I love, love, love decorating for holidays. And since Halloween is my favorite it's the one that makes me go the most nuts.
Usually I have to make do with store bought decorations and as many lights as I can hang, but this year I held Nico to a promise he made last year. (This is a super good tactic for dealing with "no" - instead of arguing for this year, just ask "Can we do it next year?" and then be sure to remember for next year. I'm cashing in on so many promises! Wait'll you see the Christmas lights we put up on the house!) And got myself some DIY, handmade, hand cut, super legit, will last forever, wood (because duh we're a woodshop) gravestones.
It's a pretty easy DIY that doesn't require tooooo too many supplies. But. You will need a machine that can cut plywood into gravestone shapes (in a pinch, you can use a handsaw from the hardware store). And some muscles to stake the "stones" into the ground.
Click "Read More" to make your very own set. Spook all the neighbors! Get the most trick-or-treaters ever!
- A piece of plywood. It should be 1/4" thick and about a third of a sheet (43" wide by 36" tall, or less if you're making fewer gravestones). Each gravestone will be about 19" x 12" and you want to try to fit as many as possible on the least amount of wood to save $$$.
- Three long, thin pieces of wood to make the stakes. We used some scraps we had in the shop that were about 1-2" thick and 12" long.
- Something to cut the wood into a gravestone shape - we used a bandsaw. You might be able to use a simple handsaw if you don't have a machine. Just cut out rectangles for each gravestone and then trim away bits to make the top corners round.
- Measuring tape
- Paint. I mixed black (acrylic), white (interior latex), and silver (acrylic) paints to get the gravestone gray because that's what I had on hand. You could also just buy gray paint.
- Paint brushes. A big one for painting the stones gray and a little one for adding "R.I.P."
- Face mask (if painting indoors)
- Drop cloth
- Screws and screw-gun (or nails/nail-gun)
- Sandpaper (120 or 150 grit)
- Miter box (optional)
Because this is an outdoor, for-holiday-use-only project they don't have to be perfect headstone shapes. The lines you draw can be wobbly ones - no one will look close enough to see.
As you can see in the photo I copied a styrofom gravestone that I bought last year (it blows over in the wind, which drives me crazy). Using this as a template, I drew three gravestones on the piece of wood - each 19" tall (with about a 1-2" decline on either side) and 12" wide.
We used a bandsaw because it allowed us to cut very close to the drawn lines, quickly and easily. The cuts weren't perfect and we didn't bother correcting the flaws. After all, it's a gravestone. Maybe the imperfections are like the crumbly bits that happen when headstones get really old.
Each stake should have a sloped bottom end so it's easier to slam it into the ground. If you're getting a handsaw, might as well grab a miter box, too. Just lay the stake against one corner of the miter box and cut it at 45 degrees. It doesn't even matter which way you cut the angle, any way will make a sharp enough stake for our purposes.
The gravestones don't have to be perfect, but they also shouldn't be dangerous. So sand down the edges and any rough spots. We used 120 grit paper.
After all, you don't want to give yourself splinters when you carry them outside year after year.
We screwed our stakes into the back of the gravestone pieces using a screw gun. We used two screws per stake, placing the screws about 1" up from the bottom and 5" up from the bottom. It doesn't have to be perfect - we eyeballed it. If you do this step before painting, you can drive the screws through the face of the gravestone and the paint will cover them right up.
If you're mixing colors (white, black, and silver) like I did, make sure to use the most white (like half a keg cup) and then add the other colors (in dollops, mixing as you go). It's much harder to lighten dark colors than it is to darken light ones.
From there it's just a matter of slopping the paint on. I only needed one coat of paint, but you could do two coats if you wanted (you overachiever). I painted the front and back of each because I had lots of paint mixed up and no other gray paint projects in the works.
Let dry for an hour.
Using your pencil write R.I.P. on the gravestones. For the font, I Google image searched gravestones and copied one I liked (something like this). I wrote it freehand, but I'm sure you could trace lettering printed off the internet if that's how you like to work. You can also add names and dates if you're feeling really crafty (I wasn't).
Then go over the pencil lines with black paint and a thin paint brush. Let the paint dry for an hour.
Drill them into the ground using all of your muscles. The stake should be completely buried in the ground. We put them in a row of three close to the house - close enough that neighborhood brats (who smashed our beautifully carved pumpkins last year) will be deterred from stealing them.