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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.

Tried a couple of new things with this western-themed tombstone and also discovered a cool new trick: exterior up-lighting! This solves the problem of running separate lighting to your tombstone. New also is the use of an embedded portrait. Many thanks go to Big Nick for his advice on how to make these waterproof. The stone's dimensions are 33 3/8" tall, 29 1/2" wide and 12" deep. This is a medium to large stone.

Please watch this video to see how your tombstone build will be like:

Quick note: A 'Following Eyes' portrait is a devilishly cool optical trick. The eyes are cut out of the portrait, spacers are put behind the portrait near the eye sockets and the eyes are glued back on. The effect is that the eyes are now slightly recessed back into the portrait so they appear to follow you.

Materials Needed:
1 1/2" pink or blue foam (over half of a sheet)
29 1/2" x 12" plywood
12' red LED rope lighting
Printer paper
Latex Drylok - gray or tinted gray
Latex caulk
Silicone caulk
Foamboard glue
Plastic wrap
Wood filler
Spooky Eyes Portrait: Make your own or buy at this Ebay store called Haunted Portraits: https://www.ebay.com/str/hauntedportraits
8 x 10 picture frame
8 x 10 non-reflective glass (optional)
Household twine
Sheet moss
6-7 spent rifle or pistol casings
Hanger wire
1/2" PVC pipe (28" total)
Paper towels
Monster mud
Dritz Heavy Duty Template Plastic: https://www.dritz.com/product/heavy-duty-template-plastic/
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 24" rebar rods

Tools Needed:
Jig saw
Eye protection
Overhead marker
Photoshop-type program loaded on computer
Rasterbator 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
Fiberglass-reinforced cutting attachment for Dremel
Multi-Max Dremel with wood cutter attachment
PVC cutter
1/4" & 1/2" drill bits
Paint brushes
Paint scraper
eXacto knife
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
Ground stakes
Tying twine (polypropylene)
Wood planks for leveling (optional)

Waterproof Picture Frame: Remove the glass from the picture frame. Place a bead of silicone caulk all around the interior edge. Insert the non-reflective glass. Place the spooky eyes portrait in the frame and place another bead of silicone around the edges. Shut the backing and allow to dry overnight. Turn the frame over and place a bead of latex caulk around the edge of the glass by the edge of the frame. Let dry overnight.

Design Tombstone Face & Epitaph (picture 1): Design the tombstone face in a Photoshop-type program. 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 29 1/3" tall and 21" wide. Note: In the next step, after printing, the image size printed out to be 28 1/2" x 20 1/2". Close enough...

Rasterbator (not pictured): Use the Rasterbator program (or similar posterizing program) to make a .pdf file so you can print it out on your printer. 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 2.5 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. If not, you’ll sneeze pink boogers. Lay out the Rasterized printout moving it up 4 1/2" from the edge of your foam to allow room for the bases of the tombstone (three stacked 1 1/2" pieces = 4 1/2"). Cut it out with a jig saw. Flip the cut piece over and trace out. Cut out. Measure out two bases that are 27 1/2" x 10" and cut those out. In the center of those bases cut out space for the tombstone to slip through (20 1/2" x 3"). Measure out the top base to be 24 1/2" x 7". Cut that out and in the center cut out the tombstone space: 20 1/2" x 3".

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

Trace out Design: 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.

Dremel out Pattern: Use the Dremel with the multi-purpose cutting attachment to cut out the depth needed to lay the picture frame in. Do this just as you do for dremeling out channels for PVC. Cut out a bunch of lines vertically and horizontally that are small enough that you can chip the foam out easily. Do not chip out yet. First, Dremel out the epitaph. For very small or detailed fonts, go shallower. If not, the centers of 'e', 'o' and 'a' would flake off. Next, take off the cutting attachment tool off of the Dremel and cut all the way through for the bullet holes. Finally, chip out the area for the frame.

Channel out Rope Lighting (picture 1): Place the LED rope lighting on the stone so a LED light will shine through a bullet hole starting near the end of the rope lighting. Mark around the rope lighting and channel out picking away at the channel until the lighting sits down into the foam so it is flush. Use one of the looped tools from your sculpting kit to do this. Continue to repeat this process until all the bullet holes have a light shining through. Direct the rope lighting to exit out of the bottom of the stone.

Channel Rope Light Exit (picture 2): Place the back of the stone on top of the front of the stone. Mark a channel tall enough for the light to angle out of the back when the stone would be standing upright. Chip that foam out.

Channel out Base (picture 3): Insert the bottom base onto the stone and mark where the lighting needs to exit out of it. Mark and channel out the space.

Dremel out PVC Channels: Cut two lengths of 14" 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 (just under 1/2"). 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.

Fit Portrait (picture 1): Insert picture into the recessed area and shape the foam so you get a good snug and level fit. Remove the portrait for the next step.

Insert Wire Holders (picture 2): Insert two (approx. 7") wires into each corner of the recessed area for the frame so they punch right through to the other side but leave enough wire on the front to be able to be bent over and clamped onto the frame. Bend the wire back and into the foam on the inside of the stone so they will hold in place. Back on the front side fold the wires flat for now. Do not install the portrait yet.


8,366 Posts
Discussion Starter #2

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

Mark Plywood (picture 1): Note - These pictures are from another tombstone build. 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.

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 (except for the transition seam from top to middle base) and where rope lighting exits out of the stone. Weight down and allow to dry overnight.

Shape Stone and Make Cracks: Use the Stanley SureForm Shaver to shape the stone and bases. Pay attention to the bases by shaving away the corners until they meet up and have a nice curve to them. Soften the edges of the stone so they look like worn stone.

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. If you like you can use a tool from the sculpting tool kit that looks like a beefy eXacto knife.

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 sandpaper 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.

Insert Portrait: Open the wire holders. Place a bead of foamboard glue on the edges of the recessed area. Place some more glue in the inside area. Insert the portrait and press in. Bend the wire holders down over the frame with needle nose pliers and clip to trim. Place a bead of foamboard glue around the perimeter of the frame being careful that it's all sealed up. Let dry.

Barbed Wire: Make barbed wire by tying a short piece of twine onto one of the wire holders. Tie a second piece of twine right over the first. Grab both and cut them so they are the same size. Repeat for all the other wire holders.

Monster Mud Casings: Dip the rifle casings into monster mud and place on the stone. Use a large brush to press the casings down 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 casings have a nice transition to the stone. Dip the brush into some water and carefully and gently wash away some of the casing face so you can see that they were shiny, smooth casings. Also use the brush dipped in water to help smooth away the edges of the monster mud. Let dry overnight.

Cover up Portrait (picture 1): This step will protect the portrait from the next painting steps. Trace a piece of paper over the visible part of the portrait. Cut out. Place on another piece of paper. and trace again. Draw an interior line about an 1/8" from the edge of that new piece. Cut that out. That second piece of paper will be slightly smaller than the visible part of the portrait. Place the smaller paper on a sheet of glass in the center. Tape it over with blue tape. Put the first piece of paper over the tape and trace out. Cut the blue tape with an eXacto knife and remove from the glass.

Place Cover (picture 2): Center the tape assembly over the visible part of the portrait and press on. Also, stuff paper towels and some plastic wrap into the bullet holes to protect the LED lighting from the next painting steps.

Wrap Rope Lighting (picture 3): Coil up the rope lighting and place in a plastic bag. Seal the opening with blue tape.

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. Also have another stubby brush to help push in the Drylok to be sure any rough areas and pin holes gets coated. 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 repeatedly 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. Sop up any excess paint with paper towels. Remove the plastic wrap and paper towels from the bullet holes. Check to see if any tea-staining paint touched the lighting. If so, wipe clean with Q-Tips. Use small items under the base to prop it up and allow air to flow underneath so it can dry. Dry overnight.


8,366 Posts
Discussion Starter #3

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.

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.

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.

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.

Make a Ridge & Paint (Picture 1): Carve a shallow outer ridge on the bullet holes using an eXacto knife. Continue to carve out the ridge using a tool from your sculptor's kit to help flatten that ridge out. This will create a 'shelf' for the opaque plastic to be set into without falling into the center of the stone. Paint with the color of the light (red). Let dry.

Cut out Plastic (Picture 2): Put a tiny piece of blue painter's tape on a sheet of heavy duty template plastic. The tape will indicate to you what the top of the circle will be. This tip will save you a bit of frustration down the road here. Place over a bullet hole and trace out using an overhead marker. Cut out, test to fit and adjust using scissors. Remove from hole and wipe off the marker residue off the edges. Place off to the side and repeat the process for the other bullet holes.

Silicone in Place (Picture 1): Place a thin bead of silicone on the 'shelf' and push the plastic in. Remove painter's tape. Let dry.

Caulk, Smooth and Paint (Picture 2): Place a final barrier of caulk over the edges and finger smooth to blend in. If you smudged some of the caulk onto the plastic, remove it with a wet Q-Tip.

Apply Moss: Apply some moss to the stone using a hot glue gun.

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

Yippee! You are done.

Bonus info: Securing in your graveyard:

Cut Rebar: Cutting rebar is easier than you may think if you have a fiberglass cutting wheel for your Dremel. Cut all around the perimeter of where you need it cut about a 1/4 of the way through. Center the cut area over a corner of your workbench and bend the rebar. It will break in half.

Display in Graveyard: Lay the tombstone on its 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 through 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 it becomes nearly impossible to see. The ground stakes add additional wind resistance and some theft deterrent.

Note: This stone was made as a trade with fellow HF member Andretti. Always wanted a top-end carved pumpkin. Was floored at what he presented me:

WowZer and thanks Andretti!
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