The Art of Darkness

Tutorial: Hand of Glory


  • Plastic skeleton arm – I used a Bucky Arm from the Skeleton Store
  • Contact cement – I used Weldwood
  • Clean pantyhose (old ones with runs in them are fine)
  • Hot glue
  • Sculpting medium: I used Model Magic, but polymer clay should work fine too.
  • White glue (such as Elmer’s)
  • Toilet paper or facial tissue
  • Fake fingernails
  • Spray paint
  • Acrylic paint
  • Short piece of dowel to use as a candle base
  • Candlestick or something similar to mount the hand
  • Twine, rag, or wire for lashing (I used cheesecloth)
  • Black nail polish (optional)
  • Baby powder (optional)
  • Spray adhesive (optional)
  • Craft knife (optional)
  • Wire clippers (optional)
  • Jigsaw or Dremel (optional)
Click the thumbnails for larger images.

Skeleton Arm

You only need the part of the arm below the elbow, so remove the wire and pins holding the joints together and discard the upper half (save it for some other Halloween prop).

Trim Flashing

The individual bones may have excess plastic flashing left over from the molding process; trim that off with a craft knife. You don’t have to worry about getting things totally smooth, since the pantyhose will cover minor flaws.

Fill in Joint

Some of the smaller bones may be held together by wire which juts out quite a bit. You may wish to clip those end pieces off with wire clippers. Wrap a piece of pantyhose around the wrist to give it a little “meat;” the overall effect we’re going for here is mummified rather than skeletal.

Saw Forearm

Most Hands of Glory are depicted as being severed at the wrist or partway down the forearm, so saw the arm bones to the desired length (they’re surprisingly tough, so be careful). If you’d prefer that your hand look as though it were twisted off at the elbow, you can skip this step.

Fill in Joints

Time to get to work with the Model Magic: Bend the fingers into the desired position–I cupped them toward the palm–and fill in all of the joints. Make little rounded ends for the fingertips, since the finger bones are a little pointy (again, we’re trying to create the illusion of mummified flesh, so we don’t want it to be too skeletal.)

Note: The way you intend the candle to be mounted will affect the way you position the fingers. There are three main ways that Hands of Glory are depicted: As a candelabra, with each finger holding a separate candle; with the fingers and thumb curved to grip the candle in a fist; and with the candle plunked on the back of the hand. I chose the last method, both because it was easiest to position and because it seemed the most logical way to make a candleholder out of a hand.

Cover Forearm Ends

The sawed ends of the forearm might be a little rough-looking, so you may want to give them a bit of shape with Model Magic as well. I was trying to make it look as though the arm had been roughly and hastily hacked off.

Tissue Paper

Add additional fleshy bits to the hand with tissue paper dipped in watered-down glue. Let dry.

Panty Hose

Time to start covering with pantyhose. Working in a well-ventilated area, stretch pieces across the hand and brush them liberally with the contact cement. Wrinkles and ridges are fine, since they look like places that the skin was roughed up as it mummified. I left a couple of holes to let the bone show through, enhancing the idea that this hand has been banged around a lot and is beginning to fall apart.

Since the contact cement makes everything terribly sticky, it’s easiest to work on one section of the hand, let it dry thoroughly, then work on another section.

Here are additional photos of the hand being covered with pantyhose: 1, 2, 3

Covered Fingers

The fingers were kind of a trial to cover properly. I finally wound up sewing tubes of pantyhose material and fitting them over each finger individually. You can see in this photo that there are ridges along the fingertips from the pantyhose seam; after they dried I trimmed those off with a craft knife.

Add Fingernails

Add fake fingernails to the fingertips. I had spray-painted the hand by this point (detailed below) and painted the fingernails black in advance, assuming I could just stick them in place. Unfortunately, once in place they were too obviously just stuck on, so I had to use some Model Magic around the edges to smooth them into the rest of the finger. Save yourself some time: Glue the fingernails on with contact cement, use Model Magic to blend them into the finger, then paint them after you spray-paint the hand.

Here’s a close-up of the nails, before spray-painting: 1


Cover any exposed bone with tape and spray-paint the hand; I chose a sort of earthy-brown color. Let dry.

If desired, add a little depth by diluting black acrylic paint with water and brushing it randomly across the hand. Let dry.

Use acrylic paint to add spots of “mold” and “dirt”. Let dry.


Paint the fingernails (don’t forget the undersides) with black polish or paint. Let dry, then use wire clippers or manicure scissors to cut them unevenly and shred the ends.


At this point, the “skin” may look a bit shiny rather than the dull, dusty appearance you’d expect of a mummy. Spray it lightly with spray adhesive and dust with baby powder. Shake off any excess. (Do this outside, because you will never get sticky baby powder off of the furniture.)

Here’s another view of the hand being dusted: 1


I wanted to use a candlestick to hold the hand upright, and after searching everywhere the right kind I finally found a lamp base that was perfect.


Remove the lamp wiring and fixtures (it should just unscrew and pull out), then plug the hole where the cord was with Model Magic. Plug the hole in the top the same way. Let dry. (Ignore the mound of Model Magic in this photo; I had considered making the candlestick look like it had had a partially-melted candle in it when it was repurposed, but decided against it.)


Spray-paint the candlestick. I used a special-effect spray paint that looked like wrought iron, let it dry, then dry-brushed some rust-colored acrylic paint in spots.


Lash the hand to the candlestick. I wanted it to look like a bit of filthy old rag, so I used cheesecloth dunked in coffee.


Finally, the candle. I had intended to roll some Model Magic into a candle-y shape, stick it on the back of the hand, then cover it with hot glue. I was somewhat surprised to discover that hot glue melts Model Magic, so I wound up with a puddle and a lot of swearing.

Instead, I used a short piece of dowel, hot-glued it upright to the back of the hand, then covered it with hot glue: Starting from the top of the dowel, squeeze out a big bead of glue and let it drip down the side like candle wax. Continue, nudging things around with the tip of the glue gun if necessary, until the whole dowel is covered. Let a bit drip messily down the edges of the hand, so it looks like it’s been lit and melted several times.

I used ivory-colored glue, but you can get it in a wide variety of colors; black or red would look good too. The “wick” is a short bit of wire clipped from a clothes hanger and spray-painted black.

Finished Hand

Finally, remove any tape still on the peeking-through bone and touch up with paint if you want any additional moldy or dirty spots.

And…done! Here are some additional views of the finished hand: 1, 2, 3, 4

You can display the hand along with a placard describing its origins. There’s also a collection of legends about Hands of Glory here, if you want to add a little flavor to your hand’s purported history.