Ed. note: Nova Labs contributor [Alexander Romero] built this Claw Machine Halloween Costume for his son last year and wrote about it for his blog. This article re-posted with permission.
If you want to see or show off your Halloween creations, join us at Nova Labs on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 7pm. Details on our Meetup page.
My son loves claw machines, so when I casually asked if he’d be interested in being one for Halloween his eyes lit up and he jumped up and down proclaiming YES, YES, YES!!
Thus the two of us set out to create one for Halloween. This blog details how we built a working claw machine Halloween costume. You can see the finished product in this video.
Then I cut out the centers of each of three sides from the top part of the body, which is where the main part of the machine would be. I left about a 4″ border around the sides. Actually I left an 8″ border, but then folded it back at 4″ to make is stronger. I basically doubled up the border for strength.
Now the next thing to figure out was how to connect the two boxes. I could have glued them, but I didn’t love that idea, because I wanted to be able to take the two pieces apart. Also, I wasn’t sure if gluing it would be strong enough. So I cut out four pieces of thin plywood, glued them to the top box, and the bottom box, then I drilled holes and secured them with washers, nuts and bolts. That proved sufficiently strong, but also added weight. I also cut out a circular hole for his head, and some holes on the side for his arms.
The next step was easy, but took a while. I spray painted the whole thing red on the outside, and white on the inside for the inside parts one could see. If I did it again, I would probably just cover the outside with red wrapping paper. The spray paint took way too long. On the back of the top part I used a sparkle wrapping paper I picked up at Michaels. You can see it in the picture below.
After this, it was now time to figure out how to make a working claw. For this I used a combination of Legos, a salvaged electric motor from a Nerf gun, and a tin can. First I built the assembly that I would tie the string to that would raise and lower the claw. You can see I made the spool that would wrap the string a wider diameter, so it wouldn’t take so long for the claw to go up and down.
I mounted this to the ceiling of the claw machine. To do this I used a similar idea to how I connected the two boxes. I used plywood as the backing so that I could have a secure foundation to mount the assembly. This meant that I had plywood and screws popping out of the top of the claw machine. You can see how I covered those up with a third low profile box on the top of the machine in the finished product picture at the top.
It also includes two other items. On the front right is an on / off toggle switch that controlled the back lighting. For the back lighting I used a strip of LED’s powered by AA batteries and wired it to the on / off switch which I got from Amazon.
On the side of the control panel there was a pressure kill switch. It had to be depressed for the claw to go up or down. I put this in because there is no auto stop for the up and down motion of the claw. Meaning, once the claw was fully retracted, it could get stuck and potentially break the assembly that retracts it. So the pressure switch gives the person wearing the costumer the ability to regulate the use of the claw and stop it if it is getting too close to the top.
Because I wanted the ability to disconnect the top and the bottom of the costume, I got a trailer harness connector from the auto supply store, and used this as the connector between the control panel, and the rest of the electronics. There were lots of ways to connect these components, but I found this harness to be the cheapest convenient connector.
My wife helped find some other decorations, like the “Win Me” at the top, as well as the prize door, etc. I printed these off on a color printer then used adhesive spray to affix them to the costume.
To say this costume was a hit is an understatement! It was admired by everyone who saw it, from kids to adults. See the video at the top of this blog for the mob of kids that wanted to check it out when my son wore it to the Halloween party.
Because the costume was heavy, I cut an old foam pillow and then attached it using string to the undersides of the costume where it would rest on my son’s shoulders. This helped, but it was still a pretty heavy costume for an eight year old. You can see below where I positioned and secured the foam pillows.
Then with the help of my son, we filled up the inside of the claw costume with stuffed animals. To secure these from jostling around while the costume was being worn, we used fishing line and tied it to the bottom of the machine.
Things I would have done differently: