You need some way to keep the RiffRaff                                    OUT


watch out!

Is it more important to keep the ghouls in?                                                                              Or people out????
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  You have all seen the fence (picture below) I have done last year. Now I am considering a gate to jazz this up a bit. 

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 I propose to fabricate most of it from foam board with some minor wood internal framing. Ideally the whole thing will weight very little and will be in sections, pillars, arch,  sign, and doors will all be separate parts for ease of storage.

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 The real finished gate 2003 haunt below

  The fabrication has begun, and I have chosen to switch gears a tad. Instead of my usual Liquid Nails (LN) for quick assembly, I went with Poly - Urethane based glue instead. Its not quite as easy as LN, but in the long run, for something of this scale, I believe it to be the better choice.

 The reason it is more difficult to work with, is it is messy and tenacious. I made the mistake of not using gloves with this stuff, and unfortunately, I had been scavenging in a warehouse sale earlier in the day. My hands now look filthy, but in reality are quite clean, but will look this way for a few days yet.

 The glue is slimy as well. Liquid nails is tacky as you work with it, you have relatively little time after the initial squeeze and pry to position your parts. Also it is forgiving, you can manipulate your pieces into position, and expect them to stay. With the glue, you will find it is difficult to keep your parts IN position, and if you have any bow, or waves in your materials, they will want to stay that way.

 However, Liquid nails will not fill gaps after the fact, so you either have to be very generous in your application of it, and clean away the excess after it cures, or fill gaps with putty, spackle, joint compound or the like.

 The glue will foam and expand, nicely filling gaps as it cures, which is really handy. Additionally, it is very similar in structure to the foam board we make props with. This makes for easy clean up after the fact. Plus you will rarely have to fill gaps after you have the prop glued together.

 Some items you want to have on hand for this type of construction:
Latex gloves - the surgical type, snug fit so your hands aren't swimming in them. If you are latex sensitive, you can get non-latex versions.
Poly - Urethane based glue - (PUG for short) available at most hardware stores.
Liquid nails
- (LN for short) I know I know, I said I was going to use the PUG for the project, but certain steps really needed the quick sticking power of LN. Us e the projects or foam products version for this type of project.
- cheap, bristle type, sometimes called acid flux brushes, with metal handles, I get them for 20 cents each at HD in the plumbing section, they will last approx. 45 minutes before you need to chuck them, maybe longer if you really want to clean them. For spreading the glue.
Spray bottle
- filled with water. The glue is moisture reactive, this makes it easy to wet large areas, you can also spray more water on a joint when you don't see seam expansion after the first 10-15 minutes after items are joined.
Clear packing tape - use this to bind your parts together while the glue sets.
Click knife - the type of box cutter knife with the long segmented blades that you snap of the piece when it gets dull, and have a new sharp segment waiting. Superb for trimming excess after the prop has cured.
Aluminum foil or wax paper - the nice thing about this glue is you can end join sections of foam to make a larger slab
Surform - this is a woodworking tool used to trim small amount from edges. It has a cheese grater like base, with a body that fits your hand. I'll point it out in a picture later. Excellent for cleaning up after trimming, and before block sanding.
Hot glue gun - This was needed to temporarily tack down glue blocks and jig blocks for making the large curves of the sign and arch.
Shims - Cedar shake shims work very well since the are a variety of widths, and a large bundle costs very little. Very convenient for getting edges and faces to meet flush while gluing.

 This whole project I thought was going to take some 8-9 panels of 4x8' blue extruded foam board. Lets call that a slight miscalculation, as in reality I needed 15 panels to do the whole thing, 5 alone just to do the doors.

 To start with, pieces of foam were cut to make the base and capstones for the pillars.
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 Once all the pieces were cut, they were assembled into the sections using the urethane glue. Each edge and or face to be glued was wetted with water from a mister, then glue applied, placed together, and then secured temporarily with packing tape. As each module was finished, it was allowed to dry for 1.5 hours minimum, typically sitting for 4 hours. Once cured or set, I would come back with the click knife, extended as long as it can go (this knife has a blade about 3/8" wide) which is roughly 4", and I would trim all the excess glue, which now looks like expanded great stuff.
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 All the foam cut for the base, capstones, and pillars, and an assembled base stone that is just been glued and taped for curing.

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 Just some pics showing the items needed to glue the foam together.

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 An assembled capstone waiting to have the top plate glued in place, and a finished capstone being cleaned of excess glue, and formed a bit with the surform. Once the bulk of the material is removed from gluing, I would surform the pieces a bit to get the seams flush, then use either a piece of scrap foam or a sanding block to give me the finished shape, which was typically just rounding the corners and edges.

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 Here is the stack of glued base and capstones that are in various stages of progress.

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 The pieces parts for making the brick pillars. I chose to economize by making the pillars from 2 sheets rather than 4, but cutting them from the width, instead of the length, and then gluing the extra length need on from the scrap of the second sheet. This glue makes it a breeze to make LARGE pieces, as you will see further on. Also a shot of the pieces glued and waiting to cure.

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 A close up of the seams and how they are set up for gluing, note the aluminum underneath to prevent them from being glued to the table top. Next is a shot of some finished panels before gluing together into the pillar form.

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 Here is a few pictures of the pillar construction. As you can see, the foam board from Home Depot gets abused and warped, so some tape was used to maintain a nice even distance along the length.

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 Much of the work was done concurrently, until flat work surfaces ran out.

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 This is a shot of making the template using the home-made compass. Making the template for the sign was tricky, considering the sign is 9' across. I tried using one of those craft projectors to allow me to trace the lettering onto the craft paper (very difficult in a work shop full of items). While doing this juggling contest, it occurred to me to use good old geometry and a giant home-made compass (you can cut a thin strip of luaun plywood and drill holes to your needed distances, pinning one end (used a drywall screw) and inserting a sharpie in the other) to make the sign outline, then just adjust the paper to the projected image to get the lettering to scale. Just after finishing that method one of the Halloween-L folks suggested a program called Poster7, this probably would have worked out well, but the sign template was complete.

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 Once the template was drawn, it was trimmed of excess and used to trace the pattern onto the foam. Since the sign was so large, the sign parts were made in halves, and then the sections glued together to form the whole face.

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 Here you see the pieces being glued together, note how they are stacked to save time and space. The next shot shows some trimmed walls and end strips about 5" wide. Due to the nature of the arc of the sign, it wasn't necessary to slot the inner surface of the foam to make the bend, since it was rather large compared to the 3D tombstones. However it was necessary to make support/gluing blocks, and jig blocking to hold it all steady.

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 First place small blocks on the exterior of the curve with hot glue to the table top, not the face piece, that is to have a wall attached to it (
second picture) that are tall enough to catch the bottom edge of the wall piece. Glue one more on the opposite side (as seen on the extreme right of the first picture) to hold the whole thing in place, since the force applied bending the foam to fit will make the whole setup want to slide away. 

 Use a pair of nice sturdy weights to hold things as you progress. 1 gallon paint cans full will do nicely in a pinch, and any haunter worth their salt will have many oops cans from the hardware stores on hand. 

 After the retaining blocks are in place, use 1 weight to hold the very end of the wall in place, and hot glue a block of foam onto the face piece to hold the curve of the wall (see first picture above), allow it to cool, and then adjust your weight to form the curve of the wall appropriately as you go along, hot gluing more blocks to maintain the form. 

 Once you have all the interior gluing blocks in place, remove the wall piece of foam, wet it and apply the urethane glue, then bend the wall back into place, and secure with packing tape. Shim if needed to make faces meet. Once all is taped, and shimmed, I like to apply another bead of PUG and then spray all exposed seams with the water bottle to facilitate curing. You can see how this looks in the photo below. The sign was set aside to let it fully cure before installing reinforcement, lights, and hooks for hanging.

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 A few tools used to create the brick facades on the pillars. Initially I made the grooves that would define the bricks and serve as mortar with the wood burning tool using the temperature controller for finesse control. Once the brick patterns were made the pillars were stood upright, and sprayed with water from the squirt bottle. I then took a propane torch and with a pretty light flame worked across the surface of the pillar pitting it much like rough brick face. 

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 After the initial pass on each face, I went back over the mortar joints with the torch to rough up the brick edges a bit, followed by adding a spreader to the torch tip, rewetting the pillars and making another pass over them again with the spreader tip.

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 You can see a side by side comparison of a finished and unfinished pillar in the pictures above.

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 With the pillars surfaced and waiting to dry off, and be painted, it was on to the sign again, which at this point has had the lights installed (rope lights) reinforcing strips of luaun ply along the top wall, the hanger hooks and the other face glued in place. I thought I had taken pictures of this, but cannot locate them, they will be added if I ever come across them. In these pictures you can see the template has been applied, and with a rotozip type bit in the dremel and the router base attached, the letters have been cut out. 
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 You can see a shot with the room lights off, and the rope lights illuminated. The other picture is just of the sign primed and waiting to be moved to the paint room. You can see the base and capstones in the background, along with some reference pictures of rock structures with cracks in them for creating the cracks in those pieces with the wood burner tool.

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 This picture is the back of the sign built earlier, in the paint room after being coated with a rust color paint and then roller topped with flat black to give the impression of a rusted iron sign. It was finished off with a blast of gray paint shot into the air over the sign, with the sign standing up, finely atomized from my HVLP sprayer to give it the appearance of dust/dirt settling over it over time.  You can see the cylinder of the in progress corpse coffin flailer mechanism just behind the sign, to the left of the yellow mig welder.

 Here is the completed sign hanging in place during the 2003 haunt.

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 In these shots, the framing is being made and installed in the pillar components. Since I have to hinge the gates, the structure needs to have some support to hold the gates on, to hold the sections together (
it is modular for easier moving and storage), for wiring connections to be mounted to, and something substantial to anchor the whole assembly to the ground with.

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 Here you can see the base stones have been sculpted with cracks, and paint being applied. The cracks all got undercoated in flat black, with the rest of the base and cap stones being undercoated in a sage color.

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 Remember the brick pillars being sculpted and textured?? the one on the left has been base painted, and the one on the right has the mortar and some tones added to it. The finished brick had some 6 colors on it in a variety of methods of application, from flat out total coverage (base coat), high area roller applications, dry brushing, sponging, and finally aging with wetting down the pillars and applying black paint with s detail roller, then going back after a 5 or so minutes of drying time and using a spray bottle to force the paint to creep and run, making the brick (
and base/capstones), look they had been outdoors for a long time. The other picture is after using the HVLP on a very coarse spray setting to speckle the base and capstones with a sandstone/cream color. The cracks shown earlier will be enhanced later when I apply the aging (look for that finish in the final shot in the series). Amazing how the dark sage color really is no longer obvious, but gives a great tinge to the pieces.

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 Halves of the main arch before the are glued end t end to make the faces of the arch, and slotted 18" strips 8' long for making the upper and lower walls of the arch. Since the walls are so wide, they wouldn't cooperate with the arc of the arch and had to be slotted to permit the foam to be bent enough to make the form. I explain this technique on the tombstones page.

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 The same technique described to make the sign is used here to make the arch. The other picture is a montage to give you a rough idea of the size of the arch, since it is almost 14' end to end, and just under 6' tall completed.

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 The first picture is a shot showing the other face being applied and some of the clamping used to hold this monster together. Yes, I said clamping, granted its foam board, but if you use some stiff material like wood shims or in this case, plexi scraps, then you distribute the clamping pressure to a wider area without damaging the item. 

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 First picture shows the door components being prepped for gluing. Each gate door has 2 of these making a sandwich to hold the bars, and the gate hinge supports. In the second picture you can see the both whole door panels curing. I used the paint cans to add weight to prevent the packing tape from pulling the boards too much out of the flat position.

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 The first picture shows the template for cutting out the skull face from the door taped in place waiting to go. This was produced with the
Poster7 software mentioned earlier. The entire pair of doors template was made from 285 sheets of 8.5x11" paper taped together. Considering the doors are 4'-9" x 10'-6" tall, I thinks its pretty reasonable. The second shot shows the negative sections of the skull cut out. This was done with a rotozip bit in a dremel mounted in a router base. I found that the bit was long enough so that by taping 2 door panels together, you could get the pattern into the second layer, without having to trace it from the first after the fact. This made it pretty quick to prep and cut the second section of door.

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 This shot shows the bars and the hinge support/door stiffener in place before gluing on the other panel to make a sandwich of the works. All the areas for the bars were routed out so the bars would each be nested half way in each panel. In the other picture the panels have been glued together and taped just about everywhere to hold it all together while PUG cures. While that was going on we took advantage of the time and painted the bars black. After that was done, I cut sections of foam pipe insulation and covered the bars, and sprayed the doors with the light brown base coat of paint. The pipe insulation protected the bars from the brown paint, and were stripped off in moments. This was a good cheap mask to protect the bars. After that, the doors will sculpted with a pneumatic die grinder to give it the appearance of being made of wood boards and then be grained (
not done yet, ran out of time, in the dark, no one knew).

 With the door base painted it is time to make grooves for the appearance of seperate boards being used to comprise the door assemblies. The first step is to measure out the doors and then snap chalk lines on them to get the basic orientation. If you view the picture large you can make out the chalk lines on the door.

 Once done, I used 2 soldering irons to melt the grooves into the foam. First a line to get the basic groove to follow using a standard weller 100 watt soldering iron, the pistol variety (
probably could skip this step). 

 Next a heavy groove was made using a lead window iron (approx. 300 watts) making all the panel divisions on both sides of the door. These grooves get painted in black to provide depth and imply the seperate planks. A nice thing about this step is it takes advantage of dings and blemishes by adding that aged look to the grain of the wood. I dragged a hammer, boards and swung chain lightly onto the foam before graining.

 Now the sections get painted with the grain color, and let to set for about 2-5 minutes, you want the paint not to wet, and really its easiest just smearing on  in a few spots and then wiping into the whole area leaving a very thin coat. Using a graining tool (
most paint stores and art supply places sell em) drag the length of the plank rocking the graining tool back and forth to alter the consistency of the graining. If you don't like the results, just paint right back over it and do it again! To cover each section, the graining tool went 4 or so passes down the length, with the paint still damp, it just blends together. For more depth, you could use areas of lighter or darker colors on the base coat.

 Here is a picture of one door side completely grained.

 This last shot is of Scott, who helped me tons with this project, next to the pillars for scale, just before we took the down for tweaks and storage for the off season.

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 I wish I had a shot of the project as it stood on Halloween night (see below, as I have recieved pics from folks who got some ok shots of the gate)

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 But almost as soon as the ToTers stopped coming, the wind kicked up, and I hadn't secured the arch to the pillars, and dreaded the arch and sign coming crashing down to the ground. 

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 Just before we took it apart, a blazer pulls in the end of the driveway and just sits there for about 5 minutes, lights on and motor running. A few of us walk on down to see what the deal is, a guy and his girlfriend out, and introduce themselves. They tell us they have been driving by the house the last few halloweens, since they like what I have been doing. Then he asks if the pillars have always been here and if he somehow never noticed them? I said, nope we just put the up a few hours ago. He then asked how we got them to look like old construction. Thats when i told him its not stone or brick, but rather foam board. He refused to believe me for a few minutes until I told him to rap on the brick with his knuckles. He just about lost it laughing and asked if he could help out next year, that this was the coolest thing and couldnt imagine how he had missed the pillars for years, that he thought he had been losing his mind. 

 Parting pictures from 2003 haunt gate installation.

 I didnt learn my lessson in 2002, and in 2003 the gate had a major disaster. An evening shower rolled in, a breeze kicked up and toppled the whole gate structure, , the arch, demolished, the sign, just scuffed, the pillars cracked, but repairable, and one gate was broken into pieces, the other a small crack.

 This got me to thinking and for next year, I have a beter mothod of anchoring and connecting everything together to make it more structurally sound....details to come!

Look for updates as I tweak the design. I have yet to photograph the wiring, the hinge assemblies, the finished doors, or the finished archway.

If you have any questions about this project be sure to send me an email

Construction of the fence from 2001 
Tombstone and 3D foam working techniques.
Some grave marker pics from the local cemetery for reference.

watch out!
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