If you’ve ever wanted your own human skeleton hanging up in your living room, a “build your own human skeleton” kit from Taschen is the way to do it without breaking HTA rules. With this kit you can assemble your own full size adult human skeleton, complete with moveable joints and a cheesy smile. I saw this in the Natural History Museum shop back in August, and as it was advertised as being the “ideal gift” for anyone who liked anything bone-related I couldn’t walk away without it.
So, how did it go?
I had to wait until I’d moved house in order to assemble the skeleton, as I knew it would be very fragile and I didn’t think it would emerge from the back of the van in one piece. The kit states it doesn’t require any glue or tape, just the split pins it comes with, and you don’t need scissors as the edges are perforated.
The first thing you should consider is where on Earth you’re going to put this thing when it’s done. It’s approx 1.7m tall, a fact I should have considered before I started! It needs to be kept safe from kids or pets (such as my paper-loving guinea pigs), so think carefully.
You’ll have to either assemble it in several sessions, and therefore have somewhere to hang what you’ve done so far, or enlist a few friends to work on each element. If you have an engineer to hand, I’d suggest you borrow them for the more tricky parts.
The next thing you’re going to need is a lot of floor space to lay everything out. Between the “bones” you’re punching out, the instructions, and the excess paper from the A3 sheets you’re going to need a lot of space. Just make sure you don’t lose the pins! The instructions are exclusively pictures and occasionally difficult to follow, but as long as you follow the sheets in order you should be fine.
Key pieces of advice to follow from the start…
1. Make sure you have something to hand to pre-punch the holes for the split pins to avoid tearing.
2. Ensure everything is pre-folded very well before assembly, particularly the long bones.
3. If the instructions fail you, just stick to the numbers!
4. Regular breaks, or you’ll get yourself all muddled up.
Skull and Thorax
Even though they look like a nightmare, the vertebrae were actually quite easy to put together. Make sure you’re careful to put the split pins through in the right direction (cervical from anterior to posterior; thoracic from posterior to anterior) to make it easier to add the ribs on later on.
The skull looks fairly complicated, but you need to be careful as it all slots together rather than being held together by lots of pins. It’s not a particularly accurate shape but it demonstrates the point fairly well.
You’ll have to lie down the head and spine so far on the floor and add the ribs to create the rib cage. To do this you’ll have to undo several of the pins in the vertebrae so be careful. Although the instructions don’t say so, you’ll need to bend the 11th and 12th ribs into shape.
Pelvis and Lumbar Vertebrae
I found the sacrum and L5 were difficult to fit together, so you might need tape to stick them together. Otherwise the pelvis is quite well designed, and even goes to the effort of trying to recreate the shape of the pelvis in quite good detail.
Arms and Legs
I assembled all parts of the upper and lower limbs and then joined them at together to create the elbows and knees.
Successful assembly of a tibia greatly depends on the “bone” being well folded first.I didn’t do this, and I ended up having to put tape on to keep it together. Unfortunately you can’t just pull it apart and try again as the paper will be too weak, so it’s first time or the tape.
I don’t know if it was because I’d spent days staring at this or not, but I just couldn’t work out how to get the knees to fit together at all. I had to call on my engineer husband to give me a hand and work it out. I think it probably wasn’t helped by the instructions, the fact that the patella looks very odd (see above), or the lack of caffeine. I’d suggest you attack the moveable joints with a fresh pair of eyes!
The hands are very well designed and even demonstrate the carpals without actually having separate elements to assemble (thank goodness!), and the feet take some work if you don’t want them to look like they have arthritis.
Complete at last…
But with a few days of work, or some incredibly helpful friends, you will finally have your skeleton. And here he is, sat in his arm chair staring out of the window and terrifying our new neighbours.
So, in summary, I’d highly recommend one of these guys for anyone who loves bones or anatomy in general. It will definitely help your revision of the human skeleton and provide ongoing prompts as it has all of the key elements labeled. It’s also pretty fun to have around to provide a topic of discussion, whether it’s a fellow anatomy enthusiast or an interested friend.
I have no idea how I’m going to move him when the time comes to pack up and move again, or if he’ll even survive the journey, but I’ll worry about that in a couple of years…