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Discussion Starter #1
Hi guys,

I've been wanting to make a groundbreaker for the last two years and, thanks to all the inspiration I've found here, I've finally gotten around to starting it this past weekend.

Here’s my list of purchased supplies and costs so far:

  • three foam skulls at $5.96 each
  • two 10’ pvc ¾” pipe at $8.99 each
  • six 45° pvc elbows at $0.93 each
  • three pvc crosses at $1.71 each
  • six 90° pvc elbows at $0.79 each
  • two packs of eighteen #4 x ½” wood screws at $1.59 each
  • one pack of 16-guage 15 metre galvanized steel wire at $5.89
That’s a total cost of $60.38 before tax, about $20 CDN each groundbreaker.

I also used stuff that I had around the house such as: duct tape, hot glue gun and sticks, drill, exacto knife, newspaper, drill with bits, measuring tape, scissors, pliers, Sharpie and a paring knife.

I wanted to experiment with different lengths between the three breakers so I put together an Excel document to calculate the different lengths I needed to cut for each 10’ pvc pipe. I didn’t want any waste so I organized the pieces and lengths to match the length of each pipe. I used a measuring tape and Sharpie to mark and label the pieces and used my in-law’s miter saw to cut the pvc pipes. At first, I identified them at A, B, and C, but have since given them names. Here’s their measurements:

Alfred
spine 18”, collar bone 7” (x2), upper arm 12” (x2), forearm 10” (x2) and neck 6”


Buster
spine 16”, collar bone 6” (x2), upper arm 12” (x2), forearm 11” (x2) and neck 6”


Carl
spine 16”, collar bone 7” (x2), upper arm 11” (x2), forearm 10” (x2) and neck 6”


Basically, Alfred’s got the longest spine, Buster’s got the longest forearms and shortest collar bones, and Carl’s got the shortest upper arms. Here's Alfred, Buster and Carl, left to right:


(Buster looks taller cuz his spine is not fully down on the dowel)

At first, I was going to use pvc cement to connect the pieces to the fittings but decided that it would be too permanent and decided to go with drilling wood screws in case I ever wanted to make future changes. I also made three temporary bases using scrap wood and dowel rods.

I used three full sheets of newspaper and rolled them up, starting at the corner, and taping them with a piece of duct tape. I then cut pieces of wire to the length of the newspaper, jammed it through the middle and started bending it to form an oval. I made a breast bone (parallel with the pipe) with half a newspaper tube to reinforce the chest and used full-length tubes to make four ribs. I’ll put collar bones on once I figure out the positioning of each breaker's arms.

I also started to cut the foam skulls so I can reposition the jaws and am considering making some glow in the dark polymer teeth. I hollowed out the lower jaw a bit as it was really thick.



Next step is positioning the arms, attaching the skulls and starting the paper mache before painting and sealing. I plan on just using rebar outside instead of creating a base.

Questions:

Should I make the lower jaw narrower in depth so that the current Styrofoam teeth aren’t so thick?
If I do decide to go ahead with it, how should I add polymer teeth?
Do you think the ribs are too close to the shoulders?
Should I make the space between the ribs wider so that they take up more room on the spine?
Should the collar bones be shorter so that the arms are closer to the ribs?

Thanks for reading! I'm really excited about these props as it will add a nice creepy factor to my graveyard.
 

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Mistress of Mayhem
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I think you're off to a great start and however you want them to look is how they should look. Mine is as far away from anatomically-correct as it can be - but I love him, even named him Travis as in Travis the Torso. LOL

I will be watching to see how they end up :)

Also sent you a PM with my own questions. :D
 

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Lord of the Cemetery
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Firstly, let me say what a great start you're making! You're well on your way to making 3 great looking props.
msmello is totally correct in saying that anatomical accuracy is of minor importance.
When it comes to groundbreakers, anything goes. as long as you are happy with the finished result. remember that any perceived imperfections in your prop can be covered with a strategically placed piece of weathered muslin or creepy cloth, or the whole thing can be dressed in an old shirt or jacket...
In the dark of your haunt, and with subtle lighting, any flaws will be virtually unnoticeable anyway.
I have never fitted polymer teeth to a styrofoam skull, but I should think it would be sufficient to cut away the existing teeth and glue the polymer teeth in position using a 2 part epoxy resin...other members may have different ideas, though.

Be sure to post some pics of your progress!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks guys. I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to accuracy so I should just learn to let that go. I do like the exaggerated look and awkward angles of certain props so I'll try not to sweat minor imperfections too much. And you're right, no one's going to notice at night.

I am going to try to get one or two on an angle coming out of the ground, maybe one leaning forward and to the side and another learning backward. I do want to use the Skull and Bone method of corpsing once I'm done so I'll have to add pantyhose to the list of things to buy.

Thanks for the comments!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
So I got some advice and did a few things different.

I decided the original breakers had the rib cage too high so I cut away the ribcage along the spine. Before reattaching the rib cage, I decided I wanted the frame to look more human-like so I broke out the heat gun. I started to re-shape my groundbreaker's necks, shoulders, spines and arms by heating around the pvc pipe (outdoors) and then going inside to set the angle under cold water. I decided on the position of limbs and drilled the fittings to the pipes. Here's the new:

Alfred


Buster


and Carl


You can see on Carl's frame the burnt places where I stayed a little too long with the heat gun.

Next I added another rib at the bottom of each breaker, two collar bones and some meaty bits. Here's where my breakers are at today:

Alfred


Buster


Carl


I've started ripping up strips of newspaper to begin the paper mache tonight. I still need to figure out the angles of the skulls and how I want them to be positioned. I've already got some paint and pantyhose to do the corpsing. I'm going to crack some ribs and break some teeth to give them a more realistic look.

Thanks for all your help!
 

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Mistress of Mayhem
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Looking good - I like the modifications, though I liked them before too.

Keep the pics coming - I'm right on your heels with my project. :D
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I've done the first step of paper mache on all my groundbreakers. I used 60% white glue and 40% water for the paste and used half-page 2" strips of newspaper. Instead of covering over the ribs, I paper mached them individually - mostly because I couldn't decide how much coverage I wanted.

I dremeled out a couple of teeth on some of the skulls and added a bit of gum definition on some of the jaws. Once the frames were dry, I added the skulls and secured them with hot glue. Here they are:

Alfred:


Buster:


and Carl:



Here they are all together:


I like that they are looking in different directions. I kept one skull intact as I wanted to have a bit of variation on their mouth positions.

I can't decide what the next step should be. Should I paint them a dark color and then corpse them or wait until I've used the paper towel/pantyhose method on them? Should I cover up some of their ribs?
 

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Man, those are looking great!!! I REALLY want to try to build a couple of these yet this year, but I don't know if I will have time. Well done!!!
 

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Lord of the Cemetery
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....

I like that they are looking in different directions. I kept one skull intact as I wanted to have a bit of variation on their mouth positions.

I can't decide what the next step should be. Should I paint them a dark color and then corpse them or wait until I've used the paper towel/pantyhose method on them? Should I cover up some of their ribs?
Variation is the key. Personally, I have yet to see two corpses rising up out of the ground looking exactly the same.:D

Myself, I usually give the bodies a covering of latex paint which helps to seal the papier mache and also provides a "key" for whichever corpsing technique you are going to use...Other prop makers may disagree.
Remember, it's nice to see a bit of bone showing through here and there sometimes..:)...Just a suggestion.

By all means cover some of the ribs..you may wish to add some tattered cloth here and there as well, to simulate rotted grave clothes... Unless your graveyard is situated in a nudist colony.;):)

My advice in a nutshell...Don't try to follow rules where none exist.
This is an area in which anything goes and in which you may give your imagination and creativity full rein. if you do so, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Keep up the good work.
 

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I'm convinced PVC is the way to go, as my first groundbreaker used wire-reinforced paper-mache tubes in the arms, and they won't quite hold their shape when covered.

As far as covering, I had great results with a combination of paper mache and latex carpet adhesive (although the adhesive stayed tacky for some time). Although I'm very new at this, I agree with the advice to just go for it -- they're zombies, and anything that looks weird just looks creepy (in a good way) to the people who see it!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for all the advice guys, I really appreciate it. I've painted them with black latex paint and am going to corpse with paper towel, bits of fabric and nylons, painting lighter as I go. A few people have said that they look good as is and I'm all, No, there's so much more to do!

Thanks again.
 

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The Hobo Spider Assassin
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Looking very nice and I'm following your build, can't wait to see the final transformation.
 
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