Halloween 2014 - Universal Set Haunt

Pretty excited.

With a little pushing, nagging, and general creative ranting from their humble propmaster, Home and Family producers are now inspired to go all out decorating the set's front yard in true Halloween haunter fashion based on a rough design sketch of mine. The entire month of October will feature weekly DIY segments creating it!

Some projects will be Halloween yard 101 to inspire possible new haunter's. Some will be advanced. Some will be a few old personal haunt projects once posted here redone with a fresh spin and a better tutorial, that I hope bridge 101 and advanced. I guess that means, those would be medium skill then.

Here's the best part for me. We're on the Universal backlot, the trams drive by everyday, the big Universal Halloween Horror Night mazes are close by. So the Home and Family yard display will be connected in a third cousin twice removed kind of way, sort of. Don't crush my delusions of grandeur.

The whole plan will be revealed on the show airing Oct 1st, but here's a sneak peek of the current design sketch. Oh yes, that's a crashed UFO, the one personal Halloween project I never did finish will happen. Producer approved, so it has to now.


Christmas in July

A couple of months back the show I'm working on in cahoots with Hallmark (promoting their new line of ornaments for the year) decided to celebrate Christmas in July for a week.

Here's a video featuring my crew and I transforming our set for the occasion in only a couple of days including a blanket of REAL snow, on top of the fake blanket we put down.


Getting Into The Halloween Spirit

I'm doodling.


Halloween 2014 - First New Prop Part 4

Here's how the gravestone began.

First I used 2 sheets of large foamcore board (30" x 40"). Standard stuff, available at most office supply. If you've followed my blog for awhile, you know foamcore is my "go-to" prop making material. Not that it's the best, it's just what I've grown comfortable using. The same way a chef might have a favorite knife, or a writer has a favorite pencil.

I drew and cut out the shape of the gravestone and basically made a box. The gravestone sides are strips of foamcore scored so they can be bent into a curve. I hot glued it together and used painter's tape as I went along to keep things in place as the glue set up.


Second, I sketched on the eyes and mouth I wanted and cut those out with an X-Acto.


Third, I filled the inside with Great Stuff expanding foam and let dry. Here's a tip, spray bottle misting the foam with water helps speed up it's expansion and drying time.


Now, the combination of the expanding foam and misting created a happy accident that I anticipated and welcomed, The foamcore warped a bit giving the gravestone a more odd and organic shape.

Next, once the foam set up, I sculpted it to make look more natural as if was stone that had broken away.


Then I began to have real fun, cutting out the details and adding cracks with the X-Acto. I also pulled off a lot of the surface paper on the foamcore adding texture.


The Gravestone was then thinly coated with Fix-It-All patching plaster compound tinted with some black india ink making it more grey colored.


Once dry, I went back and added finer cracks (just running a nail through the patching plaster) and sanded edges. Then I started dry brushing with various shades of grey and black washes to bring out details.


Now, with all the added moisture because of the painting, once dry, the gravestone warped more especially at the glue seams and thinner areas I had carved details into. Sometimes it actually split and created gaps. I filled these with ordinary tile grout tinted with some of the paint I was using. The sand in the grout also added some great texture.


Look for Part 5 soon  when I'll be adding the melted candle eyes.

Halloween 2014 - First New Prop Part 3

It hit me that it's not my style to be so secretive and teasing with my prop builds. I was at first because it was a gravestone making contest, but since I'm out of the competition (missed deadline), who cares right?

Mine is based on this really old idea I sketched and posted about years ago ( old post here ).


 This is where the build is at right now.


How I created it this far will be in future posts. Right now I'm working on the tendril arm branches. Which I'm having fun creating, inspired by the work of Pumpkinrot and the late John Wolfe of Seasons of Shadows.


Nowhere near done yet, I'm only finding time to work on for an hour or so every 3 or 4 days. In the meantime, I'll retro-post the "making of" so far over the next week or so.

Halloween 2014 - First New Prop Part 2

I missed the tombstone contest deadline, so I'm out, but I'm still working on. Here's a sneak peek of it so far. Should have done by week's end.

Season Two of Home and Family is Done!


Happy to say season two has wrapped, and I'll be back working on season three in early September. In the meantime, gives me time to rest, work on some personal projects (Halloween stuff perhaps) and blog more.

Halloween 2014 - First New Prop

I'm working on my first new Halloween prop for 2014, and Great Stuff expanding foam is involved. At least one prop every year needs to use it, otherwise it's like a Christmas tree without lights.


It will be a gravestone and my entry in the So Cal Valley Haunters' tombstone making contest.

Today's the deadline, more later, much left to do.

Creative Inspiration: Life Sized GODZILLA Statue

This is seriously a daydream I had as a kid become reality.

I've always loved statues or monuments in public places. I was in 5th or 6th grade and recall playing my small NY suburban neighborhood park wishing it had a statue like the ones in Central Park (in the big city). I remember imagining that statue should be a life sized King Kong or Godzilla.

And to my fellow Halloween enthusiasts, tell me this picture doesn't make you want drop everything your working on and start creating a giant monster for the front lawn this year.


More details and photos about this amazing Godzilla project at Dread Central.

"Home and Family" Concept Sketch Portfolio

Over the past two years on Hallmark Channel's Home and Family show, I've had my paint encrusted hands in small DIY segments and larger set dressing/design projects. Many needed concept sketches to sell the idea.

Here's a portfolio of some of those sketches (some used, some not, some that may be).


I'll be updating this portfolio, as I find more old sketches, and with new art when we come back for season three in October.

"HULK" Sized Action Figure Playset DIY

Imagine this...

You're a kid, and the HULK is your favorite comic book. Then your favorite comic becomes a hit TV series you watch religiously. Then you grow up, and you're told at work you have to come up with a DIY project that not only has to be superhero themed, but something the HULK himself will be apart of.

Yes, that happened to me last week on Home and Family when Lou Ferrigno and Wizard World CEO John Macaluso were guests on the show.

L to R - Lou Ferrigno, The Abomination, John Macaluso.

The project idea sketch.


The finished project.



The DIY itself is pretty well explained in this clip below from the show, and in more detail on the Home and Family website HERE.


In case you're wondering, Lou may be the nicest person I've met. Ever. And one of the few I've ever felt really short standing next to.


Making a Life Sized OPERATION Game - Part Four



To catch up see Part One, Part Two, or Part Three.

When we last left off, the visual elements of the Operation board were done. Now it was time to make it work like the game itself.

And happily I got it to do just that.



Here's how, but first a brief disclaimer  -

Not being a "master of" or "trained in" electronic propmaking, this is what worked FOR ME. I'm not saying here what I did is the best way or the safest. Even though it uses a fairly low wattage set-up, it's still electrical and messing with the wrong way could cause a spark, heat, or bit of a shock. Be safe okay? Always seek the advise of a professional first before attempting any electrical gizmo project if you have no idea what you're doing.

The material/parts needed - Found all at the hardware store and my local Radio Shack.

 Red and Black electric wire. I used 18 gauge.
12 volt battery, a small one used for radio control hobbies.
Alligator clips
Metal foil duct tape. Make sure conductive. A good way to know what your buying is, get the one that says NOT to used near electrical stuff, good sign that it is conductive. 
 Buzzer speaker
Flashlight socket base, and get a bulb for it too.








Large metal BBQ tongs. Being a lifesized Operation game, these will be the tweezers. I got one that also had wood pads on the grip.








Now, wiring it all together.  Here's the final board.


Now imagine it flipped over, backwards. Below is a mockup plan of the wiring on the backside.

The overall plan here is the buzzer, nose light, and body part holes are on one circuit (black wire for positive). The tongs are on another (red wire for negative). The negative circuit (tongs) touching the other positive circuit completes it, and makes the buzzer and light work.

- The edge of each body part hole was lined with the metal tape. The excess width of tape was wrapped onto the back of board. Each hole was then connected to each other with a length of metal tape creating a conductive bridge.

- The flashlight socket was inserted from the back through to where the nose is, both the black and red wire were connected to the metal tape bridge.

- The buzzer was glued onto board and both the black and red wire were added to the metal tape bridge.

- Once all bridged, I ran a single black wire from it to the positive terminal on the battery (easily attached with gator clip).

- The metal tong was connected with red wire to the opposite negative terminal on battery. I also used a bit of metal tape to attach red wire to tongs. I left plenty of lead to allow players to go all around the board (about 8' worth) when they wanted.





In case your wondering- no, no shock touching the bare metal tong while the circuit bridge was complete. The wattage is really low.

Now that the bells and whistles were figured out. I just had to create the boxes under the board to hold the body parts to be removed. It was a bit tedious, but not brain surgery to do. I traced the shape of each hole onto black foamcore. I cut out each shape with an extra 1/2" width around it. I then literally bent, creased, and warped 1" wide strips of cut foamcore around the edges, hot gluing in place. Now each body part had it's own shallow box that was glued onto the back of the board under it's matching shape.

The final detail. Our board's character's glowing red nose.


This was simply a red plastic "ball pit" ball we happened to have in our prop stash that was the perfect size and translucent enough to see light through. I just cut a small hole big enough to slip over the protruding flashlight bulb and hot glued in place.

And so the Operation board making comes to an end. Thankfully it worked flawlessly and became a fun game segment on the show. I'm under orders to save it as it might be used again. There goes taking it home and making it my coffee table.

Left to Right - Mark Steines, Cristina Ferrari, Camilla Luddington (Grey's Anatomy), Dr. JJ Levenstein, Jessie Jayne.