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Making props in our house is a combination of two things… a love of Halloween and a budget of a church mouse. It does take a bit of patience to find the right things for free or low cost, but it’s part of Halloween for us. Our treats are finding things we can use for props and our trick is making it work for next to nothing.

We found a new idea when we went to pick up a saw from someone who was giving it away. She had a stack of political signs from previous elections stacked up beside the saw. She pointed to a shed and said, “it’s a nice sturdy shed we made of wood, but we covered the walls entirely with the 4X8 political signs. They hold paint really well and they’re pretty much waterproof because they’re plastic.”

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In Oregon, it’s a state law that all political signs have to be down within a week after an election. So, if they’re still up alongside the road after the election, they’re fair game. We take the signs, but not the metal supports. We figure someone might actually want them. But at least we keep the signs from going into the landfill when the clean up crews take them down. (Which they rarely ever do within a week.)

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What we’re left with are 4X4 and 4X8 sheets of free coroplast. (That’s thin corrugated plastic.) We use it instead of lauan or other thin plywood. It creates lightweight props that hold up very well to the elements in our neck of the woods. Western Oregon is usually very wet, but only modestly windy in October. Those dealing with month long high winds might find it doesn't hold up as well. We don’t know, because we've not had any severe storms yet when they were out. But it did pretty good with 30 miles an hour winds and 50 mile an hour gusts the other day.

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Our latest use of it is to create a group of mausoleum facades in front of our stairwell. We just put up a 4X8 sheet of stonework that is made from free wood from a nice gent who makes decks for a living, free paint from a family that had a bunch left over after painting their house, free coroplast thanks to the political advertising of various candidates, and free Styrofoam we got from our local furniture store.

The total cost of items we didn’t get for free is about five dollars worth of Gorilla glue and three bucks for specialty paint colors in those little acrylic bottles at hobby stores. We had another twelve dollars in hardware. The most expensive thing which we won’t ever do again was to buy a gallon of Drylok. It didn’t add anything to the sturdiness of the prop and we have props that have withstood our weather for over a decade covered in just regular latex paints which we got for free.

At any rate, Instructions are below for most of what we did, and I’ll keep posting tutorials for the other mausoleum pieces as they go up. but for now, we’re happy to say that we finally found something that politicians have done for us that makes us happy.
 

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Once we framed the coroplast with a simple wood flat design, we began to layer on pieces of Styrofoam. We use Gorilla glue to seal them to the frame and weigh them down with bricks to keep them in place while they dry. We have a bunch of bricks that we picked up from Craig’s List, but even so, we put the Styrofoam “stones” into place in about four sections to make sure everything was properly weighted. Gorilla glue expands as it cures and if you don’t weigh it down, it will just push up whatever is above it instead of actually sealing everything together. Don’t forget to wet down the surfaces before gluing as that starts the curing process. And if you're at all klutzy, wear gloves. This stuff sticks to skin and clothes in ways you won't believe, and it leaves your hands looking terrible until you lose that layer of skin.

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After the glue has dried, we began to use foam cutters to carve out the rocks. A heat gun gave them a bit more detail and texture. If you’re used to using pink foam and try the less dense Styrofoam, just be aware that it melts much faster than the denser insulating foams. Practice a bit before you take on your actual project to get a feel for how fast it melts with foam cutters and heat guns. Keep that heat gun on low, because there’s a fine line between nothing happening and suddenly staring at a puddle of white goop.

From there it’s on to painting the stones and frames to protect them from the elements. And that’s where we had a parting of the ways with some very gifted haunters.

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We bought five gallons of Drylok paint to create all the mausoleums. Other posters had praised it for giving texture and adding a hard coat to their tombstones. After three coats of the stuff, we honestly couldn’t see enough difference to justify the cost. We get a lot of latex paint for free and it holds up to the weather just fine if we give about three coats to everything we put out.

Drylok didn't really seem to add any additional protection to the mausoleum pieces we’re working on, and not a lot of texture. Soft Styrofoam pieces are still squishy; the way they would be if we used latex house paint. They will break if smashed into something the same way all our tombstones will.

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So at about twenty-five dollars or more a gallon, that’s a cost we can’t justify going forward; at least for the big stuff. We have a couple of pieces that are made of wood, and for those, we’ll use the Drylok because we have it. But if we didn't, I think we’d just toss some sand into the paint for close up texturing and call it good. But really, most of that is totally lost on people who aren't right up next to it. And if they're visiting at night they're not going to see anything but the paint job to make the Styrofoam look like stone.
 

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We used spray paint to fill in the gaps between the rocks just because I was too lazy to do it with a brush.

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After it dried, we did a couple of coats of paint to add base color to the rocks.

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When that dried, we took it out back and began to add the visual rockiness by using spray bottles full of paint to splatter color across the wall. It’s pretty easy, and it tends to help make the rocks look different even though they’re all tied together with common colors.

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We hung the wall using clothes line hardware. A "stone" cap will go over the top area with concealed lighting underneath to light the skeletons and chains we’ll be adding in a few more days. We’ll keep you posted as we add more. Next up, the mausoleum for our gave yard grabber.

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I love it! The textures are really wonderful and the paint job looks so good. :cool:
Can't wait to see more. :)

In my city, "renegade" advertising signs are a major problem, but they are also illegal and anyone can remove them from common areas (the local sherrif's office posted about them even and how they are fining the businesses of signs they collect!). I collect them in my neighborhood - if they are in the road medians they are fair game - because the coroplast is great waterproof material that is easy to cut and work with. I usually do use cardboard, but once I discovered this stuff and it's free and they just put it out on the side of the road! :D
 

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What a great idea and use of political and advertising signs. I may have to put an ad up in my local FB upcycle group to see if people have any they want to get rid of, especially after elections are over.
Thanks for the idea and the tutorial.
 

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In my city, "renegade" advertising signs are a major problem, but they are also illegal and anyone can remove them from common areas. I collect them in my neighborhood - if they are in the road medians they are fair game - because the coroplast is great waterproof material that is easy to cut and work with. I usually do use cardboard, but once I discovered this stuff and it's free and they just put it out on the side of the road! :D
When I post the pictures of the smaller mausoleum I am working on today, you might notice that the top section is one of those smaller lawn signs all cut up. We have the same rules here about "renegade" advertising, and there is no shortage of the smaller two by two foot sections to be had. I drop by favorite spots to collect them every month. It's so easy to work with and as you said... waterproof, free, easily found... what's not to love? :)

(By the way... I never fail to bump into your kind comments all over this site. As a moderator, you really do deserve kudos that I doubt you get often enough.) :D
 

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What a great idea and use of political and advertising signs. I may have to put an ad up in my local FB upcycle group to see if people have any they want to get rid of, especially after elections are over.
Thanks for the idea and the tutorial.
The day after the elections, we take a drive out to the areas where we saw the signs throughout the election season. As soon as the election is over, they're considered a nuisance by code enforcement folks, so we can take them down. I don't know if the political groups do any upcycling, but it would be nice to find out they do. For us, of course, it's equally nice that they leave them up instead of taking them down. hahaha
 

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The day after the elections, we take a drive out to the areas where we saw the signs throughout the election season. As soon as the election is over, they're considered a nuisance by code enforcement folks, so we can take them down. I don't know if the political groups do any upcycling, but it would be nice to find out they do. For us, of course, it's equally nice that they leave them up instead of taking them down. hahaha
As far as I know we don't have any nuisance codes or ordinances when it comes to political signs at least not in yards or on private property. I have seen political signs in people's yards for a year or more after an election. I don't ever see any in areas where the property is not owned by a private citizen.
The only signs that get picked up or removed from property are ones that are too close to a polling location. Both political parties have a group of people that go out early in the morning of election days and remove signs that are within a 100 feet of a polling location. I have no idea what they do with them after they pick them up.
 

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we do things a bit different here in in Aus
Recently a number of signs were removed before the election, next day the opposing party's signs were in their place.
I should probably check the bin out the back of the opposing party head office for some free coro :D
 

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As far as I know we don't have any nuisance codes or ordinances when it comes to political signs at least not in yards or on private property. I have seen political signs in people's yards for a year or more after an election.
We have a similar problem even with the laws in place. We don't venture onto private property unless we can figure a way to ask the owners if it's okay. But there are always more than enough signs along the roadways. We have quite a bit of rural area around our town and that's where we find most of our signs. They put them along the easements of the major city roads heading toward highways. They also put them along any rural highway between towns. As long as the signs are between the road and any owner's fence, we figure they're fair game. So far, no one has complained. I think they're probably glad to be rid of them.
 

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we do things a bit different here in in Aus
Recently a number of signs were removed before the election, next day the opposing party's signs were in their place.
I should probably check the bin out the back of the opposing party head office for some free coro :D
HAHAHA.... that is the case around here as well. I enjoy finding the places where sign posters have opted not to steal the signs and instead just posted their sign in front of the opposition's sign. It gives me twice the number of signs to collect come November 7th. :) Understanding how the game is played probably helps maximize the number of posters you can get.
 

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We tend not to have these type of signs so much here in the UK. It's mostly small, A3 size, attached to streetlights or posters in house windows. I think it is a brilliant re-use of material which would otherwise end up in the landfill.
 

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OMG! Where would one contact to find out where to get those signs after the upcoming election??
I've got numerous projects that would really advance with these as a resource!
I know, you ran into them by luck, but does anyone know how to purposely get on the "recycle" list?
 

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OMG! Where would one contact to find out where to get those signs after the upcoming election??
You might call around to the Republican and Democratic local and volunteer offices to see if they have any program in place to let you help "clean" them up after the elections. I would think they'd be thrilled to have someone volunteer to take them down and recycle them.

We just sort of bookmark where they are in our travels around town to doctor's appointments or what have you. The day after the election, we grab our map, a pair of wire cutters for cutting the zip ties and wire used to hang them, a hammer, and a portable power screwdriver. (Because many of them are actually screwed in, and we're getting lazier every year.)
 

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You might call around to the Republican and Democratic local and volunteer offices to see if they have any program in place to let you help "clean" them up after the elections. I would think they'd be thrilled to have someone volunteer to take them down and recycle them.
Yeah, it's weird to quote your own post, but I actually did call the local party offices to find out what happened to the signs after the election. According to our local political parties, the minute a sign goes out the door, it is the obligation of the person taking the sign to take care of it and the clean up. They don't usually get the signs back, and they told me that if I wanted to go around taking them down the day after the election, they were all for it.

Your areas may be different and have different nuisance laws in place about the signs, but at least for Washington County in Oregon, if it's not on private property come the day after the election, it's fair game for those wanting to gather them up. I suspect it's the same elsewhere. Hope that helps. :)
 
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