Ever since I started considering building Halloween decorations, I wanted to do a gravestone with a traditional “Death’s Head” embellishment. These things are pretty spooky and fairly prevalent in old New England cemetaries, reminding me of the Salem witch trials and Puritan ritual. Here’s how I built my interpretation out of foam, glue and Walmart paint.
- 2″ pink foam insulation board
- Discount rejected spooky paint
- Gorilla Glue
- Scrap wood
- 1″ Screws
- Foam Skull from K-Mart bag of bones
- Paper for template
- Sharpie marker
- Steak Knife
- Dremel with cutting tool & guard
- Assorted paint brushes
- Canned chili
The first step is to determine the size and shape of your stone. I was working with scrap foam so I gouged out the biggest piece I could manage – 19″x21″.
Steak Knife Saw
Next up is creating a template to work off of. I’m convinced this is the best way to end up with a smoothly finished result. I am very familiar with Photoshop, but there are free programs such as GIMP that you can learn and use to create something similar. Who Fonted? is my favorite source for free fonts.
Printed & Taped
I then strapped my template onto the foam and traced it with a pencil, sometimes poking through like I would when carving a pumpkin. I used a Sharpie afterward to highlight my lines.
Starting to look like something
Owning a Dremel isn’t entirely necessary for this project, but I love having one around for when I’m doing anything crafty. You could use an Xacto knife and carve it out, but I just don’t have that sort of patience anymore.
15 minutes tops
And when you’re done you should have some sort of relief like this.
Stop here if you love pink
Next up, I glued the face of a foam skull between the wings on the gravestone using Gorilla Glue. This stuff is like magic. Like crazy magic. I don’t understand it. It’s like mating sea monkeys with those foam creatures that grew out of a dissolvable pill when dropped in the bathtub. It expands with a vengeance so weight is necessary. Hence, chili. You want to use the most calorie-dense canned food you can find. I still haven’t worked up the nerve to down 400 calories of beans in a sitting, so this stuff still sits in my pantry.
Fast forward to painting! I try to cover the whole thing with a medium gray , then I hit the highlights and crevices with black.
Paint stage 1
After that, I spray the whole thing over with light hits of gray, white and black spray paint to create shading and a stone effect. I’ll fill in the areas I really want to be black with a small paintbrush as the last step. Dry brushing and wiping paint around with a paper towel can also make it look more natural.
I’m still not sure of the best way to drive these things into the ground, but here’s the last solution I came up with. I cut out a piece of .5″ scrap wood, then traced it onto the back of the stone. I then cut out the area and glued the wood in with Gorilla Glue.
Gorilla Glue - Better than Duct Tape?
This allowed me to pre drill some holes and attach a stake with screws to anchor my stone into the ground.
Ready to install
Finally, I drove the stake into the ground, shot some screws through the pre-drilled holes, and my gravestone was on display!
You may think Royal Paine is a bad pun, but it actually is a real gravestone in my local cemetary. I hoped my neighbors would get a kick out of it, and I hope you enjoy building your own gravestone for your Halloween display!