Saturday, February 28, 2009

What Dawn’s Been Doing…

Well, besides playing in Halloween forums, that is…  :D


Did a Youtube search for “Sculpting Halloween Props”…. found some keepers…

First, a three part series by Jeremy Edsall on how to papier mache skulls:

First Part, Second Part, and Final.

A bust sculpted for future mask making duties, found Here.

And then I went on to just basic Sculpting 101…  which led me to THIS interesting piece – an artist taking a newly sculpted young face, and aging it…  good for zombies!!  (Probably not his intention, huh)

And all because… I never knew, when I started all this, that I would have to become a sculptor too.  hahaha!

PS.  Thanks if you have voted in my little poll on the side bar… I didn’t announce it in a blog post, so if you are in a Feeder, you don’t see it… I’m just wondering what everyone else is doing to stake their tombstones.  I have a lot of work retrofitting last years disasters, with the wonderful tips Mr. Macabre gave me… now I just have to decide which method I want to use for this years crop. 

Happy Saturday!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Death of Jack?

Ok, just a short video of me trying to figure out how to store Jack. Ultimately, I had to tear him apart.

But I’m actually excited because now I can rebuild him even better than last year!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Smilin' Jack Pt. 2

I'm back! Sorry to be gone for so long. Had a serious eye infection which made it next to impossible to look at the computer screen. Now, where was I? Oh, yes...a head with no body!

Well, since my newly created pumpkin couldn't really stand on his own too well, I decided to create a Monster Mud creature using Jack. I soon realized that to make Jack proportionate to his head, he was going to be quite large. Mwuahhhhaaaa! Excellent!


Off to Home Depot to gather the materials. It just so happens that the gentleman working the plumbing supply this night is a Scout Master with experience in making paper mache masks! Once I told him what I was planning to do, he came alive! Boy, I've never had so much fun in the plumbing section in my life! We literally spent two hours brainstorming on how to build the body, gathering materials, changing our minds, putting everything back, gathering different materials, deciding we were genius' for improving the original agreed on design, and solving world peace. I congratulated the gentleman on such a successful collaborative effort and told him I would save a seat for him in Geneva, Switzerland when we accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. At this moment I took my materials and headed for the lone open checkout lane.

I then changed my mind and put everything back.

Did my wife mention I'm kind of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of guy? Yeah, it drives her nuts.

Seriously. She's going insane.

Ok, this is what I got:

  • 2   8ft metal T-Post fence posts (The kind used to build barbed wire fences)
  • 2   10ft length 2" Schedule 40 PVC pipes
  • 3   2" PVC T-connectors
  • 2   2" 45 degree PVC elbows
  • 2   2” 90 degree PVC elbows
  • 2   2" to 1/2" PVC adapters
  • 1   8ft length 1/2" PVC pipe
  • 1  Can of PVC plumbing cement (Looks like purple goo)
  • 4   Rolls of 3ft x 24ft Burlap (It's in the lawn and garden section)
  • 3   Rolls of 3ft x 25ft Poultry Fence (chicken wire)
  • 1   Roll of Duct Tape (Greatest invention ever!)
  • 1   5 Gallon bucket of Joint Compound
  • 1   Gallon of oops paint (this is actually mis-tinted paint I got from Wal-Mart)
  • 1   Gallon of Thompson Water Seal Multi Surface Clear

Time for assembly! There really isn’t a hardcore way to do this part. In the pictures below you can get an idea of how I proportioned everything. Do NOT go nuts with the pipe cement on this thing. Just dry fit everything until you are ready for final assembly. Actually, you may not want to use the pipe cement at all. The cement will make everything permanent. No going back. If you look closely on the build of the frame, you will see I drilled woodscrews into all of the joints to lock them in place. This was probably all I really needed. I figured this part out a little too late. On a side note, the frame was extremely solid.

Test fitting PVC

The hands were made from 1/2” PVC pipe, coat hangers, duct tape, and paper mache.  I admit the hands could have looked a lot better, but I was a little rushed at this point. Besides, after painting and in the dark…no one ever notices. The fingers are very thin and long, so they tend to crack and break a little. So, it looks like I might have to do a little repair work next season.

Come here my little pretty!!! Sitting on rebar to dry. 

I now had the hands and forearms for Jack. These I did not cement into the PVC frame. They fit into the ends of the 2” inch to 1/2” adapters I used to cap the ends of the arms. This allowed me to reposition the hands whenever I wanted. I placed the 8ft T-Posts inside of the two PVC pipes that came down from the shoulders. It’s not rocket science. You can get the idea just by looking at the pictures below:

I played with the 90 degree and 45 degree elbows to get the arms positioned just like I wanted and then cemented everything in place. Once the cement had cured, I carried the fence posts and frame to the yard along with my ladder and drove the fence posts into the ground with a carpenter hammer.

Not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. My forearms were on fire! The neighbors thought I had lost it at this point. Which might have had something to do with the constant “PING! PING! @$!#? PING! PING! SONOFAB****” that was coming from my yard and my mouth! Next time I’m getting a Fence Post Driver like this:


Finally got the !@#$% fence posts in the ground and slapped Jack’s head on the top. The frame is complete! The neighbors are calling the police. The children have learned new exciting words. We are no longer anonymous in the neighborhood. Life is sweet!

At this point I am having a hard time getting any work done because EVERYONE is stopping to ask me questions! No one in my neighborhood does anything remotely like this, so I caused a little bit of a stir in the neighborhood. We are now known as “THOSE PEOPLE”, since no one actually knew our names after three years.

Chicken and Mud

This is where I got act like a three year old in the mud. Of course, the neighbors think I’m the eccentric guy next door all covered in suspicious brown “stuff”.


That up above ladies and gentleman is Monster Mud. It is nothing more than Joint Compound and exterior latex paint mixed together. It is a most wonderful, magical, and useful thing. Oh, and it’s very messy!

I covered the frame in chicken wire. I had to make a wire hood to cover Jack’s head, and then two wire tubes to go around his arms. I wired all of these together after I covered the main torso in wire. I then covered the thing with burlap the same way. I had to wire the burlap to the frame in places to keep it from shifting and blowing away in the wind.

Pre Mud baby!

Now all of the hard work is done and I can sling brown goo like a monkey and his poo!


I originally planned on painting Jack solid black or dark grey and then come back and dry brush him with white paint. But I noticed he showed up much better at night under our blue spot lights just like he was. Plus, he’s freakin’ HUGE! Do you know how long it would take to dry brush THAT?!?! I simply did not have the time.

It took him about a day to completely dry and harden. On the next day, I applied the Thompson Water Seal. Which was such a good idea, because we had a torrential down pour three days after I built Jack. He came through without hardly a scratch on him.

So below is the finished product posing with my boys during the day:

Halloween thru Christmas 2008 490

And here are two action shots taken at night. One with flash, and the other with a spooky blue spotlight.



Jack ended up being a HUGE success! My house is on the corner of a major road and everyone in town couldn’t help but notice Jack. I had several High School kids wanting to know how I did it. One guy showed up two nights before Halloween to show his Dad. I ended up talking with them in my front yard for a couple hours. All joking aside, this has been the best way to meet my neighbors!

The one downside to Jack? He was just too large. I had to destroy him after Halloween. I kept the frame and the head, so I can always rebuild him again.

I’ve seriously got the Halloween bug now! Can’t wait until 2009!! Bigger, better, scarier!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dark Candles

Hi again!  Sorry to be gone for a few days, but it turns out Jayson illness was a bit more serious than we thought… he ended up having a problem with his eye that had us in and out of specialists all week, but they have figured out what was going on, and are in the process of fixing him up good as new…. so we are “on the road again”.  :)

I found an interesting web site while poking around the internet last night, and thought I would share it with you… it’s a company called Dark Candles.  Described as per the site as: “Dark Candles opened its website on February 1, 2003, has been in business for 5 1/2 years, and is the originator of gothic and horror themed candles for sale specifically to people with dark and eccentric tastes.”

With scents such as: Absinthe, Apparition, Black Rose, Coffin, Crypt Moss, Dracula, Graveyard, Haunted House, and Nosferatu…. (among others).  It really makes you wonder… what DOES Crypt Moss smell like, or Apparition?  Or Graveyard (and would you REALLY want to know?).  Luckily, the site lists info on each scent, giving clues to what you are buying.

pillarsThey have standard colors associated with the scents, but the sits states that they can customize a particular scent with a different color for a minimal fee.  Could get expensive, but if you NEEDED something in particular, this would be a way to go.

They are located in Dallas, Tx (so its not too far for me to drive and check them out if I fall in love) and offer the ability to purchase online, but I also noticed they are sold through retailers in other locations – check them out, one might be near you!

To see these interesting candles, visit

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fonts for Gravestones, Signs, Anything!

I live for fonts.  I collect the obvious creepy fonts, but also the older style fonts, calligraphy, gothic, Irish, just about anything that I think would look good on signs, gravestones, etc.

Here are some of my favorite free fonts…. Links to sites to download the fonts follow the preview.





Then to round out the Free Font extravaganza, there is Chad Savage, who has  There you will find awesome fonts that he has done, and offers them all for download.  His Readme asks that if you use his fonts, send him your work so that he can see it – just for fun… Imagine the things WE could send him!

fonts savage

There are more than the ones shown above on his site, so make sure and check it out!



Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Plan Book

First, let me say that Jayson is sick, sick, sick.  I think he has gotten out of bed long enough to take more tylenol, then went back up to sleep.  He will get to the Jack posts as soon as he can hold his head up.  (Wow, I should be taking care of him, huh?  Ok, I will… right after I make this post, haha)

The Plan Book…..

I’m a planner, to a fault.  Jayson is a fly by the seat of his pants kinda person.  Sometimes this causes a train wreck when I want to plan something to death, and he doesn’t.   But sometimes it is the best of both worlds because if I forgot to work it out on paper – he knows how to roll with it, and I don’t.  And sometimes he has no clue how to start, but I already have it on paper.  So, we deal with it.

book 010 My plan book for last year was just a simple little spiral notebook that I divided into sections with post-it note tabs.  The sections were:

  1. General guidelines and brainstorming.  This included the main theme, characters, layout of haunt, sounds… basically the who/what/when/where/why.
  2. Calendar – I kept a diary of our work every day from August until Halloween night.  I stopped on 10-31, because I never wanted to look back and be embarrassed by how long it took us to tear it down and put it all away!  But this section really helped us look back and see the reality of how long a specific prop took to make.  You never seem to include drying time in your estimated completion times!
  3. To Do – This was a constantly changing section, where I would just cross stuff off as it got done, and add all the things to do tomorrow as I went.  This kept me from forgetting a million little details.
  4. Projects – This section was the detail for each prop, and a place to put ideas for props we had seen, and wanted to do.  It gave us space to pencil in dimensions and measurements as we took them, estimated cost, and a “grocery list” so we knew exactly what to buy when we went to the Home Improvement store.  (Because I *always* had the book with me at the store!
  5. Bought.  Man, this was a horrific tab, if I do say so myself.  After a shopping trip, I would take the receipt and write all the Halloween items, and total at the bottom of each page.  Remember, I only started this in August last year, and the 3 month total just floored me!  (But also helps me this year, seeing the price of items, and deciding if I really want to do that prop in my head, after totalling up the cost of it!)
  6. Ideas.  Sketches, brainstorms, silly ideas that might not ever work… this section held anything like that.  It was a big section.

book 003qbook 001book 005

So you see why Jayson gets so frustrated with me!  I can over organize anything to…. death!  But, I can tell you this – right now, as we are getting ramped up to start all over again for 2009, I have referred to last years book I don’t know how many times… keeping notes as you go, while building a haunt really records all the little stuff you don’t think about.

I have already started this years book, just on little note pads, since I haven't gotten the official book yet.  I would like to find something a little sturdier than my little spiral, but I don’t want to spend a lot of money on something really cool because it tends to get spray paint on it…. (as you could tell in the shot at the beginning of the post!)

I will hunt around and find something… but I need to hurry… its time for the journaling to begin!  (Sorry, Honey… but I gotta be ME!)

Do you keep any kind of notes, or plan?  (Or am I the only crazy one around here?!?!)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pretty Amazing Foam Carving

While we are waiting on Jayson to complete his series on Smilin’ Jack, I thought I would share an interesting page I found while surfing around.

It is an article by Marcus Andersson, which details his carving a styrofoam backdrop for a fish tank.  It’s the kind of stuff we have all seen many times in fence columns and stone wall props, but it was just interesting to see another technique, and completely different application of the finished product.


For the article, and more pictures, check it out HERE.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Smilin' Jack Pt. 1

Hello all! Jayson here. I'm going to talk about our 10'ft tall Monster Mud / Paper Mache creature named Smilin' Jack.

Rotten Gourd

Jack was heavily influenced by Pumpkinrot, Stolloween, and Ghostess Deanna.

He was the result of a happy accident while I was making a paper mache pumpkin. I originally wanted a pumpkin with a thin, wide, and evil grin like the ones done by Pumpkinrot and Ghostess Deanna. I was following Stolloween's technique to build the pumpkin out of layers of paper mache, which is later followed by building up the details with paper mache clay. Well, I got a little impatient and started applying the clay before I had enough layers of paper to support the clay. The clay soaked through the paper and completely crushed the lower jaw of the pumpkin. I was very upset at the time, as this was my second failed attempt at working with paper mache. If it wasn't for my loving wife giving me encouragement, I would have scrapped the whole thing and gone back to just building fence panels and other less "artistic" endeavours.

I decided to rip the bottom jaw off of the pumpking and try something new.

Halloween2 012 I started by building a frame out of coat hangers to create a new jaw. The frame was basically a tripod that was hot glued to the inside of the pumpkin. I then took cardboard from a 12-pack of Pepsi and used it to form a skin around the frame.

Halloween2 013 Halloween2 015 Halloween2 020 Halloween2 021

Yes, that's Duct Tape. Greatest invention ever made!

Once I had the basic shape I was looking for, I started adding several layers of paper mache paper. No rush job this time. I applied about 5 layers and let them dry overnight. (Lots of shop and box fans help) Once the layers were dry, I started adding the paper mache clay. Once this dried, the pumpkin was very strong and no longer needed the wire frame. I cut the center wire and pulled this piece out, but left the two side pieces since they were now encased in clay. I then applied more clay to the inside to make it look like one continuous piece.

Once everything was dry, I painted the entire pumpkin solid black. I then went back and drybrushed with white paint. No pictures for this part, but it looks just like Penelope. Now, you grab your favorite shade of "pumpkin" paint,(We mixed a little orange, yellow, red, and brown to get the shade we wanted) and start dry brushing the pumpkin again with this new color. You end up with a very nice textured paint job at the end. Practice makes perfect on this part, but it's really not that hard to get the hang of.


Ok, now I have a pumpkin, but what do I do with it? It is shaped wrong to sit up on it's own like the other pumpkins. It can only lay on it's side like a lazy good for nothing as seen in one of the pictures above. (The other pumpkin up there is Clarence by the way. You might see him pop up in a few places here and there. He's the dimwitted brother of Jack that was my very first attempt at building a pumpkin)

What to do with the pumpkin? How about build a body for him and allow him to stand guard over the rest of the haunt? I'll show how I did that on my next post.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Foam Gravestones – Time to Install…

So, remember a few posts back when I said that I would figure out how to stake them in the yard… later?  Well, at some point, I had the brilliant (sarcasm at its best, right there) idea to glue them on foam platform bases, and then stake the bases to the ground.  Great idea.  ?@?!(*$*&@??

Worked REALLY well in my living room.

Halloween thru Christmas 2008 172 Waiting to be put in the yard…No stability issues here… right?

And, they even worked in the yard for a few days….  We used landscape fabric stakes to pierce the foam base, and anchor to the ground.  Sounded like such a great plan.


Halloween thru Christmas 2008 301 Halloween thru Christmas 2008 300

Two different bases… sans the grave…  DOH!

Imagine my surprise walking to the mailbox THAT day?!?  (I married a sailor, so you can imagine what spewed outta my mouth)  Luckily, the wind that caused this catastrophe had NOT carried my gravestones away, I think the fence stopped them, heh.

But the good news is…. wow, those bases are ANCHORED to the ground, baby… no stability issues THERE.  (rolls eyes)

So, we had to do emergency surgery, and just like stitches on the battlefield, it wasn’t pretty.  PVC painted to match the particular grave was driven into the base and the ground behind the stone, and Liquid Nailed to the foam.  Ugh. 

I don’t have pictures of the back – frankly, I don’t want to see any of them again.  I think 3 of them got messed up, the rest were fine.  (And it wasn’t even all “high profile” or tall graves… it was just the ones that I guess the Liquid Nails didn’t cure good enough, or get enough contact area… no rhyme or reason)

graves - not to do 

Sigh.  Don’t do what I did.  Embed the PVC in the center, or drill holes for rebar, or make them out of CONCRETE as was intended (kidding).  Just don’t expect Liquid Nails to hold them to bases.  (ok, fine.  You wouldn’t have thought that in the first place, I know.  Just work with me here)  ;)

The “Good to know” part of all this – the landscape stakes kept those bases INTACT.  After inserting them into a foam base, you can paint them to match, and even take them out at the end of the season to store… 

Live and learn.  Or, die and learn, I guess!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Styrofoam Graves – Lettering

Continuing the series Graves – the following steps are done after the basic shape is cut, sanded, and prepped.

1.  Who and what:  There are a few sites on the internet that give you Names and/or Epitaphs.  For my first round, I relied on Haunters Hangout for ideas.  After a few, I wanted to make mine different, so I started using my kids names (they became neighborhood stars) then characters from movies that scared me most.  Regan MacNeil scared me the most – Linda Blair in the Exorcist.  Also, find an English to Latin translator via Google.  I looked up Dead by Dawn (I’m Dawn… get it?!!) and this was what I got  Halloween thru Christmas 2008 063 Mortuus per Dilucuolo.  I loved telling people what it meant when they asked.

2.  Fonts/lettering.  You can print out your names, dates, epitaph in any creepy or calligraphy font you wish.  If your printer runs out, and you spent the entire 90s decade scrapbooking, (or otherwise have REAL talent) then you can freehand it, such as I did on ol’ Regan up there.  Printed computer fonts work much better, but anything can work in a pinch.

7.  Get it on the foam.  Transfer letters to foam in same manner as was done with the transferring of the shape.    (Carving the outline of the letters - this is also seen in the picture above)  Make sure that you cut out the inside of letters like o, p, d, b, etc. so that they don’t get lost when cutting out the outer edges.

8.  My favorite part.  Carve the inside of the lettering with either an Exacto blade (making angels to simulate cut marble) or a Dremel. 

Halloween2 026 This was done with the Exacto blade

I don’t have a pic with the Dremel’d letters, but it is a lot smoother inside.  (It didn't really make a difference to me how it looked – Xacto vs Dremel, because once you paint it, the side by side comparison looked about the same… but the Dremel just went so much faster for me personally… and its fun!

*Note.  I didn’t follow everyone’s SMART advice, and did not wear a mask.  I had just finished Dremeling out my third grave in a row (I work in assembly line style) and literally got sick from inhaling all of the pink dust, so if yakking in the driveway is not your style, either wear a mask, or don’t do a monster carving marathon. 

9.  If you have any additional pieces to glue on (such as the wood cross in the picture at the top of this post) then go ahead and do it now, so it can be drying with the paint in the next step.

9.  Paint lettering black.   (Or dark contrast color of your choice) I used a brush, and didn’t worry to much about going outside the edges, but try not to go overboard on the flat surface, or it will be harder to cover.  Halloween thru Christmas 2008 012

10.  Painting remaining surface.  I used a small paint roller and painted the grave gray, or white… if you roll lightly over the lettering, it wont get into the letter grooves, but I still had to touch up most lettering a bit after the roller. 

11.  Marble anyone?  If you want to marble at this point, take a sea sponge, kitchen sponge, wadded up saran wrap, anything (Honey, stay out of my kitchen towel drawer!!!) and sponge on any contrasting color you like.  If you don’t like the way it looks, roller over it with your solid color and start again… just make sure you sponge when the paint is “fairly” wet, so it will blend in better.  If the base coat is TOO wet, or has a lot of paint, it will not come out either, because it will just blend ALL THE WAY in. 

12. Texture?  Throw some sand (err, I had corn meal in abundance, and that worked fine too) onto the grave, then paint over.  Or be lazy like me and just sprinkle it in your roller tray with the paint ;)   Or you can also use Monster mud and spread it on like icing Halloween2 003 which just reminded me why I did this – the back of this one was white beaded styrofoam, and showed every dimple.  I did this to cover that up.

11.  Weathering/Aging.  I really only used the paint brush to do my aging this year, but this year I expect to be experimenting with the water bottle and woodburner, things like that.  I just used black and green paints, dry brushed in a sweeping motion from top down, and then on the sides.  I also drug the paint brush down from letters.    

   Halloween thru Christmas 2008 358 Halloween thru Christmas 2008 221 Halloween thru Christmas 2008 343 Halloween thru Christmas 2008 344

For some excellent info on weathering/aging here are a few of my favorites:

Spooky Blue - Amazing results

Keeba's (Awesome techniques)

Wolfstone - More interesting techniques

Blackstone - beautiful graves


And later – the only arena that I can excel in over other Bloggers – the “what not to do to your graves” category.  Stay tuned for a good laugh… or if you are me, a good cry   ;)


Related Posts with Thumbnails