Johannes Highbury Tombstone Prop

I know I should be a lot farther ahead on my 2017 haunt build list, but I figured a quick tombstone prop would be the perfect project to get the juices flowing...

Johannes Highbury, Died October 31, 1738. Morte Perpetua.

In looking at my cemetery tombstone props from previous years' displays, I noticed that unlike a real cemetery, mine had a lot of stones that were roughly the same size and shape. I knew I wanted to start off by adding some new stones of differing sizes and shapes to add visual interest for this year's display. 

I quickly found a photo from an October trip through Mount Hope Cemetery back in 2013.

No clue what this epitaph says, but the shape was really interesting, so I decided to use it for the new stone. I drew up measurements based on the size of a scrap piece of 2" blue foam that was in my garage. I added another member of the Highbury family for the epitaph, Johannes Highbury, and decided that he, along with many other family members, met his fate on All Hallows Eve (I'm currently developing a "Halloween Death Curse" backstory for all the members of the Highbury family buried in the cemetery...).

I started with the tombstone shape and then created an epitaph in Adobe Illustrator. I tiled the printouts at 100%, carefully cut the pieces and taped them all together, and then finally cut out the outer stone shape...

I traced the outer shape onto the tombstone and then cut it out of the foam sheet.

I then coated the backside of the printout with a repositionable (usually purple in color) glue stick, making sure that all of the areas around the lettering stuck firmly to the foam. Once the printout was completely and firmly attached, I began to carve out the letters using my Dremel. Once all the letters and flourishes were cut out, I removed the printout. A lot of small pieces of paper and extra glue globs were still on the foam, so I used a gentle shower setting on my garden hose nozzle (don't use anything harder, as the spray of water could damage the foam!) and sprayed off all the remaining pieces, leaving a clean, carved tombstone. Once dry, I took a sheet of sandpaper and sanded down all the edges, adding weathering, knicks and chips...

After all edges were sanded and the shape was properly weathered, it was time for paint. I stated with a full dark grey coat. This would be primarily for the lettering and any recessed or chipped areas.

When the basecoat was dry, I went back and added a coat of lighter, stone grey to the raised areas. This would help the lettering and chips remain darker and more legible.

For a final bit of detail, I went in with a mossy green color and added a few dry brush "stain" areas around the corners, in the creases, and down the front and back. I find that this little accent really sells the "been outside for over 100 years" moldy look and feel.

When the stone was completely dry, I drilled out the 3/8" hole in the base, inserting a length of 3/8" SharkBite PEX Pipe. When it comes time to display the stone, this piece of pipe will slide over a piece of 5/16" dowel rod that will be driven into the ground, holding the tombstone in place.

*For a more detailed how-to on this step, take a look at my R.M. Renfield Tombstone How-To. I have continually refined my tombstone-making process, and this is now the most efficient method that I use. 

This stone took very little time to complete and I think it turned out great. The unique shape will definitely stand out in a cemetery full of rectangular tombstones and will help my yard display look more authentic. I already have two more stones in progress, now including a tribute to a legend that we just lost. Check back soon, as the creative juices are flowing. I'll be attacking my haunt list with a fury as we rapidly count down the days until the big night!



Memorial plaques said...

Your production is impressive, on the photos it looks like a real stone grave.
I agree that sometimes memorial plaques should be of different shapes. That is what I do at my jobs ( memorial plaques) and I sell book plaques (alike an opened book).

Congratulations for this amazing work ! You paid attention to small details to make it real !!

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