There are a few ways to make shrunken heads, but the easiest and most fun way is with apples. While not necessarily realistic, apples continue to shrink after the design has been carved into them, adding a great random factor to the design.
It takes a couple of weeks for the apples to dry out completely so remember to start this project at least two weeks before you want to put them out for display. Kids will love watching this simple craft take shape.
Peel and Coat Apples
Start with an apple. It’s going to shrink significantly so try to find the largest ones possible. Remove the peel with a vegetable peeler or knife. Once completely peeled, cover with lemon juice and a bit of salt to prevent browning. (Whether or not you want to leave the stem if completely up to you. If you’re making more than one, leave the stem on some and take it off of others.)
Carve a Creepy Face
Take a small knife and carve out ears if desired. It’s best to begin with the ears because quite a bit of apple will be removed in order to make the ears stand out. You don’t want to encroach on an already carved face.
Carve the face. Have fun with this and be creative. Don’t worry about trying to make it perfect. Remember that as it shrinks it will become slightly deformed. When carving the face remember to make the features large. The shrinking process will reduce them by quite a bit, so remember to go big.
If added details are desired use toothpicks to carve them out. Remember not to gouge out these extras too deeply because these cuts will be magnified during the shrinking process. You don’t want to steal attention away from the face.
Make a few additional small cuts or stabs all over the apple. This is important because the juices need somewhere to escape as the apple dries. If this step is skipped it may dry incorrectly and end up being more deformed than it should be. It needs to dry evenly.
Dry or Bake Apples to Make a Shrunken Head
Leave the apples in a warm dry place for about 2 to three weeks. Place them on a wire rack, not a flat surface (it can affect the drying process). Keep an eye on them and feel free to make additional carvings during the shrinking process
If you need them in a hurry they can be dried out in the oven. Keep the temperature fairly low (no higher than 275 degrees or it will burn) and bake for 8 hours or so. Place them on a wire rack and not a cookie sheet or other flat surface. Check them periodically to make sure the face is drying the way you want. Feel free to go in and make changes during the process if you want to enhance a particular part of the head.
Make Creepy Additions to a Shrunken Apple Head
They look great as is, but it can also be fun to add details like hair. It’s unsettlingly creepy. Another creative idea is to add a small amount of tissue to the carved out eyes and staple it to the head. It will look like the eyes have been stitched up.
Nothing says creepy like a shrunken, gnarled head. Use them to accessorize a scary buffet table or mantle display, or string them on a garland and have them draped across windows and doorways. No matter where you put these weird little heads, they’ll surely spook all of the visitors to your home over the holiday.