Thursday, 10 October 2013

Wooden jumping jacks ... ...

It's nearly Halloween, and as usual we are trying to make things for the house, and this year I've decided to make two lots of Halloween themed things, the first of which are wooden jumping jacks, I made a skeleton and a more simple ghost version, both work on exactly the same principal.

Now these are toys that can be traced back thousands of years, and they were a favourite in the 1700's of the French nobility who called them 'pantins' and have been known with the rather colourful name of 'quockerwodger' they are usually made of card, but as we intend to keep these for next year I've made them from thin plywood, but this does require the use of various tools.

Here's the skeleton -

Very creepy.

Basically it's a type of puppet, you operate it by pulling the string to make it's arms and legs move up wards, there's a video at the end of this which shows them in action.

I basically printed out a skeleton template, there are loads to choose from online and once I'd cut it out I stuck it to a scrap piece of plywood with a glue stick.

Template all cut out -

Before I stuck it down I cut out the black parts.

Template stuck down -

On to the cutting.

I cut out the various parts in my scroll saw, which gave a me a chance to use my new spiral blades, they are very good, if you have a scroll saw get some spiral blades.

Once I had it all cut out I then set about adding some detail to the bones, I basically used a carving bit in my multi tool to carve out where I'd remove the black parts of the template.

Carving bit -

These are great for wood working.

Skeleton cut out and carved - 

I could have just left it, but it adds a bit more depth to the skeleton.

One I'd finished cutting and carving it was time for a coat of paint, I used a white water based enamel paint, which you can buy from diy type shops, it's good stuff easy to use, dries quickly and you can use water to clean brushes, I've used it before on the miniature furniture I made for my daughters dolls house, and for the black details I used a black permanent marker.

Painting and details done - 

Next up wiring it all together.

Now fixing it was easy, on the template I used there where points already marked out where the joints are, so I just drilled a hole at each point and then using some thin wire I wired it all together.

Wire and pliers - 

I used thin garden wire, but string would have also worked.

To make the arms and legs move I drilled holes in each shoulder and on each side of the pelvis, then I used small tack to join the arms and legs to the body, I bent the ends of the tacks over to make sure the arms and legs don't fall off, then it was on to the rigging, the bit that makes it all move.

All wired up - 

Could do with a good meal if you ask me.

Now this is the bit that makes it all move, and it's really simple, and that's what makes it so great, the fact that it's so easy to do, it's just string.

The rigging - 

Simple but effective.

As you can see the string joins the arms and legs together, then a piece of string is connected to the middle of each bit, the idea being that when you pull down on the central piece of string it pulls the string down and this makes the arms and legs go up, making it look like the puppet is jumping, it doesn't really get much easier than that.

Then all I did was to make a bead to go on the end of the string to make it easier to pull, and that was it, the ghost you see at the end of video is made in exactly the same way, it just has less moving parts.

The finished skeleton - 

Reading for jumping.

Here's a short video of them both in action - 

Although I've made ours from wood you can make these from card, you could use paper fasteners to join it all together and for the rigging you can use string or cotton, it's a great project for kids to try.

Thanks for reading.

Homemade Thursday


  1. How wonderful! This looks great and perfect for Halloween. Nice job.

    1. Thanks, we do try and make something for Halloween every year.

  2. Oh how I've missed you!!!!

    These are just brilliant! We love Halloween, but I'm not as creative as you!

    Thanks so much for linking up!

    1. Thank you, these can easily be made from cardboard, like an old cereal box, they may not last as long as wooden ones, but it's still worth a go.