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Haunt Entrance Gate: Tutorial

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So glad there was the time to make this just before Halloween. Was thinking if there was an impressive entrance to the haunt, it would help set the mood. Also, needed something to be obvious that this was the entrance to the garage haunt.

This is a very large gate (8' x 6') so it is made of two halves (8' x 3') plus an optional inner curtain structure (8' x 5'). It also lights up. This tutorial does not show how the optional inner curtain but in the next step it will give a quick instruction. You could also simply attach curtain material to the back of the foam facade.

Materials Needed:
Two 2' thick 8' x 4' pink or blue styrofoam sheets
Foamboard adhesive
Acetone (can get at beauty supply)
Drylok (water-based)
Exterior flat latex paint (I used a warm brown)
Black acrylic/latex paint
White acrylic/latex paint
Raw Sienna artist's acrylic paint
Green acrylic paint
Paper towels
Cheap clear corrugated roof sheet (around 3' x 8')
Several vibrant colors of acrylic paint
Green sheet moss
1" pink or blue foam sheet
60" 20 gauge wire
6 small zip ties
Glue sticks
Two string sets of 100 LED lights
Margaritas (keeps you happy)

Tools Needed:
Jig saw
Sharpie marker
12' ruler
Face mask
Caulk gun
Dremel with Multi-purpose cutting attachment
Stanley SureForm Shaver
Basic brush
2" brush
Detail brush
3" brush
Tin snips
1/2" brush
Thin brush
Hot glue Gun
Wire cutters

Optional Inner Curtain:
Black material (I used landscape fabric)
Six 1" x 2" x 8' Furring strips
2 1/2" wood screws
Wood glue
3 screw hooks

Jig Saw
Drill bit for wood screws

Design: Here is the design of the gate on square paper. Five squares equals a foot or 2.4" a square. Assembled gate is 8' tall and 6' wide.

The gate is made of two halves of assembled foam. The outer doorway (outer foam panel) half piece is 3' wide at the top of the arch, 8' tall and 13 1/2" wide at the pillar. The inner doorway half piece (inner foam panel) 86" tall and 9 1/2" wide at the pillar. Remember, these are half measurements.

Pattern: Stained glass facade pattern. This is 10" tall and 7 1/2" wide.

Optional Inner Curtain (not pictured): Lay out four 1" x 2" x 8' furring strips vertically on the workbench. Spread the center apart to make an opening of 31 1/2" wide. Place a 61" furring strip at the top. 6' from the bottom, place a 31 1/2" furring strip. Place four 12" furring strips at the bottom and center of the two pillars. Screw all these together using wood screws. Glue fabric using wood glue to the whole thing (both sides) and cut slits in the fabric where people would walk through.

Doorway (top picture): Place the inner curtain over your first sheet of 2" foam and center it. Lightly draw where the walk-through is and remove the inner curtain. The opening should be about 6' tall and 31 1/2" wide.

Measure from the center of the bottom to the top 86" and mark. Now measure from one of the bottom edges up to 5' and mark. Draw an arching line from the top center mark to the 5' mark. Don your face mask and cut that side of the foam off using the jig saw. Take the cut piece of foam and flip over and trace out the arch shape on the other side (like a mirror image). Wear your face mask again and cut that side out too with jig saw. Leave the inner doorway foam intact for now. NOTE: Whenever you are cutting or shaping foam, wear a face mask. It creates very light foam snow that you could inhale. It's verrrry unpleasant coughing that back up...

Outer Arches (middle picture): (Warning: I honestly don't know how to explain verbally what I did here.... Basically, it's best to think this through on your own. You are trying to get as wide of a top span as you can (3') out of a 4' wide piece of foam yet still have a wide enough space for the other pillar at the bottom to make sense. So you trace out one piece from the bottom and then trace out the second piece from the top.)

Anyways, here's my attempt at an explanation, sorry. Place the cutout foam offset over the second sheet of 2" foam 13 1/2" from the edge. Lightly trace out the doorway frame of the first piece. Flip over and trace out the other side. Make sure the top span is 3' wide. Notice that at the bottom of the pillars it will have a chunk of about 2" missing. That's because you need that to achieve the 3' span at the top. I hope that wasn't confusing. Cut out with the jig saw.

Glue Together (bottom picture): Overlap the outer doorway over the inner piece by 2" and use foamboard adhesive to glue the edges together. Put weights over the foam and dry overnight. btw: Use scrap foam to support the overhang so it doesn't bend while drying.

Cut-out Doorway (not pictured): Design out how you want your door to look or follow my design. I decided on columns, stonework and stained glass. Cut out the doorway using your jig saw. Then separate the remaining arch into two pieces by cutting the top of the inner arch in half.

Grating (top-left picture): Find a pattern you like and trace it onto the foam. Alternately, you could cut out the pattern I provided. The pattern is designed to be butted up to itself and repeatedly traced out.

Cut Back Grating (top-right picture): Flip the foam over and using the Dremel with the multi-purpose attachment, cut out 1 1/4" deep channels many times so you can then 'pop' off the foam to bring the depth down to 3/4". Using the Stanley SureForm Shaver, smooth out the back.

Cut-out Grating (bottom picture): Flip arch back back over and cut out the traced designs using the Dremel.

(By the way, continue to use the leftover 2" foam pieces to support the outside doorway so it doesn't bend or flex while you are carving the foam.)

Shape Columns (left picture): Using the Stanley SureForm shaver, drag it down the center of one of the lines of a column. Angle the shaver and shave away one half of the line. Then do the other half. Repeat for all the lines of the column. At the top of the column I carved in ledges using the edge of the shaver.

Shape Stonework (right picture): You can use a cobble pattern or a straight stone pattern. I ended up liking the straight stone pattern better. So, using that Surform Shaver, first carve out the grout lines. Then add different angles to the stone itself. Soften the edges of the stone using the shaver.

Misc. Shaping (not pictured): I cut in some lines at the top of the inner doorway following the arch curve. Then, I went went all over the edges and softened them up to help give a worn stone appearance. Continue to shape the entire foam doorway until you get a design you like.

Cut Cracks (not pictured): Take the edge of the shaver and hack in a crack. Then carve out the rest of the crack using lines splitting out from the main one. This takes guts to do, so, take a big swig from your Margarita. heh.

Etching: To give the stone that etched, ancient look, put some straight acetone into a bowl. Don some eye protection and dip your basic brush into it and fling the brush over the foam so acetone strikes it in droplets. By flinging I mean like you are trying to fling a spider off the end of your brush. Be a bit aggressive here. You want some splattering! I had the gate on the floor to make it easier to do this. Keep doing this until you get the look you like.

Drylok and Base Coat (left picture): To protect the stone from the elements, coat both sides twice with Drylok using a 2" brush. Then, base color the arch with exterior paint (I used a warm brown).

Enhancing Depth/Tea-staining (right picture): Using the same base color, tint it darker with some black paint. Using a detail paint brush, paint in all the cracks, holes and lines. This helps give the stone depth.

Water down your remaining depth paint a lot and dip your 2" brush in it so it is very wet. Starting at the top of the arch while is vertical, 'wash' the stone. The paint should drip down the arch face so it gets that weathered look. Repeat the 'tea-staining' step a few more times only in the inner doorway. This helps give the inner doorway even more depth than the outer doorway so you get the illusion that the door is bigger and deeper than it really is.

To see a video of how to do this 'tea-staining' step and the rest of the painting steps, please see my YouTube Video here:

Drybrushing: Take some white paint and darken it slightly with the base paint. Using a very large brush, dip it in the paint and dry it off well with paper towels. Then brush lightly over the gate to highlight any raised sections of the stone. This will give the foam a stone-like appearance. Do less highlighting (drybrushing) on the inner doorway to keep the depth illusion. But do more on the outside column to help that stand out.

Again, if you would like to see a video demonstration these painting steps, please see the video referred to in the previous step.

Detail Painting: To give the appearance that lichen and moss stained the stone over centuries, you will be adding pops of color. Using Raw Sienna paint and your 2" brush, mix with a little white and lightly paint a few sections of the stone. Then using green paint, mix with a little white and paint other sections.

Paint Plastic (left picture): Using cheap clear corrugated roof sheeting, determine the size you need for your stained glass opening and cut out using tin snips. Draw out your design using a Sharpie marker onto the cutout sections. Paint with the colors of acrylic paint you like using a 1/2" brush. Don't cover heavily because you want the LED lights to be able to glow through. Let dry and paint the 'lead lines' with a dark gray paint and thin brush.

Install Plastic and Lights (right picture): Fit into your opening (painted side down) and glue in using your glue gun. If there are any gaps you can fill them in with moss by gluing it in with the hot glue gun.

Lay out your LED lighting and hot glue into place being sure to have the plugs on the outside.

Cover with Foam Backing (left picture): Cover the opening with a thinner sheet of foam (1") and glue in place with foamboard adhesive. Using leftover blocks of the 2" foam, glue some into the overhanging doorway to even out the back of the arch. Try to have edges butting up to the taller edge. Use foamboard adhesive to glue together, weigh down and let dry overnight. This will also help to add some rigidity and strength to the arches. They are a little too flimsy without it.

Add Hooks (right picture): Push in a 10" length of wire into one of the foam blocks. Twist close and cut off excess wire. Insert a small zip tie into the opening and close the zip tie so a loop is showing and cut off the tail. Add strength and support by hot gluing around the foam so the wire wouldn't rip back through the foam. Do this at two places at the top and one near the bottom of each arch.

If this was going to be outside for a long time, go ahead and paint the new pieces of foam with Drylok to help protect them from the elements.

Moss (not pictured): Flip back over and hot glue some moss in a few sections of the gate. Be sure to also put some moss at those missing chunks of pillar at the bottom. Real moss really helps add realism to the stone.

Attach to Garage: Drill a hook at the left wall of the garage opening and at two places at the top. Now attach the inner door curtain securely to the garage. Wrap twine around the frame of the curtain and at the hooks. Once secure, use more twine to attach the zip tie loops on the foam arch to the frame of the curtain.

Plug the lights in and you are good to go. For this project I was enjoying a Margarita ;) btw: that's hubby standing guard at the gate.

Thanks for checking out my tutorial :)