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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.

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