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Question on letter carving

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For those of you who use the hot glue gun technique on your tombstones...do you have an easy way of transferring letters onto the foam to trace over with the glue gun? I want to try this technique on my Dead Ringer tombstone, as my epitaph poem is rather long but I don't want to go through some long, convoluted process to get the letters on there if people here have an easy way to do this.

Thanks for any suggestions!
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Typical Ghoul Next Door
9,106 Posts
I don't do the gluegun carving, but using a woodburner, I actually use either a tiny bit of spray mount glue, or else pin/tape the paper down and burn through it. I'm not sure how well this would work with a gluegun method, tho.

The spray mount glue is this stuff: 3M Spray Mount Artist's Adhesive - BLICK art materials

The nice thing about it is that with a light application (spray the paper, not the stone), the paper stays put, but you can pull it up and smooth it back down easily if you're playing with arrangement. This method worked for the woodburner and for when I used an Xacto knife to cut the lettering too. Saves a ton of time trying to trace/transfer lettering.

I've only had one instance where the spray mount "burned" the foam when I didn't wait a few minutes for it to dry - and it was so slight that it wasn't obvious at all after painting.

230 Posts
Unfortunately here in most of Southern California we don't get the blue foam stuff, to hot here, we get the styrofoam stuff so I use an exacto knife which gives it a chiselled look. I tape the pattern on and cut it out. It works pretty good.

The Evil Apparitionist
555 Posts
You can also use a cheap soldering gun by using a piece of #12 or #14 copper wire as a tip. You can shape the tip to make it rounded or into a sharp "V" or make a few tips as needed. I have a few shapes I use like a "rounding over" shape for tombstone work or a "mortar joint" for walls... I just grab an old paper stencil and a sharpie to get the letters/numbers outlined and neat, then cut into it with the gun.

livin Halloween every day
1,990 Posts
So far i have gone the dremel route and i use a hot wire. I do want to get the wood burning tool and a soldering iron though also. I watched a tombstone workshop at midwest haunters convention, and they used hot wires,wood burners and soldering irons for the work.

326 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the input, everyone. I've used the dremel method before, I just wanted to try something different, but if there is no really good way to get clean lettering on the foam for using the glue gun method I may hold off until I get to a tombstone that I don't care about looking as nice and just freehand it. :D

Master of my own Universe
1,016 Posts
Just a suggestion, not sure how easy it would be to get hold of, and not sure how it would work but you could try using carbon paper.

Carbon paper is the film that used to be placed in between letter headed paper and copy paper to get a typed copy (hence the name carbon copy)

I have used this to transfer pictures and patterns, but have not tried it on foam ... yet.

just an idea ...

1 Posts
I am making tombstones for my Zombie Ball in August.

I bought a huge piece of the 4'x8' 2-inch thick insulation foam from Home Depot. I was going to use a 40% off coupon from one of the craft stores, but even then, it was just cheaper to buy the 4'x8' piece for $18.

Anyways...I tried my hand at a few different methods.

The first time, I created my tombstone shapes and text in Adobe Illustrator, and printed them out. I then used my craft projector to blow them up onto the foam, and then traced them with a pen. Be sure you pull off the plastic sheets from the styrofoam before you begin 'engraving' your letters. I used my wire Styro Cutter to cut them out, and used a combination of the Styro Cutter and Wood Burner tool to 'engrave' the letters. After that I painted my 'engravings' with black acrylic paint. I sprayed them with stone-finish spray paint, which surprisingly did not eat away the foam. However, this paint is NOT cheap (even with the 40% off coupon) so using it on the bare foam soaked up a lot of it, and was quite wasteful.

My next attempt, I used a yardstick to draw straight lines on the foam, and then used the projector to get the general shape and to make sure it was symetrical. Instead of projecting the letters, I printed them out the exact size I needed, and then taped the paper to the foam tombstone. I used a sharp pencil to trace over each letter on the paper, and when I was finished, I removed the paper and retraced the letters on the foam. Worked good, but it was a little hard to see the lines on certain letters. I used the Styro Cutter for the finer lines and cursive writing, and the Wood Burning tool for the regular letters and designs.

The third try, I did the same method as the second time, but used an X-Acto blade to actually cut through the paper and into the foam. This method was by far the quickest and easiest for me.

I continued to paint the 'engravings' black, but to save on the stone-finish paint, I painted the tombstones grey with acrylic paint. I couldn't find a large jar of it, so I bought an inexpensive white acrylic paint and tinted it with some black. I painted the tombstones with the grey, and then sprayed just the front of the tombstones with the stone-finish paint.

I am out of state at the moment, but when I return home, I'll probably add some black streaks to the tombstones, as well as a little bit of moss. I'll be sure to add some photos too.

So far, they look really, really good.

A Dremel probably would work better, but being that I didn't want little bits of foam everywhere, I decided to go with melting the letters.

I hope this info can be of help to someone!

236 Posts
I read a technique here on the forums after 'Ween 2008, and I did a quick test to see how it worked. It worked well enough that I'm hoping to get a few new stones this year using the technique.

Basically, after you've gotten your letters masked off on the face of the stone, hit it with a VERY, VERY, VERY light coat of spray paint. Color doesn't matter, you're going to color over it anyway.

The propellant eats away at the foam, and leaves the masked off areas intact. (I'm not joking when I say a VERY light coat of paint!)

The result is raised text in a matter of minutes. If you'd rather do engraved letters (as opposed to raised letters), just mask off the negative image. That is, mask off the entire stone, and leave your font exposed.

As for getting the letters themselves masked off nice and neatly, I've read about adhesive stick-on letters that you can get at the craft store, but I've not yet tried it. The above suggestion about using spray adhesive has gotten my juices flowing though, and I'm eager to see the results. If it works well, you could kick out a dozen raw, unpainted, unfinished but carved stones easily within an hour.
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