In the previous 3 installments of the pumpkin arch project, I’ve brought you the details behind the creation of the pumpkins (link here), the structural arch support design (link here) and recently the fabrication of the supporting arches (link here). Now that all the major pieces are finished, it is time to put it all together and bring this concept to life. At this point I was feeling really good about the progress. Except for some minor glitches it was shaping up to look amazingly close to the original idea. The Haunted Trail event was quickly approaching and any major changes at this point would be difficult to fix in time. To help tamp down any lingering concerns, decided it was time to do a test assembly.
Hit the jump to read more about this year’s signature addition to The Haunted Trail of Tears.
The facade components for the columns were in the process of getting their final monster mud coating, but the main goal was to prove out that the arch was strong enough when attached to the columns. Too big to put together in the basement, Ron and I hauled it out to the patio – on what turned out to be a pretty windy day (~10mph). A tether was added to the middle of the arch to help keep everything together while moving it around. Figured we could use those connection points to tether the arch to nearby trees if needed, since the columns would prevent the arch from pushing out to the left or right. First put the first (largest) set of pumpkins. I knew there would be gap between the bottoms of those pumpkins and the top of the arch, but couldn’t address that until the foam tops were done. Simply slipped my arm inside the opening of the column frames and connected the inner support PVC pieces to hold the pumpkins to the arch. (I’ll let you noodle on that detail for a bit). From there, it was just a matter of adding each successive layer of pumpkins to the frame.
Pleasantly surprised on how well it all fit together. I did have one easily addressable issue on the top pumpkin. When the connection point for the top pumpkin was cut in, the frame must have slipped and spread out too far (this was before I put that midpoint tether in). That put the connector too high on the pumpkin and had trouble fitting it between the two pumpkins in the 3rd layer. Simply grabbed a keyhole saw, cut a new hole lower on the pumpkin and increased the size of the internal support to compensate. That modification allowed the keystone to easily slip into place.
Not only was the arch support holding all the pumpkins up, it was doing it in a 10mph wind without any visible movement. Just to be cautious, there was a back tether put on to keep it from falling forward – couldn’t risk damaging my pumpkins at this point. No discernible tension on that line even in the wind. Success! (well, sort of, more on that later).
Now that the structure itself was proven out, it was time to think about how to light the pumpkins. I’ve used LED lights from Loftek for years (link here). Super bright, remote controlled, color/animation changing and best of all waterproof. Question was, how to keep the lights in the bottom of the pumpkin since I needed large holes there to allow me to place the inner PVC supports. At the time, also thought I needed easy access to turn them on/off assuming they were IR remotes and needed direct line of sight.
Came up with a rotatable circle solution that I could insert into the pumpkin when it was collapsed into a half circle and then rotate one of the halves to close the gap. This would also prevent the light from moving around inside the pumpkin by attaching a holder to the other side of the connection point. Whipped up a model design in the CAD system and printed out 6 holders that perfectly conformed to the LED case.
This was what it would look like assembled – well, what it was “supposed to look like”.
The hole cover circles were made out of PVC wall panels. Use that material for all types of Halloween props – easy to cut with tin snips, can bend and form with a heat gun as needed, yet strong enough to support weight. Also holds paint well – hit it with black paint so you wouldn’t see it in the dark.
Per the “supposed to look like” comment, when I received the shipment of new lights for the pumpkins I was shocked to see they changed the mold – these latest ones were significantly bigger – essentially nullifying all the work I had put in to design and 3D print the holders. Last thing I needed was to spend more time producing custom holders to fit the larger size – they also had a lot more detail on the bottoms that would need to be accounted for.
Was just about to give in and head back to the CAD system when I noticed there were two medal disks on the bottom – “wonder if those are magnetic!?!”. Sure enough, the new model had built in attachment points – the magnets as well as a set of suction cups you could add, Hmmmmmmm…
Ran to the lab to see what options were laying around. Found some straight bars that were long enough to go across the back of the LED and luckily the magnets were strong enough to attach to. Removed the old holders, screwed one end of the bar in place of that and problem solved! What a relief (not to mention lucky I had 7 of them).
Here is what the new lighting package looked like.
Apologies for the craptastic shot, but this is looking through the eye of a pumpkin at the fully installed lighting plate. Just a matter of cutting uniform holes at the bottom of each pumpkin.
That was the last of the fabrication work – the arch was ready for its debut. Hauled out the arch supports to the entrance of the trail to start the final build. No surprise, but there needed to be a bit of ground leveling work. It is rare for nature to be truly flat. Did a little bit of shoveling and then the bases were ready to go. Will point out that even though the trees would shield it from most of the wind, there was still a concern a kid would run into it or get clipped with something while building the rest of the trail causing it to fall. Ended up adding eye bolts on the insides of the frame and then drop steel rods through them into the ground – same process use to stabilize my Christmas decorations.
Now locked into place, added the foam facade.
Just to give you an early look at how the pumpkins would look on the columns.. wait a minute, “Houston we have a problem”. Remember when I asked you to noodle on a detail above – specifically putting the inner support bars in – well, this is when the issue hit me right between the eyes. I couldn’t simply slip my arm through the top of the arches to attach that support since there was top on the arch…which had sides so unable to simply slide it on and off. Ooops. There was an initial thought of attaching the bottom pumpkins to the frame first before attaching the frame to the columns, but that proved to be just as difficult. Then for once, Murphy took a vacation – the arch was designed to allow the bottom pumpkins to sit flush on top of the column – the inner support arch really wasn’t needed – just let the pumpkin sit there.
In fact, with the pumpkin sitting on the arch, I was able to simply slide it directly onto the connection point in the arch support – at least the left side, the right side was just slightly off and will fix that before next year. Didn’t need the hole covering either as I simply set the light on the column top and set the pumpkin on top. From there, everything went as planned.
A big thanks to Ron for helping me get this thing out there and together – as you can tell, this is the largest prop I’ve ever created. Now that the build was done, just a matter of waiting until the sun dropped and the guests started arriving.
Even at dusk it was looking fantastic. After a number of tests in the basement, the consensus was (as in Linda and Ron) a solid red was the best color setting to use. Definitely underutilizing all the capabilities of those lights ha.
… and then the night shot. All told, probably a good 10 months of work with planning, fabrication and then final build. Incredibly happy with how it all turned out, especially with all the new techniques and unexpected nuances involved.
Hope you enjoyed the multi-part walkthrough on this year’s signature piece for our annual Halloween haunted trail. The trail itself will be covered in future posts, but the guests really like the new entryway to the trail. Oh, and one note before I let you go – my concern about having to have direct line of sight between the remote and the LED lights was unwarranted – when I went to turn on the bottom pumpkin, they all lit up at once (and subsequently all turned off together). Did I mention how much I like those lights!
Take care all, and haunt on.