I’m back with another new addition to the Halloween Haunted Trail! Surprised I can still function after writing the last post on a Killer Clown shudder (link here). While I was on the subject of Halloween decorations figured it made sense to go ahead and post about the other decoration that consumed all my spare time leading up to our party. I have to give Pinterest a little bit of credit on this one since someone had pinned a picture of a Grim Reaper decoration. There wasn’t any instructions with it and it really appeared to be more of a professional prop than a DIY. That picture sparked an idea of creating something similarly themed.
What do you think? I basically leveraged some of the clown structure ideas but the bulk of the frame was a lot simpler. Linda slipped a bit on standards for her decoration night shots and ended up clipping the right eye on although it does look pretty sinister – just know that it does indeed have two glowing eyes. It is also pretty tall – forgot to measure it before I put it away, but it is up there!
Like last time, hit the jump if you want to see how this was designed and constructed
Okay, to no surprise, this particular decoration also came as a result of a training run. I wasn’t happy with the set of pictures taken during the development so went ahead and took another batch as I was deconstructing it after the party. Once again I wanted a base so it would freestand in my basement while I was building it. For the most part it is the same base as the clown, but a little larger in size due to the height and I ended up cutting in a second T to keep it from falling forward. The long pole is the main vertical post to support the reaper shoulders and head. The U shaped construction went into the two T’s on the base helping to stabilize frame.
Here it is assembled from the front. Without the extra support coming off the base it was leaning way forward due to the weight of the accessories and the angle of the arms.
Here is the side view so you can see how the back went together – note I purposely tilted it backward since I knew the reaper was going to be forward heavy. The same black Rust-Oleum Plastic paint was used to cover those areas that were going to be exposed on the decoration. This allows it to blend into the dark of the night. The ground was less than level where it was going to go so ended up sinking a metal stake in the ground and zip tying the upright support to it. It was windy out and the last thing we wanted to happen was to have it fall and injure anyone.
Here is a quick shot of the paints used. The fancy paint on the right will be talked about later in the project.
The easy part of the decoration is done now. Things get a little more complicated with the next step. In an effort to provide a support for the reaper’s hood I started by laying out a basic shape on the floor. For starters I needed a T connector to hook it to the support frame and two other T’s to use for the base of the hood. 45;’s were a natural next step followed by a decision on how wide to make the head based on the length of the straight sections hooked into them. Another four 45’s sets the angle for the top portion of the hood. Finishing it off took some serious noodle time. The key to the hood was to provide depth in order to sink the eyes deep inside for an eerie look. To do that I needed some way to form the point at the back of the hood. What to do, what to do. Cutting to the chase I fought with this for about 30 minutes until an idea popped into the head. The hood structure only needed it to visually LOOK like it was a hood – it didn’t necessarily have to physically look like one. This opened up a few options, the best one was to simply provide a means to hook in holders for supports. That meant a couple more T’s had to be inserted into the top. Two more 45’s closes the loop. For the geometry experts out there, you probably noticed that the angles don’t exactly line up on the top portion. You will need to force one of the sides in a bit to get it to close – either glue it our use the wire pins I detailed in the previous post to keep everything locked in place.
.. and here is what it looks like from the front. Oh, I also added some shoulders and 45 degree connectors to hold the arm structures.
Next up was to finish the hood structure. To give the hood a point look I added to 45’s to give the upward shape. From there two more straights provided the desired structure – just angled them until they nearly touched. For ease I used two end caps and drilled two holes in each to feed 12 gauge wire through. From there I simply provided the desired length and wrapped them around two tea lights I found at a dollar store!
Just adding a side shot here to show how they properly angle up to hold up the hood structure. Note also the tea lights. I specifically bought these because they were a lot thicker than than the normal ones I use. Figured it would help with wrapping the wire around them to hold them in place. You will have to work with the wire a bit to get the positioning right. I almost took another piece of wire to connect the wires on each of the lights together but figured it was just as easy to bend each one into the desired position. If they ended swaying a little bit in the wind it would just add to the effect.
The left arm just needed to be bent at 90 degrees so it could hold onto the scythe. Just a couple of straights to the desired length connected by a 90 degree elbow. Nothing to it. Also note I purposely made the arms longer than normal under the impression long lanky arms made it that more creepy. Something like long spindly appendages that give it a more sinister look.
The right arm needed a little bit more work since I wanted it to hold a lantern. Most images of Thanatos have the lantern lifted high as if showing the way which meant bringing the arm up at a steeper angle. Just needed to tilt the shoulder connector a bit to bring it out from the body. A 90 and a 45 connector combines to give the proper alignment for the upright arm. Note, depending not the lantern you choose to use you might want to allow for some droop due to the weight. In this case just rotate the shoulder connector up a little higher than normal and let the weight of the lantern pull the forearm down to the desired location. This is the main reason I had the main support tilted backward to help compensate for the weight.
So now the main structure is complete. You can also see the wire structure holding the lights better in this shot. Really happy I picked those lights up since they even look like eyes in the daylight.
Okay, now need to start covering the structure. Linda recommended getting some kind of cheesecloth to use for the robe. This meant a trip to Jo Ann Fabrics – shudder. There are some definite places I don’t belong and a fabric store is definitely one of those. One day after work I headed over there and was shocked to find the place packed! For the record everyone, there’s a clothing store like every 2 miles in Peoria. Not sure how these stores are laid out I started going up and down each aisle looking for appropriate material. Nothing like walking down frilly and silky material aisles to give you complex … people whispering, moving away from me .. sigh. Eventually I stumbled on an end cap with some rough looking material. There was a bolt of black burlappy material that seemed perfect for my project. The kicker was that it was on sale! – something like $2 bucks a yard. I hauled it up to the cutting counter and became very concerned about all the people milling about. I have all the bathroom etiquette rules down pat, but when it comes to fabric protocol .. no clue. Luckily they had just called a number so obviously there needed to be some numbering system. Confirmed – my number 87 – their current number 79. Eight people should go quickly. Give bolt to lady, state your desired length, step to the right, lady cuts to desired length, folds up piece, writes price on piece of paper, you take paper and material and go to register – fast, quick, efficient. Ummm, that would be one big HELL NO! What appears to be the protocol is:
- You greet the cutting lady and exchange pleasantries
- You hand over your bolt
- The cutting lady proceeds to fawn over your selection and if lucky she will provide you the entire history of that bolt in the store – when it came in, what Aunt Bea made with it last week and whether it is a) on sale now, b) was on sale last week or c) when it will be on sale next.
- This is proceeded by the customer giving a complete dissertation on what she plans on doing with it, which event it is for and again.. if lucky maybe even a complete recipe breakdown of that nights dinner. By this time I have a tick coming on
- The next 10 minutes is focused on getting the ends of the material perfectly match up, rotating the bolt to ridiculously long sizes, straightening the material against a measuring device on the table and then picking up the scissors to initiate the cut.. but wait .. there needs to be clarification first if you should put a pinch of salt in the water before you start to boiling the pasta. – needless to say, my blood was boiling.
- Once the cut is made, the following 6 minutes are consumed by rolling up the remaining bolt because she unfolded WAYYY to much.
- Next up the folding of the cut material which consists of the cutting lady trying to figure out the maximum number of folds you can make in a given material before it refuses to stay together.
- Find a pencil, locate the pricing pad and write the damn price on the material
- Once again exchange pleasantries along with an extended I just met you but by now we’ve become BFFs and now sad because I may never ever see you again goodbye.
GOOD LORD PEOPLE there are more productive things to do with your time. By now there was sweat coming down my face and constant glances to my watch to see if I could make it back. 83 comes up and I groaned apparently too loud because the lady next to me turns and says “You are welcome to my number, I’m 84”. Wow, that was super nice of her and I felt so guilty I thanked her for her offer and told her I’d just come back later. I then walked my bolt back to the end cap and headed out to the other store in hopes of getting there before they closed. With Linda’s gift in hand, I decided to go back to the fabric store and start the wait over. To my surprise they were on 86 so I quickly walked back to the end cap, grabbed the bolt, walked back to the table as they called 87 and made my way directly to the cutting lady. I laughed internally, but pretty sure there were some evil glances made in my general direction.
Eeesh, this experience is getting longer than the instructions so let me wrap up with a quick summary of how my cutting experience went
- Are you 87 – YES
- I need 10 yards of this and hand the bolt
- What are you going to ma… 10 yards please .. oh
- These edges are not strai… don’t care .. oh
- She starts rolling it out, gets halfway through and finds a flaw in the material and begins to start the process over… I don’t care .. oh
- Now that the 10 yard is measured out she proceeds to bend and twist one thread out at 10 yard mark. Noting my annoyance she says “I know you don’t care but the next person may want a straight cut” Under my breadth I commented that I WAS THE NEXT GUY and I don’t care – it’s burlap and I doubt anyone buying this is going to need an EXACT edge.
- She completes the cut and then starts the process of folding up my 10 yards.. “No need to fold it… but how are you going to get it up to the register.. um CARRY IT! At this point the lady behind me asked me what I going to do with it. I bit my tongue trying to keep from blurting out – wrap a dead body in it but ended up going with the truth about how it was for a Grim Reaper decoration – didn’t know how well these fabric customers could take a joke and explaining that to the police would only make this process longer.
Finally, I had the material and was soon home and eager to put it on the frame. Linda had to help me because the material was a lot heavier than expected – this is when she reminded me her recommendation was cheesecloth. I had also picked up some spooky netting at the dollar store that worked perfectly with the material to give it that dead aura. We put it on with the base and head elements together – this shot was taken as I was taking it down after the party.
Couple of things of note. Zip ties were added at the base of the hood frame to keep the hood open. I didn’t have black ties of the required size so went with clear ones. They ended up blending well at night.
To keep the robe in place I also added additional zip ties at the wrists
You will need to decide how you want the robe to look – play with it a bit until you get the desired effect and then tie it in place.
Next up was the hands. If you looked close you probably saw them in the first robe picture since they were still on when I took that picture. I have to thank Pinterest for the hands idea. Someone had pinned a tutorial on how to make creepy hands with wire and painters tape. Two things I had left over from all the basement construction. Slightly different than the clown hands I chose to twist the wires together before putting the ends into the end cap. Mainly wanted a spindly look and that ended up working for me. I made sure to make the wire pairs really long and gaped them enough to give a palm look. From there it was just a matter of wrapping painters tape around it until they looked like creepy hands.
These two hand shots were taken with the iPad so my apologies on the quality. Only ones I had from that step in the construction. Laughed at the following one since it looked like it was dribbling the light bulb. By not fixing the end caps I could rotate the hands in an pose I wanted. The left hand ended up tilting to 90 so it could hold on to the scythe.
These hands were going to be visible so they definitely need to be hit with some paint. Went with the same plastic black paint. By this point I was in some serious time constraints so this phase of the project wasn’t my best work but the trail is meant to be experience at night and these tiny imperfections wouldn’t be very visible at that time.
Here is the back side of the hands and shows how the tape spans across the lower portion of the wires. No need to worry about accurately reflecting a real hand – these aren’t meant to be from this world.
Last thing is the scythe. It was easy decision on what material to use for the made pole – I had a stack of 10′ 1″ PVC poles laying in my basement. Simply took one of those and cut it to an appropriate length based on the size of the decoration.
Always looking to provide a means to give the overall more structure I put a coupler on the bottom in order to put a portion of the pipe into the ground. If it got clogged up I could simply toss it and put another one in its place next year.
Now my greatest disappointment with the execution of the entire project – the blade. By this time it was a day before the event and there was enough to-dos left to last a week. I grabbed a couple of cardboard pieces and got to work cutting two pieces to form the blade shape. It needed to be hooked into the pole so put a tab on the back of the blade to do that. Not sure it would make it through a damp night in the woods, I covered it with some duct tape. Needless to say this particular element of the decoration will be redone next year. Probably find some plastic pieces to cut the shape out of and cover it with contact paper to keep it smooth.
To hook it to the pole I drilled holes through the center of the pipe to create a notch the same size as the tab. This was easier typed than done. A utility knife was used to clean out the notch but the jaggedness actually helped to hold the tab in place.
From there it was shot with the Rust-Oleum hammered paint to make it look like it was metal and not PVC. All in all it worked out pretty nice, although that paint can design is a pain in the ass. It ended up dripping all over my new work gloves and even got on my shoes. I did get a couple of comments that indicated they thought it was a metal pole so success on that front. Lastly, the expensive part of the project. While at a local Spirit store (the stores that pop up in abandoned building around this time of the year), I noticed a lantern that fit the reaper theme PERFECTLY. Think it was $30 so initially opted against it. After sleeping on it I decided this couldn’t be passed up and ended up purchasing it the next day.
Not only did it match the scythe look it had and added feature – it was battery operated and when turned on provided a lantern look with a surprise – when it detects motion silhouetted arms come up from the bottom followed by what sounds like kid voices screaming to be saved. Yep, there was no need for that initial hesitation in purchasing it.
Lastly, it all comes apart nicely. The reaper takes up a bit more space than the clown, but then again it is over twice the size. Still acceptable when it comes storage!
Most of the box is taken up with the lantern and the 10 yards of material. The hood took me too long to put together so opted to keep that together. You could put a connector in the middle of the based upright if you wanted to break that down a bit. Main leftover was the scythe which is still in one piece.
Well, that sums it up. Hope you enjoyed the details behind the decoration (sorry about the long explanation of the fabric experience).