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Tried my hand at making stones, some lessons learned

7587 Views 16 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  eightcircuits
I have been wanting to try to make some tombstones for a while, but it was always on the back burner. After watching JasonB5449's tutorial as well as a few others on youtube, I figured I'd give it a shot.

I always kind of thought these would be easy, but there's no doubt it can be ultra easy or an absolute PIA.

I started with the 4x8 sheet of pink insulation foam from Home Depot. It wouldn't fit in the van so had HD rip 2' off to make it 4x6.

I went the route of printing letters and shapes on paper and then just tracing the paper with a ballpoint. I then went back over the lines in ink to make them easier to see. I picked up the router attachment for the dremel to route out the various lines.

The hardest part is coming up with shapes and what to put on them. I turned the kids loose on epitaphs while I randomly searched online for image ideas.

I tried cutting the shapes out of the foam with a scroll saw, hack saw, hand saw, just about any saw, but the results were kind of lousy IMO. So I picked up a cheap foam cutter from Michaels. It makes the cutting process much easier, but you just have to take your time so as to not break the wand.

I didn't know the foam came scored so you'll have these seams in it. I had tried filling the seams with wood glue on one of the smaller stones I'd made, and it turned out decent. But with this feeling of being out of time and so many other things to do, I didn't fill the seams on the other stones. Big mistake as you can see in the large stone where the seams are visible. It's not something that will be that visible in the night with fog going, but it still bugs me so this is something I'll address after the season.

I saw different methods for propping the stones up, and the easiest and cleanest way I found was to take some 3/4" x 6" EMT, heat it up with a heat gun, and then insert into the bottom of the stone. I then pulled the EMT out and it used needle nose pliers to pull out the core foam left in the middle from the inserted pipe. You'll then have a nice hollowed out area where you can glue the EMT into the bottom of the stone. This will then sit on some 1/2" EMT pounded into the ground.

Lastly, I got really lucky and found some gray deck paint in the oops section at H.D. This stuff is really thick (the can says 4x thicker than paint). I had to thin it out by 50% to brush on. But the best part is that it's so thick you can go back after the first coat and then just dab all over the stone to give it texture. I'm imagining the effect is similar to putting sand into the paint because the resulting effect is very gritty. The deck paint also gave the stones some rigidity, and I'd imagine make them more durable to the weather.

The last part was to do a quick hit with an old airbrush.

I only made 4 stones, but collectively it took a few hours from start to finish.

Font Fictional character Art
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Thanks for sharing your experiences- I haven't made any stones yet, and this will help. I have used foam for household insulation projects and I already know how difficult it is to cut with a knife, even a very sharp one. I can't imagine cutting a difficult shape and having it look good with a knife.
you did a fantastic job on routing out the lines with a dremel.
I think you did great. I surly know that feeling, i went through that when i built my stones last year and i was dealing with the same issues with the seams but i quickly learned that if i age some of those seams it made the stones look more natural.
Thx creeperguardian, how did you age the seams?
Nice job! I buy a small bucket of premixed sheet rock joint compound and put a thin layer on the stone before the paint.it stops the pink from creeping through and allows me to texture it and make it more stone like. May help you smooth the seams ..
just to help everyone out, not putting anyone's work down.

If you want to make tombstones and grave markers quick, easy, and in great number's there are two way's. i will start a thread with instructions.
I tried my hand at tombstones this past year too and I ran into some of the same problems as you.

I found that using a wood burning tool with a fine tip, plugged into a dimmer switch so as to control the heat, works great for carving the letters. It's more precise and you can get in the details much better.

Also, for filling in the cracks, I just used some caulk that was able to be painted and it filled in the cracks well!

Hope this helps!
I would make some seams look like cracks. Maybe as if the stone was cracking in half.
:D Cool stones! They are lots of work...it's not a quick thing if you want them to look realistic. Nice airbrush work though. I use paint thinner sprayed on and it totally changes the texture of the foam...but you will have even bigger seams to fill in. (just a warning)

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My preferred method of cutting stones is the jig saw with a longer blade for the 2"foam. Ace is the place for them. Dremel with the router attachment is the only way I letter anymore.
You did a great job for your first attempt! We all have live and learn experiences with everything we build. My tricks are simple;
I use a table saw, and/or a jig saw to cut out my shapes, I use drywall mud to fill any gaps/seams I do not want visible. Especially when I have a stone that is two or three pieces glued together. I use an exacto knife to cut out letters and shapes to either stand out, or sink in. Oops paint is a great find, I use it all the time. I use rebar to stand my stones up. Then I just drill a hole in the base of the stone to sit over the rebar in the ground. Practice makes perfect, keep it up!
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Thanks everyone for the feedback.

I have to say that storage has been the worst part about making larger stones. They've actually gotten beat up so much that I think they're looking even more realistic.
We put up a fence last year and dug holes and cemented the posts. It was a project that took some time, so sometimes my husband would mix up too much cement and have some left over by the time he quit for the day, so I took advantage of that and made a form with plywood and 2x4's, laid down a garbage bag on the form and poured the left over cement. One one I wedged in some flexible plastic at the top so the headstone would be curved, the other is only slightly rounded.

They're not as creative as the pink insulation ones, but I guess each method has it's pros and cons. Mine won't blow away in a storm, but at the same time they're dreadfully heavy to lug around and store. Maybe I'll just store them outside, perhaps that will add some age. I'm not sure how to carve into them yet.
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I see several people using a shaper of some sort on their headstones. I can't find it anywhere!! Any idea's where to get this?
I see several people using a shaper of some sort on their headstones. I can't find it anywhere!! Any idea's where to get this?
It's called a rasp. I can't remember where they have it in the store but home depot and lowes have them Tool Plastic Kitchen utensil Brush

Also sandpaper works well
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