Milk Jug Skulls

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Introduction: Milk Jug Skulls

About: My wife and I have a home haunt called Terror On 20Th....I love to build props...everything from a casket to pneumatic monsters! I am also a presenter, speaker and course teacher at Halloween conventions.

These skulls are made with the gallon size milk, water or ice tea jugs! The plastic jug is melted and shaped over a master skull.

Step 1: Tools Needed

To get started on this fun project there are some things needed.

A RESIN master skull...found on Ebay.

Good heavy gloves

Heat gun

masking tape

hot glue gun with glue sticks

sponge

scissors, razor knife

regular screw driver

bowl of ice water with a towel

plastic gallon size milk jugs!!

Step 2: Master Skull & Stand

1. I use a resin skull, this one has the removable jaw. I made the stand with some scrap wood and a section of PVC...I drilled a hole through the bottom of the skull but it can just be glued onto the pvc. This stand makes all of the difference!

2. I added some fiberglass matting to the back and top of the master skull to help "beef up" the rear of the skull as we will be cutting off the plastic when it's done.

Step 3: Prep the Jug

Cut the handle off of the jug.

Place the jug over the skull with the long part covering the face as shown.

Step 4: Start Making the Skull

Using the heat gun on HIGH, 1st heat up the decals and peel off. This should only take a few seconds

In a circular motion hold the heat gun about 3 inches above the top and keep moving the gun until the jug starts to turn clear.

With your gloves on, pull the soft jug down to take the shape of the skull.

Then heat up the plastic just under the cheek bone until clear and "tuck" in with your gloved hand...repeat on the other side...the jug is now "locked-in"

Step 5: Detail Work

Now we go back to the top...heat again until clear and now use a sponge dipped in ice water to push the plastic into place...do small sections.

Work your way to the forehead, then each side.

Heat up the area above the cheek bone until clear and push the sponge in, repeat on the other side.

Now do the same under the cheek bone on each side.

heat the mouth area over the teeth and press the cold sponge over the teeth to get the basic shape of the mouth.

Cut off the extra plastic under the mouth, be sure to leave about 1/2 inch extra to fold under the teeth and base.

heat the nose area, when clear push the sponge into it.

Heat the eye socket and push the cold sponge into the socket...don't push in to far or the plastic will tear. Repeat on the other eye.

heat the teeth section and using the cold sponge, fold extra plastic under teeth.

Now heat the teeth again but use a small screw driver to push in between the teeth and get some detail!

Step 6: Getting the Skull Off the Master

I use some heavy duty scissors and cut up the back of the skull, once at the top I cut a small V shape. Now the back of the skull will open....facing the skull pull the open back towards you...the skull should "pop" off.

Now use some tape and get the seams as close together as possible. Using the hot glue, glue from the inside. Cover the whole seam with a good bead of hot glue. Now peel off the tape once the glue has cooled.

Step 7: Time to Paint

First I use an ivory flat spray paint and spray a good coat inside the skull.

I use some flat black spray paint on all of the lower sections...eyes, nose, mouth and around cheek bone.

Using some paint thinner I soak a sponge and wipe off the excess paint...I use the sponge with a scrub side...be careful not to take to much off.

Last is a coat of flat interior latex paint...brown..I brush it on and using a water soaked rag I "blot" off the paint....once almost dry I take the sponge and clean off the teeth a bit!

Step 8: Finish

The skulls are super light...IF using them outside I suggest spraying a bit of expanding foam in them and toss in a handful of stones.

I like to attach the skulls in clusters...you can use the hot glue but I use zip ties and screws so they won't come apart! HAVE FUN!!

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    82 Discussions

    Use thick tapioca pudding dyed greenish-grey for brains. Caution-- it's perishable.

    Wow, just...wow. This is so awesome! Thanks for a great tutorial! And there are so many ways to modify the skulls to show damage, leaks, b-r-a-a-a-i-n-s! - great ideas for Halloween!

    2 replies

    Oriental Trading Company used to have a jello mold in the shape of a brain, for Halloween-- if they still bring it out that might be fun. Thick tapioca pudding died greyish-green also makes great brains!

    Once you have a couple filled with foam take them out and shoot a few with a pellet gun. Run dark purple paint down from the hole to simulate a bullet wound.

    This may be the coolest instructable yet!! I have a friend who is a goth and she has skulls all over her house. She loves to go ott for Halloween. I may have to make a huge pile of these for her garden!! Epic way of recycling!!!

    I'll pull a couple milk jugs from recycling tonight. I've looked for this one for some time. THANKS

    I think your painting technique probably deserves an instructables by itself! Do you ever use a similar process for the jaw, or are these jawless only? Either way, completely amazing!

    1 reply

    The resin skull I use has a removable jaw...when making a full skull I just hot glue the jaw back on....it does take more time to make...I just mostly make the jawless because in my opinion they look more real??

    Awesome project. Are you able to substitute the heating gun with a hair dryer (set on high) to soften the milk jug plastic?

    2 more answers

    Not sure what your question is but if I'm making the full skull I just hot glue the jaw back on....it does take more time getting the teeth detail with the lower jaw.

    AWESOME! I plan on doing this, but you didn't show the lower jaw, same procedure but nice to have the -able included. I don't drink milk though, so I'm going to have to ask a friend for hers. This'll obviously great for Halloween! I found some skulls on ebay that looked different so I ordered one of each, I'm jazzed!

    Didn't notice how much the skull costs, but easy to find out. (They cost between $7 and $20.)

    2 more answers

    It just takes a bit longer with the lower jaw to get the detail. The skull I have has the removable jaw and when I'm going to use it I hot glue it on. I mostly use gallon water and ice tea jugs...they are all about the same.

    Love it!
    How are the fumes from the melting plastic? Based on the pics, it looks like you are working inside.

    3 replies

    I don't go beyond the melting point....there are no fumes that I can smell...I am doing them inside but not in a small room. Would not be a bad idea to get a good respirator.

    IIRC, milk jugs are polyethylene and pretty tame to about 400-450F, it melts to fusion under pressure at 350 or so. Worse fumes are released from using poorly cleaned detergent etc. bottles (i.e. for a particular color) Food grades are actually recommended for school plastic projects, no dioxin release like pvc or cyanide from urethanes. Ventilation can be taken care of with a simple fume hood, bathroom fan and flex ducting. I've used a 2" thick and 8" wide piece of styrofoam or closed cell foam cut to tightly fit the width of a window (away from open doors and windows, air intakes) with a hole sized for a bulkhead fitting. I wouldn't do any dangerous chemistry with this basic a setup, but polyethylene molding, soldering or light foam cutting should be a minimal risk. Don't forget to seal all seams and perforations of the bath fan.

    I would suggest not heating plastic around kids and if you are doing it inside limit your exposure time. Outside or in an open garage on a light wind day would be better.