Unci's Tail

Tail building instructions

(Note: Long ago, this page used to be at http://www.uni-karlsruhe.de/~ukjp/uncitail.html, but that site sadly went offline. So, with the help of the Wayback Machine, I retrived an old page of the page, and put it up here. I've changed the HTML a little, but all of the text and pictures are intact. Enjoy! -- Doug)

This describes the construction of unci's tail, built by Raschkar/Heribert Vogt (vogt@xenomen.escape.de) and unci/Tobias Benjamin Köhler (unci@tigerden.com). Photos taken by Hurga/Hanno Foest (hanno@ranea.escape.de) with a Connectix QuickCam and an Apple Macintosh Performa 630. These instructions are partly derived from the tail building guide by Pounce/Nate Morse (pounce@vt.edu), who, however, uses one metal strap, stuffs the tail and has a different way of attaching it to the belt.

This is a description of how to build a tail to wear in daily life. It is a light construction, easy to wear and to take off when you need it, and sufficiently robust. The construction consists of a skeleton made of plastic ribbon held together by rivets, and a hull made of plush fur, closed by a velcro strip. A thread ensures that the tail is slightly curled up at the end. To avoid a too complicated construction, this does not include active movement of the tail.

Tools you will need:

Sewing machine
If you don't have one, you will have to sew manually, using a needle.
For holding the fur together while sewing.
The most special tool needed, it should work together with the aluminium rivets.
Punch tongs
The kind where you can select a hole size.
Permanent marker
Measuring tape

Supplies required:

Plastic strapping
The kind to hold boxes and palettes together. Green, white or yellow plastic ribbon, rather stiff and very robust. What you need is a ribbon that does not break lengthways when you make a hole in it, Unfortunately not all kinds of this strapping are the same - some are not robust enough to hold the rivets. You can't buy this, but probably get it for free when you look for it - department stores, big supermarkets and do-it-yourself shops usually throw it away when they unpack their supplies. This will become the skeleton of your tail. You need two long and several short straps, totally about three to four times the desired length of your tail.
Aluminium rivets, less than half the width of the plastic straps in diameter. One package should normally be enough.
Plush fur
This comes in a wide variety of colours and qualities, sold in department stores and other shops. Should be a little longer than the tail will be, and as wide as the diameter multiplied by pi. Don't worry if you have to assemble smaller patches - the seams will not be visible when the fur is long enough. If the fur `grows' in a direction, take care of this when you cut and assemble it!
Spray colour
If you want to spray a pattern onto the fur, for example for many felines - tigers, leopards, snow leopards.
Any thread that is robust enough. A little more than the tail length will be enough. This will cause the tail to curl up at the end and move properly.
Sewing yarn
The same colour as the fur.
Velcro strip
Look for `endless' strip, buy both sides, a little more than the tail length. Usually this comes in white, brown or black, choose the colour that matches the fur colour best.
The riveted kind - you will need two well-working ones to attach the tail easily.
Jeans fabric
The colour of the trousers you will be wearing. About 20 * 30 cm should be enough.

The act of creation

  1. First you should choose what kind of tail you need - what species your personal furry is. This determines the length and width of the tail, and the length and colour of the fur. For practical use, the tail should not touch the ground, so it doesn't get dirty. Feel where your tail bone is (on the lower end of the spinal column, you have one too!), stand up barefooted and measure the height of the tail bone above the ground - that's a good length for a feline tail. The automatic curl will ensure it stays clear of the ground even on uneven, muddy terrain. (Actually, a real snow leopard tail would be much longer than the hind legs, but as I don't have real muscles in the tail, I don't see a way to hold it up when it is longer.)
  2. Cut two strips of plastic strapping to this length.
  3. Choose a hole size appropriate for your rivets.
  4. In both of these strips, make a hole about 1 cm from one end, using the punch tongs - with feeling, not with force. Don't press too hard, this can destroy the ribbon - better turn the punch tongs a bit while pressing lightly. If the strap breaks lengthwise, you have to look for better material. This is the rear end of the tail.
  5. Continue punching holes in the middle of the strip, about every 6 cm, starting from the first hole.
        |  o   o   o   o   o   o   o   o   o   o   o   o   o|
  6. Decide how thick you want the tail to be. About 5cm across is good for a feline tail. Perhaps a bit narrower for a dog or rat, wider for skunk or fox. This will be the interior thickness, if the fur is long and fluffy, the tail will appear much thicker!
  7. Multiply your desired width by pi and add twice the width of the strapping material. Cut lengths of strapping this size for each hole you drilled after the first. For some species, it will look more realistic if you become slightly thinner towards the end.
  8. Punch three holes in each of your small strips: about one half strip width from the ends, and 1/4 the distance of these holes from the first hole.
        |o   o           o|
  9. Now for the fun part: Attaching all those little strips to the big one.
    1. Look at your pop-rivets. They honestly look like swords for mouse-morphs.
      Watch out for the tip: it's a real nail, and sharp.
    2. Insert the `hilt' of the rivet into one of the end holes in your smallest strip with the nail pointing away from the center. Now hook the hole at the other end over the hilt, so you have a loop.
    3. Insert one of the long strips through this loop and hook the second hole from the folded end over the "hilt" of the pop rivet.
    4. Insert the nail of the rivet into your riveter, and apply force.
    5. Voilà! You have put the first vertebrae on your tail! Only 12 to 20 more to go! Things should now look roughly like this:
          +---------------------------------------------| |---+
          |  o   o   o   o   o   o   o   o   o   o   o  | |  o|
    6. Attach the rest of the short strips to the rest of the holes in the long strip in the same way. Take care that the third hole in each short strip is on the same side. Leave the last hole free.
                +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ 
          +-----| |-| |-| |-| |-| |-| |-| |-| |-| |-| |-| |---+
          |  o  | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |  o|
                +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+
                +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+
                |o| |o| |o| |o| |o| |o| |o| |o| |o| |o| |o|
    7. Take the second long strip, insert it into the loops in the same direction as the first one, and attach it to them with the riveter.
    8. Connect the rear end holes of the two strips with a rivet.
    9. Cut a short strip of plastic strapping, make two holes near the ends at the distance of the two long strips, and use this short strip and two rivets to connect the remaining two holes.
    You now have the skeleton - now for the construction of how it is attached to your belt!
  10. Cut two strips of 2.5 * 5 cm from the jeans fabric and hem them. They will help opening the snap-fasteners when you take off your tail.
  11. Take the snap-fasteners. Adjust the punch tongs to the hole size appropriate for the snap-fasteners. Punch holes of this size near the end of the small textile strips and at the end of the plastic straps.
  12. With the lower half of the snap-fasteners (the upper side must face up, inside the skeleton - remember that the two plastic straps are on the bottom of the tail!), connect the canvas strips to the plastic straps.

  13. The next step is tailoring the fastening you will attach to your belt, from the jeans fabric. For standard jeans, you have a belt loop in the middle, for this you will need a slit.
    1. Cut the following pattern from the jeans textile:
                |.15 cm.|
            _    __   __  _        a = belt width
            :   |  |_|  | _a       b = strip distance
          25 cm |... ...| _a     ... = seam
            :     o o  /          o = snap-fastener
            _    _____/
      Leave enough fabric below the snap-fasteners to cover the innards of the tail. This is designed so that it looks like a part of your trousers, designed for furries with a tail. :)
    2. Hem it all nicely. Sew down the two flaps so you have two loops that will go around your belt. As this will take the whole weight of the tail, make 4 - 5 seams.
    3. A little below the seams, make holes for the top parts of the snap-fasteners, at about the distance of the plastic straps (for me, this is about 3.5 cm), well above the lower end of the fabric. Rivet them in, with the upper side facing to the smooth side of the assembly.

    You will now be able to wear your tail skeleton!

  14. To give it a natural curl near the end: Tie a random length of pack-thread to the tip of your tail. Run it through the loops of vertebrae to the upper end. Note how pulling on the string makes it curl up? Prick a safety-pin through the thread and attach it to the first horizontal strip on the upper end.
  15. The next step will be to build the furry part of the tail!

    1. Mark off a section of plush fur that will cover your tail. Length should be a little more than the length of your tail, width should be the perimeter. If your tail gets thinner towards the end, measure the perimeter in several places and tailor the fur accordingly. If you have to assemble patches (you are a raccoon or your strip is not long enough), don't worry, the seams will not be too visible.
    2. At the tip end, cut the material into two semi-circles:
                  /        /
           `-.__,-'  `-.__,-'
      This, when finished, will give your tail a rounded tip. Sew the semi-circles together on the back of the material and turn it around. For a lion tail, you would instead make a tuft of darker, thicker fur and sew it to the shorter, brighter fur of the tail.

    3. Sew the rough half of the velcro strip to the inside of one side of the fur and the soft half to the other side, so that it faces outside:
          ww______________==     ww = rough velcro strip
          ||||||||||||||||       == = soft strip
      You can do this with a sewing-machine, believe me! At least if you have some experience with it.
    4. Now you will be able to cover your skeleton with a furry hull! Keep the velcro strip on the bottom (where the two plastic straps are), where it will be least visible.

    5. On the top end of the tail, you will need something that keeps the hull from sliding down. Sew a soft velcro strip to the middle of the fur, and a canvas strip with rough velcro strip to the edge, on the long soft strip, about 6 cm from the top.
                         |  |    <-- canvas strip folded up
                         |  |
          ww_____==_______==     ww = rough velcro strip
          ||||||||||||||||       == = soft strip    
      The canvas strip goes over the last horizontal plastic strap (where the pack-thread is attached with a safety pin) and holds the hull in place.

    6. For tails with fur pattern, such as tiger or snow leopard, you can use spray paint for the pattern. If you want a fuzzy pattern, spray it on directly, from close. For a more accurate pattern, you can use stencils. Don't worry about hair glued together by paint - you can comb it once it's dried, and it will become better with time.
  16. Now pull the pack-thread until the end of the tail curls up nicely, and prick the safety-pin through it at the appropriate place.

  17. The tail can now easily be attached to the fastening you wear on your belt, using the snap-fasteners.
  18. Wear it, walk around, go shopping, check for people's reactions. Pay attention to how it moves. Notice how it reacts when you are not paying attention to it. Just, get a feel for the thing. You will notice it moves as if it was alive when you walk with a certain hip-swing. Run around and see how it moves even livelier.
  19. When sitting on a chair, pay attention not to sit on the tail. Depending on the chair, it is more or less easy to let it come out on the back.
  20. When riding your bicycle, you best put a basket on your carrier, and curl up your tail in it, so it doesn't get caught in the spokes.

  21. If you have to move your tail without wearing it, it can be curled into a small spiral - the plastic ribbon is elastic enough.
  22. When going downstairs, the tail will slide on the stairs. This is usually not a problem, unless the stairs are very dirty, or someone unaware of the tail is walking directly behind you. In this case you will have to carry the tail in your hand, also on escalators where it might be caught in the mechanics.
  23. You will get a feeling for it, and soon it's an essential part of yourself. Everywhere you will easily be recognised as a furry!

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