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Discussion Starter #22 (Edited)
Ahh… the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No sooner had I promised that another part of this tutorial was forthcoming than family matters scuttled everything for a few weeks. But family comes first regardless of what the dead creatures in the front yard say. Mom and Dad needed to make a hurried move into an assisted living facility, and it’s amazing how time flies when you’re trying to help your folks move out of a large home into a small apartment.

Which brings up the promised mausoleums. They are some very small houses for some very lively critters. Not all of the mausoleums will make it out this year. Three or four of them are still on the drawing board or are only partially completed. But our cauldron creep will have most of his up. (The arches come next year.) And the haunted bears have a new home. They’re a family of poltergeists who live in our house. At least that’s who we’re blaming when things go missing. Here are a few pictures of their mausoleum being built.

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As with the cauldron creep’s mausoleum, this prop is made entirely from repurposed wood, plastic political signs, and Styrofoam. From straight on, it looks just fine. But it was meant to be sandwiched in between two other mausoleums that are larger. Next year it will be surrounded by the others, so it’s sides won’t look quite so strange. The design reflects the fact that I mostly make things from scratch with only an idea of what I want the finished prop to look like. Please ignore that no one in their right mind puts together props the way I do.

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The mausoleum, while visually different from the cauldron creep’s home is pretty much the same approach. The weathering of the stucco and brick is accomplished in much the same way as the stone mausoleum; with squirt bottles full of paint and quite a few layers of paint to achieve the look we were going for. The bricks were initially painted in much darker than we needed. It was to insure that all the black and deep red was in place before we painted the base coat of the stucco. We learned by mistake that you can't spray the darker colors onto any project after the fact. Spraying the darker colors should always come before the lighter colors.

The brick needed multiple passes of black and deep red spray to give it that look of pitted stone. I forgot that and painted the lighter base colors of the brick, stucco, and grout first. I use spray bottles. Control isn't one of their strong suits. The black went everywhere. At first I paniced and tried to rub it off quickly. Really bad idea. I walked away from the prop and let it dry. I then went back in and concentrated only on the dark colors of the brick that that stucco did not need. All the black and dark red were layered onto the brick without regard to how much it was messing up the stucco. When the dark colors were all added to the brick, a new coat of the stucco base color was added to get rid of the black smeared all over the mausoleum.

After everything had dried, we went in with colors that both the brick and stucco needed to add realism. Those light brown, burnt sienna, burnt umber, yellow ochre, and off white colors were sprayed on in the same manner as the cauldron creep's mausoleum. That was followed by using a much thinner set of darker brown paints to age the stucco. These layers were sprayed on, allowed to set for a moment an then the dripping portions were dabbed off. We didn't want the drippy look so common on tombstones anywhere but around the name plates. Layer after layer was sprayed on until the overall look is achieved. Lastly, the corners had a thicker burn umber added as built up dirt in the corners.

After a really disastrous beginning, things turned out okay. The lesson to remember is just about everything can be fixed. Don't panic. Just walk away for a bit, and come back when you know you can deal with another try.

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After the overall look was to our liking, we painted in the letters, and added the extra pieces to give it more realistic look. Name plates went on, weathering and a crack were added to the mausoleum, a few real bricks thrown in the front, and the prop is done. All that needs to be added is a furry arm coming out from the open lower portion, and some glowing eyes behind the arm.

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I’m working on the cauldron creep's pillars now. We’ll post his updates as soon as they’re done. We'll have to see if you can see the difference between the Drylok portions of the mausoleum and those made with latex paint. We're betting you can't. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #23 (Edited)
Sometimes serendipity runs right into your late hour panic. Yesterday, after days of rain that left even things undercover drenched by dew and fog, the sun came out for half the day. I worked as fast as I could to get the soaking wet support pillars out into the sunshine and dragged them around to wherever the sunshine was. The sun would move... the pillars moved with them to avoid the shade cast by trees. By early afternoon I was out putting the dry pillars up. By mid evening, it was pouring rain again, but the pillars were up and the paint was staying put.

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The pillars are open on the back so that they can fit around the actual posts that hold up the porch. The pillar in front of the down spout got a couple of coats of Drylok on the inside to help keep it watertight when it rains... and boy does it rain here. They were attached by drilling holes into the pillars and zip tying them to the porch posts. The zip ties are thick, heavy duty versions. Next year, I'll probably figure out a way to bolt all the pieces together just for the added stability.

ADDENDUM: It turns out that bolting things in place isn't as good a choice for us as simply using zip ties. The reason is that we're putting the mausoleum up on uneven ground. If it was identical year to year, bolting in place would work. But as it stands lining up the bolt holes from last year was extremely difficult this year. In more than one place we just slid a zip tie through the unevenly matched holes and pulled them tight. They're up, they're not budging, and we didn't have to drill new holes to accommodate the changes. Overall, they're perfectly sturdy and that's all we really need.

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, other than a few differences that stem from how wet the pillars were when I painted them, the Drylok panel and the pillars are really very similar in their look. And given my experience with tombstones, I think they'll both hold up longer than I will. (The paint, with a bit of sand on one coat to match the texture of Drylok, is on the left; Drylok is on the right. Both have top coats of paint to help them look more like stone.) The cost savings is zero for free paint versus 25 dollars a gallon for Drylok. We're saving that cost in the future and using the free and deeply discounted mismatched paints.

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ADDENDUM: The mausoleum has been a three year project, but will be pretty much finished this year. Overall time spent on it probably comes to three or four weeks of actual work on the project. It's longer than most projects we do, but there was a lot of learning and experimenting going on. One key concept to learn is that if you use this method, you don't have to worry about what your base coats are. Just use as good a quality paint as you can get.

Most of our stuff is free from Craigslist, and that means we often get premium house paints that we could never afford to buy. A gallon of extremely dark brown was on sale for $10 at Home Depot's mismatched section. We asked them to add as much black to the paint as they could, and they were happy to do so once we explained what we were going to use it for. The retail on the paint was $60 a gallon. We now have a gallon of nearly black paint which is hard to come by for $10. Best of all, when we mix it to gray, it's a warm gray instead of the cool grey mixing only black gives. It's a dirtier looking gray, which we like.

If we run out of black paint, we visit our local paint recycling store. They sell black paint for $13 a gallon. Know your sources, and use them. There's no reason to pay retail for paint ever. Watch Craigslist. Visit the mismatched areas of paint and big box stores. Use your paint recycling stores. Part of the fun we have making things for our haunt is to see just how little we can pay for a prop that would cost hundreds if we had it made.

Avoid glossy paints, but any finish up to a satin will take other paints on top really well. Look at the finished mausoleum and you'll notice that the varied colors we used to base coat and waterproof the various pieces didn't factor into the final prop.

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The lower half of the cauldron creep's mausoleum suffered from being made over different times without the completed parts being in the same place as the newer parts. The differences are there mostly because part of it was set up out front while I was working on the new pieces out back. I just couldn't remember how the stone actually looked. The overall effect left certain portions of the mausoleum looking different enough from the other parts to bother me. That's not really a big issue to any of the Trick or Treaters, mind you. They never mentioned it. However, it was off enough for us to take the whole thing out into the back yard and spray it with a new coat of paint to give it a more unified look.

That's the fun of this approach. It is very forgiving. Don't like what you did? Paint over it all. As you paint, you can work the look in certain areas to add balance without starting all over. We put it out this July, so we'll wait until later to add the skull crown cap and hanging skeletons. But the stonework looks much more unified.

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So, with this last post from me here, the tutorial is officially completed. Sure, we will be making arches for the top this year, but the approach we use will be the same. For all of you who visited, we hope that there was some advice that you could take away from all of this. But of all of that advice we might offer, we're going to say the most important goal is to have fun. Do what seems right to you, and when it looks right, it's done. Halloween is magic for us because we do stuff that we enjoy doing. We're tickled pink that people like it, but our goal has always been about killing everything in our graveyard except the magic of Halloween. If we keep doing that, we're doing it right. We hope the same for all of you. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #27
Brilliant post! Thank you so much for sharing this great idea. I'm now on the lookout for political signs...lol.
I found out that some political candidates will save their signs if they win the election. So, I've started to check in first with a call to the various offices before I head out. The losers pretty much don't care. One set of signs that I really go after now is special election signs. Once the vote is in, they're useless. I never have anyone complain about taking them down. hahaha
 

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Discussion Starter #28 (Edited)
This is amazing and what I always try to do but using trash to build my stuff. What did you do to get the brick looking so real?
The bricks that are on the ground are actually bricks. It was easy to make them look real. :)

The other bricks are foam, textured first with a heat gun to give them some weathering. Then they were painted, first with a base coat of pinkish red, then using spray bottles they were sprayed with black and dark red. I made the mistake of gluing individual bricks on at first, but caught on pretty quickly that just cutting in the mortar lines was far easier and really looked pretty much the same.

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I used the spray bottles to make small droplets of paint on the surface rather than covering it. It takes a bit of experimenting to get the spray volume right, but it's not terribly hard. The overspray as you can see from the rest of the prop is generally messy, so have a wide open space to spray. After spraying the black and dark red, I painted the stucco portion of the mausoleum. What followed were multiple sprayings of the the entire mausoleum with dark brown, light brown, ocher, and white. There was a bit of tea staining of the stucco, and that's it.

Go until it feels and looks right to you. The one thing I will say is sometimes I've thought, "just a bit more" and wound up messing up everything to the point I had to rework an entire section. For me, knowing when to let go and say, "good enough" is an ongoing process.

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Most of what makes the brick look like brick is just using the spray bottles to color everything until it looked right to me. It's layer upon layer of various colors sprayed on as drops rather than any kind of painting technique. Hope that helps.
 

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Excellent work and I love the budget! Does anyone have a preference for what type of glue to use to stick coroplast to itself as well as styrofoam. I would like something that grabs quickly and doesn't require siting something on top of the piece while the glue drys. Do you think hot melt glue would work?
 

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Discussion Starter #30 (Edited)
Excellent work and I love the budget! Does anyone have a preference for what type of glue to use to stick coroplast to itself as well as styrofoam. I would like something that grabs quickly and doesn't require siting something on top of the piece while the glue drys. Do you think hot melt glue would work?
Coroplast will not take hot glue well. Even if you sand it, it doesn't have much texture for hot glue to grab onto. The reason we used Gorilla glue is because it actually worked when using other glues didn't. Coroplast is pretty inflexible, which is a good thing for what we use it for, but it also means that whatever glue you use will need to either be really strong or really flexible. Hot glue for us just popped off as soon as anything got stressed in moving the prop around. Crazy Glue has the same problem. Those are the only two fast setting glues I can think of, and neither seemed to work well with coroplast. Both glues have issues with melting Styrofoam instead of gluing it to other things. That's why we were willing to use Gorilla Glue and weight the projects down. We also waited at least a few hours before moving on to the next block of gluing.

We created a frame for the mausoleums, so everywhere the coroplast would bump up against another sheet, there was a wood backing where we could screw it down along with the glue to make sure it had support. Try using a few smaller pieces with the glues you want to try and then abuse them a bit to see if they hold up. It won't necessarily tell you how the glues will work with larger projects, but it might give you an idea. For us, using glues that had to be weighed down was the price we had to pay for getting a prop that didn't fall apart when we moved it around.

Watch Terra's video for her evaluation of glues. Her recommendations seem spot on, although we've not tried her favorite. We definitely will though. One thing to note about Glidden Gripper which is her favorite is that it often now shows up as PPG Gripper . PPG bought Glidden back in 2012 and they have been slowly rebranding some of their products under the PPG name.


ADDENDUM: Gorilla Glue has come out with a new clear glue for caulking guns. It's a bit pricey, but it works really well and sets up pretty solid in about a minute or two. It says to let it dry for an hour before actually using it again, but compared to regular Gorilla Glue that's a huge time savings. And having it in a caulking gun instead of trying to squeeze it out by hand is fantastic. It also doesn't expand the way original Gorilla Glue or Great Stuff does. While we still weight everything down for about 20 minutes, it's more to make sure the bond is tight than to keep the glue from lifting up or expanding the two pieces away from each other.

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We do have a can of PPG Gripper, but we've not opened it yet because we've not started a large project yet. We can attest to the new clear Gorilla Glue as being great for what we do, and really convenient.
 

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I was afraid hot melt might not work. I will take your suggestion and try some other glues. I am thinking of a contact adhesive, maybe a spray on version, but I'll need one that doesn't eat the styrofoam. Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #32
Terra, a wonderful resource for all things foam, did an evaluation of a number of different glues on Styrofoam. Head on over to https://youtu.be/rnOegaOKu38?t=8 and you can watch her compare quite a few worthy options. All of them seemed to need weighing down in one form or another. Glidden Gripper won her over. The glue we use, Gorilla Glue, came in third place and Great Stuff was the second place winner. I mention that because both Gorilla Glue and Great Stuff are made of basically the same materials, only the Great Stuff really bulks up if not clamped really tightly. We tried it, but we're too lazy to go to that much trouble to clamp things together. There is something to be said for having a bit of set time to get foam into place, especially if you're working with large pieces. Putting things together flawlessly the first time is tough. Having a bit of wiggle room to adjust and then let set is a good thing.
 

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Discussion Starter #33
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.
A tiny addendum to this. While taking down posters, the candidate of the poster that we were taking down stopped by and asked what we were doing. I told him, and he said that sometimes candidates who win will collect their signs and save them for the next election. I told him what both Republican and Democratic offices had to say, and apologized. He mentioned that he was an independent, and they often ran with tighter budgets.

He was really nice about it, and having lost, he said we were more than welcome to them. But now, before heading out, I think I will check to make sure we're not taking down any of the winning candidate posters. Always new wrinkles to the mix, but none that will keep me from being out gathering up new ones come 2020. :)
 

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I was afraid hot melt might not work. I will take your suggestion and try some other glues. I am thinking of a contact adhesive, maybe a spray on version, but I'll need one that doesn't eat the styrofoam. Thanks.
maybe super 77 or super 74? they're 3m spray on contact adhesives.
 

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Discussion Starter #35 (Edited)
maybe super 77 or super 74? they're 3m spray on contact adhesives.
Most adhesive sprays use a propellant that melts Styrofoam. 3M 77 got a thumbs down from Terra, one of Halloween Forum's members who has done some amazing foam work. In her YouTube video she explains the reason is it melted the foam and didn't hold the foam together. I gave a link to her video below. I set it at the point in the video where she is actually testing the various products. 3M 77 came in dead last.

 

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Discussion Starter #37
We've made a few mistakes over the years, and the video points to one of them. We used a foam glue that needed to have air in order to dry. Some of our props that are over five years old separated and the glue inside them was still moist. It might have been water leakage getting them all gooey again, but when the split apart, the glue was wet. That doesn't happen with Gorilla Glue or Great Stuff. If she's right about Glidden Gripper, it will be equally good as all three use a chemical reaction to create the bonding. :)

The fun thing about Halloween Forum is we can share what we've learned together and help each other avoid mistakes while stealing each other's ideas when it comes to the coolest props. :) The way people take ideas and make them their own is just another plus to the sharing of the ideas.
 

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Discussion Starter #38 (Edited)
LOOKING BACK:

It's been a few years now since we've put out our mausoleums. They have weathered storms and rainy nights, and held up surprisingly well. The most damaging thing they face is the two of us as we pull them from the shed, and take them out front. The repairs to the foam, though, are pretty easy. We rarely take the time to do anything more than put a dark grey patch on whatever foam we have chipped off. From only a few feet away, it blends right in with all the rest of the stone. Some larger breaks we've made get a bit of sponging of another color or colors to give it a similar look to the rest of the stone, but again, it's not that difficult and we don't take a lot of time on the repairs.

In the beginning I struggled to get things perfect, but I've learned that it doesn't really matter. I still pay attention to detail when it counts, but if something is going to be viewed from dozens of feet away, the work I will take to make it look real isn't going to be as great as the prop they see face to face. The cauldron creep's cauldron is purposefully exaggerated in it's presentation because people see it from such a distance. Using sawdust or other small rusting effects are lost almost instantly with distance, and come nighttime they're gone. So, we ignored the tutorials showing how to create rust as a fine detail, and gave it a layer of Great Stuff smeared thinly all over and allowed to dry. (USE GLOVES if you try this.) The bumps and holes still show up from 15 feet away. And at night they cast shadows that give the pot a bit of character.

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The same holds true of our mausoleums. On the second painting, we exaggerated the look of the gaps between the stone. True shadows are great if you can get them. However, at night with direct lighting dominating the props, those shadows simply aren't there, and subtle coloring gets lost. So, the new look of the stone has much darker gaps than originally painted. The stone also looks a bit newer and less damaged. We want to try putting up ivy on it this year. We're going to cut away batches of real ivy and then pin them to the walls and let them die. (It's English Ivy, an invasive plant that destroys native habitat, so don't go getting too upset. We're supposed to tear it all out and kill it anyway.) The lighter look should also help the skeletons stand out a bit more from an overly busy background. If you look closely, you can see how we hung the middle portion of the mausoleum with hooks. Those are also what holds up the chains the skeletons hang from. They're also the same hooks we hang wreaths on come Christmastime. We multitask our porch way more than it probably wants to be.

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There are gaps between the individual pieces of the props, and for the most part that's not an issue. However, at the bottom of the main panel where it intersects with the lower pillars, light at night is a bit of a problem. The lights behind the cauldron creep are bright red and they can shine through those cracks if you're looking at them just so. So, to remove that problem from the mix, we use electrical tape. Other tapes such as duct tape would probably work just as well, but we like electrical tape because it's really cheap and it doesn't stick very well. We're not going to be peeling off the paint the way we would with duct tape come tear-down time. You'll also notice that we don't tape down all the seams. Only the ones where light actually filters through at night get the treatment. What happens if you don't do it? Absolutely nothing. Most likely no one but you will notice... Well, and maybe Sam if that Trick 'R Treat movie was true. We don't think it's worth the risk to find out.

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We don't care if kids get to the top of the stairs and realize the mausoleums are fake. They're walking up a staircase where the insides of mausoleums should be. It doesn't really matter what else we do, because the illusion is already broken. Besides, at the top of the stairs they have a talking skeleton rocking in a chair. They're not really looking at what surrounds him. Kids going for candy aren't going to stop and pontificate about how all our mausoleums are simply stage flats and not real. I paint the back of the flats black for weatherproofing and call it good.

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But there is one place where I made a mistake that you may want to avoid. While layering the flats with foam, I caulk around areas that have gaps with cheap paintable caulk. I've tried a bunch of different things for the process, and what works for me is Alex caulking by DAP. Why? Because it's the cheapest paintable caulk out there that I have found, and neither my props nor I will last longer than the 25 years it guarantees to stick around. I slather this stuff all over, covering up cracks and gaps that shouldn't be. It works great whether I'm using my fingers, a knife, or a tool actually made to spread the stuff. It doesn't shrink all that much and I've yet to see it crack. If I need to layer it to get a flat, even finish, it's about 30 minutes between layers. It's dry in about an hour. I let it set overnight before painting.

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But I got lazy with the cauldron creep's mausoleum. I was filling in all the coroplast holes for awhile and finally thought, "What the heck. So a spider gets inside, they're going to fry in the shed's summer heat anyway." So, I got lax and stopped filling them in.

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This year, we repainted the mausoleum to make all the pieces match a bit better. It didn't occur to me to finish filling in all the coroplast holes first. After we finished the painting, it was easier to put it up in front of the house than to lug it back to the shed and possibly break pieces off in the process. By mid-July, we had a little colony of mason bees taking up residence in the holes. Now for us, that's not a big deal. Mason bees are really calm, friendly bees. As long as we didn't bother them, they didn't bother us. But some with allergies might find the presence of bees disconcerting. So, as a suggestion, when working with coroplast, take the time to fill in the holes with caulking. It looks better, and in the long run is probably safer.
 

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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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This is FABULOUS!!! I love recycling products and doing things on the cheap. I save styrofoam chunks also to use as rocks. I never thought about election signs! Thank you for all the great ideas here!
 
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