Thursday, February 19, 2015

Haunted Mansion Candelabra

Haunted Mansion Candelabra

Halloween is the propmaster holiday.  When I'm not working on a specific show, I turn my creative energies to building props for Halloween.

I found a cheesy '70's candelabra in a local thrift store.  It was a four arm candelabra with a fifth candle holder in the center.  The base was turned wood and the arms were made of bent pencil rod.  It needed to become cooler.  Personally, I think skulls make just about everything better and so...

Cheesy, 1970's thrift store candelabra


I just happened to have a few small foam skulls and a handful of mini plastic skulls laying around.  My thought was that if one skull was good, then five were surely better.

The Process
The first step in the haunted mansion candelabra was to set the larger skull on the central post.  To do this, I sawed the skull in half with a steak knife, then carved out channels for the skull to fit around the pencil rod.

Once the parts were cut and fitted, I reassembled the skull around the center post and fixed it with hot glue.  If I were to do this project again, I would use low temp hot glue.  I think there would be less melting of the foam.  Nevertheless, it worked and I was able to attach the skull to the middle of the candelabra.

Sawing asunder the foam skull

What that looks like

Fitting the foam skull around the post.  Measurements were made and scribed with a sharpie pen and the channels were cut with an exacto knife

Once I was satisfied with the fit, I applied hot glue to the post and fitted one half of the skull to it.

Next the other half of the skull was attached with hot glue.  Low temp hot glue
would have worked better

Next came the mini skulls on the arms of the candelabra.  I used hard plastic, hollow mini skulls from a Bag O' Skulls I acquired at a Halloween shop.  The first step was to drill a hole the same diameter as the pencil rod through the top and bottom of the skulls.

Next, along the back of the skull I joined the top and bottom holes with a cut line made with an exacto knife.  The cut line allowed for the back of the skull to be spread and placed around the pencil rod.  The original drilled hole then snapped in place around the metal.

After that, each of the skulls are situated on the pencil rod and the interior of each skull was filled with hot glue.  I then placed the candelabra upside down so the mini skulls wouldn't shift while the hot glue set.

Drilling the mini skull

Connecting the dots with an exacto knife

Placing the mini skulls

Filling the mini skulls with hot glue

Allowing it to set upside down


I just happened to have a couple of wall mounted candelabras and gave them the same treatment.  Why not?

The Paint Job
I have a technique for painting cast iron that I thought I'd like to use on this project.

Step one:  Base coat.
I used Krylon flat black spray paint for my base coat.  Normally I would use mastic on the prop prior to painting it.  I didn't have any so I overlooked this step.  I figured the paint on the foam skull would be robust enough to withstand the solvents in the spray paint.  The mastic would have been a more sure barrier.  Next time I won't forego this step.  The foam skull reacted to the solvents a bit.  Not so much that it ruined the effect, but it wasn't as nice as I would have liked it to be.  It gained a pebbly surface.  Next time...

Step two:  Workup
For the workup on this process I stood back about 24 inches from the candelabras and misted them with silver spray paint.  It's important not to go too heavy with this step.  It really needs to be a fine spatter of silver.

Step three:  The finish
The finish coat was a medium coating of Design Master Glossy Wood Tone.  If I could only have one spray color and expect to be a properties artisan, it would be Design Master Glossy Wood Tone.  It is by far the most useful spray color I have ever used.  It is a color tool used in the floral industry, and is more like a spray dye than a paint.  It is self leveling unlike most spray paints, and it goes on transparent like watercolor.

Once the glossy wood tone is dry, the candelabra is done.  If you wish to age it or dirty it up, that can be done with a little raw umber, a brush and a rag.  See the blog post on magical tomes for that technique.

The finished piece, ready for Halloween

And it's brothers