September 17, 2009

The Mud Man Cometh

This is one of the other projects I tackled this past weekend. My very first Monster Mud (MM) prop... a Grim Reaper.

Believe it or not, this prop started out to be Rose and wasn't going to be made of MM.

Due to not yet having the proper materials to start out with, horribly improvised framing of the armature and "too many chefs spoiling the brew", I decided to change the design and give it to my buddy, Tony, as "compensation". He's been helping me with some of the haunt building and tools, so I figured it was only fair to get him a nice prop. Also, he's been dying to see the MM in action ever since I first told him about it. I'll be making another, but this Rose is now a Reaper.

He'd already supplied the parts for the "frame" (and I use the term very loosely). It's some kind of stand at the bottom made from thin metal rod with a metal tube up the middle, some kind of fat metal rod shoved into that for a "spine", then what I think were old tent poles for shoulders and arms, a chest wrapped in two old pillows and some duct tape. Basically, stuff he had laying around his house. Then we hung some poultry screen over that, padded the shoulders and chest with some scrap foam and then wrapped it all in some clear pallet wrap he had around. There might be some bubble wrap in the arms too.

I didn't think the frame would support the weight. Seriously. It was ugly.

But, it got the job done.

We got some joint compound, ten yards of 48" burlap and some black spray paint. I bought a hollow plastic skull at Fred Meyer (because it wasn't going to be in MY yard. HA!) and some stuff we'll use for hands later. We had several half cans of latex paint laying around so we just mixed it in. The paint wasn't black enough, so we threw in some black tint. Not the prettiest mixture in the world, but it worked.

We got the burlap mudded and hung with much grunting and groaning. I did learn that you definitely need an extra set of hands (if not two extra sets) when coating burlap in the MM. The stuff gets pretty damn heavy and you need the extra hands to strain out the excess mud. Not to mention draping it over a tall frame. I now see the appeal of smaller props. It's over 6½ feet tall, so it was a bit of a chore, but should look pretty imposing to a trick-or-treater.

We chose to go with a cleaner, untattered appearance so it would look like a robe or cloth. We refrained from dry-brushing it as well to keep it from looking like stone. I managed to get some decent folds in the material and whipped up a quick chicken wire "cowl" for the hood to drape over. After that, we just let the mud dry and then hit it with some black spray paint. It'll get hands and a scythe next week.

All in all it came out fairly well for a first effort. My buddy definitely digs it and wants to build more.

"Next year", I said, "for the House."

Kind of a shame really. It turned out pretty good and won't even be in my haunt. But it was well worth the experience and I know it'll have a good home in my buddy's yard.

I'll definitely be adding some of my own next year.

Candle, Candle Burning Bright...

Building and repair of the Haunt has commenced!

I thought I'd share one of the smaller, yet larger, projects to take on this year. That project was the faux candles that came with the haunt from Skull and Bone.

I say smaller in that, typically, PVC candles aren't very big.

I say larger by virtue of sheer numbers.

The originals from Rob were cut, grouped in some cases, and then slather-coated with "Fix-All" which is a powder that, when mixed with water, forms a sort of plaster. It bulked out the straight PVC pipe and made them look "softer". Some were also filled with Great Stuff to build up the inside and form a "shelf" for the tea lights to sit on.

Years of use and weathering had caused many of them to become brittle and unstable. During the transporting of the haunt a good many of them essentially shattered and I was left with bare pipes and piles of plaster chips. Some came apart just picking them up as the plaster makes them heavy and some of the groups weren't wired or otherwise bound together first. Many, however, did escape harm and were reusuable with the plaster mostly intact.

So, I've spent the better part of the week cleaning off bad spots, clearing out the insides, replastering, adding hot glue "drips", adding foam inserts and painting eighty-six PVC candles.

Yep. Eighty-six.

About 24 hours combined, 6 cans of spray paint, a half-gallon of acrylic ceramic tile adhesive, approximately 100-4" and 80-10" hot-glue sticks, a few lengths of sliced foam pipe-wrap for tea light shelves, and two numb and swollen hot-glue gun trigger-fingers later... I'm pretty pleased with the results.

The originals were "smoother", but I wanted to add detail by giving them more pronounced drips. I may have gone a little overboard, but I like them slightly exaggerated. Plus, they are all much more stable and durable now and should last for many years.

Now I only have to get about 30 more tea lights. =\

Work on the haunt continues apace.