This is one of those ideas that came to me in the middle of the night when I was supposed to be sleeping. So when I got up the next day I just had to start seeing how it would work out! I'm pretty happy with it; it's not a flexible snake, but it's pretty cute :-).
I made mine about 6" long; the blue one is a little bigger. But the size is very flexible.
Step 1: What You Need
- A scrap of wood; about 1" nominal thickness, and whatever length and width you want (I only used a corner of the board shown; about 1 1/2" wide and 6 1/2" long)
- Acrylic paint; I used red, blue, yellow, black, and white
- A bit of medium-weight fabric (so not thick like denim, and not super thin), any color
- Tacky glue
- Desired finish (I used the Polycrylic shown in the picture for the green snake, and Aleene's gloss finish spray sealer for the blue one, and got about the same results with both)
- A scrollsaw (a coping saw would probably work too)
- A Dremel or similar rotary tool
- A sanding drum bit for the rotary tool
- Fine-grit sandpaper
- Paintbrushes, including at least one with a fine point
- A palette for mixing paints (I used a saucer)
Step 2: Cut Out a Snake Shape
Draw a snake shape on the board. You can base it off of mine if you want, or make it whatever length and amount of waviness you like!
The cut out the shape with the scrollsaw. Try to keep the cut outside the drawn line. It's a lot easier to sand off excess wood than to try to fix it after accidentally cutting into the shape!
Step 3: Shape the Body and Tail
Set up the sanding drum on the rotary tool.
Begin sanding on the sides of the snake shape, smoothing it until it matches the drawn shape.
Then begin sanding on the top of the snake body (not the head), sanding it down evenly to reduce its thickness until the thickness from top to bottom approximately matches the thickness from side to side. Be patient; this takes some time. Then, begin sanding down the tail end, working toward the head end, until you have a consistent taper along the body length (smaller at the tip of the tail, and wider by the head).
Now it's time to round out the shape. Flip it over on its back, and sand the edges so they are a little bit rounded off. Then turn it back over, and do the same kind of thing on the top edges, except you'll keep doing it more until it's all rounded from side to side. Just keep working at it until you're satisfied with the shape.
Step 4: Shape the Head
So now we can work on the head.
Sand down the nose end, to about halfway down the length of the head, to about the same thickness as the body (see first pic). Then just round out the edges. I made a little dent in the side about where the eye will be, but it's not necessary.
You can smooth out the transition between the head and body a bit, but don't get carried away!
Finally, sand the whole thing with fine-grit sandpaper to make it nice and smooth.
Step 5: Make the Tongue
To make the tongue, cut a little strip of fabric, with its width proportional to the size of the snake head, and about an inch longer than you want the tongue to be. Don't worry about cutting the forked shape yet, it just ends up getting obscured by the glue coating.
Coat the little strip of cloth with tacky glue, on both sides. It may actually be better to coat just the part that will be the sticking out tongue, to keep the thickness of the rest at a minimum (it will be visible on the finished snake). After it's dry to the touch, trim the excess glue off the edges with scissors, and cut a little "v" shape in the end to make the forked tip.
Then apply glue from the place you want the tongue to be, to under the chin, and attach the strip of fabric, adjusting it so the tongue sticks out however far you want. Smooth down the fabric under the chin, and if there is an odd lump on the end (as can happen if the glue shrank and pulled it inward), just trim it off. It doesn't need to go very far under the chin, or even as far as shown in the picture; mine just ended up that way. So long as there's enough for the tongue to be sufficiently anchored, it's fine.
As soon as the glue is dry to the touch, bend the tongue downward and press it down. When you release it, it should point straight forward.
Step 6: Paint the Snake
I started by painting the tongue red. I just used the paint straight from the bottle (rather than mixing a custom color), to keep it simple, especially since it will almost certainly need to be touched up later. If you still see the fabric through the paint, just wait until it is dry to the touch, and add another coat. Putting it in front of a fan speeds this up significantly. Add as many coats as you need to get full coverage.
You could just as well paint the body first and then do the tongue; it doesn't really matter one way or the other. Touch-up will probably be needed either way, so make sure you keep some of each color on hand (so don't clean off the palette if you mix custom colors).
For the body on this snake, I mixed blue with a little bit of black to make dark blue, and painted the whole thing except the tongue. I recommend doing at least two coats, for the best coverage. For the first snake I made, I mixed blue with yellow to make green.
After painting the main color, I like to mix some white with it and paint the underside a little lighter. Other possibilities include stripes (widthwise or lengthwise), zigzags, imitation of the pattern on a real snake, whatever you like!
For the eye, I mixed yellow with a bit of black. I accidentally added too much black, so I had to add more yellow and ended up with too much muddy greenish paint. It's a pretty yucky looking color on its own, IMO, but it looks fine in the finished snake eye. Then use a fairly fine-pointed brush to paint a small oval where you want each eye to be. You may need to do two coats in that spot.
Once that is dry to the touch, use a fine-pointed brush to paint a black pupil. Fun fact: most venomous snakes have a slit-shaped pupil, while most constrictors have a round one (though there are exceptions). So the blue snake here is probably a constrictor, while the green one is probably venomous. Let's hope they don't suddenly decide to attack! ;-)
If some of the body color got on the tongue or vice versa, just use a fine-pointed brush to touch it up. Repeat as many times as necessary to cover the spots (I use very cheap paint, so the opacity isn't always optimal).
Step 7: Finish, and Have Fun!
Now your paint job is complete! Apply the finish of your choice to protect the paint and give your snake a more, well, finished look. For the green one I applied gloss Polycrylic with a paint brush; for the blue one I used Aleene's gloss finish spray sealer. As you can see, the results look about the same, so it's just a matter of which method of application is easier for you. The spray sealer can doesn't say how long to let it dry between coats, but it seemed that a half hour worked pretty well (once I turned it over after only about fifteen minutes and got paper stuck to the bottom that I now have to try to fix without messing up the paint...).
The shape for the blue one was made by tracing the green one; that's why it's a little bigger. I think both sizes turned out equally well; so it's just a matter of whether you want it more slender or a bit more hefty-looking.
Now you can go on great adventures with your new slithery friend! XD Mine keep me company at my desk. I told them to do some cleaning up while they're there, but I guess they're kinda lazy, lol.
Notes: unless your finish is specifically labeled as waterproof, avoid extended exposure to liquid. Also avoid pulling on the tongue, as it could become detached, and while you can glue it back on, the repair may be noticeable. Not recommended for children under 3 yrs.