Countdown to Halloween Day One - Cryptastic Start

I've been a terrible regular blogger for a long time, but not a terrible Halloween lover. This is the month I thrive creatively in. So counting down to the big day seems a good time of year to force myself into getting back to regular posting.

Working on the Home and Family show on the Hallmark Channel for the past 3 years has given me one great perk... when Halloween time comes around I get to design and influence some of the DIY segments we showcase. Not because of my 20 plus years experience working in TV, but because producer's know Halloween is my beloved holiday ( and I might stake them in the heart if questioned ).

Our October 1st show today featured making a fun CRYPT walk through facade for your front lawn. It was made in less than a day and was a great project to kick off the season.

Here's the quick sketch I made to sell the idea.

How-To here

Greatest Disney Pin Ever Made

One of my prop assists, Robin, went to Disneyland last weekend and brought back a Disney pin he thought I might like...

Halloween and Star Wars and Disney combined? Well played Robin, well played. You've gained your boss's favor... for now.

Humbug Sketching

So this time last year, elves and reindeer preoccupied my sketching time. This December I've rediscovered a love for Dickens' A Christmas Carol. I think you'll see a lot more doodles in the coming weeks inspired by.

Sawhorse Reindeer How-To

This sawhorse reindeer is a fairly easy Christmas' decoration to make. It's not an original idea, similar ones have been around for years, but it's my take on it. I hope it gives anyone who makes it the amazing instant creative satisfaction feeling I got once done. Ignoring the time painting, was completed in less than an hour.

- A wooden sawhorse. I used a Burro Brand one. They are inexpensive and easy to find at most big box hardware places.
- Jigsaw
- Drill/driver
- Sander/ sandpaper
- Pencil
- Ruler/Tape Measure
- Plywood with a nice clean finish. I used 1/2" thick Poplar.
- Paint and colors of choice. I used both latex house paint for base color and craft paint for detail colors.
- 10 - 12 Small "L" brackets. 3/4" x 3/4" ones worked for me.
- Short wood screws for brackets (less than the thickness of your wood)
- Eyes. I used large buttons, but you could paint on if want.
- Exterior grade clear varnish. Anything your comfortable using would work. Spray or brush-on.
- Wood glue (OPTIONAL)  This is designed to be a temporary assembly for the holidays so you can take apart and store easily, plus use sawhorse as really intended later, but you can make a permanent prop just by adding wood glue to any of the steps below.

Step 1 - Print out the templates I drew up ( see below). I grid them out so you upscale onto plywood by drawing a larger grid on. Trace the pattern on the plywood and cut out with jigsaw. Be sure to cut out the notches in the head and on the antler carefully (these are 1/2" thick. if you use thicker or thinner plywood redraw notch that thickness). Sand all the rough edges.

Click on images to enlarge.

Step 2 - Attach head and tail to appropriate ends of your sawhorse using "L" brackets.

Step 3 - Place the antlers on by sliding it's notch onto the head notch.

Step 4 - Paint and decorate the way you want. Have fun, on my first take I added a red ornament for a nose (see below). Clear coat if needed for exterior use.

The Millenium Falcon!

I actually welled up seeing the Falcon fly again. The music, the sound of it's engines, TIE fighters!!!!!

I'm probably gonna ball like a baby when we actually see Han and Chewie at the controls once more, I just know it.

New Set Room Color

We're painting a room on our set a new color. The perfect color wanted did not exist in any paint swatch book. I sent my prop assist Tara to Sherwin Williams to get the wanted perfect color custom made. They created it, but needed a name for the color for their records.

Tara secured her job now and forever officially calling the color "Temple of Doom".

This Old Prop

I'm honored. Someone's website this past month had included one of my old specimen jar prop projects to a list of DIY ideas for creating a Halloween haunted house. Who's website? Oh just legendary home improvement icon Bob Vila's. The full list here.

Countdown to Halloween Day 30 - The Finished "Haunt" and Family Yard

The "Home and Family" show's set front yard decor is done. You may remember I posted about the plan for it a few weeks back (click here). Although most of the prop projects had been completed throughout the month, the finished display was literally set up and dressed in just a few hours one night last week. Not only with my amazing prop crew, but I also talked some equally amazing Halloween haunter friends to come by and help - Derek of Van Oaks Cemetery, Lydia and Andy Rella of Mourning Rose Manor, and Jasper of Mr. Chicken Props. Thank you all.

And as I've mentioned in past posts, I no longer have my own home to decorate, so the day job has kept the haunt flame alive for me.

Here's the initial design sketch.

For the video of the finished yard reveal on the show click HERE ( I had it embedded once but discovered it would automatically play. Got rid of, thought that might be annoying for all visiting the blog).

Pics of the finished yard.

Countdown to Halloween Day 28 - Zombie Windows DIY

The Zombie Apocalypse has finally happened. What do ya do first? Board up all your exposed windows of course. Then worry if your brains are tasty.

Sorry I've been an irregular Halloween blogger this year, but here's a full blown prop "how-to" post to make up for it. This is a cheap, easy and super fast project. Perfect if your haunt needs last minute details or you want some extra decoration inside for a party this Friday night.

How fast and easy? Well... I created these Zombie windows to cover our set's french door area in little over 4 hours today.

Step 1 - Get yourself lots of black foam core board. Cut boards to cover windows atleast a 1/4" - 1/2" wider. These will be the main support and create the blacked out areas. Once done, set aside to be used later. If it takes more than one board to cover your window it's okay, you can seam them together easily (explained later).

Step 2 - Making wood planks. These are cut strips of foam core. Why cheap foam core planks? To keep light and easily hung temporarily in windows of course (you could also use thicker foam or real wood, but this worked for me on this project). Cut irregular widths and lengths. Forget the ruler, going for that old distressed look. I also cut exaggerated cartoony notches at the end of planks to help sell it.

Step 3 - Painting. Trying to pass off foam core as wood planks requires a really decent faux finish. I used a wood grain paint tool, you can find these at most paint or craft stores. If you don't have one, get one. A handy tool in any prop making arsenal.

First I painted a board with a thinned coat of grey paint (1 part water/ 3 parts paint).

Quickly, while the paint was fresh and wet, I dragged the tool across to create grain. If you've never used one, practice a bit. Varying the angle of the curve while dragging creates unique knots and other natural wood grain textures. Tip - keep a rag handy. The wood grain tool can get gunked up with paint after several passes ruining the effect. So wipe it clean often.

Second tip - Once your planks are painted, they may curl a bit, this is because the drying shrinks the paper surface of the foamcore on that side. If happens, lightly wet the back with sponge or brush and the curl will flatten out some when that dries.

Step 4 - The fun part. Once planks dry, start arranging them on the window black out boards the way you like. Once set, just hot glue in place. If you have boards that need seaming, hot glue a plank across the seam to bridge them together.

Step 5 - Details. On the black areas between planks glue on store bought skeleton arms and hands as if breaking through. If needed, cut the base of them flat to glue more securely on board. I painted all mine green for a classic cartoon zombie look and so would "pop" against the darker boards. I also lightly dusted the bottom of each arm/hand with flat black spray paint so would blend in with the black void better and help suggest emerging from shadow.

I also added Zombie eyes. These were Ping Pong balls cut in half. I painted them yellow and used a Sharpie to create pupils and a neon green paint pen for color. Quick and easy.

And for extra detail, I used a silver paint pen to dot on nail heads where planks connected.

Step 6 - Hanging it up.  On the back of the board hot glue a length of picture hanging wire. On the window attach a suction cup hook. Hang Zombie board on hook. Done!

They're ya go. My project was constrained by time and budget, but I hope all reading this will take this basic build and get inspired to make your own and improve on.