Making a Life-Sized Barrel from The Nightmare Before Christmas

barrel trio

I’d like to apologize to the frustrated creators, trying to find the link from my original post, Lock, Shock and Barrel Life-Sized Characters – DIY.  It seems a few years back, a glitch deleted content off my site. Here is the long-awaited tutorial for Barrel:

You’ll need:

  • A Styrofoam head
  • Blade or knife
  • 1/2″ PVC pipe (10 ft. piece is most economical)
  • PVC coupler types: 4 cross, 4 – 90 degree elbows 
  • PVC cutters, hand saw, or Dremel/cutting disk/dust mask
  • Lime Greenish acrylic paint ( such as Americana Aloe)
  • Same blue-hued acrylic paint, as in mask tutorial
  • White acrylic paint
  • Two paintbrushes – one about an inch-wide, other smaller
  • The Mask made from my tutorial of Lock, Shock and Barrel
  • Dark green duct tape
  • Three 8″ paper plates
  • Light green yarn 
  • A wig cap or a homemade one from a stocking, found in Sally’s tutorial
  • A Craft needle
  • Scissors 
  • Eyeballs – can be made from ping pong balls, eyeball plastic cubes, Dollar store ones, etc. 
  • Pool noodles and/or other padding
  • Hot glue gun/glue sticks
  • About 4 wooden shish-ka-bob skewers or long, strong toothpicks
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Clear packing tape
  • Brown craft paper for making template pattern for clothes
  • A measuring tape
  • Push pins
  • Optional: PVC one-step glue/sandpaper


Read all instructions first. It will save you time, and possibly mistakes.  

His Mask

If you haven’t already made Barrel’s mask, follow the instruction in an earlier tutorial. DO NOT cover the eye sockets as in mask instructions. If you already have, remove the backing for eye balls to be seen, later. 

The Body Frame

You’re going to make a basic PVC skeleton frame. It’s used on many of projects on this website. See the images below, for better understanding. Cuts for PVC:  2 – 3″ pieces for shoulder to Cross Coupler to shoulder(clavicle area), 2 – 7″ pieces for arms, a 10″ piece that will connect head to pelvic Cross, 2 – 3″ pieces for hip to Cross to hip, and 13.5″ for legs. His feet will be made of a Cross each, with an approx. 2″ piece of PVC placed in front. The neck piece that goes into the Cross, will be approx. 3″ long. 

Glue VS. Taping Frame

Here’s where you decide on whether to make your frame permanent or changeable. Using PVC glue, it will forever keep Barrel’s pose the way it’s put together, now.  If you think you may want to change his frame position in the future, go with wrapping packing tape around each connection. Don’t worry about the elements for the tape. I’ve seen it hold up in any kind of weather, for years. 

Padding Over the Frame

If you can recall, Barrel was the chunkiest of all the trio. Cut a pool noodle to fit over the entire clavicle to shoulders area, a piece each to cover most of the arms, and legs. Use packing tape to secure.

For the chest/stomach area, you can use a piece of noodle on either sides of the spine frame, or find a rectangular foam piece to tape into place. Those rectangular pieces can be found in packing boxes of electronics.

Making Barrel’s Clothes

To me, Barrel looks like he’s wearing a skeleton PJ’s outfit. If you’re lucky to find one in the kid’s section of a department store, kudos to you! You’ll have less work.

But if not, you can go a few ways with making a pattern for his outfit. The first, is to simply pin brown paper to Barrel, and cut the paper big enough for each of the sections seen in image below. You’ll end up with 10 pattern pieces. Make sure you add at least 2 inches extra at seams, when cutting the pattern out of your fabric.


pattern template for BarrelThe second way, is to wing it, if you have lots of fabric you can possibly waste. Instead of making a pattern and following, you pin the fabric onto the frame, cut the extra 2 inches, along the seams, and hot glue it together. This may bring many seamstresses to gasp, but heck, it has worked for me. It’s only a prop.  

Thirdly, there’s always measuring each section and width. Drawing it out on paper, then going the old-fashion way of a pattern. It’s your choice. I just really prefer the nitty-gritty, faster way.  

Skeleton Front

Once his clothes are on, use the white paint to make the skeleton pattern on the front of him (as in the pic at the top). I found it easier to paint the pattern correctly when it was on, so I could gauge the width of everything. 

Barrel’s Head, Eyes, and Hair (see images below)

Barrel’s Styrofoam head needs to have the front nose and partial chin taken off, that’s if your head has those features. Some heads don’t have any eyes, nose, or mouth. That may be fine to work with. The idea is that you have a flat surface, with space for added eyeballs. If your head isn’t flat, you’ll have to use your blade or knife, and saw some foam off to get it that way.

The Eyes

You also may need to cut out space for your eyeballs. Tape the eyes to the back of Barrel’s mask, and see if it attaches correctly to the headpiece. After ensuring the mask and eyes fit the foam head, take off the mask and paint the foam head green. Sorta like a pale alien color, with a possible tint of blue. It all depends on what you’d prefer. Let it completely dry, before going to next step of the head.

The Hair

With the same idea of making a wig from yarn, like in Sally’s tutorial, do the same with Barrel’s hair, but shorter. Remember, it’s best to make it longer at first, then give it a haircut, if needed.

The Ears

For the ears I folded another paper plate, cut out ear shapes, and hot glued them, EXCEPT for the place, I will need to add the wooden skewers in (see images below to understand). To add depth, I added hot glue outline of ears/canal, and then painted them partially green and the same blue, as his mask. Once they are all dry, and his mask is on the foam head, push ears into foam. 

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His Shoes and Hands

His shoes are made very similar to how Lock and Shocks were made: Two paper plates doubled, and shape cut out. Make sure you check out Lock’s tutorial to see how they will attach. The DIFFERENCE in Barrel’s feet: The cut out shape is more like a reptile. Follow the Shock directions and cut the below shape out.

Barrel feet as in toy


His hands are made exactly like many of my other props. You can find one of the site’s tutorials, such as Sally’s, or a very good, in-depth one at Playing with Scissors.

I hope you try to make a Barrel of your own. He’s one of my favorite characters! If you do, please send me a pic of your creation. I’ll even share it, if you’d like. Happy Crafting!









3 thoughts on “Making a Life-Sized Barrel from The Nightmare Before Christmas

  1. Pingback: Lock, Shock, and Barrel Life-size Characters – DIY | Frugal Frights and Delights

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