Posts Tagged ‘grave’

jess-dremelMy first Halloween DIY project was a family effort and I treasure the results.  These holiday keepsakes were very simple and allowed each family member to personalize their unique creation.

I started by searching online for epithet ideas. Unfortunately it was long enough ago that I no longer have the links.  But, I searched various terms to cull a list made up of both joke and real epithets.  Several we used were from the old west.  For example one was by a marble cutter who used his wife’s tombstone as a sales pitch for future work. Another of my favorites from a real cemetery was  “She lived with her husband fifty years And died in the confident hope of a better life.”  We each chose an epithet as well as a name from these lists to pair.  Most of the names were jokes, such as Stu Pitt or Claire Voyance.

Next I showed the kids the fonts I had on my computer and everyone picked their favorite.

After the choices were made, we looked a photos of cemeteries and everyone choose their preferred tombstone shape.  I limited the options to simple ones that I could easily draw, either freehand or by using objects of different geometric shapes to get what I needed.  For round tops I used a piece of string and a nail to draw arcs.

foam-with-epithetThe material we used was 1 inch thick foam board insulation. It is easy to cut with a serrated knife, hack saw or box cutter.  It is also very easy to smooth with sandpaper.

After drawing the shapes to get as many as I could fit on a sheet of foam board insulation, we cut them out, measured the space and in an actual size document laid out our names, dates, flourishes and epithets on the computer using the chosen fonts.  I then used tiling in the print options to print them and taped the resulting letter size sheets of paper with the print on them together to form an actual size pattern.

Once the pattern was taped in place we used exacto knives to trace the letters and designs.  These were cleaned up after the pattern was removed using either an exacto knife or Dremel tool to remove the foam.

Once the carving was finished, we highlighted it by painting them with black latex paint.  It is not necessary to stay inside the lines, but it is important to completely cover the foam inside the lines with black paint.

stones-enamelAfter the epithets were highlighted, we treated the foam with enamel spray paint.  The enamel paint reacts with the foam, slowly dissolving it.  The thicker the paint, the more foam was dissolved. This step resulted in giving the surface an aged, worn look similar to stone with water and wind damage. We also sanded the edges to soften them as a weathered tombstone would be.

The last step was simply to spray or use a brush to paint them gray.  The result was a fairly quick, easy family project with a big impact for our Halloween display.

While pleased with the tombstones, there was one ongoing issue – how to make them remain standing in the often windy fall weather. Initially I used some thin metal stakes that I pushed into the stones & the ground.  These were hard to work with and the tombstones would bend over. Next, I tried small rebar spikes in the front and back of the tombstones.  These worked well but were visible and hard to cover as they had to be left high enough the tombstones could fall over them. They also caused pressure points that made an indent in some of the tombstones.

I saw later that some people drilled holes through the bottom of their tombstones and placed them over the rebar.  standWhile this seemed like a good idea, especially if one used a piece of PVC in the drilled holes so that the rebar wouldn’t pop a hole through the front with too much pressure.  But, having used only 1 inch thick foam, I was afraid to do this.  Instead, I created some stands out of furring strips and scrap plywood.

I cut the furring strips just slightly longer than the tombstones and drilled a hole on each end so that I could drive a barn nail or small piece of rebar through them without hitting the tombstone.  I screwed a small piece of plywood on the front side and a larger one on the back to prevent the tombstone from falling.  The front of the stands were very easy to cover with leaves, but unfortunately this stand design does show from the back and therefore won’t be our choice for any future tombstones.  I plan to use slightly thicker foam board and try the drill method with a PVC insert.

Regardless, the entire family had fun with this project and it is one that can be tailored to fit a scary horror scene or a kid friendly, funny Halloween display. Care should be used in storing your tombstones.  Though they are weatherproof and fairly sturdy, it’s very easy to chip off pieces of the foam if they are rubbed together.  You can see the specks of blue showing through in my finished photo as it was taken a couple of years after they were made. It is easy to touch them up if this happens.

original-tombstones

One final note – if one of your tombstone breaks, be very careful what you use to attempt to fix it. Many adhesives will eat through the foam.  Be sure to choose one the specifically mentions foam board on it. Liquid Nails and Gorilla Glue both make versions of construction adhesive that is safe for foam board.