Our haunt at the local zoo will need an entrance! I decided to build a cemetary gate. I wanted to add more features, such as a fence, but I didn't have enough time for that. This year, it will consist of two pillars and an arch.
I constructed it using wood, styrofoam and PVC tube. Even though the pillars are quite big (much bigger than I had actually planned), they are quite light and easy to transport. The entire assembly is easily put together and taken apart.
- 34 x 34 mm lumber, 210 cm long, 5 pieces
- 12 x 44 mm lumber, 210 cm long, 7 pieces
- Styrofoam slabs, 2 cm thick, 50x100 cm
- Styrofoam slabs, 3 cm thick, 50x100 cm
- Liquid nails
- PVC glue
- PVC tube, 40 mm diameter, about 6 meters
- PVC couplers, 40 mm diameter, 4 pieces
- 135° PVC elbows, 40 mm diameter, 4 pieces
- PVC screw-on endcaps, 40 mm diameter, 2 pieces
- Saw (electric, or as in my case, handsaw and miter box)
- Paint and paintbrushes
Step 1: The Wooden Frame
To get started, I constructed a wooden frame. This served as a skeleton to glue the styrofoam panels to, and as a base for the arch. I cut the following pieces of lumber:
- 100 cm long, 34 x 34 mm, 8 pieces (vertical supports)
- 50 cm long, 12 x 44 mm, 8 pieces (horizontal supports)
- 52,4 cm long, 12 x 44 mm, 8 pieces (horizontal supports)
Out of a single 12 x 44 mm piece, I cut 2 50 cm and 2 52,4 cm long pieces, so 4 of these were needed for this part, along with 4 34 x 34 mm pieces.
I made 4 frames, using 2 50 cm long 12 x 44 mm pieces and 2 100 cm long 34 x 34 mm pieces. It is very important that all angles are 90°, or the entire construction will be wobbly and unstable! Connect 2 of these frames together with 52,4 cm long pieces, so it forms a box. Again, make sure all angles are 90°! I made 2 of these boxes.
Next, a support for the arch was needed. A piece of PVC tube is mounted in the box for this. A coupler will protrude from the top of the pillar, so the arch (wich will be modular, to make it easier to transport) simply slides in. But first, I had to make something to attach the tube to! For this, I cut another 4 50 cm long 12x44 mm pieces, and 4 52,3 cm long pieces. I attached them to the frame at 40 cm from the top. Next, I cut two 50 cm long 34x34 pieces, wich I used to bridge the center of the box. This will form the support for the arch.
That's for the bottom part of the support, but I also needed a support for the top. Here it's very important to work accurately, because otherwise the tube won't be vertical. I cut 4 50 cm long 12x44 mm pieces, and bridged the top of the box with them, with 4 cm of space between them. From leftovers of the 34x34 mm pieces, I cut 4 4 cm long pieces, wich I used to attach the two pieces together. You can see what I mean on the picture. You end up with a 4x4 cm hole the tube goes through.
The frames are ready, now it's time to install the PVC tubes! They are attached to the bottom support using a screw-on endcap. The endcap assembly consists of two parts: the cap itself and a threaded piece that's attached to the tube with a coupler. The cap is nailed to the bottom support, in the center. The threaded piece is glued to a 60 cm long piece of 40 mm PVC tube.
Next, the tubes are inserted through the top supports, screwed on the bottom supports, and secured to the top support with nails through the tube. All that was left now was topping the tubes with a coupler. The arch will be inserted here.
Step 2: Styrofoam Panels
With the frame ready, it's time to glue the styrofoam panels on! I started by wrapping the entire box in 2 cm thick slabs. Now if only I thought about the measurements before I got started! The dimensions of the box are 52,4 x 52,4 x 100 cm. My styrofoam slabs are 50 x 100 cm. The perfect dimensions for the box would have been 48 x 48 x 100 cm, because then I could just glue 4 entire sheets on it and I wouldn't have to cut anything.
Next, I wrapped the lower 40 cm with a 3 cm thick slab, with the top edge cut at 45°. The top is built from a series of 3 cm thick pieces so it forms a protrusion, making the entire pillar about 120 cm high. One more thing left to finish the styrofoam construction: cutting bricks in the styrofoam using a wood burning tool. I think the final result looks quite ok!
Step 3: Monster Mud and Painting
So like I said, I started by coating all the styrofoam with monster mud. It was one hell of a task, and afterwards, my knees hurt like hell. I prepared a bit too much drywall compound at once. Even though it stays more or less liquid for a few hours, it already thickens quite a lot after thirty minutes and becomes impossible to work with. I had to throw some away, unfortunately.
In a single afternoon, I coated both pillars top to bottom. I had to squat and sit on my knees a lot, wich was very exhausting. The day after I didn't work on the pillars, not only because I was a bit tired of it but also because I had to make sure the mud had dried enough.
Two days later, the monster mud was dry enough and I could start painting. I started by painting the mortar between the bricks gray, followed by the base and the top. For the mortar I used a paint brush, but for the rest a roller. Works much, much faster!
Next, I painted the bricks. I mixed some red and brown paint to get the typical dark red brick color. I started by painting a few bricks all over the pillar first, before mixing up a fresh batch of paint. The idea behind this was that this way, all bricks would have a slightly different color. It didn't really work, though, all of them turned out the same color.
At this point the pillars were painted completely, but of course they looked way too dull. By using the magic of drybrushing, I made them look a bit less dull! First of all, the base and top got a layer of black drybrushing, like I did with the tombstones. The bricks all got a bit of pure red paint in the center, so this part looked a bit brighter than the edges.
What made the biggest difference, though, was the green drybrushing. I mixed green with a bit of brown and green and drybrushed it on the base and top, so it resembled moss. Next, I gave each brick some of this color in both upper corners. I was surprised at the result, because it made a gigantic difference!
Last but not least, I painted the protruding tube at the top black. In my next (and final) post, I will explain the arch that spans the gate, and some pictures of the gate at our haunt site.
Step 4: The Arch
Putting it together
Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of the building of the arch, but everything more or less speaks for itself. I used a few sections of 40 mm PVC tube and some elbows. The tubes are painted black with acrylic paint. My girlfriend pointed out that the paint might not adhere to the plastic very well, so I sanded everything before painting.
The elbows are glued to the tubes on only one side, the other side is inserted without any glue. This makes it possible to put the arch together and take it apart again. After we had put it together, we hung some rags on it to make it look a bit, well, creepier.
The entire package is now stored in my basement, awaiting next year. I will make some improvements by then, though. One problem is that they were hard to transport. The entire outside is styrofoam coated with monster mud, wich is very fragile. The pillars did suffer some damage during transport, nothing that can't be repaired luckily. I'm gonna reinforce the base with wood, and replace the styrofoam top with plywood. That way, I can put them on a trailer and secure them in place with ropes without crushing them.
Another possible improvement: replace the arch with thicker tubes. They just look too thin. I'm also gonna build a fence, and perhaps some text plaques on the pillars. But that's for next Halloween season!