Look, I’m not about to dog on anyone that goes out and buys a ton of pre-made products for their haunted house or haunted yard. Heck, we proudly build and sell our own animatronic skeletons and other scary creatures every single day. But there’s something magical about rolling up the sleeves on your stained hooded sweatshirt and getting your hands covered in fake blood. As the punk community says: D.I.Y. or DIE!
But seriously folks – we know not everyone is too handy with a hammer or great at using pneumatic cylinders and we respect that. Still, we always try to encourage all of our customers to challenge themselves and learn something about making Halloween props. One of the best places to start is by carving haunted house scenery like gravestones and statues using foam. It’s a lot cheaper to mess up a thing of foam rather than to accidentally set fire to an animated werewolf prop.
TYPES OF FOAM:
There’s three types of insulation foam that is used in carving Halloween props – blue foam, pink foam, and white foam. The only real difference between blue and pink foam is that the blue foam is made by Dow and the pink foam is made by Owens Corning. A lot of people tend to lean towards the blue foam as if your prop gets dinged up, you’ve got a slightly less noticeable blue color showing rather than pink. You can find the blue and pink insulation foam at any home supply store like Lowe’s or Home Depot.
The white foam is simply Styrofoam. Typically found in craft stores, it differs in the way that it’s a little cheaper but slightly harder to work with. In our experience, it’s also more susceptible to chipping and flaking, although there are products you can use to coat white foam to make it more durable, like Foam Coat.
WHAT YOU NEED:
In order to make your neighbors and friends think you’ve completely lost it by spending hours carving tombstones, you’ll need a few things.
We already covered this just a minute ago. Remember? Blue and pink. And white. Stay away from the white Styrofoam. And for god’s sake, don’t eat it. And don’t ever put it in the microwave.
A hot knife is essential for carving foam. Think of it as a drill, saw, and slicer all in one. As foam is used in anything from carving gargoyles to carving an entire cave environment, there are different sized knives (pictured is the Industrial 6″ Hot Knife). The Hot Knife also resembles what is commonly referred to as a “prison shank”. But just like us, you’ve never been to prison so you don’t know about that. Right? Right.
An engraver is exactly what it looks like it is for. Engraving your name across the foreheads of the people who treated you poorly while you were in prison together. And making artful inscriptions and details into your foam graveyard props, I guess. We carry two types: the Long Engraver and the Precision Engraver.
This is a tool that is used for sneaking up behind people and strangling them like in mobster movies. And it cuts through foam using broad, sweeping motions – like a ballerina. A variation on the sculpting tool, called a Freehand Router, uses a wire that you can mold into any shape that you choose.
If you’re into getting fancy, there’s also combination tables available that have multiple tools incorporated into them, like the 3D Deluxe 24″ Table and the 3D Pro 16″ Table. And if you have to cut into a giant piece of foam or make lunchmeat out of an elephant, we’ve got you covered with these huge bow cutters.
Once you’ve got your everything carved just the way you want it, you get the joyful task of painting your halloween prop. Traditional spray enamel paint, however, will wreck your prop by melting the foam – which can be handy if you want your foam to look corroded or decaying. Your best bet is to apply latex/water-based paints before attempting to use any enamel.
If you’re still reading this, it’s probably because you saw that image up top and said, “man, I want to make something like that.” While I could spend probably a few weeks wrecking tons of foam and infuriating the rest of FrightProps, I’m just going to link you to a video done by someone far more talented than any of us.
For your viewing pleasure, I present the Revenge Tombstone Prop, by Terra (ScaryLadyVideos)
Got any foam carving tips? Want to share a video of some scary haunted house props you’ve made? Want to just get in touch with us and make fun of our scraggly winter beards? Drop us a line on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.