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After watching with envy as others built some amazing Cemetary Columns, I finally got around to making some this year. I'll be the first to admit that this idea is not original and credit is due and well deserved to the following individuals behind the columns at the below links of which I took a lot of inspiration from:

http://www.halloweenforum.com/tutorials-step-step/73147-gothic-entry-08-a.html
http://www.halloweenforum.com/tutorials-step-step/102725-cemetery-entrance-columns.html
http://ravenmanor.com/projects/cemeterygatefence.html
http://www.halloweenforum.com/halloween-props/79435-candle-sconce-dollar-tree-skelly.html

I will say that my take on the columns uses some material that I haven't seen used before in this application -- joint compound! Why joint compound? I had some on hand already, it's cheaper than foam, and it lends itself really well to creating loads of texture. If one was interested in constructing columns using this unique material then do read on!

Cost was somewhere around $40 (scratch that, more like $100 including the gate costs). This was kept down by acquiring salvage wood and using on-hand joint compound and paint.
 

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Step 1: Concept

I liked a bunch of columns different people have made but I didn't quite see something matching what I wanted. I was going for something old, dark, damp and moss-covered. Nothing you would see in a modern cemetery but rather something you would find in a crypt, a medieval fantasy videogame and the like. I sketched out a drawing with some dimensions before I did anything else.

 

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Step 2: Constructing the wood frame

Using the dimensions in my concept drawing, a frame was constructed using 2x2s (approx 85'), 2x4s (approx 16'), 2x6s (approx 14') and OSB board (5 4'x8' sheets). The 2x2s were assembled in ladder fashion then glued and screwed using 2" drywall screws. The OSB was ripped down and glued and screwed to the 2x2s. On the back of each column a 18"x24" section was left deliberately open as an access door (install lights, fog, or whatever later). Take care that the 'front' of your column has a piece of wood which covers edge-to-edge of your 2x2 frame, this way there will not be any uncouth seams to be filled later. OSB has a 'smooth side' and a 'rough side', face the 'rough side' on the outside of your column as this will help the joint compound bond to it better.

The base of the column is first wrapped with 2x6s, then 2x4s on top of the 2x6s. This gives the 'stepped' detail, it also gives adequate weight to the bottom of the column to prevent tipping. Foam 'copies' of the wood base is used up top to save on weight. Before anyone asks, yes, they are fairly heavy -- probably something around 80lbs each.


 

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Step 3: Compound Me

For two columns of this size, you'll need just over 2 gallon buckets of joint compound which run something like $5 each. So you have some wiggle room, best to just get a 5 gallon bucket. No real science here, just work one side at a time giving the whole thing a skim coat with a putty knife - no thicker than say 1/4" for the first coat. Before you move on to another side and while the joint compound is still wet, just drag your fingers around in it to make grout lines -- just like finger painting when you were a kid! If you want a more subtle look, or have any 'spikes' of compound just lightly knock everything down by dragging the putty knife across. It's good to do this very lightly around the grout lines you just made so they're not as pronounced. When you move to another side, pay attention to where you placed your grout lines and carry some of them to the new side. Apply some joint compound to cover any nail/screw holes. Dab some on the foam bits as well to give them some texture as well.

Let the compound dry for 24 hours.

Go back over some of the 'stones' with another coat, the idea being to 'build up' some depth and make some of the stones more unique.

Let the compound dry for 24 hours.
 

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Step 4: Sanding and Dust

This step is optional, but if it turns anything out like mine you will have some of the stones with more of a 'stucco' type appearance which is cool but not befitting of the damp, wet, mossy, crypt-like column we are going for. Break out some sandpaper and go to work. It's easy to over-do this step, so just sand everything to make it a bit smoother but still leave around some of that cool texture you applied with the putty knife. Take some time to sand in your grout lines to make them more contiguous.

 

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Step 5: Prime Me

Now we get to paint, which is really what makes or breaks these types of projects. Cover the whole thing in a good exterior primer, I used kilz latex as a base coat and then coated again with a tinted grey primer. Wait 2-4 hours before the next step.


 

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Step 6: Detail Painting

We now have some boring grey columns. Let's fix that with a black wash. I mixed acrylic and latex paints in black and white colors to make a dark grey. Add some water. You need to work fast during this step and I recommend in a small area (1 foot). Work the black wash into all the cracks with a brush and then wipe with a wet rag or paper towel. You want to wipe in one direction, top to bottom. What should happen is that the paint on the top surfaces will mostly come off leaving the black wash in all the cracks. If too much comes off, just re-coat with the black wash and wait a little bit longer before you wipe. The key here is inconsistency, you want some stones with more paint than others to give off a more natural look. Coat the bottom and top bases with the black wash as well.

 

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Step 7: More Painting

In this next step you want to add some detail. Using a combo of a dry bush and spackle techniques, apply some white and grey to parts of the stones to make 'highlights'. Add some white and grey to the top and bottom as well to get more of a stone look and less of a solid paint color.
 

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Step 9: Skeleton Sconce / Shelf

Go grab 2 of the 15" skeletons from the Dollar Tree. Cut out something close to a semi-circle / shield shape. Glue/Nail/Screw the two pieces together. Take your Dollar Tree skeleton and pose him by holding the joints in together and dripping scorching hot glue on them to hold. We'll paint him in a later step. The sconce will be mounted to the front of the column. Take some PVC candles (you have made some, right?) and place them on top of your shelf.

 

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Hmmm.... drybrush some metallic green or gloss green to give the gold a more tarnished look as well, but only on one side, like a shadow.


And please tell me some tea lights are going in those candles.... *waits impatiently for night time photos*
 

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Didn't get around to dry brushing some green, but that sounds good for next year. I finished the gates and indeed put some tea lights in the candles. I was really disappointed in the lighting the columns themselves though, I used those LED clip-on lights placed on the bottom to uplight -- which just didn't cut it, I'll be investing in a much better solution for next year.


 
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