Do It Yourself Tombstone

Halloween is one of the best holidays around. Kids love it for the free candy they get and the costumes. Big industries love it because of the many different ways they can generate revenue from it. Parents love Halloween because of the joy of dressing up their kids, and adults love it for the parties.

Graveyard SkeletonMy favourite part of Halloween is decorating my yard, and a staple of the decorations is the ever expected tombstone in a haunted graveyard. While you can buy these from your local store, they are often bland and flimsy. The worst part is everyone has them. (If you go online, you’ll find a much better selection. My favorite is Buycostumes.)

If you are like me then you like to go all out and be wacky, which is why creating your own tombstones can be such a perfect way to add that special bit of flair to your decorations, and have some fun doing it at the same time .  Doing so is simple and often cheaper than buying the store versions.

The materials you will need:

  • Permanent Marker
  • 8’ High density Styrofoam Board
  • Utility Knife
  • Electric Carver (optional)
  • Paint (gray, and optional gloss or granite coat)
  • Garden Stakes
  • Sandpaper
  • Glue

The steps to creating your own tombstones:

1) Start with your Styrofoam. This has to be the rigid foam kind for obvious reasons that you can pick up at your local hard ware store. Design the basics of your tombstone design here. You should be able to get 3 or 4 out of one sheet of insulation.

2) Cut out your tombstones with either your electric carver or a large knife. Be careful not to hurt yourself, as this can be the most dangerous part of the process.  It is best to do this step and the following step outdoors or in a garage or basement where you don’t mind it getting dirty.

3) After cutting out your tombstones you are going to have to sand down the cut surfaces as they will be jagged and you want them to be smooth. This is where your sand paper comes into play.

4) Next you are going to write in your epitaph on your tombstone in permanent marker . Make sure you plan this out ahead of time as it will make it a lot easier.  Then use your utility knife to carve it into the face of the tombstone. Don’t worry about being perfect as it will appear weathered in the end.

5) Now you are going to apply a base coat of gray paint to the tombstone. This is often best done with gray spray paint as it will also eat away a little bit of the insulation due to the chemicals in the spray paint, further  giving it the weathered appearance. You may chose to use a gloss coat after or a granite coat, but are not necessary.  If you want the lettering to stand out then it is best to paint it with a black paint by hand, but it is not necessary.

6) Next after they have dried you are going to attach the stake to the tombstone so that you can put it in the ground, there are different kinds you can use, but your best bet is the cheap garden variety that you can attach to the back and or in the bottom. These as well you will get at your local hardware store.

And that is the basics of your tombstones. The most time is allowing the paint to dry. You can alter the process as you see fit and add your own personal touches. Most of all have fun with it!

Check out a much more in-depth tombstone tutorial, where the author goes into building heavy wooden bases so you don’t have to worry about garden stakes. You can find another one here.

I said I don’t like the cheap, store-bought tombstones. However, I have seen some pretty creative ones online, which you can check out here. I’ve actually bought a couple, mixing them up with my home-made ones, and the effect is awesome!

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 Tombstones

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