Projects: Tombstones 2

Broken Tombstone

or this tombstone I wanted something a bit out of the ordinary. I remember when I visited some old cemeteries that there are always a few tombstones lying broken on the ground - victims of time & neglect or vandalism. I thought a tombstone that had fallen over and cracked into pieces would be an unusual addition to Blackstone Cemetery for 2009. I had actually started it in 2008 but never gotten it finished before Halloween.

First I designed the tombstone as had originally appeared. I came up with an engraving based on some actual historical designs but substituted Ann Blackstone as the name. The idea was that Ann, the matriarch of the cursed Blackstone family, died under mysterious circumstances exactly 10 years after her daughter Catherine. In the backstory I am developing Catherine was locked away in the upstairs bedroom for 13 years and finally left to die. She will become the basis for my flying crank ghost in the upstairs window. Perhaps it the ghost of Catherine who killed her mother on the anniversary of her death and later toppled and broke her tombstone in a further act of vengeance?

If you like the design and would like to make one for yourself here is a PDF for download.


  Broken Tombstone Design (530 KB)

The epitaph was transferred to the foam in the same manner as my other tombstones and carved using the wood-burner tool. I then planned out where it would be broken so that the lettering was still readable but looked natural. I cut the foam into five pieces and added cracks. A scrap piece of plywood served as the base and I arranged the broken pieces in a way to look like it had toppled backwards and shattered on impact.

The next step was to build up the thickness of the foam and cut them on angles so that it looked like it was lying on the ground in a natural manner and also so it wasn't just flat where it might not be seen. To do this I took scrap pieces of foam and cut them out in the shape of the tombstone fragments but cut the backs on angle so that each pieces would sit at different heights and angles. Unless you have a large hot-wire foam cutter don't worry about getting the angles perfect you just want to have as large an area as possible for gluing. I use Liquid Nails Quik Grip adhesive. Once you have it glued down if there are any gaps just cut some scrap foam into wedges to fit and glue in place. Some spackling can be used to smooth out any seams between the boards to make it look like one solid piece but don't worry about making it too smooth since it's supposed to be old and broken.

I painted it in the same manner as my other tombstones by applying a medium to dark grey base coat over everything, taking special care to get it into all the cracks & lettering. Once dry use a natural sea sponge to dab on a lighter grey. This really brings out the lettering and texture. A bit of dry-brushing in a white or light brown will finish the painting. For final detailing I hot-glued some fake grass in and around the broken pieces to make it look old and overgrown. When set up in the haunt I'll scatter peat moss around the base to hide the edge of the plywood.

Fog Chiller Angel Monument

I won a Mini Vortex Fog Chiller in a contest a few years back and have been VERY happy with the results. It takes only one bag of ice which lasts almost all night and the fog produced just oozes out and hugs the ground. Very cool. The first year I just draped some black fabric over it but had been wanting to make a proper enclosure for it. I came up with a more elaborate angel monument to cover it and keep it out of sight.

It started with the angel. I'm not really big into angels per say but they are such an iconic element in a cemetery I knew it was only a matter of time before I found a way to include one. I found the perfect angel in a local department store - perfect in that the sculpt and pose was nice but since it was broken from a fall I was able to talk the store manager down to only $20 from $70! Perfect!

Taking an idea from a member on one of the online Halloween forums I used a wooden crate from Michael's as the base. The crate was the perfect size to fit the Vortex Chiller. I glued 1" foam board to the crate to build up the sides, leaving the back open. I removed 2 wooden slates from the side and carved the foam to look like a large crack - this is where the fog will exit the tombstone making it appear to emanate from inside the grave! The top was built up from more foam with a layer of 1/2" plywood for strength. I cut it to fit the base of the angel statue so it sits down into the monument and seems like it's all one.

The front was carved with a simple "Beloved" epitaph with cracks added and then painted to match the angel. In operation the Vortex Chiller is filled with ice and set inside the crate with the exit pipe aligned with the large side crack in the tombstone. A fog machine sits on the ground behind the chiller and could be draped with some black fabric if needed.


  Beloved Tombstone Design (57 KB)

Deluxe Tombstone & Foam Carving Make & Take

I had gotten so many questions on how I made my tombstones that I decided to share what I could. With the help of Victoria I organized a Make & Take for the Ontario Haunters Club. It was well attended and I think everyone walked away from it more confident about tackling their own tombstones.

UPDATE! Tombstone Assembly Details

I have been asked to go into more detail as to how I create some of my tombstones. All of my decorations are put away in storage (ok most, not all - I still have my Reaper & Werewolf in the garage!) so I'll have to make due with existing photos. I'll take new photos when I can. I hope this will help to explain things further.

Roberta Sparrow 3-D Tombstone

For this tombstone I wanted a more 3-dimensional look to again get away from the flat slabs. I first cut out the complete shape from a piece of 2" foam. This would form the base shape for the tombstone.

As you can see in this photo instead of cutting out the centre from one piece of foam I used some of my scrap 1" pieces and after determining the width needed attached one across the bottom and 2 on the sides. The one for the top was carved to match the arch of the base piece. You can see the seams where the diff. pieces meet - they will be later filled with spacking compound.

The centre raised panel is a smaller piece of 1/2" foam so it sits below the level of the tombstone surface. I simply cut a rectangle and then used my hot wire cutter to create the corners. The letter was done with a wood-burning tool as I've done with my other stones. This piece was then glued in place.

The architectural elements are various wood trim. I used 1/4 round trim on the inside edge of the cut-out and then a small decorative bead to go around the outside of the cut-out on the surface of the stone. The only tricky bit using these was to try and continue the cracks through the trim and have it look the same as the cracks cut in the foam. I ended up carefully carving them with a knife and then breaking all the way through. I used my finger to spread some spackling along the edge of the trim to fill any gaps. Once painted all the separate pieces blended together to look like one and give the effect of a full relief tombstone.

Reverse Lettering

Most of my lettering is carved the usual way in that the letters themselves are carved out (or melted with my wood burning tool in my case) of the foam. I've done a few stones though where I tried a diff. method. I call this reverse or negative lettering because you carve out the area AROUND the letters.

You start with transferring your design to the foam same as always but when you go to start carving cut around the outside of the letters making sure that thin areas don't melt together. Once that is done then you can start to carve or melt out the surrounding area. You can either create a large recessed area as I did on my Celtic cross tombstone or feather it out to make it appear as if the lettering was carved from the surrounding stone as I did in my "dead shall walk the earth" stone. To do this you basically create many small strokes of the wood-burning tool starting at the letter outline and moving the tool away, decreasing the depth or pressure as you go. Overlap and vary your strokes so it doesn't look too mechanical. I've done this technique with both lettering or illustration designs as in one of the examples below where I've mixed techniques on the same stone. It is a nice effect to mix both positive lettering and negative lettering on the same stone. Here are some examples to give you an idea...