Monday, May 13, 2013

Nightmare Before Christmas Jack in the Box Scary Toy Tutorial

This is is a tutorial on how to make the scary jack-o-lantern jack in box toy from the movie Nightmare Before Christmas!

Supplies Needed:
1- Dollar Tree Craft Pumpkin
1- USPS Priority Mail Box 7"x7"x6" (free @ USPS) discontinued.
Alternate box: Duck 6"x6"x6" box
1- Semi-rigid Aluminum Flexible Hose
1- Pink Foam Insulation Square cut to fit
PVC Pipe Segment
Air Dry Clay
Acrylic Paints
Sand (or Something to weight the bottom of the box so it is not top heavy)
Wood dowel segment
Disposable allen wrench
Exacto Blade

Approx. Cost: $5 or less
(Depending on what you already have at home)

Time Invested: 3 hours

Clown Template Printable

Detailed tutorial corresponds with picture tutorial above:

1. Find a reference picture to help with measurements and scale.
I based my scale off of the size pumpkin I found. Make yours to scale according to your supplies.

2. Gather Supplies:
- Box (USPS, Duck, or whatever box you find) I have seen Duck boxes at Ralph's/Kroger & Walmart
- Foam Pumpkin (Dollar Tree around Halloween)
- Plastic or metal accordion like tubing for "spring". (Mine was metal, purchased at a an old VW car part shop. You could use plastic pool hose or whatever you can find in your area that has that accordion tube look)
- PVC segment
- Foam square for bottom of box
- Sand or Weight 
- Allen wrench for crank ( Mine came with a book case that I purchased and had to assemble)
- Wood dowel segment for lid "hinge"


3. Cut 2" foam the dimensions of the bottom of your box. Fnd the middle and twist the tubing back and forth until it digs itself deep into the foam and is very secure.

4a. Place a weight on the bottom of the box to stabilize it so it wont be top heavy and fall over ( I used sand in a plastic sandwich baggy)

4b. Slide your foam square down into the box as far down as it will go. The foam square should fit snugly into the box, and act as a false bottom.

4c. Slide a PVC Pipe segment down into the tubing to it will stand firm and not bend or flop over once weight is added to the top. 

5a. Cut 3 of the top box flaps off. The remaining  (#4) box top flap will be where we assemble the "lid".
Take flap #3 and hot glue it horizontally to the top seam of flap #4 to create a full square lid. Then take flap
 #1 and #2 and hot glue them side by side vertically to the BACK of flaps #3 and #4 for strength and thickness.

5b. Paint "Spring" tubing black.

5c. Take the foam pumpkin and twist is back and forth on the tubing until it digs into the pumpkin and the pumpkin head is secured tightly

Cover the Styrofoam pumpkin in a thin layer of air dry clay.
The Styrofoam has all those little balls and it made the surface a little bumpy with an undesirable texture.

6b. Use an exacto blade to cut the jack-o-lantern face. (Use photo for placement reference)

7. Paint pumpkin medium orange

8. Paint pumpkin dark orange in the outer edges of eyes, nose and mouth for depth.

9. Paint Pumpkin details:

a . Paint stem brown.

b . Paint a mix of watered down mix of brown and orange into all the indentation lines and blend for dimension.

c . Paint eyes, nose and mouth black.

10. Paint box details:

a . Paint entire inner box black (including inner lid).

b . Paint entire outer box primer gray (including outer lid).

c . Paint entire outer box with a watered down orange wash (over the grey to give faded, vintage look).
(Add smudges of black wash to corners and edges for a distressed look)

d . Paint dark orange striped vertically around the inner walls of the box.

e . Use the clown face template to draw/transfer the clown onto the front of the box.

f . Paint the clown face details.

(There is a discrepancy about which side the crank appears on. In the movie during the "assembly line" scene, the crank appears on the left, later in a different scene when the jack in the box is jumping down the hallway, it appears on the right)

11. Make crank out of Allen wrench and pink insulation foam pieces.

a . Cut small disc out of insulation foam. Put a small screw through the center of it and screw it through the side of the box and into the inner foam cube.( There was a counter sunk hole left where the screw had gone through the foam disc, this is where I glued the Allen wrench into.)

b . Glue on Allen wrench (it will need to be supported while it dries)

c .  Carve a small rounded handle piece out insulation foam. Slide it onto the other side of the Allen wrench.

e . Paint the foam disc and foam handle black

12a. Paint a 3-4 inch wood dowel segment black

12b. Hot glue the dowel into the crease on the back side, where the lid flap meets the box.
(It not only will look like a hinge, but it will actually help the lid stay propped up in a desirable pose instead of flopping straight back with gravity.)


Please leave any questions or comments below
Good Luck


  1. how were you able to get the orange faded look color? please id love to learn that affect. for when i do my zero house too. please and thanks

    1. Paint the entire surface solid grey, then used watered down color on top. For the box I used a watered down orange acrylic. Then smudge black on the corners and creases.

    2. For Zero's house I painted the entire thing a primer grey, then used a very watered down black acrylic and used it as a wash over the surface letting it settle into all the divots and cracks

  2. Hi! I absolutely LOVE your tutorials, especially since I am entering a "cubicle" contest where I work. What are your main colors you use when you paint. I don't own any, and I am going to be purchasing some basic colors and tools this upcoming weekend. Besides the descriptions you've already given in the tutorials, any additional helpful tips? Thank you!

    1. Hi, that is great that you are building some props. I'm not sure if you want to know what colors to buy for the jack in the box project, or in general. You definitely are going to need black and white. You can mix these two with any hue to lighten and/or darken the shade. Then in general, I would buy all the basic rainbow colors. But for the jack in the box prop, I used black, white, grey, green, and two shades of orange ( darker and pastel). Also buy a variety of sizes of brushes. 1+ inches for broad areas, and very small round fine tip brushes for small details. Hope this helps

  3. how wide and long is recommended for the aluminum hose?

  4. Mine is about 12-14" long and 2-2.5" in diameter. But you should calculate yours to fit your specific scale, or it will be all out of proportion. See "making props ro scale" post. Hope this helps

    1. I had went to lowes and even called home depot and they told me they dont sell 2" in diameter in the Semi-rigid Aluminum Flexible Hose. where do I go about finding that? thank you so much for your help and time. I love your blog!

    2. Mine was in my garage. It was a leftover part from our 1966 VW Bug. We originally picked it up for a dollar or two at a VW auto supply place by our house. You can get creative and find or make something else that will work. But if you want the same thing, here is what I used:
      Google: aluminum fresh air hose vw
      Or plastic fresh air hose vw

      Either one should work. Sorry, I had trouble finding something to use too.
      Maybe a pool supply would have plastic flexible hose?
      Let me know if you need any more help

    3. thank you so much for the help. I did see the pool hose and I had gotten that in case we couldnt find the right size aluminum looks perfect for the craft...I was just making sure I wasnt totally missing it. thank you again! :) all this is so helpful! :)

  5. thank you so much for sharing your creations! We are getting married next summer and our theme is NBC, we will be busy for the next year creating our props...will share our pics next summer!!

    1. Wow ! Congrats on the wedding. Definitely want to see the pictures. Good luck !

  6. can you please send me the the full instructions for this piece. thank you much! we are trying to recreate a halloweentown. :)

    1. I will be posting the full instructions on here soon

  7. My daughter and I made one this weekend out of and old jack in the box and it turned amazing. She is wanting to have a NBC birthday party in Nov.

  8. My daughter and I made one this weekend out of and old jack in the box and it turned amazing. She is wanting to have a NBC birthday party in Nov.


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