Connect With Us


maandag 6 november 2017

Tomb / Tombstone Storage

Besides my tombstones, I built something else for our graveyard this year. This tomb is more than just a prop, it also serves as storage for the tombstones! Transporting and storing props is always a major pain in the butt, and this is a very elegant solution.

  • 5 mm plywood
  • 35 x 35 mm lumber (recycled from old props)
  • 28 x 70 mm lumber 
  • Trim molding
  • Wood glue, nails and clamps
  • Band saw
  • Hand saw and mitre box
  • Hot wire cutter
  • 20 mm thick XPS foam
  • 20 mm thick EPS foam (for padding the inside)
  • Scenic Dope (see New Tombstones, Part 2)
  • Rubber window gasket
  • Carrying handles
The box
The starting point of the tomb is a plywood box. I calculated the size so it would provide the storage I needed, would fit in my car and could be cut out of a single large sheet of plywood. For reinforcements, I used pieces of lumber I recycled from some old props I no longer used.
I started with the bottom. It consists of a 120 x 60 cm piece of plywood, and a wooden frame on the bottom. This is attached with both glue and nails, just to be sure.

Next up, I attached the sides. These are glued to the bottom frame, and also nailed. The corners of the box are reinforced with pieces of wood. The lid is made exactly the same way as the bottom.

At this point, it looks like a simple, boring box. With the 28 x 70 mm lumber, I made two borders around the box, one at the top and one on the bottom, and finished them with some trim molding. I used a hand saw and a mitre box to cut them at 45° angles.

For the top of the box, I put on an extra horizontal border to make sure the lid would fit nicely. The pictures explain it a lot better than I can :-) The arches - wich I'll talk about next - are already in place in these pictures. Yes, I know, my pictures aren't exactly in chronological order.

To make sure the tombstones in the box won't get damaged during transport, I also padded the inside with some cheap 20 mm thick styrofoam (EPS, the white beady stuff).

Tomb ornaments
First of all, I wanted gothic arches all around the tomb. The outside dimensions of the box are roughly 60x120 cm, so if I made 30 cm wide arches, four of them would go on the long side and two of them on the short side, for a total of twelve arches.

I cut twelve 30x20 cm pieces of XPS foam, and then cut out the arch. I used the foam I cut out as a template for drawing the arch on all the other pieces, and after a lot of cutting on my bandsaw I had my twelve arches, wich were glued on with PU wood glue.
After the glue had dried, I took my hot wire cutter and cut some nice decorative profiles in the foam, just like I did with the tombstones.

I wanted to put more ornaments on the sides of the tomb, such as skulls, but unfortunately time was against me and, as usual, I was working on too much projects at once. But there's always next year!

The lid of the tomb is adorned with a big cross. I had designed a lot of crosses for my cemetery, so I had no shortage of inspiration.

Painting was done the same way as the tombstones. I started with two coats of scenic dope and sand, and then the usual load of shading, washes and drybrushing. Not much can be said about it, the process is explained in detail in my Tombstones painting tutorial.

To finish the tomb, I glued a strip of rubber window gasket on the bottom of the lid, to keep out moisture a bit. I also attached two carrying handles to each side, to make carrying and loading it in and out of the car easier.

There you have it! An extra prop for the graveyard, and an elegant way to store and transport my tombstones. I bought a new car a few months ago - a Peugeot Partner - wich can be transformed into a van by removing the back seats. My entire graveyard (wich includes a few more props I'll talk about in my next post) fits in it, with room to spare!

maandag 30 oktober 2017

New Tombstones, part 2

Allright, here's the second part of my new set of tombstones! In the first part, I talked about the construction and the new materials and techniques I used, in this part I'll talk about painting.

  • Liquid joint compound
  • House paint
  • Acrylic caulk (NOT silicone!)
  • Fine sand
  • Drill with mixing attachment
  • Brushes and sponges
  • Acrylic paints
Foam coatings
On my first stones, I used a mixture called Monster Mud, a mixture consisting of joint filler and paint, to coat the foam. Being the complete noob I was back then, I had no idea what type of joint filler was meant, and at first I tried mixing dry powdered joint compound with latex paint. Of course, this didn't work, and I found out you needed liquid filler. So I prepared small batches of powdered joint compound and water, and mixed my paint with that. This didn't have a long working time, about 30 minutes, and didn't have a good consistency, it contained lots of lumps. I then found out the stuff you need for this is actual liquid joint compound, not powder you have to mix with water like plaster.
Of course, I only found out what I was doing wrong until after Halloween, and I couldn't find the liquid stuff I needed. Luckily, in the meantime I have not only found a store that has it, but also a better recipe for foam coatings! The problem with the Monster Mud was that it was quite brittle. Perhaps this was because I used the wrong kind of joint filler, but my props were easily damaged. Another mixture that's supposed to be a bit more flexible and durable is Van's Super Scenic Dope, also known as VSSD or simply Scenic Dope. It has acrylic caulk mixed into it to make it more flexible, and much less joint compound.
The recipe calls for a quart of paint, four tubes of caulk and two cups of joint compound. So, in metric units, that's (approximately) one liter of paint, four tubes of caulk and half a liter of joint compound. For the paint, I mixed some leftovers white and black paint to get a gray base color.

 To give it some additional stone texture, I also mixed in some fine white sand. I didn't really measure the amount, I just eyeballed it until the consistency and texture seemed right. Keep in mind that the amounts of ingredients can be varied a bit to make the coating harder, more flexible, etcetera. Oh, and I used the cheapest paint and caulk I could find. No need to use the fancy, expensive stuff here.

Base coating
Before I started applying the foam coating, the engraved text was painted. This was done with plain dark gray paint, because the scenic dope would fill up the letters and ruin the details.
After the text had dried, I started putting on the scenic dope. I invited some friends to help me paint; after all, we had twelve stones to paint (thanks again, guys, you all rock!). Of course, some of the dope ended up in the letters anyway, and we had to use a small brush to clean them out again.

The mixture was very thick; if you'd paint with it like you'd do with normal paint, you'd end up with very visible brush strokes. To avoid this and get a nice, even stone texture, I used a dabbing motion with my brush. Another advantage of thick paint is that it also serves as a joint filler to fill up seams!

I had to do two coats of paint on each side to get good coverage. It took a while for all of it to dry, but the effect turned out great! Mixing sand with the paint gives it an excellent rough stone texture.

One word of advice, though: don't use expensive brushes with this mixture! Use the cheapest one you can find, because you'll probably have to throw them away afterwards anyway.

After the basecoat had dried, all stones had an even, gray color. To break this up a bit, I took some gray, purple and black paint, mixed them to get a blueish gray and applied them with a sponge and lots of water. The rough texture of the surface quickly wore down the sponge, wich actually made it easier to work with! In the meantime, I also painted the text and all the cracks a dark gray.

The final shading step was applying a white drybrushing. This technique is especially useful for rough surfaces, like the one I have here. The grains of sand pick up the white paint nicely, and you end up with a very convincing stone texture.



I had planned to do some more finishing touches, such as adding fake moss. I wanted to use sawdust and green paint for that, but unfortunately, time was against me. Since I didn't know how weatherproof the scenic dope was, I clearcoated all the stones with a matte varnish, wich almost gave me a heart attack...
You see, I had used a ballpoint pen for marking the foam. It had bled through the first layer of paint a bit, but the second layer had covered it up nicely. However, the varnish had somehow dissolved the ink and made it bleed through all the layers of paint! On most stones it wasn't very visible, because I had used the pen mostly to mark cutting lines, but for example the Jack Sparrow stone had a few very visible lines on it.
What was my reaction when I saw this? Well, if you have ever seen that Mr. Bean movie, where he ruins a painting, that's more or less how I reacted! Luckily, they weren't ruined, a little bit of gray paint, followed by a final layer of white drybrushing fixed it.