Halloween Tombstones

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 Need some tombstones for Halloween but don’t want to have the same ones as your neighbors? Make your own by following this tutorial and be the talk of the neighborhood.

For my materials, I used one inch thick foam hardboard insulation that I picked up from the big box store. If they had two inch stuff in stock, I would have got that instead. I guess you could also use plywood, it’ll just take longer and you’ll have to change things up. If you really only want to make one or two then most places usually sell smaller two foot by 2 foot pieces but they were around $5 where the full sheet was about $20. (No brainier here..)

I cut 12 pieces out of a that measured about 24×16-inches each. To do this, you can use a straight edge and a sharp utility knife, hack saw, fire or even karate to cut your board down to size, or you could just do what I did by quickly and accurately cutting it up using a table saw.

Here’s where the special tools come in. If you have a CNC machine like I do, (The X-Carve) I suggest starting there. If you do have a CNC, you can either use the Easel projects and/or SVG images I provided. Or there’s always the option to come up with your own design.
If you don’t have a CNC machine then don’t despair, there are other much less pleasant options for you. I’m not going to go into full detail but in the past I’ve printed out the design, glued it on and routed it out by hand. (If you don’t believe me, see this video.) Also, since this is foam, I suppose you could just start hacking at it with a knife and make headway.

No matter what method you choose to carve out the design, I’m sure you’ll have some clean up to do. In my case, the router bit left a bunch of little “fuzzies” that I really didn’t want to sand. Fortunately for me, foam melts when heat is applied! (unless you used plywood.. poor person.) I used my heat gun to melt away all of the little “fuzzies” and got the added bonus of making the tombstone look more weathered! Perfect!

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Painting

The plan here is to paint the letters first and then come back with a hard foam roller and paint the top. I know what you’re thinking… spray paint would be perfect for this! Unfortunately, the chemicals in spray paint will melt the foam and you’ll get somewhat unpredictable results. I would say who can’t use more “weathering” but the paint really doesn’t stick all that well anyways. Instead of spray paint, I used an air brush to color all of the carved out parts black and then came back with a stiff foam roller and painted the tops a “Stone Grey” color. I had to use a small brush to get the inside corners and some of the finer points. After the grey was dry, I came back with the air brush using it at a distance and added depth and more “weathering”.

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Depending on where these will be going, you might have to come up with different solutions for installation.
Mine ended up in the grass so I just cannibalized a couple wire hangers, straighten them out and cut them into roughly seven-inch pieces. ofThen sticking them half in the ground and stabbing the tombstone on top  the other half worked great. If you live in an area that gets high wind then you may want to use larger pieces.
If you’re going to be placing them on concrete like my friend did, you may want to just glue or tape them to a piece of two-by-four to weight it down.
Now just sit back and enjoy all of the great looks they get on Halloween night!

Lessons Learned

  • When using foam on the X-Carve, you can really crank it up! I normally had it set to a cut depth of 1/4″ at a speed for 120 inches per minute which is WAY faster than the default setting for anything. I accidentally made the depth per cut over 1″ once which caused it to cut out the full 1″ foam board at a speed of 120 inches per minute. It did it with out issue but didn’t leave as clean as a cut but hey.. still worked!
  • Spray paint melts foam.. who knew. I guess I probably would have guessed if I would have used a few brain cells before planning on doing it.. When it started to happen I was like Homer Simpson, “DOH” and was totally unsurprised..
  • Hot air guns work great to remove the little fuzzies left over on foam after cutting it.. This is a great lesson for those that don’t want to sand those away.

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