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Discussion Starter #1
Note: This is a repost of an old tutorial whose links to pictures were broken with the software update at HF.

JustWhisper was my Secret Reapee and she had a wonderful 'like' - pirates! Always made a tombstone for my SR's gift and was thrilled to have the challenge of making a pirate tombstone. This is a tutorial of how to make your own. Note: This is a small stone design because it had to be shipped to JustWhisper. You may want to scale this larger for your graveyard. The stone's dimensions are 28" tall, 17" wide and 13" deep.

A great way to dive into the tutorial is to watch the video:

Materials Needed:
1 1/2" pink or blue foam (about a third of a sheet)
17" x 13" plywood
Printer paper
Latex Drylok - gray or tinted gray
Foamboard glue
Wood filler
Blackbeard's sword (Sword of Triton): https://www.buycostumes.com/products/pirates-of-the-caribbean-5-sword-of-triton
Plastic gold coins
Fake seaweed (used Weeping Willow greenery): https://www.hobbylobby.com/Floral-W...nery/Green-Weeping-Willow-Hanging-Bush/p/4316
Hanger wire
1/2" PVC pipe (24" total)
DAS clay
Paper towels
Monster mud
Dark gray exterior latex paint - flat
White exterior latex paint - flat
Red acrylic paint
Black acrylic paint - flat
Raw sienna acrylic paint
Dark green acrylic paint
Glue sticks
Two 22" rebar rods

Tools Needed:
Jig saw
Eye protection
Photoshop-type program loaded on computer
Rasterbator type program loaded on computer
Adobe Reader program loaded on computer
Computer printer
Ballpoint pen
Blue painter's tape
Dremel with Multi-purpose cutting bit attachment
Multi-Max dremel with wood cutter attachment
PVC cutter
Sanding pads
1/4" & 1/2" drill bits
Paint brushes
Paint scraper
eXacto knife
Tray for working clay
Caulk gun
Hot glue gun
Needle nose pliers
Wire cutters
Misc. sculptor's tools (usually comes in a kit): https://www.michaels.com/artminds-clay-tool-set/10356851.html
Stanley SureForm Shaver
Stanley SureForm replacement blade bits
Misc. sized brushes including a 3" and 2" angle brush
Plastic cup
Non-reactive plastic container
Painting tarp
Latex gloves
Tin Snips
Ground stakes
Wood planks for leveling (optional)

Design Tombstone Face & Epitaph (picture 1): Design the tombstone face in a Photoshop-type program. The design uses an image of an opened scroll as background and another image of a map pasted over it. Use text boxes to create and adjust the sizes of the epitaph. What's great about using Photoshop is you can move the layers around and change shapes easily to make your tombstone just as you want. The picture dimensions in Photoshop is 24" tall and 15" wide. Note: In the next step, after printing, the image size printed out to be 23 1/4" x 14 1/2". Close enough...

Rasterbator (not pictured): Rasterbator (stop snickering!) is a free software program that makes huge rasterized (poster-sized) images from any image. You can then print it out on regular printer paper and tape back together. Once the program is open, upload your .jpg image. Change the setting for Standard Paper Size to US Letter. Next, change the setting Define Output Size to 1.5 pages wide. Set Rasterbator Options to a Dot Size of 1mm. Then hit Rasterize. It will make your .jpg into a printable .pdf file. When printing in Adobe Reader, choose Page Scaling: Fit to Paper at the options window that comes up. If you choose horizontal paper alignment, also make sure Auto-Rotate and Center is selected. Now print out and tape back together.

Cut Foam (picture 2 & 3): First off...always wear a mask when cutting/shaping foam. The foam dust floats through the air like crazy. Lay out the Rasterized printout moving it up 3" from the edge of your foam to allow room for the bases of the tombstone (two stacked 1 1/2" pieces=3"). Cut it out with a jig saw. Flip the cut piece over and trace out. Cut out.

Measure out two bases that are 17" x 11" and cut those out. In the center of those bases cut out space for the tombstone to slip through (14 1/2" x 3").

Mock-up: Put all the pieces together to decide how you'd like them on the stone.

Mark Boundaries (not pictured): Mark off the top and bottom boundaries of the scroll while the paper is still on the stone. That way you won't carve those sections away.

Shape 'Map' (picture 1): Use the Stanley SureForm Shaver and bits of the shaver to gouge and shape the face of the stone so it curves like an open scroll map. Be sure that you don't carve too far into the stone. There must be room left for the interior PVC channels. Do the front side only and put back into the base for the next step.

Shape other Side (picture 2): Draw a line for what needs to be carved away on the other side using the carved side as a reference. Remove from the base and carve the other side.

Sand Surface: Very lightly sand the surface to get it to look more like smooth map parchment.

Dremel out PVC Channels: Cut two lengths of 12" PVC pipe. Place them both on one opened side of a tombstone face so they are equally distant but not too close the edge. Keep them as vertical as possible. Move them down 3/8" to allow them to protrude into the plywood base you will be using for the tombstone. Trace the PVC pipes with a marker. Cut the area out using the multi-purpose cutting attachment for the Dremel just halfway deep. You will be doing the same thing on the other side, so the pipes will be in the center of the stone. Place the PVC pipe into the hollowed channel and apply some paint to the top. Grab the other tombstone face, flip over and center over the matching one and press down. This will leave paint markings where you can easily trace out the channels for the other side. Cut that side out also.

Trace out Design (picture 1): Use painter's tape to attach the design to the stone. Trace out a section with a ball point pen, remove one side of the tape and lift the paper. Retrace the impression left with the pen again to make a clearer line. You will have to do this in sections because the impression left by the pen starts to fill back in after a while and becomes hard to see. Remove the paper when all finished.

Fill in (picture 2): Fill in any complicated designs with a marker so you won't lose your place while Dremeling out.

Dremel out Pattern (not pictured): Use the Dremel with the multi-purpose cutting attachment to cut out. For very small or detailed fonts, go shallower. If not, the centers of 'e' , 'o' and 'a' would flake off.


8,374 Posts
Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)

Glue Tombstone Face: Glue sides and PVC together using foamboard adhesive and/or Glidden Gripper. Weight the top while curing.

Mark Plywood (picture 1): Put the tombstone face back into the foam bases. Center it on the plywood so there is even space in the front and back. Trace a line around the stone with a marker. Remove the tombstone and put on its side. Apply some paint where the PVC is. Lift up the stone and center it over where those lines are and press down. It will leave a paint impression showing you where holes need to be cut out of the plywood.

Cut Plywood (picture 2): Drill out a pilot hole your jig saw can fit into to cut the circle out. It's hard to drill out a 1/2" hole first so start by using a 1/4" drill bit then switch to the 1/2" drill bit. While you are making these holes, also put two in the far diagonal corners. These holes are later used to tie off your stone to ground stakes. This helps add more wind protection and helps it defend against burglars when out in your graveyard. Use the jig saw to cut out the larger holes for the rebar/PVC hole.

Harness for Sword: Insert the sword back into the stone and move around until it's right where you want it to be. Take a length of hanger wire and push into the seam of the stone. Bend with needle nose pliers to adjust into a good place where, when the sword is permanently placed in the stone, the wire will be fairly hidden from view. Remove the sword but leave the wire in place.

Glue base: Glue the bases and tombstone face to the plywood one by one starting from the bottom. Use the same foamboard glue to 'caulk' any open seams. Weight down and allow to dry overnight.

Design Coral Base (picture 1): Cut out a circle from paper and trace out over and over again onto the base.

Chip out (picture 2): The Multi-Max Dremel was great for this. Chip out the circles.

Smooth (picture 3): Use a grinding stone attachment (part 952) for the regular Dremel to smooth away the rough edges.

Make Cracks: Mark out 'crack' lines on the stone. Use a pick or a tool that will allow you to cut/pick a thin 'crack' into the stone. I used a tool from the sculpting tool kit.

Apply Acetone: Place some acetone in a non-reactive plastic container and brush it onto the cracks and any blemishes that are already on the stone. This will open them up and amplify damage. The way it eats into the stone looks like what weather would do to stone over the decades of time. Be sure to wear a good mask and eye protection as a precaution.

Fill Seams: Fill any seams and cuts you don't want in the foam. Wear gloves and dab some filler onto a fingertip. Press into the seam and feather away using your gloved finger. It is easier to smooth the wood filler while wet. It's very hard to sand dried wood filler on foam. The sand paper tears up the foam too easily. Let dry overnight. Check the next day to see if there are any raised ridges. Use a smooth metal tool to burnish down. Had used one of the sculpting tools. Also check to see if any filler had shrunk down too much and use more to fill.

Apply Barnacles: Google some good pictures of barnacles to use a reference. Wet some DAS clay on a tray and knead to get fairly wet (loose). Place a small grape-sized glob onto the stone. In the sculpting tool set there is a tool that has wires at the end. Bend them to one side and fan out. Dip the tool in water and then press the DAS clay on the edges to make them smooth away onto the stone. It will make the glob look like a volcano. Grab the sculpting tool that looks like a needle, dip in water and use that to stab into a side of the interior of the barnacle to separate the inside from the sides. Keep stabbing until you start to get a pea-sized creature in the inside. Finally stab the center of the creature so it's halved like a clam. Repeat until you get nice groupings of barnacles being sure to change up the sizes of them. Just like in nature.

Prepare Coins (picture 1): Mock-up placement of coins so it looks like they are being absorbed by the stone. Two options here: You can cut the coins in half using a tin snip or you can cut a scar into the foam and insert them. The latter step is shown near the end of the tutorial. It's also the way I suggest. They will be much stronger inserted into the stone.

Monster Mud Coins (picture 2): Dip the coins into monster mud and place on the stone. Use a large brush to press the coins and smooth away the mud. Have a scraper nearby to help clean the brush of excess mm. Keep doing this until the mm makes the coins have a nice transition to the stone. Dip the brush into some water and carefully and gently wash away some of the coin face so you can still see the raised ridges of the design. Also use the brush dipped in water to help smooth away the edges of the monster mud. Let dry overnight.

Caulk and Drylok Bottom Base (not pictured): Turn the stone on its side and caulk the opening where the PVC pipe meets the foam and plywood so only the interior of the pipe is open. Allow to dry overnight. Paint a layer of Drylok on the bottom of the base and allow that to dry overnight. Next day, do a second coat of Drylok and let dry overnight again.

Coat with Drylok (picture 1): Turn the stone right-side up again. Coat entire stone in Drylok. This step takes longer than you think though. The epitaph gives you some painstaking work. For tiny fonts you will need to press the Drylok in and then scoop the extra away using a tiny brush. It will take repetitive passes. For large fonts it will also take many passes to scoop out the extra Drylok. The font will fill in and disappear because Drylok is so thick if you don't do this step. To help pass the time - pour a drink first.

Second Coat (picture 2): Paint a second coat of Drylok.

Painting Crevices and Epitaph (not pictured): Using a small brush and dark gray exterior paint, paint the inside of the epitaph. Use a larger brush to paint the crevices but also feather out to the edges. This will help to add depth to those cracks and crevices. No need to allow full drying for the next step. As long as it's partially dry in spots you can move to the tea-staining step.

Tea-staining: This is a very messy step so put some painting tarps on your workbench. Dip a 2" brush into the dark gray exterior paint and mix into a 1/2 filled glass of water. You are making paint that is like tea. This will let you stain the stone so it looks like it's been out in the dirty air for centuries. Start at the top and roughly drip it down the tombstone and help brush it down in places. Do it over and over again until you like the look. You are trying to make it look like this stone has been in the weather forever. You can take breaks here and there to allow the previous tea-stain to dry a bit. If you do this you will see more definitive lines. If you don't take breaks then the lines will be muddier looking. It's all your preference. For this stone I took very short breaks so you get a bit of both. Muddying and definitive lines. Another option is to change up the tea-stain colors to browns and tans. Or a combination of all of them!

Sop up any excess paint with paper towels. Use small items under the base to prop it up and allow air to flow underneath so it can dry. Dry overnight.

Red Accents: Thin out red paint and wash some red color where the footsteps and treasure 'X' is.

Dry-brushing: A miracle step. Get a dry 3-inch brush and dip it in white exterior flat paint. First brush it dry on a paper towel. Lightly brush the entire tombstone. This will paint only the raised edges of the tombstone and you will be amazed at the transformation. Instantly your tombstone will look like real stone.

Attach Sword (not pictured): Put some foamboard glue into the opening for the sword and glue the sword in. Use the foamboard glue to also 'caulk' the edges of it. Q-Tips are good here to wipe away excess glue. Bend the wire in place to anchor the sword. Cut away any excess wire.

Attach Gold Coins: Use an eXacto knife to cut a slot for the coins to slide into. Take a sculptor's pick to pick out some foam to make room. Add some foamboard glue and glue the coin in place. For coins that are just resting on the outside of the stone - just glue the back of it to the stone. You can use the foamboard glue for that.

Lichen & Moss Color Accents: Raw Sienna is the perfect orangy color to add a rust-colored lichen look. Dip the 2" brush into the paint and brush off excess onto a paper towel. Streak the paint down in some areas of the tombstone. Prepare your brush the same way using the dark green paint. Pick a few places that a spot of moss would look good. Don't streak it down though. Just a quick, short, downward brush stroke.

White Lichen and Bird Droppings: Place some white exterior paint on your pallet. Get a crumpled up rag or paper towel and dip into the paint and dry off a bit on another paper towel. Dab the tombstone a couple of times in the same spot while turning the rag until you get the look you want. Dip a small brush into the white paint on the pallet and brush on some bird droppings.

Drylok & Drybrush Visible Glue: Cover up any visible glue seams with some Drylok. Let dry and then quickly drybrush with white to help blend it back into the stone.

Black Detail Lines: Paint a very thin line in the center of any cracks on the stone. Use flat black paint for this. Extend the line past the real cracks to make a faux crack on the edges. This adds realism. If the shade of black isn't dark enough it won't be convincing so you may need to go over your line twice. Paint a line across the center and outside perimeter of the creature inside the barnacles.

Fix Dark Areas: Sometimes the tea-staining step will wash away some of the dark crevice paint details. Go back over any areas that needs additional shading with a brush.

Apply Seaweed: Apply some seaweed to the stone using a hot glue gun.

Whew! You are done! Step back and admire your new creation :)

Display in Graveyard: Lay the tombstone on it's side where you want it in your graveyard. Line up the two rebar stakes where the holes are in the center of the tombstone. Pound the rebar 10" in the ground. Lift up the tombstone and slide over the rebar. This will help keep your tombstone upright on windy days. If your yard is sloped, use a plank or two of wood to shim up the bottom so it's level.

Lace some string though the holes in the far corners of the tombstone and tie off to ground stakes. In a few days the grass will camouflage the string and becomes nearly impossible to see. The ground stakes add additional wind resistence and some theft deterrent.
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