Introduction: Stone Gargoyle Entrance Columns

About: Hi there! Music teacher, writer, and creative artsy guy here. I love making things from scratch, and Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday of all time.

These are instructions on how to build a pair of authentic-looking stone gargoyle columns for Halloween. I usually build something each year for my home's haunted house, and I decided I wanted an "entrance" of some kind. These columns would be great at the entrance of a driveway or perhaps your homemade cemetary. The basic material used for this project was the 4x8 sheet of plywood which we already had lying around.

Here is the complete list of materials:

1) One 4x8 sheet of plywood (and some additional thin plywood for the tops of each column)

2) One/Two 4x8 sheets of insulating foam board (from Home Depot or Lowe's). Color doesn't matter.

3) Three to four 2x2 purple foam project panels (from Home Depot). They are about an inch and a half thick.

4) Hammer, finishing nails

5) Cheap spray paint (black and LOTS of gray).

6) Spray Adhesive AND Gorilla Glue

7) Protective sealer

8) Set of store-bought resin gargoyles (*Optional)

9) Hot glue gun (*Optional - you'll see later on)

10) Black and white craft paints with brushes.

You will also need a table saw, measuring tape, some sort of straight edge (or chalk line), and a pencil.

Step 1: Draw Your Creation.

I love this part! It doesn't have to be anything fancy - just a sketch. But for me, it helps the creative juices begin to flow in my head. I only drew one of the columns since both of them are going to be the same.

Make sure you decide what it is you want to put on top of the columns. Some other ideas I had included a pair of cheap lanterns (the plastic kind you can order at Spirit Halloween), skulls, lions, some styrofoam balls, or even an awesome pair of jack-o-lanterns! Instead of securing the gargoyles to the tops of the columns, I'm going to just let them sit there.

Step 2: Cut Your Plywood.

Lay your 4x8 sheet of plywood down (on something other than two garbage cans unlike me), use your tape measure, and mark the center (2 feet) on both sides using a chalk-line or straight edge. Then, using your table saw, cut down the middle.

You will now have two 4x4 sheets of plywood. Repeat these steps until you end up with eight sheets of plywood, each one 1x4. These sheets will form the sides of our column.

Step 3: Nail Your Columns Together.

Using your finishing nails and a hammer, nail your boxes together. This is a lot easier if you have someone helping you so they can hold the sides as you hammer, but I didn't have that luxury. Be sure to make the box EXTRA sturdy. Remember, this is going to be outside.

Honestly, DON'T worry if your columns are crooked, warped, or if you make mistakes. Remember that the outside of these columns are going to be covered in faux stones cut from foam insulation and then the whole thing will be painted and sealed. This is Halloween, so it's probably the one time I'll encourage you to make some mistakes! :-)

Step 4: Seal Up the Tops!

Try to find some additional plywood to do this. I almost decided to use cardboard until I remembered that this would be outside. I literally only had scraps left and those turned out fine. In fact, once I paint it, it'll probably make it look creepier. You need to do this to have something for your gargoyle or column-topper to sit upon. If I come across more plywood, I may eventually secure the tops with it.

Step 5: Sand Your Columns Down.

This is optional, but I really recommend you do it. It gives them a more finished feel on the outside and an easier cleaner surface to work on. Smooth up the edges and the sides. This plywood has been sitting in our garage for years, so it was very dirty.

Step 6: Add Some Decorative Styrofoam Moldings.

Now here's where we get to some fun (and tedious) stuff!

I found some thicker foam board at Home Depot and I thought that it would be perfect to use for the moldings around the tops of my columns. Now...can you use carved wooden moldings? Well obviously! - but where's the fun in that? Besides, it would probably be much more expensive and you'd have to cut them and get the angle right. This foam board I found is very thick and durable, plus it's easy to work with.

All I did (and I seriously just eye-balled this) was use a straight-edge box cutter and cut six (yes only six, I decided not to go all the way around my columns) long pieces of foam. I encased the tops of the columns all the way around and used Gorilla Glue (I know I said Spray Adhesive originally but trust me the Gorilla stuff is the way to go) to hold them in place. Use masking tape temporarily to hold the moldings in place while the glue dries.

After everything dried, I noticed that there were gaps in-between where the two pieces of foam met and sometimes on the wood as well. Solution - I found some mixed grout in the garage and thought it would be perfect to fill in those gaps. I suspect wood putty might also work. The grout is great though - dries within an hour and looks like stone too. I used that in several spots and let that dry.

Step 7: Just to Give You an Idea of Where This Is Heading...

My GARGOYLES came!!!

I ordered these beautiful babies online (as a duo, so they were discounted). Seriously, you can use whatever you want on top of your columns - don't feel like you have to go out and purchase something. I'm working hard on the columns themselves and wanted something really cool and eerie on the tops with as little effort as possible. But...I will give you some other ideas that I had prior to deciding on the gargoyles.

1) Skulls - Some stores (like Michael's craft store) sells $10 styrofoam skulls, nice big ones, around Halloween. Why not spray paint them gray and put them on the top.

2) Jack-O-Lanters - You can keep the tops of your columns empty and put a pair of carved illuminated pumpkins on them each year.

3) Styrofoam balls - Again, spray paint them gray and they'll look like stone.

4) Lanterns, freaky little cherubs holding a light, pile of bones, etc. You get the picture. Be creative. ;-)

Step 8: Begin Cutting and Laying Your Faux Stones.

Using your giant piece of foam insulation board, begin cutting (randomly) different shapes (big, small, horizontal, etc.). I wanted them to be as random as possible because the more random, the more authentic it looks.

Lay them on one side of your column to get an idea of where they should be placed. Once you've fitted them together, feel free to cut unique smaller pieces to fill in those gaps so very little wood is showing. Once everything looks good, go ahead and gorilla glue them on down. I used heavy leftover tiles we had in the garage and laid them down on top of my faux stones to keep them secured while they dried.

You'll also see that I made a plaque and arranged my faux stones around it. Later on, I'm going to put some writing on the plaques, but for now, don't worry about the details.

On the bottom of the columns, I used my foam and created a border to encase the column. I made sure not to have the foam touching all the way to the ground. When standing, you don't want there to be any pressure on them to help them to snap off.

Step 9: Mortar Time!

Grab that black spray paint and paint in between the stones. This can be tedious - you don't want any wood showing. But it helps create a lot of depth in between the stones and as you can see, it already looks really cool and a lot more realistic.

Don't worry about getting too much of the black paint on the stones - we will paint them later.

In case you didn't know, spray paint MELTS (yes) foam if you spray it too close.

  • Upsides - it'll make them look really authentic like real stone.
  • Downside - if you do it too much the stones will literally deteriorate.

My advice? Just aim for the wood and you'll be fine.

I have to give a shout out to the person on Instructables who gave me this idea. If you haven't already seen HIS project, I suggest you do. He created a cemetery entrance with some huge columns as well. I really loved what he did with his foam stones and the mortar, so I used it on these. Take a look at tiki_robot's if you want some other ideas here:

Step 10: Begin the Process of Spray Painting the Stones.

Using regular old gray spray paint, begin spraying your stones. What I ended up doing was alternating between gray and black to make them seem more realistic, and I did several layers of this until I ended up liking the color. Make sure the white foam underneath is no longer visible. If I found small spots, I took some paint and touched it up with a paint brush.

You will get paint in the mortar, just a heads up. It's not the end of the world. Just go back and paint black in between the stones. Someone commented on another instructable and said that they ended up spraying the paint onto a roller and rolling it on, so that might work too.

Continue your paint job all the way around and on the the remaining wooden sides. I added a decorative little border on the front to make the whole front side come together.

Step 11: The Plaques.

So remember those purple foam plaques we made for the center of our column? Well now it's time to decorate them. You can do whatever you like, or copy the design I created. I used a pencil and simply drew free hand.

On my plaques I put: "Granata Manor" (using my last name), and "1692" (date of Salem Witch Trials).

Once you have your design completed, do the following:

1) Plug in your hot glue gun (with NO GLUE). Let it heat up.

2) *Get your black and white craft paints together along with some paint brushes.

*We are using craft paints on these plaques because remember, spray paint melts foam. I want to cover up the plagues well enough and don't want to damage them.

Using your glue gun, lightly press into the foam on each plaque and carefully trace your design. Do this until you have traced through your entire design. You do not have to press too hard (the glue gun is hot, it will melt so don't worry). Don't worry if it's not perfect - it's HALLOWEEN. These will be painted and affixed to the columns so that they look like old stone. Our goal is to make it look like it's been sitting there for one hundred years.

Once you've finished tracing your designs with the glue gun, take your white paint and using a brush, get the paint into your etched design first. Don't worry about the rest of the plaque yet, just get into all those decorative swirls and letters your made. These are the hardest spots.

After that, randomly use a mixture of black and white to create a marble affect and cover the rest of your plague.

Something else I did to the plaque was make a few random cracks, which I filled with black paint.

Step 12: Decorating Your Columns.

This was something I randomly decided to do. I kept looking at the column and decided that the top was so empty (that little framed section we made). I drove to Michaels, and voilà! - found two little styrofoam skulls ($1.99 each but I had a coupon for 20% off - Michaels is great for stuff like this and they always have sales). What I ended up doing was cutting the backs of the skulls off, spray painting them (again, a mixture of gray, black, and more gray to get a stone affect), and simply adhering them to the column.

After the skull was adhered properly, I used a pencil and drew some swirly designs on both sides. Taking my hot glue gun (this time, with glue), I carefully traced the design out. Hot glue dries super quick thankfully, so I painted over it with some gray craft paint, then sprayed layers of gray and black paint over it until I liked the color.

The result was awesome - it really looks like carved stone. I think the skull and the design give the top of the column a much more completed look.

Step 13: The Finished Product!

Hooray!!!! They're completed. Before you do anything (including dancing around your columns idiotically like a happy zebra), don't forget to seal up your columns. They're going to be outside in October and will definitely get rained on.

So let's see...I started these on July 4th, and finished on August 10th. So it took me about a month to finish them. I was also away for about two and a half weeks, and I worked on the columns on and off. Depending on how quickly you work and how dedicated you are, you could get them done rather quickly!

Price Break-down

  • 3 project panels of foamular ($5.48 each) = $16.44
  • One 4x8 Insulation board = $12.98
  • Assorted black and gray spray paints = $10.00
  • Foam skulls from michaels ($1.99 each) = $4.00
  • Gorilla Glue = $5.00
  • Gargoyles = Pair of 2 for $50.00
  • 4x8 sheet of plywood = free! (sitting in my garage)

Total amount I spent = $98.42

Time spent = 1 month on and off

If I were to purchase ONE of these columns from some retailer, I feel like I could easily spend $200-$300. The fact that I spent $100 on both is pretty awesome to me, and I’ll still have a lot of the materials left over to do other projects with.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I hope you try it - it was a lot of fun! :-)

Halloween Decor Contest 2015

Second Prize in the
Halloween Decor Contest 2015