24 - 1 1/2" L Brackets
Since the box will be quite large (30" x 30") and the plywood is pretty thin, the box is built around a frame using 2" X 2" Furring Strips. Like most lumber, Furring strips are not actually 2 inches, but closer to 1 1/2 inches depending on the type of wood and how dry it is. The strips I had were close enough to 1 1/2 inches, so I went ahead and used that as the size.
The first step is to cut the strips done to size, for a 30" box, you will need a total of 12 lengths. Eight lengths need to be 28 1/2 inches, these will be the top and the bottom of the box. And four lengths of 27 inches, these will be the sides of the box.
The top and bottom portions of the frame will be assembled to form a square, where one end of the length butts up against the length, please refer to the second picture for the proper layout. The L brackets are secured on the inside angles using the screws that came with them.
The 4, 27" lengths (White) are used to connect the top and bottom sections (Blue) together, using the L brackets. When assembled you should have a 30" cube frame.
Step 3: Panels - Sides, Top, and Bottom
2 - 1/4" Plywood
A cube has six sides, the top, bottom, and four around; so you will next need to cut out the six sides from the plywood. The cutting guide has the layout for all three of the panels and all of the trim pieces, on the second sheet of plywood you will only need to cut out the 30 inch panels.
Note: When cutting out the panels you should use a saw blade designed for cutting plywood, it will give you a much cleaner cut with less tear out then if you use the blade that came with your saw, unless you are going for more of an older more beat up look for your box, then the ripping blade that came with the saw would work just fine, just watch out for splinters.
Once the panels have been cut, sand both sides, I used 100 grit sand paper, as the piece is going to be painted and viewed primarily in low light conditions, it doubtful any one will notice you didn't sand it further. After all the pieces had been sanded, they are primed using gray tinted primer. I used gray primer as that's what I had left over from a prior project, if you have white primer go ahead and use that instead. You can skip the primer if you want, though you get a better finish if you don't.
Step 4: Panels - Decorative Painting
2 cans Gold spray saint
1" Painters Tape
1 quart Purple paint
1 quart Turquoise paint
As the primer on the panels dried, I did some research to determine how the box should be painted. To get some ideas I used Google's Image search on "Jack in a Box" and "Jack in the Box". I found a couple that were French inspired, with a diamond pattern that I liked. I have always enjoyed the Purples, Golds, and Turquoises used in Mardi Gras, so I decided to go with that color scheme. To see how it looked before painting the entire box, I drew it out and colored it in using colored pencils. At the time I was going to put a Fleur de Lys in each corner, so I drew one in. I was unable to find a relief Fleur de Lys that was the correct size, so instead used the skulls, which in the end probably turned out better.
With the paint layout designed, I went to work. You don't need to paint the bottom panel, I left mine, primer gray. The first step was to paint the base coat, which is gold. I painted the entire panel gold to ensure a nice smooth finish. I put on 2 coats of gold spray paint. After the gold paint had dried a couple of days I began taping the diamonds. I first taped the outside border, which is 2 inches from the edge of the panel, this area will be covered by the trim that will be added later. I then divided the panel into four rows and eight columns, then taped out the diamonds.
Once the diamonds were taped out, using 220 sandpaper I lighted sanded the exposed gold paint. You will be painting this area purple or turquoise, so lightly roughing the gold paint with sand paper will help the top layers adhere a bit better. Using my drawing as a guide, the top, middle, and bottom diamonds were painted turquoise, and the two full diamond rows were painted purple. Depending on the paint you have it may take multiple coats to cover the gold completely. The turquoise paint I had only required two coats, while the purple needed four. After the final purple coat had dried enough that it was no longer tacky, the painters tape was removed, and the gold border between the diamonds was exposed.
The final panel step was the application of poly clear coat to protect and finish the paint. I put on three coats to give it a nice shine and lightly sanded using 220 grit sand paper between coats, do not sand the final coat.
Step 5: Trim
20 - 4 3/4" X 4 3/4" Square Trim Pieces (Cut from Plywood)
20 - 20 1/2" X 2" Trim Pieces (Cut from Plywood)
16 Plastic Skulls
For the trim on the panels you can use the remaining plywood from the panels. You will need to cut out 20 squares, and 20 rectangular pieces. You may need to use the remaining wood from both sheets to cut out all of the pieces. For my box, I end up using 3/4" plywood scraps that I had available, to give the box a greater relief between the panels and the trim.
To give the box a more refined look, I used a 1/2" Roundover router bit on the rectangular pieces, stopping approximately 1 1/2" from the end. To ensure consistence, I built two small U shaped jigs to hold the pieces while routing, and to serve as a router stop on either end. After the trim was painted the detail got a bit lost, I should have used a larger roundover bit, probably 1".
After sanding, the trim was painted black. It was painted before being attached to the panels to avoid any accidental black smudges that would need to be touched up later.
Step 6: Trim - Skulls
16 Plastic Skulls
1 can Great Stuff Foam
1 can Plastic Spray Primer
1 can Gold Metallic Gold Spray Paint
The plastic skulls were found at Joann's, a craft and fabric store. There were two types of skulls available, I was unable to get all 16 in one skull type, so I bought eight of each. I used a hand saw to cut the backs of the skulls off, to use as decoration on the trim.
The skulls had decorative black paint on them which easily scraped off with fingernails, so it had to go! Using a wire brush most of the paint was brushed off. The outside was lightly scuffed with sand paper.
The inside of the skull was filled using the Great Stuff Foam in a can, while according the can sticks to just about everything expect certain plastics, the same plastics these skulls are apparently made out of. After filling the skulls with foam and letting them cure the next couple of days, the foam started to shrink and was easily pulled out. I think this was due to a couple of factors: the smooth plastic of the skull, residue chemicals from the skull manufacturing and putting in way to much foam which inhibited proper curing. So I pulled the foam from the skulls, which worked out pretty well, I sanded the inside of the skulls to give the foam something to adhere. I also filled to skulls about half way with the foam and then set them face up on cardboard with a light weight on each skull. The weight was added so the foam would fill all of the voids within the skull. After the foam had cured, I tired to pull it out of the skulls and found it had adhered. Using a hand saw I cut the foam flush with the back of the skull, so I had a nice flat surface to glue the skulls to the box.
Step 7: Box Assembly
Using 1/2" wood screws, attach the panels to the frame. I used eight screws per panel, one in each corner, and one at the mid-point of each edge. When attaching the final panels it is a good idea to put a blanket or sheet on your work bench to help protect the paint.
After all the panels have been attached, now it is time to attach the trim. If you are using the 1/4 inche plywood for the trim you can use 1/2" wood screws or 1" wood screws. If you used 3/4" plywood for you panels, you should use a longer screw, I used 1 1/2" screws as that what I had left over from other projects. Using a small paint brush, I pained the exposed screw heads black to match the trim. You could also use a wood filler over the screw heads, sand and paint to give you a cleaner look. Though who's going to notice a few small divots it the dark with a 7ft clown towering over you?
Next glue the skulls on to each corner using Liquid Nails or similar construction adhesive. Since I had two different skull types, I put each type on opposite corners. I started with the left side panel first, then the front panel, and ended with the right panel. This allowed me to make sure I didn't put the same skull type next to each other, so they alternated between to two types. I didn't put any skulls on the back of the box as i figured no one would ever see them. I didn't put skulls on the top of the box so I wouldn't have to worry about knocking them off during the non-fall months. After I had glued the skulls on, I thought I should had attached them using magnets so I could take them off for storage so I wouldn't have to worry about damaging them, too late now, maybe next year.
Step 8: Door Attachment
130 degree cabinet hinges
To complete the box, the final step is to attach the hinges. I used some hinges I had left over from an Ikea closet, they unfortunately didn't have any instructions to help with the placement, though using my trusty tape measure I was able to get them attached. If you have bought you hinges new, they no doubt came with instructions, and it would probably be a good idea to follow them.
Step 9: Making Jacks Eyes Glow - LEDs
1 Battery Connector
1 Switch I used a "clicky" switch mostly because it made a fun click noise when turning it on and off. Pretty much you'll want a switch that stays in either the on or off position and doesn't require content pressure to keep on.
This being the first thing I have ever soldered together, I was pretty excited that it worked and didn't catch fire. I am by no means an electrical expert, this is all I did and it worked. There are many great resources on the internet to help you out, though if you are not comfortable doing it yourself you should get someone that knows what they are doing to help you. That said, here's what I did.
Using an Ohms Law Calculator I was able to determine what size of resistor I needed to keep my LEDs from draining the battery. The LEDs are soldered together in series.
With the LEDs working, the next step was getting the in Jack's head. Using sewing pins, I was able to position his eyes before cutting holes. I did this so I would inadvertently give Jack a stupid expression due to poor eye placement.
Once you have the eye placement figure out, use something pointy (screwdriver, icepick, etc) to first poke out the hole to break through the plastic/latex coating on the foam. In Jack's left eye I used the drill first to make the hole, the latex stuck to the drill bit and pulled up off the foam. Which then needed to be cut away. On the right eye, I first poked a hole through the latex, and then drilled it out to make room for the LED and had a much better result. I was able to repaint the left eye to match the right one, but it was additional steps that could have been avoided.
Step 10: Armature
The construction of the base of the armature is based on a cross configuration, so Jack will be supported back to front as well as side to side.
The inside width of the box was first measured and the width of the cross and tee connectors. The tee connector that I bought was four inches wide, while the cross connector was 4 1/4 inches. The bottom PVC pieces were 9 1/4 inches each. For the upper cross pieces I cut the front to be 8 inches and the back to be 5 inches, this allowed the base of Jack to be set a little bit further back in the box. The 90 degree elbows were then connected to the upper cross pieces, with small extensions to stabilized the base. In the front, the piece is about 2 inches and the back piece is about 3 inches, this makes it so Jack is leaning out of the box while remaining on a stable base. The base was largely constructed through trial and error fitting until it was stable and I was happy with the amount of forward lean. Once I was happy with the base I glued all the pieces using the PVC Cement, make sure you follow the instructions on the can as PVC Cement does have quite noxious fumes, so allow for plenty of ventilation.
I then cut a 6 foot section of PVC to serve as the "body". I did not glue this part to the base or to Jack's head so I can easily take it apart for storage.
For Jacks head I used a 12 inch section of PVC and the remaining cross joint. The cross joint is attached to Jack's neck and shoulders using zip ties. The switch and battery clip are attached to the PVC pipe for easy access.
Step 11: Putting It All Together
Now that each piece has been completed, it times to put the entire thing together. First put the PVC base into the box. Then add the 6 foot PVC "body" section. Attach the PVC cross joint on Jack's head to the body piece, make sure to slide the body piece inside Jack's clothes so it is hidden. Finally switch on his eyes, stand back and marvel at the giant Jack-in-a-Box, while thinking "Man, wouldn't it be cool to make to jump out on it's own for next year".
I hope you enjoyed this instructable, and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask. If you have any suggestions or ideas on how to make him "pop" out for next year, don't keep them to yourselves please share them with the rest of us!