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zaterdag 28 december 2013

The whisperer in darkness re-cover

After my first attempts at bookbinding, documented in this and this post, I decided it was time for another attempt! My first book didn't turn out so great. I made the hinge all wrong, and the book is almost impossible to open without tearing something. It would still make a fine prop for Halloween displays, so I'm not throwing it away.

zondag 24 november 2013

Necronomicon re-cover, part 2

In the previous post, the Necronomicon got a new cover. But the new cover is too boring. It's just a plain faux leather cover, it needs something extra! The Simon Necronomicon has this glyph on the cover that looks like a pentagram with some extra lines in it; I believe Vin Diesel had a tattoo of it in "Babylon AD". Since I'm too lazy to come up with something more original, I'm gonna put this glyph back on the cover. But I'm not too lazy to put some effort in it, so here we go!

zondag 17 november 2013

Necronomicon re-cover, part 1

Here's a project I have had in my mind for a long time, and now I finally started it. One of the blogs I follow, MRX Designs, has quite a few posts on bookbinding, more specifically on making new covers for books. I've been wanting to give it a try myself, so here we go.
There are two posts on the blog I mentioned that do a great job of explaining the entire process in detail: Demo Book #1 (part 1) and Demo Book #1 (part 2). A third one explains the process of creating a faux leather covering.

donderdag 14 november 2013

Flashback: paper maché masks

These two masks were among my first creations ever. I made them for Halloween parties, but they were quite uncomfortable to wear.

The technique is pretty simple. You take a balloon, glue strips of newspaper over it and when the layer of paper maché is thick enough, you pop the balloon. This gives you a basic oval shape to work with. Of course, you have to make sure the shape is big enough to fit over your face!

Here's the first mask. I made it in 2010 as part of a costume for a Halloween party. The sawblade is made from a thick piece of cardboard, and the cuts are made with paper clay. Besides the saw blade, the most prominent feature was the eye, of course. It's a cheap plastic Christmas ball with paper mache glued over it.
The mask is painted with cheap gouache paint, wich wasn't the best idea since it's not waterproof. The hair is made from yarn, attached with hot glue.

The second mask was made the next year, for the same party. I managed to make the basic shape a lot smoother. The ears are made from cardboard and clay, with extra paper mache glued over it. The lips and eyes are also made like this. This time, I was smart enough to use acrylic paint instead of gouache. Overall, the paint job looks a lot better than on the first mask.

Masks like these have one huge disadvantage: they are impossible to wear for more than fifteen minutes. You breathe out straight into the mask, so in no time you sit in a hot, humid atmosphere that smells like whatever you had for dinner!

dinsdag 29 oktober 2013

The cemetary gate, part 3

The last post in this series! Last time, I talked about monster mud and painting. The gate pillars were finished, and all that was needed now was the arch that spans the gate!

The arch
Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of the building of the arch, but everything more or less speaks for itself. I used a few sections of 40 mm PVC tube and some elbows. The tubes are painted black with acrylic paint. My girlfriend pointed out that the paint might not adhere to the plastic very well, so I sanded everything before painting.
The elbows are glued to the tubes on only one side, the other side is inserted without any glue. This makes it possible to put the arch together and take it apart again. After we had put it together, we hung some rags on it to make it look a bit, well, creepier.

I think it looks pretty nice! The visitors were also quite impressed, we had lots of good comments.

Possible improvements
The entire package is now stored in my basement, awaiting next year. I will make some improvements by then, though. One problem is that they were hard to transport. The entire outside is styrofoam coated with monster mud, wich is very fragile. The pillars did suffer some damage during transport, nothing that can't be repaired luckily. I'm gonna reinforce the base with wood, and replace the styrofoam top with plywood. That way, I can put them on a trailer and secure them in place with ropes without crushing them.
Another possible improvement: replace the arch with thicker tubes. They just look too thin. I'm also gonna build a fence, and perhaps some text plaques on the pillars. But that's for next Halloween season!

donderdag 24 oktober 2013

The cemetary gate, part 2

In my previous post, I explained how I built the frames for the gate pillars, and the styrofoam cladding. In this post, I will continue with the construction of the pillars. They need to be coated with monster mud, and painted.
I did find liquid drywall compound, the stuff everybody else seems to be using, but I didn't buy it because it is much more expensive than powdered compound. The liquid compound costs 30 euro for a 5 kg tub, while a 5 kg bag of powdered coumpound (wich is enough for about 8 kg of prepared compound) costs only 8 euro!

Mudding it up!
So like I said, I started by coating all the styrofoam with monster mud. It was one hell of a task, and afterwards, my knees hurt like hell. I prepared a bit too much drywall compound at once. Even though it stays more or less liquid for a few hours, it already thickens quite a lot after thirty minutes and becomes impossible to work with. I had to throw some away, unfortunately.
In a single afternoon, I coated both pillars top to bottom. I had to squat and sit on my knees a lot, wich was very exhausting. The day after I didn't work on the pillars, not only because I was a bit tired of it but also because I had to make sure the mud had dried enough.

Two days later, the monster mud was dry enough and I could start painting. I started by painting the mortar between the bricks gray, followed by the base and the top. For the mortar I used a paint brush, but for the rest a roller. Works much, much faster!

Next, I painted the bricks. I mixed some red and brown paint to get the typical dark red brick color. I started by painting a few bricks all over the pillar first, before mixing up a fresh batch of paint. The idea behind this was that this way, all bricks would have a slightly different color. It didn't really work, though, all of them turned out the same color.

At this point the pillars were painted completely, but of course they looked way too dull. By using the magic of drybrushing, I made them look a bit less dull! First of all, the base and top got a layer of black drybrushing, like I did with the tombstones. The bricks all got a bit of pure red paint in the center, so this part looked a bit brighter than the edges.
What made the biggest difference, though, was the green drybrushing. I mixed green with a bit of brown and green and drybrushed it on the base and top, so it resembled moss. Next, I gave each brick some of this color in both upper corners. I was surprised at the result, because it made a gigantic difference!

Last but not least, I painted the protruding tube at the top black. In my next (and final) post, I will explain the arch that spans the gate, and some pictures of the gate at our haunt site.

zondag 13 oktober 2013

The cemetary gate, part 1

This is the most ambitious project of our haunt. The visitors will enter our spot through this gate. It will consist of two pillars and an arch between the two pillars. It will be constructed from wood, PVC tube and styrofoam. I wanted to build a fence as well, but I don't have enough time for that.
This part of the tutorial will deal with the pillars. The second part will deal with coating and painting them, and the third part will deal with the arch.

  • 34 x 34 mm lumber, 210 cm long, 5 pieces
  • 12 x 44 mm lumber, 210 cm long, 7 pieces
  • Nails
  • Styrofoam slabs, 2 cm thick, 50x100 cm
  • Styrofoam slabs, 3 cm thick, 50x100 cm
  • Liquid nails
  • PVC glue
  • PVC tube, 40 mm diameter
  • PVC couplers, 40 mm diameter, 4 pieces
  • PVC screw-on endcaps, 40 mm diameter, 2 pieces
  • Saw (electric, or as in my case, handsaw and miter box)
  • Hammer
The wooden frame
To get started, I constructed a wooden frame. This served as a skeleton to glue the styrofoam panels to, and as a base for the arch. I cut the following pieces of lumber:
  • 100 cm long, 34 x 34 mm, 8 pieces (vertical supports)
  • 50 cm long, 12 x 44 mm, 8 pieces (horizontal supports)
  • 52,4 cm long, 12 x 44 mm, 8 pieces (horizontal supports)
Out of a single 12 x 44 mm piece, I cut 2 50 cm and 2 52,4 cm long pieces, so 4 of these were needed for this part, along with 4 34 x 34 mm pieces.

I made 4 frames, using 2 50 cm long 12 x 44 mm pieces and 2 100 cm long 34 x 34 mm pieces. It is very important that all angles are 90°, or the entire construction will be wobbly and unstable! Connect 2 of these frames together with 52,4 cm long pieces, so it forms a box. Again, make sure all angles are 90°! I made 2 of these boxes.

Next, a support for the arch was needed. A piece of PVC tube is mounted in the box for this. A coupler will protrude from the top of the pillar, so the arch (wich will be modular, to make it easier to transport) simply slides in. But first, I had to make something to attach the tube to! For this, I cut another 4 50 cm long 12x44 mm pieces, and 4 52,3 cm long pieces. I attached them to the frame at 40 cm from the top. Next, I cut two 50 cm long 34x34 pieces, wich I used to bridge the center of the box. This will form the support for the arch.

That's for the bottom part of the support, but I also needed a support for the top. Here it's very important to work accurately, because otherwise the tube won't be vertical. I cut 4 50 cm long 12x44 mm pieces, and bridged the top of the box with them, with 4 cm of space between them. From leftovers of the 34x34 mm pieces, I cut 4 4 cm long pieces, wich I used to attach the two pieces together. You can see what I mean on the picture. You end up with a 4x4 cm hole the tube goes through.

The frames are ready, now it's time to install the PVC tubes! They are attached to the bottom support using a screw-on endcap. The endcap assembly consists of two parts: the cap itself and a threaded piece that's attached to the tube with a coupler. The cap is nailed to the bottom support, in the center. The threaded piece is glued to a 60 cm long piece of 40 mm PVC tube.

Next, the tubes are inserted through the top supports, screwed on the bottom supports, and secured to the top support with nails through the tube.

All that was left now was topping the tubes with a coupler. The arch will be inserted here.

Styrofoam panels
With the frame ready, it's time to glue the styrofoam panels on! I started by wrapping the entire box in 2 cm thick slabs. Now if only I thought about the measurements before I got started! The dimensions of the box are 52,4 x 52,4 x 100 cm. My styrofoam slabs are 50 x 100 cm. The perfect dimensions for the box would have been 48 x 48 x 100 cm, because then I could just glue 4 entire sheets on it and I wouldn't have to cut anything.

Next, I wrapped the lower 40 cm with a 3 cm thick slab, with the top edge cut at 45°. The top is built from a series of 3 cm thick pieces so it forms a protrusion, making the entire pillar about 120 cm high.


One more thing left to finish the styrofoam construction: cutting bricks in the styrofoam using a wood burning tool. I think the final result looks quite ok!

That's it for this part of the tutorial. In the next part, I will cover coating the construction with monster mud and painting.

zondag 6 oktober 2013

Tombstones, part 3

Time for the final part of the build! In the previous entry, I described building the cross and coating everything with Monster Mud. One thing left: painting! At the time of writing, only the cross is finished. As I said before, I'm working on five tombstones. When they're all finished, I'm gonna take them outside for a series of decent photos.

The base color for all tombstones is dark gray. I painted them all in a single color. Of course, this looks dull, so I didn't stop there. I mixed a bit of purple with the gray base color and painted large areas in this grayish-blue color. This already broke up the monotone gray quite nicely.

Next up: the text. In retrospect, I should have done this first, so with my other tombstones I'll start with the text. At first, I wanted to paint the letters gold, but I think the text would have been a bit difficult to read in a dark environment. Instead, I painted them black.

Since the letters are carved quite deep (too deep, actually, a few millimeters would have been better) I diluted some black paint to the consistency of cream, so it would be easier to reach every single spot inside them. Of course, working the paint inside the letters made lots of it end up around them, that's why I should have started with the letters in the first place. When the paint was dry, I took out my gray once more and cleaned up around the text. That's one of the best things about acrylic paint: you can overpaint it easily when mess up.

At this point, the surface was gray with blueish-gray spots. It didn't really look like stone, though, so a bit more work was needed. I drybrushed some black and white all over the surface, and it makes a very big difference. Drybrushing is done by taking a little bit of paint on your brush, and then wiping most of it off again on a piece of paper. Next, you use the almost-dry brush to paint. It works especially well on a rough surface, because the raised parts get most paint, giving it a stone-like texture.
I drybrushed some white around the text, so it would stand out better. Next, all raised edges got some black. All other surfaces got a bit of black and white, giving the entire tombstone a nice texture. Even though you only put a tiny bit of paint on it, it makes a huge difference! The following two pictures demonstrate this nicely.

One more thing was needed to finish it. It still looked too clean! Tombstones that have been outside for a while collect a lot of dirt. I mixed equal parts of green and brown, and drybrushed this on spots where dirt and moss would be most likely to collect (corners, horizontal edges, ...). The result was quite impressive!

So that's it for my tombstones tutorial. I'm still working on the other four stones, and when everything is finished, I'm gonna take a series of photos for my gallery.

zondag 29 september 2013

Tombstones, part 2

Okay, here's the second part of my build log! In my previous entry, I talked about the design and construction of the styrofoam shapes. I had already made four tombstones with the names or horror writers on them. I wanted one more, a cross, before I proceed to the next step.

The cross
The cross is made from another 5 cm thick styrofoam slab, and a bit taller than the other stones. The shape is a classic Celtic cross. Making the circular section was quite difficult. I had to do a lot of adjustments to make it fit properly. There were a few gaps, wich I tried to fill up with small wedges of styrofoam as good as possible. To make it even a bit taller, I made a pedestal with thin slabs of styrofoam, wich added another 20 centimeters to the height.
There's no name on the cross, but I did put some text on it. It says: "My body lies but still I roam", a Metallica reference. More carving with a wood burning tool! It's best to do this either outside, or, as I did, in the kitchen under the hood. The fumes are nasty!

The last picture is of Mary Shelley's tombstone, who is, as you may know, the author of Frankenstein. I thought it would be cool to add a Frankenstein reference to the stone, so I cut out Boris Karloff's silhouette from foamboard and added two screws (made of styrofoam and PVC tube) to the sides. Also, I managed to make our cat Mira pose in front of the camera!

Mudding it up!
The next step is coating the styrofoam with Monster Mud. This is a mixture of drywall compound and latex paint, wich becomes a rock hard shell when dry. Most recipes say you should mix five parts drywall compound and one part latex paint. I soon found out, this means five parts prepared, liquid compound, not dry powder! Apparently, in the US (where the recipe originated) the most common type is premixed, liquid drywall compound, while here in Belgium powdered stuff is more common. So, you have to prepare the mixture with water first and then add the latex paint.
The next series of pictures is taken in my basement. It's quite messy stuff, and I didn't want to do it in my appartment. Cleaning up styrofoam beads is one thing, Monster Mud is a lot worse! I also put some plastic foil on the floor. I started with three tombstones, and at the time of writing only the cross was finished. I wanted to finish at least one completely, so I can already start painting. But that's for the next chapter!

zondag 22 september 2013

Flashback: the jar of eyeballs

This is a prop I made a few years ago for a Halloween party. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the entire build, so I'll try to explain it as good as possible. Here's a list of materials I used:

  • Empty jar (I believe it contained pickles)
  • Pingpong balls
  • Hot glue gun
  • Acrylic paint
  • Glossy acrylic varnish
  • Images of irises, printed with a color laser printer
  • Fluorescent highlighter pen
  • Water
  • Syringe and needle
  • Fabric (pieces of an old T-shirt, I believe)
  • Short piece of rope

I started by making some veins on the pingpong balls with the hot glue gun. Next, I painted one side of the balls bright red, with some dark red for the veins. On the other side, I glued a printed iris. To make the entire eye as waterproof as possible, I applied a few coats of varnis. And it worked, because they have been sitting in water for a few years already and the paper irises are completely intact.

The eyes are in a jar filled with water, but of course they shouldn't float. I punched a small hole it them and filled them with water, using a syringe and needle. That way, they sink to the bottom. To make the water in the jar glow under a blacklight, I soaked the filling of a fluorescent highlighter pen in it. Works great!

I made two of these jars, each containing six eyeballs. To finish them, I put a piece of fabric over the lid and tied a piece of rope around it. I have used them several times, and people are always impressed by the effect.

zaterdag 21 september 2013

Tombstones, part 1

Here's the first part of my Halloween props series for this season. I'm gonna start with a few tombstones. They will be made from styrofoam, and coated with Monster Mud, a mixture of latex paint and drywall compound. I plan to build four regular tombstones and one cross. The stones will bear the names of horror writers: Mary Shelley, Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker and H.P. Lovecraft.

Materials and tools
  • Styrofoam slabs (2 and 5 cm thick)
  • Liquid nails
  • Hot wire cutter
  • Adjustable power supply
  • Wood burning tool
  • Latex paint (cheapest kind, color doesn't matter)
  • Drywall compound
  • Paintbrush
The adjustable power supply is for the hot wire cutter. When I was building my Dwarven hammer, I just used batteries in it. The problem is, you can't really adjust the temperature of the wire. It mainly depends on the length of the wire. If you use a long cutting wire, for slicing through thick pieces, it doesn't get as hot as a short wire, and it becomes more difficult to cut. My cutting tool has a connector for a power supply, and I had an adjustable lab power supply lying around, wich works perfectly.

Getting started
I started with the four regular tombstones. I googled for some pictures to get get inspiration, and then I got started cutting and glueing together styrofoam. Here are a few pictures of Bram Stoker's tombstone in progress. I used a 5 cm thick slab of styrofoam for the tombstone itself, and 2 cm thick pieces for bevels and other details. The wings and skull details are made with a wood burning tool.

And here's a look at Edgar Allen Poe's stone. This one is a bit lower than the other ones. The finished stone will include, of course, a raven! A week ago I went to a costume store in Germany, where I found a cool looking prop raven.

The tombstones need names on them. I engraved them with a wood burning tool, wich was quite difficult. The problem is, it gets very hot and melts through styrofoam in no time, so it's easy to ruin it! In fact, I almost did ruin H.P. Lovecraft's tombstone. I managed to solve this nicely, but first a look at the engravings that didn't fail.
I printed out the names, along with the dates, on a sheet of A4 paper. I wanted to transfer them to the styrofoam using carbon paper, but this doesn't work. It just doesn't show up. So instead, I copied it by hand using a marker, and then I got started engraving. To have at least a little bit of control over the temperature, I switched the burning tool on and off all the time. I think I managed to achieve a pretty decent result!

As for H.P. Lovecraft's stone, I damaged it a bit trying to engrave it. So instead, I cut out a piece of foamboard, printed out the text, copied it to a piece of cardboard and cut out the letters. Next, I glued them on the foamboard, so it forms a plaque with raised letters. It looks pretty good, but takes a long time, and sore fingers, to cut all letters! I also cut an Elder Sign from a piece of foamboard and glued it on the tombstone.

So that's it for now. In my next article, I'll talk about the cross and coating the styrofoam with Monster Mud.