The Bone Collector

This is the time of year I start working on Halloween projects for my shop (Old Raven on Etsy) and I’ve been keeping an eye out for something new to add to my Halloween selection of home and office decor.

I also joined a FB group called ‘Tim Holtz Addicts’, which I definitely qualify for as I love all things “Distressed”, and my request to join was granted.  So I’ve been spending many happy hours scrolling through picture after picture of amazing art work made by my fellow Addicts, with even a few works added by yours truly, and in the process getting my tap of creative juices turned on.

Coffins came to mind.  I have yet to do a project with coffins – perfect.  I found a few possibilities for the main “anchor” of this project and settled on paper mache coffins.


They were relatively inexpensive at around $11 for a set of three nesting coffins and thank my lucky cauldron for the internet because you will NOT find Halloween goodies in any brick and mortar store this early in the year.


One of my favorite products by Tim Holtz is his Pulley Wheels, and just this year he added Mini Pulley Wheels to his idea-ology line – yeah!!!!!  I’ve got several sets of both in my ‘must have’ crafting supplies now – the only question is which size to use?


I decided to go with the smallest coffin in the set, but after sampling both size wheels on it, the larger wheels looked the best.


I just set the wheels on where they looked best and traced around the base, then using an awl, I easily punched the holes to mount the wheels.  These wheels are wonderful to work with because you can actually mount them securely as they have a removable screw so they attach like mounting a drawer pull – very sturdy.



And voila, a coffin on wheels!  Due to the dimensions of the coffin, broader at the ‘head’ end than the ‘foot’ end, I only used one wheel at the back and I find I like the reverse trike look.


But of course, my wheeled coffin needs a driver – enter the Bone Collector.  I frequently use these 6″ skeletons, so after Halloween when stores are closing out all the left over goodies, I buy these in multi packs and have piles ready to go when I need them.  I’ve found you can bend the arms and legs if you heat the joints for just a second or two over an open candle flame.  Obviously folks, this is not a craft for kids and I’ve scorched myself more than once and you might ruin a skeleton or three till you get the hang of it.  But it’s worth working out the details to get a skeleton who now has character.



Alright, this project’s starting to roll (sorry, yes, I had to say that).


The wheels are back off so I can give the coffin a coat of flat black inside and out.


And now the wheels are back on with the addition of another Holtz goody – Clock Keys.download

These also have a screw for mounting – and now my coffin ride has (the appearance, anyways) of power!


But no steering – I can fix that.

And yes, the next Holtz addition – downloadMetal Faucet Knobs.


And a spare leg. These faucet knobs have a screw for mounting too, but in this case I wanted to put the leg bone into the threaded hole.  I just trimmed the end of the thigh bone and pushed it up into the hole and turned it while exerting pressure and basically ‘threaded’ the plastic bone into place.  Oooooh, that all sounds so macabre, I know, I’m a very sick woman – hee, hee.  A few more steps and I’ll be ready to mount the steering column.

I thought I wanted the coffin black but as soon as I started adding my metal elements I realized wood would look better.


Kraft colored paper, Sizzix Alterations Woodgrain embossing folder and Walnut Stain Distress ink almost gets me there.


Just a final splattering of Distress Paint in Gathered Twigs and Black Soot applied with a splatter brush to give that last touch of used and abused.


I started with the lid then moved down to the bottom – but note – if you paper all the way up to the top edge here your lid will no longer fit properly, so put the lid on, draw a line where it fits down on to, and then add paper up to that line.  I’m glad I pre-painted everything black anyways now, this is going to look great.


Yep, just what I had in mind.  Time to reattach the wheels (again).


But now the metal parts don’t look grungy enough, so StazOn in Black, Olive Green and Timber Brown gives me the dirt I want and won’t rub back off.


Remember the ‘steering column’ I made earlier?  This is it mounted, how fun is that?  I glued it on with E6000 and also ran a hot pin through the heel.  Inside the coffin I clipped off the extra pin length and bent the rest down fairly flat then added a big glob of E6000 here to help secure the steering column since the plastic leg has quite a bit of bounce and flex to it.


The next step:  since my coffin is 7″ long and the embossing folder can only do 5″ at a time I wound up with a paper joint which isn’t a problem because I want this to look rather cobbled together.  I decided to add some really small brads that look like screws.  I punched a small hole where I wanted each brad, slipped them in and on the reverse side spread the brads open so they’ll stay right where I’ve put them, and now, as a bonus, I just added some extra grunge/steampunk accents – perfect.


I wanted to add a flagpole so my Bone Collector could have a “caution” flag announcing his trade and I also wanted to use one of my own handmade Black Widow spiders to this piece.  And hopefully, between the two, the banner and the spider, I could achieve a sense of motion with the flag flying and the spider whipping out in the wind.  So step one:  I took another leg bone, ran pins (two this time as I wanted it extra secure) through the foot and then I heated a small length of 22 gauge black wire and shoved it into the top of the femur while it was still very hot.  Using a hat pin, I punched holes in the coffin lid where I wanted to mount the flag pole and glued etc. the same way I did the steering column.


It’s really starting to take shape now, but I think I want more stuff on the coffin.


Can you guess what these are going to be?  That’s right, headlights.  (Come on, ‘head’ lights – you gotta love it.)


Using the StazOn again, I grunged up the hooks and with the Tonic punch, added a starter hole for the screw to enter.


These screwed in nice and tight, and a necessary addition to my Bone Collectors safety since he does most of his driving at night.


Two different hot glue guns, one with a yellowish glue stick and large extrusion and a small gun with clear glue and I have instant wax dripping from the heads.  Looks a bit like a Victorian hairstyle doesn’t it?  Using the tip of the large gun I pushed out a hole, cut off the stubby end of a candle and shoved it in.  Did you notice the hooks – what do you suppose those might be for?  I’ll tell you a bit later.

The coffin still looks too bare to me and I want my entrepreneur to show how wise he is in having proper advertising, so…


he has a banner announcing his trade.  I have some funky fonts in Word so I started there, printed out a couple so I’d have both sides covered, glued them together and used Deckle scissors to cut out the banner and then I got to play with Tim’s new Distress Oxide Ink pads.  There’s a “how to” video on Tim’s blog for using the Oxides to the best of their abilities, but I love how this came out.


OKAY –  I did it again, got so involved that I forgot to take pictures. (I hang my head in shame).  So, how to display the banner, well with bones, of course.  I took two arm bones, melted the elbow joints a bit so I could bend them and heated a pin to punch holes through both hands.  Then just like I did with the steering column and the flag pole, I ran pins through (both) humerus and secured my banner frame to the coffin lid.  I used #6 embroidery floss to hang the banner from the hands/arms.


I didn’t forget about saying I’d get back to what those hooks were for, though.  They’re for hanging buckets for collecting bones in.  I had a couple of small cauldrons in my Halloween stash but, they were a shiny black plastic.


Now this part was really tricky.  Since the cauldrons were plastic embossing powder shouldn’t have worked, but I decided to go for it anyways.  I smeared/brushed on embossing  medium and then liberally sprinkled Tim’s Distress embossing powder in Vintage Photo and ‘cautiously’ melted the powder on.  And – surprise – it worked!  I may have singed a finger or two and the handles melted a bit, but that’s okay ’cause this is supposed to look grungy, but best of all, my cauldrons now look like rusted out cast iron.  I filled them full of bones from a dismantled/chopped up skeleton and hung them from the hooks with just a bit of E6000 to keep them in place.

And, I realize I didn’t give much of an explanation on the driver.  I know, I do this almost every time.   Anyways….


…here he is.  I added a touch of hot glue to the insides of his hip joints so they would no longer be able to move once I got his posture the way I wanted it.  E6000 to the bottom of his pelvic bones and the back of the ‘knee’ bones where they touch the coffin.  I also used E6000 on his hands where they grab the steering wheel, keeping those attached with clothes pins until the glue set.  I did make his felt hat but frankly, it was such a royal pain in the patoot that I don’t think I could even translate the directions with any clarity so if you want a hat – buy one pre-made and save yourself some frustration.  Finally, I ran around with a short bristle brush loaded up with ink from an Archival pad in Coffee color and then just went over the piece scrubbing brown over exposed glue areas or metal that was too shiny, etc.  And – I’m done.  Take a look:








I always love getting buried in my work and this project was especially fun because it’s for Halloween, my very most fa-vo-rite Holiday of the year.  I never really stop making Halloween treats, my Black Widows sell all year round in my Etsy shop and I’m proud to say I’ve shipped the lovely little ladies all over the world.  But, working on Halloween decor like this Bone Collector is really where my crafting heart and soul is happiest.  If you’re interested in purchasing the Bone Collector follow this link to my Etsy shop:   http://www.etsy.com/shop/OldRaven   I will be making more Halloween items in the days/weeks/months to come, along with other shop staples like my Apothecary Cabinets, Persian Wedding Eggs, Shrines and what ever else catches my fancy.

Hope you enjoyed the Bone Collector – now go and craft on!

8 thoughts on “The Bone Collector

  1. That was super fun to see your process and I was like in anticipation of how it was going to come out (of course I could have cheated and popped over to your Etsy shop to see the listing instead of reading and scrolling – ha!) You are so crafty!!!


  2. The work in this is incredible. I love how you broke each element down! Thank you for sharing. I’d never heard of your shop and now I will check it out!! 🙂


  3. This is just too cute and clever for words! I believe I have actually found someone in the crafting world with the same quirky thought processes as my own!! 🙂
    Your tutorial is detailed and fun to read. I’m so glad I found you!


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