Death

The shape of Death was the shape people had created for him, over the centuries. Why bony? Because bones were associated with death. He'd got a scythe because agricultural people could spot a decent metaphor. And he lived in a somber land because the human imagination would be rather stretched to let him live somewhere nice with flowers.
- Hogfather

The Head

It had to be Death. No one else went around with empty eye sockets and, of course, the scythe over one shoulder was another clue.
- The Colour of Magic

When a paper Mache form over a balloon would not hold up under its own weight, I decided to try a slightly more rigid bas - a foam rubber skull. The advantage here was the ability to carve and shape much more detail prior to adding a rigid shell. The foam skull was coated first with a thin shell of paper Mache (paper strips soaked in a flour/salt/water paste. Once the Mache coat was dry, a coating of epoxy was applied. Glass fiber cloth was added to the top of the head where it was likely to be running into things. Rough edges and points were clipped, filed or sanded smooth, although I left the irregular (lumpy) surface as is. Several additional layers of epoxy were then added to strengthen the shell and smooth the smaller imperfections. I wanted a slightly twisted gnarled effect to the bones. 

To color the epoxy white, titanium oxide powder was added to the mix. Enough whiting powder was mixed in to thicken the epoxy and slow down the dripping until it could set. The thickened epoxy also helps smooth the smaller imperfections out of the form, but adds more weight.

To support the head on the frame, provide a rigid core for the neck vertebrae, and anchor the whole assembly to the neck pivot point, a PVC pipe is glued inside the skull. A piece of 1/2" steel tube is flattened and anchored to the side of the PVC pipe. A small hole drilled in the steel tube lines up with the rod on the shoulder assembly and orients the skull with the riding helmet attached to the pivot. Everything can be quickly connected and disconnected using hitch pins.

The Eyes

Death stood with his skull on one side, as though listening to some inner voice. As his hood fell away the late king noticed that Death resembled a polished skeleton in every way but one. His eye sockets glowed sky blue.
- Wyrd Sisters

This bit was easy. Drill through the eye sockets to make room for two large ultra-bright blue LEDs. Attach a lithium battery pack with a small switch (this runs for hours, and maybe days before needing a recharge. A piece of foam rubber holds the battery up within the skull opening. As a backup to the lithium battery, I have a 4-cell alkaline pack that can be slipped into place and connected to the LEDs. A small piece of tape was used to mask the LEDs, and then a very light spray with flat black paint was applied to shadow the eye and nose holes.

The Feet

It was a mystery to her why Death had started using the place. Of course, he did have many of the qualities of a gentleman: he had a place in the country - a far, dark country - was unfailingly punctual, was courteous to all those he met - and sooner or later he met everyone - was well if soberly dressed, at home in any company and, proverbially, a good horseman. The fact that he was the Grim Reaper was the only bit that didn't quite fit.
Most of the overstuffed chairs in the library were occupied by contented lunchers dozing happily under tented copies of the Ankh-Morpork Times. Susan looked around until she found the copy from which projected the bottom half of a black robe and two bony feet. There was also a scythe leaning against the back of the armchair. She raised the paper.
- The Thief of Time

 


For the feet I created spandex booties that cover inexpensive slip-on tennis shoes. Toe bones are created with stiff foam rubber and glued to the fabric cover. Hot glue is used to coat the foam, then built up to form the individual bones of the foot. Other bones are created with hot glue right on the fabric.

The Hands

On top of that, he had to come to terms with the tall, thin figure standing beside him. Most of it was hidden in a hooded black robe, but the one arm which extended from the folds to grip a large scythe was made of bone.
- Wyrd Sisters

 

A pair of spandex gloves were made first. For the first pair, I just created these by tracing around my hand with finger spread and then cutting out four layers of fabric. Pairs were stitched together, then white hot glue used to build up the finger bones on the glove. (Ouch, Hot! Hot!) It helps to put on a silk liner or other thin fabric glove under the spandex, but it still gets very hot!. I had some problems with some of the small bones falling off and the finger tips coming unglued from being stretched and moisture build up in the fabric (sweat).

A final set of gloves was made using a pair of long black nylon gloves purchased from a local costume shop. The hot glue bones were built up on the gloves so that the gaps between the bones correspond to my knuckles and finger joints, allowing the gloves to flex easily, and minimize stretching and pulling that would otherwise occur.

Here's looking at you...

The electric cycle came with its own crash helmet, which I put to use in the costume by attaching a bolt through the top hole. This attaches with a hitch pin to a rod that extends through two ball bearings mounted in the frame. The square steel tube from the neck slips over the rod and is anchored with a second hitch pin. As my head moves under the robe, the skull tracks my side-to-side motion. In other words, he looks where I look.

After the neck was finished out with hot glue over the foam vertebrae, a pin across the jaw was added, and a small air piston mounted to the neck. A 12 volt battery mounted in the bottom of the frame powers a solenoid triggered by a finger switch. Later, the amplifier for THE VOICE was also connected to the same battery. A CO2 tank is Velcro-strapped to the upright tubing on the back frame.

The aluminum and copper tube framework attached to the hinged side assemblies allow me to impart a little bit of a shoulder-shrug to from under the costume.

A Leather Robe

EXCUSE ME.
The tall dark figure was suddenly there, in the doorway, and then in a few strides was in the circle. A skeletal hand dropped on to the Dean's shoulder and propelled him gently but unstoppably aside.
THANK YOU.
The figure vaulted into the saddle and reached out for the handlebars. It looked down at the thing it bestrode.
Some situations you had to get exactly right . . .
A finger pointed at the Dean.
I NEED YOUR CLOTHES.
The Dean backed away.
'What?'
GIVE ME YOUR COAT.
The Dean, with great reluctance, shrugged off his leather robe and handed it over.
Death put it on. That was better . . .

- Soul Music

In the book Soul Music, Death takes the leather robe being worn by the Dean of the Unseen University. As a biker on holiday, I wanted Death to have a more appropriate leather robe, more along the lines of a biker gang, and showing the appropriate "colors". What gang does Death belong to? A gang of four (or five if you count Chaos, but he reportedly dropped out...) Working from the wonderful illustration of the Four Horsemen of the Apocralypse by Paul Kidby, I created an embroidered pattern for the back of Death's robe. The horses and riders were scaled to the desired size, and the number "4" added as a background or for them to be jumping out of. This was transferred to heavy cloth, then stretched into an embroidery ring. More sewing machine abuse follows with much freehand filling with a zigzag stitch.

The completed pattern is trimmed then stitched to the jacket back with a solid band of black using a zigzag stitch to firmly anchor it all around. Decorative metal "nail head" studs are added to spell out "The Horsemen" to finish the effect.

The robe itself is made of black vinyl with the fuzzy white lining painted black using air-brush paint. A pair of round nickel collar buttons were added with a section of steel chain to hold the neck closed, and the robe from slipping off when worn.

The Voice

'A boiled egg, then?'
'Hah, boiling's no good, it don't kill off all the germs.'
'BOIL ME AN EGG, ALBERT.'
As the echoes bounced across and died away, Susan wondered where the voice had come from.
Albert's ladle tinkled on the tiles.
'Please?' said Susan.
'You did the voice,' said Albert.

- Soul Music
The voice was easily handled for my sound track by using the Audio Editor software in Ulead Media Studio. First I would record my voice track using the record function with a microphone input. Next background hum and static would be filtered, then with the entire voice clip selected, modified by dropping the pitch by 25%. Once I had the deep voice, I would then add a "Stadium" echo to the result. Music and other effects can then all be mixed together into my final Audio file, and then burned to CD for the Masquerade.

However, I wanted to add the same effect for just wandering the halls afterwards, so... Take one noise-canceling microphone. Add a cell phone voice changer. (I found out here that the voice changer requires voltage from the cell phone to work. This required adding a simple powered-microphone circuit, sometimes called a phantom powered microphone.) I took apart a lithium battery pack, removed one cell, and then merged the voice changer and power circuit into the resulting space. These two parts give me a lower-pitch voice, but I still need an echo effect and an amplifier to make it heard over my voice.

After reviewing several echo and reverb electronic circuits, I decided to check the Internet for products. Several likely products turned up in the search engines described as an echo/reverb/delay pedal used by musicians - and some for less money than I would spend on parts. I toke this one and added an amplifier from a set of computer speakers. The amplifier uses 12v power, so gets run from the battery used to drive the solenoid valve to the pneumatic jaw piston. The reverb unit uses a 9v battery (disconnect when not in use!) and the voice changer is running from a 3v lithium battery; well, someday maybe I will add a bunch of voltage regulators to run everything from the 12v -it does give me the effect I wanted, and is very similar to the computer generated VOICE.

A Coin Bag

Death reached into the depths of his robe and brought out a large leather bag full of assorted copper coinage, most of it blue and green with age. He inspected the bill carefully. Then he counted out a dozen coins.
- Mort

IF YOU WOULD CARE TO GO AWAY, said Death desperately, I WILL GIVE YOU SOME MONEY.
'How much?' said the cook, with a speed that would have outdistanced a striking rattlesnake and given lightning a nasty shock.
Death pulled out his coin bag and tipped a heap of verdigrised and darkened coins on the counter. She regarded them with deep suspicion.

- Mort

THIS IS A CITY, said Death, and pushed open the door of a clothing store. When they came out twenty minutes later Mort was wearing a neatly-fitting black robe with faint silver embroidery, and the shopkeeper was looking at a handful of antique copper coins and wondering precisely how he came to have them.
'How do you get all those coins?' asked Mort.
IN PAIRS.

- Mort

YES. EVERYTHING. WITH A RIBBON.
When the shop bell had jangled the purchaser out, Druto looked at the coins in his hand. Many of them were corroded, all of them were strange, and one or two were golden.
'Um,' he said. 'That will do nicely . . .'

- Reaper Man

Aged and verdigrised coins from all over, and mostly in pairs - This is an easy one. Searching through a few drawers, I came up with a large number of coins left over from trips to Canada, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Germany, and a bunch from other places  that I have never been to. Where possible, I selected pairs of coins. For the nickel based coins I used an oxidizing solution on them to give a dark antique patina. The brass coins received a similar treatment, then afterwards were heated and then quenched in a solution that creates a green or blue patina on copper-based metals.

Two black leather coin bags were made, one for the international coins and another for some hard spending money - a mix of silver and gold (US) dollar coins and some spare change. One never knows when Death might want a something to drink or a good curry to murder...

Death's belt with skeleton keys, watch timer and money bags.

A Small Hourglass on a Silver Chain

Death reached into the mysterious recesses of his robe and produced a small hourglass. There was almost no sand left in the top bulb. The last seconds of Gaspode’s life hissed from the future to the past.
And then there were none at all.
Death stood up.
COME, GASPODE.
There was a faint noise. It sounded like the audible equivalent of a twinkle.
Golden sparks filled the hourglass.
The sand flowed backwards.
Death grinned.

- Moving Pictures

While I don't specifically recall Death every pulling a timer from his robes, Death Of Rats does. Besides, how else should he check what time it is getting to be in a strange place? Taking a more direct approach, I started with a small wood egg timer. I added a nickel medallion to the top with the traditional Omega symbol. After drilling a small hole in one of the glass bulbs, I replaced the sand with gold-colored glitter beads. One heavy steel chain is added, attached to a small screw eye, and the other end attaches to Death's belt.

To make the timer more useful to the more mundane of us, I hollowed out the bottom of the timer and installed a ladies (Indi-Glow) watch. A small pin extends out the side to make the watch face light up for easier viewing. The watch is held in place with a nickel ring and four small screws.