AZ Haunter Awards Tombstone Trophies

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Sometime in 2018 the decision was made to have a contest among AZ Haunters to recognize their dedication to the art of haunting. The details and results can be read HERE and HERE.

To have a contest, we needed a prize. But, what kind of trophy would be suitable? Some kind of skeleton to put on the mantle, perhaps? A Jack o' Lantern? Maybe a certificate? I decided to make tombstones as prizes/trophies so the winners could display them with pride.

Ah, but then how to make them? They needed to be something that said "I'm a Winner", but also "I'm part of AZ Haunters!". I needed something much more professional looking than I could pull off with a soldering iron and a razor. Enter the laser.

HeatSync Labs has been a wonderful partner to AZ Haunters for many years. They have a laser cutter! I was certified on the laser a few years back, but never did anything with it. So, I brought my ideas to the lab and enlisted the ever helpful David Flores.

Together we created the design and uploaded it into the computer. Then we commenced to cutting and etching the 1" blue extruded foam on the laser. Here's the initial result:

It took a few tries to get the etching just deep enough without losing too much detail in the logo. I ended up using the side with actual printing on it for one, which turned out to not be ideal. Once painted and coating with Drylok, though, it was invisible.

I thought I took a bunch of process pics, but I can't find them. I took the tombstones and carved 12" long by 1/2" wide trenches in the sides that would end up inside the tombstone. I created a little jig so I could carve them 4 times (inside front and inside back on both stones) and have them be exactly the same distance apart. When I sandwiched the two halves together, I had space to insert 1/2" PVC pipes 12" long inside the tombstone to support the rebar. I really need to just make a hot wire foam cutter. This would have been so much easier. C'est la vie.

I glued the PVC and the two halves in place by spraying expanding foam in the trenches and around the rest of what would be the inside of the sandwich. Then I put the sandwich together and put a heavy box on it for a day or so.

When it was all cured, I used a paintable caulk to seal the line between the two halves. That had the effect of making it look more like one solid piece and keeping out any water.

I did find a picture of the next step, which was simply doing a base coat in a dark gray exterior latex paint.
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For the record, I painted it with the letters upside down first. I find it is a good practice to always start the base coat with the project upside down. That way, I don't miss anything that might be invisible or inaccessible when the project is right side up.

It was at this point I started to worry about the printing on the foam. It's not flat. I could see the letters even though it was a very dark gray. Fortunately, Drylok is thick and in the end, they disappeared.

Drylok is white, or at least the can I bought was white. I did a test coat on the back after the base coat to get feel for the product. I always start painting on the back, even if I have used the product before. Errors matter less.
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Then, I started covering the rest of the stone with a mix of Drylok and paint. By adding more or less paint, I could make the final result as dark or light as I wished. For the front, I started with only a little paint on the brush. I painted the open spaces until the brush was almost dry, then dry brushed over the letters and logo to preserve the details.
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I did three coats of Drylok in this manner. When it was dry, I took a fine brush and repainted any letters or details that had gotten too light with the dark latex paint.
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I did decide to make the final tombstones a fairly light gray. I believe this will allow it to stand out more as-is under whatever lighting is used in the haunt. It also allows the end user to customize with a black or brown wash to make it aged, if that fits their theme better. I had no way of knowing either what haunt would win, nor how they would choose to display it, after all. So, in the tradition of Edna Mode, I covered the basics.

So, there you have it. A couple of trophies for the two first place winners in the first AZ Haunters Awards.
What do you think?