Thursday, October 15, 2015

DIY Light-Up Steampunk Skull - For Only $2!

Ok, enough Facebook drama, let's get back to making fun stuff.

Here's another super cheap Halloween craft: the two main ingredients cost just $1 each at your local Dollar Tree, and the rest is probably stuff you already have!

 Other than the plastic skull & light-up bracelet (which also comes in green and blue), you'll need:

- spray plastic primer (preferably black)
- craft paint
-  poster tack (that sticky play-doh stuff you hang art with in college)
- optional bits of wire, chain, and/or old jewelry for decoration

I also used some metal tape to give mine a Frankenstein-patchwork skull.

Here's how mine turned out:

I was aiming for steampunk, but it looks pretty Goonies to me now. Or maybe Indiana Jones?

Oh, and the eyes glow quite a bit more than this; I just had a lot of light on it for the picture. Here's a quick cell-phone snap to give you a better idea of the glow:

This is a fun, quick craft, so let's get started!

To insert the lights, draw a line where you want the skull to open, and then cut it MOST of the way, leaving about two inches attached in the back to act as a hinge:

The skull plastic is thinner than a milk jug, so you'll have no trouble slicing it with a craft blade or sharp knife.

Pull the LED bracelet apart, then use a small screwdriver to open the housing. The little circuit board will lift right out:

The push button is loose (that's the piece on the right), so save that, and use a tiny dab of super glue to attach it back to the circuit board, like so:

Now you've got a self-contained set of LEDs, complete with batteries and switch! (This is SUPER handy for cosplay projects, too!)

As luck would have it, the LEDs are already spaced perfectly for lighting the skull's eyes. Here I'm holding the lights inside the skull; they glow through the thin plastic:

We'll still be adding eye holes, though, since the coming paint job will prevent it from shining through.

Now spray the skull with your plastic primer:

Dry brush layers of light gray and tan craft paint over the skull:

Then follow that up with a watery dark brown:
The brown gives it that great "fresh mummy" look.

Make small eye holes with either a drill, dremel, or a large nail. Then use two gobs of poster tack to attach the LEDs inside the skull, like this:

That's looking down into the skull, nose on the left. Sorry it's kind of confusing; this was hard to capture one-handed!

From the outside, it looks like this:

You could almost stop there... except for the split skull, of course. ;)

 OPTIONAL: Add metal tape to make a patchwork on the crown of the skull:

If you're not familiar with this stuff, here's my first post on how to use it.

Then age it down with black and orange paint (for rust).

It took me a while to figure out how to close the skull lid again, since you need to be able to open it again to turn the lights on/off. In the end, though, the solution was ridiculously simple:

 Glue a long strip of stiff felt (or craft foam) to the inner edge of the forehead. The top lid has to fit over this to close, and the slight pressure is enough to keep it relatively snug. It took me two whole days to figure that out, you guys. AND SO EASY.
Now the fun part: decorating! I used an old metal ring for a monocle (you could also use a bottle lid, old shower curtain ring, keychain, etc.), with a broken necklace for the chain. Then I used more poster tack to attach a pretty vintage medal to the forehead:

And that's a furniture nail holding the monocle chain in place. The skull plastic is so thin it's easy to punch through it with a thumb tack.

On the other side I made more holes with a thumb tack, then stuck in two clock gears that still had their metal posts attached:
I debated going hog wild and covering the whole thing with metal bits, but I think this is enough to give it a spooky steampunk feel.

Now the beauty shots!


Hope you guys enjoyed my bone-headed craft project! 

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

 And for my fellow Pinners:


Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!


  1. I agree,VERY Indy. And also very cool!

  2. I like the Tonks-belly and Lily-tail cameos! The skull is freaking awesome, too! LOVE that paint job!


  3. Very fun! I'll have to look for those bracelets at our stores. I've seen the skulls and always just passed them over for things like fuzzy spiders and other extras. Great use of them!

  4. It does look more Indy than steampunk, but still awesome! You've inspired me to give this a try with some ugly light-up skulls I got from my dollar store. Would look awesome next to the faux-crystal skulls I also bought!

    1. It's the monocle, right? (And now we're ALL thinking of the face-melting scene...)

    2. Ew!! I am NOW! :) That scene always gives me the willies! Love your steampunk skull though!

    3. Definitely thinking of the face-melting scene! Hmmm... wonder if I could pull off the melty skull look... ehehehehehe

  5. Am I the only one who was singing the Chef's song form the little mermaid during the "beheading"?
    - "First I cut off their heads, then I pull out their bones..."

    Okay maybe it was just me.

    Cool craft, Jen. I have a crap ton of skulls I need to do something with. And wine bottles..
    Thanks for the inspiration.

    --Piper P from Washington State

  6. Jen, this is wonderful. If you ever feel like being hard on yourself, please remember that your incredible cleverness and creative way of looking at the world are unique and amazing!

  7. This is so cool. You're my favorite crafty person!

  8. I thought it was the skull from The Last Unicorn.

  9. Love it. This is a project not above my capabilities!

    The clock gears on the side remind me of Scorpius from Farscape. They don't look like it, so much, but he had a receptacle for the cooling rods inserted in his brain right in that same spot on his temple.

    -Just Andrea

  10. I love this, so I gave it a try. But, I don't know how to upload a pic!

  11. You are an inspiration! And different from most on-line ideas, your clear instructions make projects actually do-able. Thanks so much for creeping me out (in a good way).

  12. You are an inspiration! And different from most on-line ideas, your clear instructions make projects actually do-able. Thanks so much for creeping me out (in a good way).

  13. You are an inspiration! And different from most on-line ideas, your clear instructions make projects actually do-able. Thanks so much for creeping me out (in a good way).

  14. Ooh. I just came back to this because I think that I can use this for some light up ornaments


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