Halloween 2017 Haunted Forest

I first saw DIY Haunted Trees on Pinterest. The tutorial I watched was at http://mizerella.blogspot.com/2011/09/30-haunted-tree.html
I like her design but I needed my trees to be more durable because they have to be transportable in the back of my little truck. I didn’t want branches permanently attached and I needed the bases to be so durable I could lay them on their sides and not get damaged.
Here’s what I came up with:

So, for the tall tree, I started just like everyone else: with two concrete form tubes, one fitting neatly into the other. In my case I used cleats on the inside of the larger tube so that the smaller, upper tube would sit on an edge.

These are screwed in from the outside of the tube using short wood screws (the shortest I had were 1″) and washers so the screws wouldn’t pull through the cardboard of the form.

I pulled out an old piece of 1/2 ” plywood and sat the tube setup on it, traced around the base and roughly drew a root system on it. (I am NOT Dave Lowe!)

Then I drew a circle about 2 ” inside the outline and used a jigsaw to cut that out. I screwed cleats in for the cardboard tube.

The screws come from the plywood side into the cleats.

I cut the plywood using a jigsaw to make the support for the root system. At this point I decided the shorter roots would be the back and routed a 1/2″ track on the bottom of the plywood from the edge to the center hole for my lamp cord to sit in.

I was not happy with my lamp sitting on the floor because I didn’t think enough light would get up into the face, which I had already decided would be in the upper tube so I made a plywood platform that would sit on the ledge I had created to stop the upper tube.  I used a Forstner bit to put a 1 1/4″ hole in the platform to feed the lamp cord through to the bottom.

I screwed the cardboard into the cleats and added fins with A/B epoxy to help with lateral support and also take up some room since I want the roots to be really full and raised.

I added foam core insulation we had leftover from redoing the bathroom. I did this so I didn’t have super thick “celluclay” to contend with that would take days to dry. I attached this foam core with Elmer’s glue.

Now for the face. I’m not an artist. Let me repeat that: I AM NOT AN ARTIST. I carved this in with a jigsaw. In this photo I’m trying different colors of tissue paper to see what I like.

I also cut off the top of the tree so it was raggedy. You do have to brace this as the edge tends to jiggle along with the jigsaw.

Then I started the “Celluclay”. I put that in quotation marks because I make my own: cellulose fiber blow-in insulation, wood glue (or Elmer’s glue), water, and drywall compound powder (45 minute). Method. Mix up some drywall compound with water to make a slurry (“Guache”), add a little glue, enough to make it sticky. Now start adding fiber, clumps are OK as the stickiness of the glue and drywall compound break it up. Keep mixing until smooth. At the right consistency it is moldable but also doesn’t really stick to your gloves. And DO wear gloves as drywall compound will suck all the moisture out of your hands. At this point in the sculpture I left the mix a bit lumpy because the bottoms of trees are usually lumpy with moss or age. Farther up the sides of the tree I blended the “celluclay” better to get it smoother to make bark.

I ran my homemade clay all the way up the tree, working in small batches. dragging your fingers creates the fissures in the bark. The 45-minute drywall compound gives you about 15 minutes of working time. I started shaping the face, being careful to not get clay on the inside edge because I wanted the tissue paper to lay as flat as possible. At the join between the two tubes I ran a putty knife around while still wet. I came back later and refined this a bit but I wanted a general shape for now. I also added another set of cleats near the top for a top. I wanted this top to keep in light and add lateral support when I laid the upper part on it’s side to move it.

I glued foil to the inside of the top to reflect light back down into the tree.

Here is the tall tree based out in dark brown flat interior paint. My niece used the thickest nap roller that they sell to really glop on the paint to get it into the crevices in the bark. I also used disposable chip brushes for around the bottom edge, the divots at the bottom between the roots, and the inside edges of the eye sockets and mouth.

After the base coat was thoroughly dry I reassembled and applied a very light layer of pale grey interior flat paint with a super smooth foam roller, basically dry-brushing with a roller. I also used small amounts of paint on a disposable chip brush to get the inside edges of the roots and get a lot more paint around the eyes and mouth. Start at the back until you get the hang of how much paint should be on the roller.

I was VERY nervous about just gluing tissue paper to the inside of the eyes and mouth so I used a self-laminating sheet to create a tissue paper laminate. On the outside it looks like tissue paper but it’s stuck to a piece of clear plastic. This I taped into place; green for the eyes and red for the mouth.

So, what I learned from this piece:

  1. YOU WILL BE DOING TOUCH-UPS.
  2. I had to go back and place saran wrap over the top edge of the bottom piece, put the top on/in, then add more clay so the edge would be less noticeable. If I wasn’t transporting this piece I would give it a more jagged hidden edge.
  3. Figure out where you want your light source and build your support shelf for light to  accommodate the fixture.

SO, the things i learned from making the first tree didn’t really get used making the second tree but I will file that experience away for the future.

I wanted the second tree to be shorter and have arms because I didn’t think a short little tree with a scary face was very menacing. The grabby reaching arms would help make him a little more menacing. (I’m not sure why both my trees are of the male persuasion. I guess I tend to think of the scary things as being male why the sweeter things are female. I’m sure there are a lot of high school girls out there that totally disagree with that; Mean Girls is not just a made-up movie thing.) So, on to the short scary tree…

Same style of base although for this guy the roots don’t spread out, they are going straight into ground. I cut holes in sides and made holders for the stick arms so they are removable. I also planned interior lamp shelf based on the style of light I wanted to use and the fact that I wanted the bulb to be right where his nose would be if he had one. (Don’t forget hole in shelf for lamp cord.)

The PVC has two drill holes on top only to allow access to the inside of the PVC pipe so it can be screwed to the chunk of wood.

Then the whole thing is screwed to the inside of the tube from the outside, once again using some washers. This way the branches can be inserted on site. The branches are not green wood so they are pretty lightweight. I turned the ends of the branches into grabbier hands by A/B epoxying a few extra branches onto the ends. I got lucky and the branches fit just snugly enough in the brackets that I can rotate them into different positions.

I created a cleated edge just inside the top of this tree also but I wanted to do something different on this one’s top since most people would be able to see inside. I started with 1/4″ thick fiber board

So I cut out swirlies and backed it with more self-laminated tissue paper. I also had to put a short chunk-o-wood handle on the top because this is how I get lamp inside tree. Notice that inside edge of upper edge of tree is painted brown. Both trees sit flush with ground, with the cord-keeper channel cut in to the plywood on both. On site I’m going to sit them on brown microfiber sheets and scatter some antiqued leaves around.