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Prince of Arkham Asylum
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Hey all. Hoping I can help someone else on the forum. Sorry in advance for the long post...

Not sure about everywhere else, but Chicago has at least one day of fierce wind (50+ MPH) every October, if not more. So, every October after setting up the graveyard I always have at least one day of anxiety worrying about styrofoam tombstones getting demolished as the wind rocks them back and on their rebar/PVC mounts.

I’ve been doing the rebar/PVC pipe thing for about 14 years even before it became popular on this board, and years of swaying back and forth on the rebar has weakened the bases of some of my favorite styrofoam stones. The wind just tears them apart. Inevitably the bases on 2 to 3 stones get obliterated during each storm and it’s either repairs or replacement with backups. I’ve seen a few other more secure methods that can better withstand winds, but they usually use braces that can be seen on the back. I want the stones to look as real from behind as they do from the front because I don’t want to ruin the illusion when walking from the front door.

The last couple years I’ve been thinking about the better mouse trap and finally dove in last year and tried my best idea to date on a couple of my splintered tombstones. It takes a while to fix each one, but it has worked great! I converted three of my tombstones to my new “windproof” version, and they’ve already been put to the test in 50+ MPH winds. Not only did they not get destroyed, but they didn’t sway, or even budge. Not even a little. They stood as solid as real tombstones. Another good thing about this new mount design is that they make the stones more difficult to take by anyone who would want to. They aren’t going to be completely theft proof, but they’re screwed tightly to the rebar, so someone would need a drill and understand my design to take one.

With all that said, the design basically is to cut a wood board in the shape of each stone, mount the PVC to the wood, cut channels into the back of the stone to accommodate the PVC, and then mount the stone to the wood. After it’s mounted, I refinish the edges and back to blend it, and then mount on rebar. I also included screws through the back of the wood and once the stone is placed over the rebar, I tighten the screws until they’re firmly contacting the rebar. That it is the minor anti-theft advantage that keeps the stones secured to the rebar.

Below are a few “during” and “after” pics. If you want more info let me know. I have several more “during” pics too, but won’t bore you all with those unless someone wants a better idea of the design. Hope my design helps some of you who are wind-vulnerable...

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@joker I think this is a great idea and for sure the plywood will add weight and a layer of protection to the stones. From looking at your photos it appears that originally you had 2 holes for pvc pipes but probably were not that deep - was this the case? If so this may be the cause of some of the issues you had. The tombstones I have made have always had pvc pipes at least 12” deep and while we don’t get 50mph winds we do get significant wind sometimes and I have never had an issue with any of my stones getting worn out by movement caused by wind.
 

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We do get 50mph winds and more. All of my tombstones have a wooden backer and are mounted in a 50lb wooden base. There's no way to put in rebar here, the ground is just too hard, but with a heavy base, they don't move an inch.
 

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Prince of Arkham Asylum
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Discussion Starter #5
@joker I think this is a great idea and for sure the plywood will add weight and a layer of protection to the stones. From looking at your photos it appears that originally you had 2 holes for pvc pipes but probably were not that deep - was this the case? If so this may be the cause of some of the issues you had. The tombstones I have made have always had pvc pipes at least 12” deep and while we don’t get 50mph winds we do get significant wind sometimes and I have never had an issue with any of my stones getting worn out by movement caused by wind.
Thanks JW. Most of the stones I use are the large store bought. Most of those have a thicker base, but above the base it's a max of 1" or 1.5" thick. That doesn't leave much room for drilling holes 12" up, so my PVC/rebar goes into the stone about 5" to 6". Any higher into the stone and it starts to weaken the stone higher up which will also ruin them in strong winds. The few stones I display that I've personally made don't have issues with the wind because I used 2" thick insulation foam. Mine aren't anywhere near as detailed though.

Do you have a close up of the screws you put in the pvc pipe?
I'm going to add a couple more pics so you can see the detail. of screws/brackets holding the PVC in place before mounting. I'm also adding one of the screws through the back before finishing the back of the stone...

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We do get 50mph winds and more. All of my tombstones have a wooden backer and are mounted in a 50lb wooden base. There's no way to put in rebar here, the ground is just too hard, but with a heavy base, they don't move an inch.
I am always amazed by the ingenuity of haunters to work around the weather that gets thrown at them. Joker, your work is really nice. It's one of those things I know no one sees come Halloween night, but smooth transitional seams between slabs of foam or between foam and wood have always been one of those things that impresses me. Yours are nicely done. There's no sense that we're looking at anything but a single piece tombstone.

I have to admit that with each passing year, I'm grateful I live in a part of the country where extreme weather is fairly rare. We also have soil as opposed to hardpan, rock, or other stuff you can't drive a stake into. We get wind, but our tombstones staked into the ground have always held fast. However, they all have wooden bases or surrounds. We've never thought that foam alone can stand up to the elements. That said, it's nice to see ideas out there for creating stable stones without the need to buy a slab of granite. :)
 

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What great Ideas for stabilizing tombstone in yards where the wind blows down the plain. Gotta love the community for sharing all these great ideas. Thanks
 

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It's pronounced "Fronkensteen."
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@The Joker , You have the right idea there. I live in NW Indiana, not far from Chicago or the Lake so I get those same winds. My Tombstones have evolved over the years. Today they are a 1" extruded foam front (pink), a 3/4" layer of plywood with PVC pipes screwed to it and then a 2" expanded foam back (white). This keeps them mid to light weight but very stable with no tear-out. and at almost 4" thick, they look more realistic. However, I don't use rebar, I actually get the vinyl coated tomato stakes. If winds are high enough (or somebody runs into them) the bar will fold before the tombstones break. better to be out $1.50 for a tomato stake then all the hours for the custom stone. I even went so far as to make all the tombstones to have the exact same spacing on the PVC/bars this way they are fully swappable once in place. For a few of my larger stones, the base piece is actually a treated 2x6, giving it a nice heavy base.

My biggest problem has been gluing the layers together. I originally used Liquid Nails, but it went soft out in the rain. Then switched to Foam Adhesive, but had issues sealing the edges. Next step was Gorilla glue, but that got to be expensive. I'm onto a new test, using spray foam as the adhesive (which it looks like you've done). I've only used it on small scale so far but it seems to give me the grip, coverage and seal I want. Once done, they get a good coat of Monster Mud, or just good ol' Drylock before detailing.
 

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My Tombstones have evolved over the years. Today they are a 1" extruded foam front (pink), a 3/4" layer of plywood with PVC pipes screwed to it and then a 2" expanded foam back (white). This keeps them mid to light weight but very stable with no tear-out. and at almost 4" thick, they look more realistic. However, I don't use rebar, I actually get the vinyl coated tomato stakes. If winds are high enough (or somebody runs into them) the bar will fold before the tombstones break. better to be out $1.50 for a tomato stake then all the hours for the custom stone. I even went so far as to make all the tombstones to have the exact same spacing on the PVC/bars this way they are fully swappable once in place. For a few of my larger stones, the base piece is actually a treated 2x6, giving it a nice heavy base.
I am sure the lack of the requisite posting of many pictures of your work was just an oversight. :) It would be nice to see the tombstones along with their description mostly because they sound fantastic.
 

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It's pronounced "Fronkensteen."
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I am sure the lack of the requisite posting of many pictures of your work was just an oversight. :) It would be nice to see the tombstones along with their description mostly because they sound fantastic.
Unfortunately, I don't have any detailed, cross section or construction photographs. just the finished or partially finished end result. but here you go, the history.
Back in 2012/2013 they were just painted plywood. Everybody has to start somewhere:
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in 2014 I did the first of the Foam facade for a more 3-D look, Was using wooden stakes to hold them.
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2015 I went for larger tombstones, added T-Posts for Mounting. Foam face with Plywood back
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2018 I added the 2" foam back, PVC Tubes, 2" base and started using the Garden stakes as the interchangeable mounting. Sorry no detailed images (yet)
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2019, foam and plywood were separating. used the spray foam and Gorilla glue as adhesive. was going to trim the excess off, but my son suggested I paint it up and make it look like moss growing on them. New house, new lighting. Here is the full collection under the blacklight.
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Hope you enjoyed.
 

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Hope you enjoyed.
I sure did. It's nice to see the evolution of the tombstones. Ours have a similar evolution from the first to the most recent, and it's nice to see a totally different approach. There are times when the way you make your tombstones will work out much better than our current approach, so thanks along with the kudos.
 

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It's pronounced "Fronkensteen."
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Got these off amazon. They have a little more purple than I like, but to get the correct frequency costs a lot more. maybe in a year or two I'll upgrade to a 'true' black-light. I ended up with 4 of these across my whole display. Mounted directly to my fence.

LED Waterproof Blacklights

Replaced all my broken flood lights and fixtures with these:
LED Landcape Spotlights

In addition I have 2 tombstone Florescent tube enclosures. Built these to hold a standard florescent shop light.
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It's pronounced "Fronkensteen."
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Nothing special in paint. Just Florescent or glow craft paint from Walmart. ( Not neon). Trick is a base layer of white gloss to give good relective surface under the colors.
 

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I have always worried about when I start making them that if they did get blown around, since they are foam they will get damaged. Could that stucco material be painted on the outside before they are painted prevent that?
 
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