Projects: Mausoleum Facade

I've been thinking about making a mausoleum for a while now and after seeing numerous great examples online (notably the amazing gothic cathedral style by TCarter (here, here and here) and the very well thought out plans from the Mill Creek Hollow website it was only a matter of time. However before I could get started I was contacted by a fellow haunter in town who was looking to offload some larger props in exchange for some custom tombstones. His mausoleum design (see below) was remarkable similar to what I had been planning but on an even larger scale. He had started construction and had the foam board mostly roughed out and ready for assembly. Once we worked out the details and I took delivery (after freeing some space in my garage - this thing is HUGE!) I was all set to finish it off and add my own personal stamp to it.

The main strucure had been built and assembled as separate sub-assemblies with the mortar lines roughly carved so I'd need to create only the support structure or framework, finish final assembly, fill any gaps and then get to detailing/painting. For storage purposes I'll keep it in separate sections so that it can be broken down and stored flat in the garage - probably in a rack from the ceiling.

As for the design it had been made for a more head-on front view so there was the front facade with 2 short side walls and no back. My front yard is so small I couldn't fit even that so I re-designed it to be just the front facde and one 8' long side wall. I'll position it on an angle against the fence and hang black fabric to hide the lack of an inside. Viewers will never notice it's not a full building. I'll modify it further to shorten the height of it a bit and add gothic stained glass windows to the side wall along with numerous details, skulls, cracks, ivy and more. For a rooftop gargoyle I got the most amazing looking gargoyle I've ever seen. It's made by Boneyard Bargins here in Canada and stands a full 2' tall with a 24" wingspan!

I'll post construction pics as I go along. Here are the plans as designed and my modifications along with the first shots of it as delivered to my garage...

Click on any of the thumbnails below to view the full-size image in a pop-up window.

So it doesn't look like much but here's the result of several weeks of planning and a few hours on the weekend. I got the 2 halves of the archway permanently connected. I used lots of Power Grab construction adhesive but also long carriage bolts with nuts & washers to make positive connection so I'm not relying on glue alone.

I also got all the gaps filled/sealed on the majority of parts and the lighting for the skulls figured out with the skulls now installed. I decided to keep it simple and just use LED utility lights in order for to light up the skull eyes. I positioned the skulls and determined where the eyes would be. I then cut out a hole to fit the circular LED light fixtures. Once glued into place I can access the batteries from the rear and turn them on by a hidden hole. I can use a small wood dowel to press it to turn it on and off. The red lenses for the eyes are removed for now so I can paint the skulls to match the stonework of the building and not have to worry about getting paint on them. Once everything is painted and weathered I can easily re-install them and hot glue in place.

Now onto the back wall and pillars.

Just picked up the gargoyle for the top of the mausoleum. Very excited about this! He's cast in a lightweight semi-rigid foam and for now he's just has a base coat of grey primer but I'll end up panting him to match the stone of the mausoleum. Now all I have to do is to figure out how I'll attach him to the roof panels.

My daughter just LOVES him! :)

On a side note it looks like this might be the last of the gargoyles - Paul from Bonyard Bargains told me the silicone mold ripped as they were pulling him out so unless the mold can be fixed he's a collector's item. Too bad - it's a great prop.

I don't have a huge number of construction photos as I was in a mad dash to get as much built as I could. In the end I got the front entrance archway & pillars mostly completed so I was able to get that set up for Halloween. The rest will go to the top of the project list for 2011. I'll post more photos throughout the year as I work towards completing it.

Here are a few pics as the mausoleum appeared on Halloween night. Not finished but still impressive!

Brick Detailing

Well I didn't get any more of the facade done in terms of the front or side walls however I did do a fair amount of detailing and painting to the archway and pillars in order to finalize those. To add some visual interest to the archway I carved it to look like the surface had cracked and fallen away exposing the brickwork underneath. To create the effect of exposed bricks I used a hot wire tool to carve into the surface of the foam about 1/2". The bricks were then carved using a wood burning tool to detail and create mortar lines & cracks. After I applied a base coat of dark grey the bricks were sponged with 2 tones of rust coloured paint and then dry-brushed white.

I also gave the mausoleum a 2-tone paint effect to bring out the architectural details and add interest. I started with a dark grey on select areas of the structure. Then the dark grey trim was been sponged with a lighter grey. I finished up with a sponge of white to bring out the highlights as on one of the skulls. The same thing was done to the pillars. I think it really adds to the look of the mausoleum and will look even better when the whole structure is complete.

Also of note is that once the painting was done I installed the LED closet lights behind the skulls with a hot glue gun and put the red eyes back in the skulls. They worked perfect and looked great however on the big night I forgot to turn them on so in all my photos they are dark. "D'oh!"

Here are some shots of the mausoleum set up in the yard on Halloween night.

UPDATE! Front Wall Expansion

At long last I bit the bullet and made an effort to get more of the mausoleum facde completed! I had been procratinating simply due to it being such a big project it wan't something like a tombstone that I could work on bit by bit as I had time available. Just to clear out the garage and get set up was more time than I normally had available. Anyhow, this was the year I was determined to get going at last.

I started in the summer and set up the archway so that I could take accurate measurements for the addition. The hardest part was planning it out so that it would be easy to assemble. disassemble and store. I determined that 3 pieces for the front would work - a left and right section and then a top for the peak.

Since this was going to be so much taller than the archway and I was concerned about the wind I thought it should have a sturdy wooden frame in addition to the foam. I assembled a simple frame of 1"x2" clear pine. For added strength I borrowed an idea from model railroad benchwork and made what are called "L" Girders and used those as the main vertical supports with 1"x3" horizontals. I skinned the frame with 1/8" Luan Plywood cut to shape. At that point I glued on the pre-cut 2" foam insulation boards using foam-safe contact cement and filled any gaps and joints with heavy-duty contruction adhesive. I had also put in a number of long screws with plastic washers to help secure the foam where they would be covered by the trim pieces which were gued down next. I also made 2 large angle supports out of 2"x4" studs with plywood gussets to support the structure from behind. A coat of flat black paint ensured these would remain invisible.

I had intended to paint it at this point in a simple gray base coat to get by for Halloween night however I had run out of time. As it turned out once the mausoleum was set up and lit up at night under haunt lighting the bare pink foam was not noticeable in the least. A few eagle-eye people might see the manufaturing labeling in spots but it really wasn't a big deal. The advantage with this is that I plan to still do a bit of carving to add weathering, cracks and further distress/age the stonework. It will be so much easier to do so without a layer of paint.

I will continue to work on the mausoleum and plan on adding the side wall with stained glass gothic windows. I will post further updates to the project as I go along.

For the ornate wrought-iron gate in the doorway of the mausoleum I used plastic fence pieces which I got from Spirit Halloween in an end of season sale the previous year. (Always be on the lookout for materials for future projects as you might not be able to find something off season when you're in the build-mode.) I cut the three sections up so I could splice them together into one vertical gate. To hold everything together I used wooden dowels laid in the vertical and horizontal groves in the back and cemented everything together with lots of Gorilla Glue. In hindsight it would have been better and more secure to use a welded steel rod support but I don't weld or know anyone who does so this would have to suffice.

I used Brutal Rust ( to simulate the rusted look of an old wrought-iron metalwork. I also painted up some cemetery grave plot fencing at the same time. The Brutal Rust is easy to apply and looks great. There is a base coat of a lumpy black/dark grey paint and then an activator spray to create a very natural looking rust effect. That completed the gate. It was simply hung in the doorway from the horizontal dowels with cup hooks in the back of the framework.