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Help, Making outdoor prop and need advice

13756 Views 14 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  GobbyGruesome
Ok, so a few weeks ago I thought it would be super awesome to make a life size nightmare before christmas halloween town fountain (86 the water). I did some research and jumped in. I am learning as I go and it is taking twice as long as it should because I am undoing and redoing etc etc. I added pics of where I am so far (please be nice I am a first timer and it is pretty obvious).
My problem is that once I complete the chicken wire body how should I cover it before monster mudding it. I thought maybe I should paper/cloth mache over the chicken wire and then when it dries apply monster mud, but then I worry about the mache chipping off giving my prop issues staying together. What is the best way for me to complete this? I could use any and all help. I want this prop to last for years if possible and I want it to be an out door prop.

here is what I have done so far
I used pvc pipes for my dragons structure and then screwed on the paper mached tail, arms, wings and head. I cut out tons of Scale shapes out of cardboard and paper mached half of them so far. with wings attached he is 7ft 2in.
I have a metal pole (used to be a tree lamp) that will come out of the dragons mouth and into the base, I am using a pole to help support the weight of the dragons head. I was planning on using expanding foam around the pole and paint it neon green, this is the "fountain " part.
I used a large board that was left over from another project I did a while back as my base for the fountain and attached my PVC anchor. I than used heavy duty cardboard to create the shape of my pond/fountain (whatever you want to call it) and attached it to my base board. I bought styrofoam sheets and glued them to the cardboard and carved in my "stones" and roughed them up a bit to look realistic, I would hate for this to look cheap and cheesy. On any project I do I try to go above and beyond to get the best looking outcome. I put in a couple of sheets of cardboard and styrofoam just a few inches from the top of the fountain that I plan to spray paint neon green.
My BIL works for a light company and I bought some rope lights from him, these are really high tech light compared to the walmart bought rope lights that I am used to, it even comes with a remote but he said I could use neon green lighting to help make it pop, I will be trying to figure out how to wire those up into the pond as well.

I could use all the help I can get. I wanted this thing in my yard at least a week ago (my fault for starting so late) . I don't want to run into any more speed bumps because I don't know what im doing lol. I have joint compound in my garage for monster mud making, I have not yet gotten paint or any kind of varnish yet. Im still trying to find the best stuff to use on styrofoam and on whatever it is I end up using for the dragons body. I am open to any suggestions on type of paint and varnish to help make this guy last. I do have a paint gun/ sprayer , pretty sure I cannot use that for MM but it will come in handy for colors and varnish.

Thank you in advance for your time and suggestions. I really look forward to reading all posts that will help me.


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needs some touch up paint and a clear coat and he is done. a lot of lessons learned building this. Sculpture Green Statue Art Plant
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Nailed it!

I've got no words of wisdom for you but that's phenomenal! Hard to believe you pulled it off that quickly.

A belated welcome to the forum! I'm sorry I didn't see this sooner, but it doesn't look like you really needed any help.

I know there was someone else trying to figure out how to build one of those and I'm sure your first post is going to be a huge help to a lot people going forward.

I'd love to see a photo of it at night if you have time. Congratulations on a brilliant job though!
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Great job!......first timer? coulda fooled me.......as Gobby said......"nailed it"...looks fantastic and i'm sure it's gonna be a big hit on Halloween. Cheers.....
Thank you. Yes this was definitely my first time and a lot of lessons learned. lesson number one when connecting pvc you should glue and screw it into place, I only gorilla glued it and that was not a smart move. I didn't realize how much weight was going to be added on. Lesson number two, if you want something super sturdy do not use paper mache and if you do use paper mache 4 layers is not going to cut it. The paper mache was a bit weak once the MM was added and resulted in cracks and flakes once dried and moved. Those were the biggies there are several other things I learned during this process by trial and error. So this guy may not last long but the knowledge gained from this experience will make the next one last forever lol. My brother in law hooked me up with some awesome lights and I will be putting them in place tomorrow (they light up several different colors and I found that blue compliments it best). I took a picture of my test run with the lights.
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This is great!!! I showed my wife and I think she wanting to do a "Nightmare" Halloween now.
freaking amazing ... wow ... i'm speechless

what did u use 4 the green paint?

WOW Now that's what I call a project! It's really amazing! You had to have worked your butt off...totally worth it, from what I lI'm seeing. :)

Have you thought about finishing off the mached parts with paper mache clay? It's what I use for my gargoyles. The recipe I use for my clay has a stone-type texture, but I know there are recipes for smoother clays.

Once dried, they are rock-solid. After letting them dry completely, I paint them with oil based Rustoleum epoxy, every nook and cranny. I am debating on using a final polyurethane seal - I'm concerned about yellowing.

As it stands I know for a fact I can spill an entire McDonald's iced coffee (minus two sips) almost directly on one and be able to just wipe it off like nothing happened.

Yours is so huge though...that's a lot of clay to throw. I do hope it lasts a lot of years for you, it's an awesome prop!!
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That turned out fantastic! Great work.
nicely done! I think, as long as your mache is strong enough, just painting it with a solid coat of two of house paint should be enough of a seal.
A phenomenal project and stunned you were able to complete in such a short time window. What a centerpiece!
This is great!!! I showed my wife and I think she wanting to do a "Nightmare" Halloween now.
This guy is not the only Nightmare before Christmas decoration. I'm a big collector of nightmare stuff, I lived in Japan for 3 years and found some AMAZING stuff there. This year I also made Zero's tombstone and my own version of the Halloween door that is placed on my front tree, a chicken wire oogie is in the works and next year I am going to make a second attempt with MM and make the Large Haunted tree (during the this is Halloween song). Good luck with your nightmare halloween :) let me know how it goes.
Thank you for all the comments. I was determined to do this even with having no idea how to do it (I do this a lot, there is very very little I won't try to do myself). I'm thrilled to have suggestions on how to better him. sadly I will probably have to tear him apart before next season to fix him :(. I did not screw the elbows and pipes together, I only used gorilla glue, one of the elbows inside him shifted when we moved him. I made it so the dragon and the pond can be separated so he can be moved easily.
I tried to reach every tiny nook I could but it is crazy hard to get under his scales so after the MM and the exterior paint on top of that I then went over him with textured stone rust-oleum (?) spray paint and than a clear top coat sealer. I am a military spouse and a stay at home mom (domestic engineer, i prefer lol) of two very young children (4 years and 1.5 years) so the majority of the work done was during nap time or after they have gone to bed. This will be the first night in about 3 weeks that I get to go to bed before 3am lol. The bad thing about doing most of this work at night is I missed some areas so I had to redo some things. I live in a historic house on base and my garage is a detached row garage and no light so I plugged in my super hot workshop lights and that is not fun.

the base however is extremely sturdy and super light. I even made a little door on the back side so I can run my lights and have it all set up in there away from the elements. Oh and the green paint was neon green spray paint I got from lowes. the foam was coated with drylok along with the base ( well, kind of) and the green was applied over that.
He didn't come out exactly like I wanted him to, I am a little disappointed with the structure and my rushed detail work but for not have done this before i'm good with it. I think the next time I choose to do a project this big I need to allow myself a lot more time and find a few helping hands. My hubby isn't the handyman, crafter, builder, elbow grease, figure it out type of person so I was really on my own with this project.
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I think you started at the top of the difficulty scale for projects so you should be darn proud that your results look this amazing. I think one of the reasons it works in the movie is structurally it's kind of insane with all this weight focused on one tiny point.

It sounds like you have learned a lot from the build, but the amount of consideration you put in in advance is remarkable. Definitely not something I would expect from a beginner. This is the kind of project that would finish some people.

The only thing I would mention is to check out the Stolloween site... www.stolloween.com...you may have seen it before. - he's a paper mache genius. I really like the way he uses recycled bottles etc. to help his creatures hold their shape, and I'm sure it'd provide some good inspiration for future projects.

You may also want to take a look at Spider-hill prop works as they've got some cool custom PVC fittings that may be useful depending on your project.
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