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Hanging Skeleton Cage - Getting Medieval
By Brian Lorsung

In this article I'm going to focus on a more realistic cage, with a look and feel of a medieval dungeon. This cage is built from metal bars and will be very confining to the occupant, a Mr. Thrifty skeleton from Anatomical Chart Company. I could not find any pictures of cage of this type, so this cage is of my own design. Once again, the key to the project was finding the appropriate construction materials. Metal bar stock is too expensive, to be practical, for this cage, but after some searching, I came across the metal bars used for chain-link fence installation. A 46 inch piece cost only $1.17.

Materials List

  • 1 Mr. Thrifty 32 inch skeleton from Anatomical Chart Company ($15.00)
  • 10 chain-link fence tension bars 46 inch long ($11.70)
  • 18 bolts with nuts #10-24 x .5 inch ($.96) (or Pop Rivets)
  • 1 eye bolt #10-24 x 1 inch ($.39)
  • 2 feet of heavy duty chain ($1.60)

Tool List

  • Bench Vice
  • Drill Press
  • Dremel tool
  • Fiberglass cutting disk (for Dremel)
  • pop rivet tool (optional)
  • hammer
  • pliers
  • hand drill
  • hacksaw

In this project you will be drilling, hammering, and cutting metal. It is important that you use proper eye protection during these activities. If you use a Dremel type tool or air powered cutoff tool to cut the bars, you will also need a mask to protect you from breathing in metal and fiberglass particles.

To make the lower ring, cut one bar  15.75 inches long and with a bench vise and some elbow grease bend it a into ring measuring 5.5 inches in diameter. To make the upper ring, cut one bar  23.5 inches long and as above, bend it a into ring measuring 8.5 inches in diameter. Drill a hole at the end of each of the 4 bars and then bolted the ends together. Drill 8 holes evenly spaced around each metal ring, using plenty of oil to keep the drill bit lubricated. The first 4 bars need a hole at the bottom end and a hole 25.5 inches up from the bottom. Using the skeleton as a guide, make three bends to the first bar, one directly above the upper hole to form around the skeleton's shoulder, a second bend in the opposite direction to form around the skeleton's neck, and the third bend in back the original direction for the skeleton's head (see picture). Once you are happy with the shape of the first bar, use it as a guide to bend the other 3 bars in the same way. Cut the first and third bars so that they end .5 inches past the centerline of the skeleton's skull, and the second and third bars 1inch shorter, ending .5 inches before the centerline of the skeleton's skull. Drill a hole at the centerline of the 2 longer bars, and at the end of the two shorter bars. With a 2 inch piece of bar drilled at each end and in the center attach the two shorter bars to each other with the bolts. Assemble the four bars to the two rings with the nuts and bolts leaving every other hole in the ring empty. (If you prefer, you can use pop rivets in the place of bolts. Leave the last bar bolted so that you can change out the skeleton.) You may have to make some adjustments to get everything to fit well. The eye bolt goes through the center line holes of the longer bars, and the center hole of the 2 inch piece holding the shorter bars. This is what the cage hangs from.

The final four bars bend below the lower ring to form the cage's bottom, and go up only to the skeleton's shoulder. Place one of the last four bar in a vice with only 2 inches above the vice. Use a hammer to pound the bar over forming a 90 angle. Place the bar into the cage with the 2 inch bend at the bottom, and mark where the lower hole will be. Mark the hole location by drilling through the existing hole in the ring and into the bar you are marking, and then finished the hole on the drill press. Place the bar back into the cage and temporarily bolt the it in place. Now mark and drill the upper hole in the same way. This procedure will custom fit the bar to the cage. Make the first two bends to this bar in the same shape as the first 4 bars. The third bend is not needed because these last four bars do not continue to the top of the cage. Cut off the bar 2.5 inches above the upper hole. The detail on the top ends of these bars consists of cutting the end of the bar to a point and removing some material to create an arrowhead shape (see picture).  Use the first bar as a guide for the last three. The cage will stand on these last four bars, so make sure that they are at the same level.

Now, drill a small hole into the top of the skeleton's skull directly above the nut which holds the skull onto the spine. Loosen the nut and wrap a piece of thin wire around the shaft, and tighten the nut. Thread the wire through the hole in the skull and put the skeleton into the cage. Position the skeleton so that the feet are flat on the bottom of the cage, and thread the wire up to the top of the cage, wrapping it around the eye bolt. With your victim in place assemble the last 4 bars. Using a pair of pliers, open the eye bolt and insert one end of the chain, and then close the eye bolt. Now your cage is ready to hang and detail.

Although this cage took more effort to build than the original design, the extra time and effort was worth it to achieve the medieval look. The fence bars are the perfect size for the project and are easy to work with. It is still a relatively inexpensive project, costing about $30, including the skeleton, and best of all, this design could easily be scaled up to hold a life-sized skeleton.

Brian Lorsung, is a Network Administrator from Minneapolis who has been yard haunting for the last two years. You can contact him at blorsung@citi-link.com, or visithis web site at www.citilink.com/~blorsung/halloween/MHO.htm


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