Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Are you ready for the sheer epic awesomeness that is Halloween crafting?  I hope so, because I've got a good one this time.

Remember this?  Now you get to see what it became!
I have created a paper spider!  Not just some wee little thing either.  This sucker is close to the length of my leg.

Being a scientist, I like things to be realistic.  Which means I got to spend some time with Google image looking at various species of spiders.  My personal favorite is a scientific illustration of a spider.  Always helpful for getting anatomy correct.  The spiders I spent the most time looking at were the brown recluse, the American house spider, and a common grass spider.  I picked these because I've seen them in real life and, except for the recluse which is poisonous, I've played with them.  The grass spiders are neat, they carry their young on their backs.  This can be quite the problem when they get into your house though.  Anyway, back on track, the other reason for picking these 3 spiders to use for models is that they all have very different body shapes.  The brown recluse, also known as the fiddle back, has an almost fiddle shaped body.  The grass spider is one of the biggest non-tarantula spiders I've ever seen.  They're like wolf spiders with really long legs.  And big.  Oh man can they be big.  The American house spider is a cobwebber that is really common.  They're kinda small, but they have the same body shape as black widows and a number of orb weavers.  House spiders have the abdomen that is really big in proportion to the cephalothorax size.  Plus they're common enough for there to be a lot of images of them.

Construction of the main body was pretty simple.  As shown in the panels below, I scrunched some newspaper and tape off a section to be the abdomen.  Then I set to work on thecephalothorax region.  For ease of typing I'm going to be scientifically sloppy and refer to the cephalothorax simply as the thorax.  I made sure not to scrunch the thorax too much so it would have a good recluse-like shape. 

 After giving a full coating of duct tape, this is what my spider body looked like.  Not bad, eh?
 Right, now we need legs.  Part of what makes spider legs creepy is that they're really long but really spindly.    This looked to be a bit of a problem because long and spindly is really bad for support.  The strongest thing I could think to do was roll some newspaper into a really thin tube.  That way there would be a bunch of layers of the paper to give some support.  I started in a corner and rolled as tight a tube as I could.
This is a standard 2 page sheet of newsprint.  As you can see, it's about as long as my arm once you get it rolled up.
 After taping it so that it can't unwind, I started making joints.  They were pretty easy, all you do is bend the paper and tape it in place.

 Since spiders have two leg joints and a foot, that's what I went for.
 Next up is taping the leg to the body.  I couldn't get a good picture without crunching the leg so what you can't see in this one is that the leg is attached under the body and then bent upward and taped into place.
 Only 7 more legs to go!  I wasn't a big fan of the foot on my first leg, so I left it off the other legs.  It looked too much like a cricket or grasshopper leg and too little like a spider leg.  On the plus side it made me think of ways to make some insects as well.  I think I can see a way to make a grasshopper out of a 2-liter soda bottle.  But more on that later.  Once you see the next leg, you'll see it starting to look like a spider.
 Much better I feel.  Very delicate and realistic.  I didn't spend all that time looking at spiders for nothing!  What I did notice is that the tips of the legs were really delicate.  They looked like they would smash really easily so I decided to tape a little 'boot' on the end of each foot for stability (sorry about the blur, my camera doesn't like to focus on things it can't identify).
 This next photo is where I had to stop on the day I began construction.  I didn't have more paper of the right size to finish the legs much less the pedipalps.  It also gave me some time to come up with a viable solution for the eyes.
Once the new infusion of paper showed up I was able to finish up the legs.  Then I made the pedipalps.  Those are the little tiny arm-like mouth parts that spiders have.  Again with the rolled paper bent into shape and secured.  Securing this little guys was harder than I thought it would be.  I think it's because they're so small.

Once everything was attached, voila!  Spider!

 The legs are pretty fragile and will need to be adjusted again once I start covering it.  Just for a frame of reference, here's the spider with my "assistant" Calliope.  Mostly she assists by chewing on things.  This time though, she's great for demonstrating size.

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