Making Realistic Tombstones

Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year. To celebrate the occasion I try something a bit different each year. This year I had seen some interesting tutorials on making tombstones out of 4×8 foot 2 inch thick foam board. These days my biggest issue with all projects is having the time to complete them; knowing this I started this one in July.

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The first step which I do not have a picture of was to cut the profile out for the tombstones. In our case we found that a single 4×8 sheet had enough material to construct about two whole tombstones. We did multiple layers, my spire tombstone was three layers thick while my wife’s traditional tombstone was two layers thick. Each of the main pieces was also surrounded by a base that was two layers thick as well.

At this point the time had come to put them together. For this I carved a C-channel in between the layers and adhered a piece of PVC pipe with construction adhesive in the channel. The PVC pipe would serve as a guide for the rebar which will hold these stones firmly in the ground.

Notice I left about 1/2″ of PVC pipe exposed. This was to be made flush by a bottom base layer made of wood. I used construction adhesive again to glue all of the layers together.

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Here you can see I’ve cut a bottom sheet of MDF and used a paddle bit to make allowances for the extra 1/2 inch of PVC pipe to sit flush with the bottom edge. I used a heavy dose of construction adhesive again in between where the PVC conduit pokes through the bottom plate.

In the background of this photo you can also see the latex-based Drylock paint that was used as the primer coat for all the tombstones. I lathered this stuff on thick. You can get the white color from Home Depot for about $23/gallon and they’ll even throw some gray pigment in there too if you ask.

You can also see the 2 foot epoxy-coated rebar pieces I picked up from Home Depot as well. These should work well as they’ll provide a little extra protection from rust.

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At this point I used the Stanley Sur-form shaper to even out all the edges and make the layers look as one. I also used a Dremel tool with the 565-02 attachment to make some nice even cuts to carve out the epitaphs for the tombstones. You can use a program like rasterizer to make images or words large enough to cover your tombstone.

With epitaphs carved and everything looking smooth, it was time to put on the first 2 layers of Drylock. You can see the entire family enjoyed this.

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Here is a glamour shot of the first two coats of Drylock complete on the stones. I also slathered Drylock on the underside as well.

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From here I just bought a few darker colors to fill-in the insets and reliefs in the tombstone to make it look a little more realistic. You can get by with a sample can from Home Depot and that should provide enough color for 1-2 tombstones.

Last step is to dig these bad boys into the ground and enjoy!

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