Monday, September 26, 2011

Body Double Part 1: Torso Construction

I was looking at my skeletal arm and thinking about how to put it into a spiderweb sac when it occurred to me that there is no good way to make a spider victim with a head and two arms.  Spiders do not have teeth and would not have eaten the bones, nor do they eat prey that they haven't killed so it would be very unlikely that a spider would wrap part of a person.  Since bones from one person would decay at about the same rate there would be no reason for some of the bones to be gone.  The solution for this is pretty obvious.  I need to make a whole person.

In practice, this concept was a little bit more daunting and will likely take me several days of crafting to form.  The logical next step would be to make a second arm.  That, of course, is far too logical for me so naturally I started working on the torso.

Using the same webpage as for the arm, I looked at their instructions for making a torso.  I then decided that it had too many extra steps to get something that should be relatively simple so I set off into uncharted territory and started building on my own.  For a wonder it seems to have worked.

In my mind what you need to make a decent looking corpse is a skeletal framework that has been covered over to look emaciated, corpsed to have a decaying texture, and painted to look like something that has been dead a while.  I had good results from using rolled newspaper so that's the tack I took.

The first thing a body needs is a spine.  I took 4 sheets of newspaper, made 2 sections of 2 sheets, and then overlapped them to get a long enough tube to be a spine.

Next, I needed a sternum because that's what ribs connect to in the front.  I remembered a bit about making paper airplanes and figured that folding newspaper into a bone would be easier than layering and cutting or using cardboard which is annoying to cut.

To begin I had one "half page" of newspaper.  that I folded on its natural fold.  From there I folded it in half and opened it to make a median line that I could keep the sides symmetrical. What follows is a step by step run down on how I folded the sternum.

This is the first set of folds.  My middle finger is on the dividing line.  I did these folds about 1 inch away from that line and taped them down.
Next I folded the fold.  What you see is the edge established in the previous step folded to the same near center position as the first fold.
Then you fold the bottom section in so that you have straight edges again.

Here the top section is folded over to the center line and secured.
And again with a fold on the bottom for the same reasons as before.
It was a little too long so I folded the bottom edge up toward the top and taped it.
Here is the sternu on the right side when I was done.

After I had a sternum and a spine I started making ribs.  This is where you need mad paper rolling skills.  I only made 6 ribs, 3 for each side.  I know that isn't anatomically correct, but I'm awfully lazy and I think 6 will give me the definition I'm looking for.

Each roll was a single large newspaper page.  I started rolling on a corner and rolled the paper on a diagonal to get a nice long tube.  You'll need a wee bit of tape to secure the tube so it doesn't unravel.  I suggest making all your tubes at the same time.  Reason being that it is highly unlikely they will all turn out exactly the same. If you have all 6 tubes made to begin with you can pair them based on size and use the largest for the lowest ribs and so on.  I labeled mine with a pen (since I'll be covering them later) using 1 or 2, for the side, and a, b, and c for position.  1a and 2a were bottom pair, and so on.  Then you move to shaping.

This is how I shaped my ribs.  First, I squeezed my tube flat and lightly creased it.  Ribs aren't round so I didn't want these to be.  A gentle crease gives a bit of rib like definition without making it completely flat. The bent over bit you see on the top of the pic was for strength.  The downside of rolling a diagonal tube is that the ends tend to be flimsy since they don't have as much paper in them.  I picked that end to fold because it was the wider end.  Like I've said, rolling newspaper is amazingly tricky to do consistently.  For the rest its bend and tape.
Now, the cool thing here is that rolled newspaper doesn't bend at right angles.  In this case that was pretty lucky because ribs are curved but they also curve upward.  As you can see, the paper did exactly that.  Another thing I noticed is that, depending on which end you start on the ribs will curve up or down accordingly.    I wanted 3 to curve up and 3 to curve down for right and left sides.  The way I checked was by looking at the section I folded over.  When you rolled the paper it made a spiral following the edge of the paper.  If you match the orientation of the paper spiral to the first rib you do it will curve the same way.  If you change it so the spiral goes the opposite way, so will the curve.  Then all you have to do is 3 of each.

I figured it would be easiest to attach the ribs to the sternum first and then to the spine.  This part was tricky. It would have helped if I had 3 hands.  I started with the bottom ribs, because they were the largest, and taped them on one at a time.  The hard part comes from trying to hold the rib to the sternum and then getting it taped without compressing or bending the rib any more than you have already.  Somehow I manged though.
Doing the spine taping was a lot easier than I thought it would be after doing the sternum.  I used 6 large pieces of tape, one per rib, and held the spine and rib together while I taped each rib down.  Again I worked from largest to smallest.
It gave me a pretty convincing chest cavity.  When I cover it I may put balloons inside the ribs to maintain their shape.  I won't be able to take the balloons out afterward, but that won't matter since no one will be able to see them anyway.  Plus then I'll get to giggle about it having 'lungs'.  (-:

The ribs on the spine gave a nice bumpy vertebra-like look, so that was an unexpected plus.

I added a collar bone at this point so that I would have a reference for inserting arms later.  To do the collar bone I made another diagonal tube, marked the center, and bent it half way from the center on each side.  Then I taped it in place and used a bit of tape around the bones so that it will get the same feeling as a real shoulder (you know, the indented section that people go to town on when they give you a massage).

Once I had the torso assembled I tried the arm on for size.  If you think it looks a little awkward, you're right.  The rib cage came out to be something like 46 inches.  That's pretty sizable for just bones so I wound up cutting a few inches off each rib from the front (ventral) side where they connect to the sternum and then reconnecting them.  I did not manage to get a pic of that before I had to go work on something else though, so you'll get to see the true end product a bit later.

Next step for the body double will be the pelvic girdle and possibly a leg.  The foot may or may not happen, I've not quite worked out how to make them yet.

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