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maandag 27 november 2017

Cemetery Crosses

Besides tombstones, I wanted new crosses for my cemetery. My first set of tombstones I made in 2013 did have a cross, but because of the wide pedestal, it wasn't easy to transport, and it was the first prop to get damaged. Time to start building something new!

  • 20mm thick XPS Foam
  • Particle board (leftovers from our old kitchen)
  • Trim molding
  • Polyurethane glue
  • Wood screws
  • Drill & screwdriver
  • Band saw
  • Wood burning tool
  • Scenic Dope (see my Tombstone Tutorial for that)
  • Matte varnish
The problem with my first cross was, like I said, the wide pedestal. This was necessary to keep it standing, but it made it a pain in the ass to get in and out of the car. I wanted to make my props easier to transport this time (that's why I made the tomb for holding the tombstones), so I had to come up with something new.
So here's the basic idea. The crosses will be a lot taller than the tombstones, so storing them in the tomb won't be possible. They will still need a pedestal for stability, but they also need to be easier to transport. So here's my solution: I made the cross and the pedestal two separate pieces that can easily be taken apart for transport and storage.
I wanted to use styrofoam for the cross, because it's cheap, light and easy to work with, but this wouldn't be strong enough for props that need to be put together and taken apart. Luckily, I had a lot of leftover particle board from our old kitchen. My wife and I had a new kitchen installed earlier this year, and I kept anything I thought would be useful from the old one, wich includes a few large panels.
So here's how I'm going to build them. The pedestal will consist of a wooden box with styrofoam for the ornaments. The cross will have a wooden core that protrudes from the bottom, and fits in a hole in the pedestal, sort of like a tenon-and-mortise joint. The wooden pedestal will also make it bottom heavy and more stable.

The pedestals
I started with the pedestals. Basically a simple wooden box, with a hole in the top for installing the cross. Well, not just simple a hole, I also made this contraption (don't know what else to call it) inside to keep the cross upright; this is the "tenon" part of the tenon-and-mortise joint. The boxes are put together with wood glue and screws.

Speaking of screws, I always, always buy Torx screws, even though they cost a bit more than Phillips screws. I hate cruciform screws, because the screwdriver always has a tendency to slip out of the head. Torx screws don't have this problem.

Because I didn't want the pedestals to look like boring boxes, I decorated the edges with trim molding, and made frames on all sides of the boxes. I wanted to put on more decorations on them, but again, I didn't have enough time.

The crosses
Next up, the crosses themselves. I first drew them on sheets of foam, and roughly cut them out. I then cut a piece of wood for the core, and glued it to the back. Some more strips of foam were glued on to enclose the wood, and finally another sheet of foam to close the back, so the wooden core is fully enclosed in the foam.

On the front, I let my imagination run wild. By now, I had a lot of small foam scraps lying around, and I turned them into all sorts of decorations.

I tested them to see if the crosses and the pedestals fit together, and behold, it worked perfectly! Before I started painting, I carved some cracks and chipped corners with a wood burning tool.

The painting was done the same way as my other props for this year. As described in my Tombstone tutorial, I painted them with scenic dope mixed with sand first, for the base color and the rock texture. This was followed by a dark gray wash and white drybrushing.

To weatherproof the paint, I clearcoated them with matte varnish. This did mess up the drybrushing a bit in some spots, so I had to go over it again.


The crosses are very easy to transport, and very stable. They held up perfectly in the rain, although in some places on the pedestals, the paint didn't hold well. I think this was because the panels were still a bit greasy in some places (our old kitchen was quite dirty...). Nothing that can't be fixed, though!

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!