Though Halloween may have just passed, depending on when you're reading this, perhaps this will help someone out in future years to come.
I recently had a chance to create a tombstone for Haunted Orange County, a company that runs tours of haunted houses and other areas. This tombstone was created for their upcoming 10th year anniversary, however, change the text, and it could work for any occasion (or person).
Step 1: Video
I have made a video of me creating this on my YouTube channel, so please
watch and follow along.. and while you're there, feel free to subscribe and share if you like what you see.. there are plenty more videos to come.
Step 2: What You'll Need
Here's a list of things you'll need to complete this project:
- Jig or Band Saw
- Table or Circular Saw
- Hand Sander or Sandpaper
- Drill Bit for Pre-Drilling Screw Holes
- Screws for Base (Optional)
- Dremel & Bits (Optional)
- MDF Wood
- Texture Spray Paint (Optional)
- Dark and Light Colored Paint for Weathering
- Paint Brush
- Wood Glue
- Brad Nails (Optional)
- Wood Putty (Optional)
- Foam for Core (Optional)
- Compass or Round Object for Drawing Radius (Optional)
And of course don't forget:
- Safety Glasses
- Hearing Protection
- Filtered Breathing Mask
Step 3: Measure & Draw
I first came up with a design because I wanted this tombstone to be a bit different than anything else I've seen but it's also very familiar or standard looking. It just has a few extra layers to give it that flair. But you can just as easily create a standard square or rounded top tombstone just the same.
Using a compass, or another round object big enough to fill your desired round curve, trace or draw that curve.
Now, you'll need to cut thin strips of the MDF for the edges. I used 2 layers of MDF here to build the up the thickness of the tombstone to about 2.5 inches. But that was because I know I was going to add the extra flair pieces later.. so you may want your tombstone to be thicker at this point. I'd suggest 3 - 4 inches.
I also added some foam in the inside of the tombstone, but it really didn't make any difference to mine. Depending on the thickness of yours, however, you may want to add some kind of foam or other material to help support the structure.
Using glue and possibly some brad nails, attach the edges to the base. I use glue for holding it together, but I also use the brad nails to help it stay in place while the glue dries.
Step 4: Cut & Sand
Cut on the outside of the line using any number of saws you have available. I would recommend a band saw or jig saw in this case. But depending on how thick your tombstone is, a jig saw might not have a long enough blade.
After cutting, use a sander to finish off your edges. This is why we didn't cut on the line, but on the outside.. as it leaves more room for errors during cutting.
Step 5: Route, Cut or Create Lettering
I was originally going to route out the lettering but with the font being small in some areas, and the fact that I have a Glowforge laser, I decided that laser cut letters would be the best for this project.
If the letters didn't get so small, I would have used my router. So feel free to create you're lettering in any way you'd like.
I like to use my vinyl plotter to cut out a template to the different fonts I use. There are some inexpensive machines out there now, so you may already have one or have thought about getting one. I place the vinyl down on the wood and spray paint it lightly. It will dry pretty quickly and you can remove the vinyl and start routing or cutting your letters in now time.
Step 6: Accents (Optional)
This is where I cut out more pieces of MDF to create accents or flairs. This helped to build up the thickness of my tombstone and gave it that something extra.
Again, this is optional and not really needed.
If I were creating a bunch of tombstones for a decorations and I skip this step.. or at least limit the number of accents I added.
Another idea would be to create a few different accent pieces which you could attach to different tombstones here and there, giving a you a more random appearance to the final picture.. again, if you're building multiple tombstones.
Step 7: Putty & Sand
Now we should fill in any crack or gaps with wood putty.
Here I'm using a putty that starts off pink but dries and natural wood color. This helps to determine where you have put putty before and so you know when it's dry.
If you don't have putty, you can always use any left over saw dust from sanding and mix that with wood glue. A lot of creators do this, especially if the saw dust came from the same wood you're currently working with, as then you'll know it matches the wood color exactly.
But since we're going to be paint anyway, it doesn't matter if the putty matches the wood color.
Once the putty is dry, sand it down and repeat the putty process again, if you missed anywhere.
Step 8: Create a Base (Optional)
I also created a base for my tombstone. I did this because it was a bit top heavy and I didn't want it to fall over.
I created it in the same fashion as the tombstone.. by gluing and using brad nails, however, I screwed the button plate of the base on. This way it could be unscrewed and opened in case we needed to put weights in it.
Step 9: Adding Cracks & Chips (Optional)
This is a fun step. Use your imagination and create some cracks and chips in the wood. Usually on the edges is where I'd start, but not always.
I used my Dremel here with a these small sharp bits you see in the photos. I would place my Dremel on the side and sort of drag it along the crack lines I drew ahead of time. Then if you want to make a chip, just use the tip of the bit and kind of dig it in but try not to make a hole. This is one of those times when less is more.
Remember, everything you do here will get highlighted with the paint.
But do add as many cracks and chips as you feel necessary. Just don't go overboard.
Step 10: Add Texture (Optional)
This step is optional, however I'd say it's highly recommended.. especially if you're trying to make it look like stone.
I think I sprayed about half the can on this. I sprayed and thought I was done, but went back and did more.
The only thing to really watch out for in this process is that I didn't want my lettering to get too covered up and become unreadable. I used my finger after I sprayed the texture to take the most the texturing on the letters. Not all, but enough to make them still readable. I even used a small file to get in the inside of the letters and pull out any texturing that got in there.
Step 11: Painting & Weathering
This is the last part here and it probably one of the most important. This is where the aging process takes place. It helps bring out the cracks and edges of the tombstone and gives it that creepy old look.
Start with a darker gray base color. Then using black, light gray and maybe even some brown, depending on how you want it to look, lightly dip your paint brush in your paint and wipe most of it away on a towel or extra sheet of wood. This is called dry brushing. We only want to put on the paint lightly and let it build up as we paint. This is give it a more gradually look when painting.. which is how weathering is done.. over time.
The basic idea here is to go back and forth between your light and dark colors (gray and black in my case) until you get that look that you want. If you feel there is too much gray, add some black. Too much black, add some gray.
Use your dark colors in the inside edges, in the cracks, in the chips and around the base.. or where you think dirt would collect. use the lighter colors on the outer edges to highlight them, don't paint it all, just the edge. Also the edges of the cracks. Or basically where people may touch and wipe off dirt and areas that may it cleaned.
Step 12: You're Done!
Congratulations, you just created a creepy old tombstone!
Share with your friends and family and enjoy your Halloween.
Runner Up in the
Halloween Contest 2018