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DIY Halloween Prop Coffin

Posted on 26th August 2014
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DIY Halloween Prop Coffin

Clown Logo of Karnival Costumes your Halloween specialists for Fancy Dress and Costume Accessories
Here at Karnival Costumes central we’re often asked how to make specific Halloween items from bleeding knives through to tombstones and larger decorative Haunted House props. Well why not get into the spirit of Halloween by learning how to make your own Halloween prop coffin! This is a super alternative to any of our purpose made Halloween Coffins in resin, cardboard or wire and cloth. 
As well as being a fantastic addition to your collection of Halloween props, you’ll be able to make it any size you want the better to fit with any existing skeleton or body parts you may wish to display.  You’ll also be able to modify the design to include either an inlet pipe from your fog machine or a small light source (torch or similar) at the bottom to illuminate and cast shadows over the occupant [insert maniacal laughter at this point!].
So let’s get down to the process of creating your own Halloween haunted house coffin perfect for laying out on the buffet tale or leaving outside for scaring any visiting trick-or-treaters.
Here are some instructions on how to build a Halloween coffin although you may want to vary them to suit the type of coffin that you want;
We found some easy to follow toe-pincher coffin plans on the web and the only recommendation we would make to those we’ve included is that at 14” in depth, this maybe too deep for most Halloween uses, we would recommend it being no more than 12” deep unless, of course, you plant to dress –up and scare the living daylights out of your guests by appearing from inside….
Visit your local hardware store and purchase sufficient 1/4" exterior plywood to complete the size of coffin you plan. Remember to include material for both the lid and the back.  Alternatively, you could use salvaged material to create a stronger structure – and this would also take less finishing effort.  You will also need sufficient 1”x1” battening to secure the joints plus screws or other fixing.
Create a template for your coffin on large sheets of paper using the measurements shown or by scaling them down to suit your materials and requirements. Tape multiple pieces of paper together or use the backside of wrapping paper or newspaper if required. Left over wallpaper is perfect s it’s a bit thicker.
Cut out the paper template and use it to cut out all the components for the coffin. Cut the battening to suit the joints and if there is a lid, create an inner support all around the top.
Take care where the angles meet. The plywood can be sanded along the join to accommodate the mitre finish but the 1”x1” battening, or your salvaged material, will require a degree of finesse to avoid too many big gaps!
DIY Halloween Coffin blog from Karnival CostumesAn alternative method avoids the need for the battening and simply has the pieces of the coffin taped together with duct tape – on the inside.  This may work for you but the result is more flimsy and probably would last a year in storage.
If using reclaimed timber, you will only need to sand and coat your coffin and lid with a stain and varnish.  If you’ve used plywood, we would suggest a light sanding to remove any remaining splinters and rough edges and then painting with a mid-brown colour. 
Using masking tape, when the first coat of paint has dried, create the fine lines, 1/8th” or less, where the butt joints would have been along the sides and the lid – this is unnecessary for the back. These should then be painted with a dark colour and when dried the masking tape removed.
To create the perfect wood grain finish, use a wood graining tool which is simply dragged or rocked through the graining coat (the second coat) of paint.  Do the back first for practice and then use the technique to work between the butt joint lines just created. Ronseal market a product which includes the base paint colour, top coat plus the graining tool.
If you’ve created a lid for your coffin, you’ll need to finish it following the above processes.  If you plan to use the coffin and come out of it, then secure it with a length of piano hinge along the bottom side – use an epoxy glue to fix the hinge to the lid if it’s only ¼” ply as screws will not hold or use battening along the edge of the lid to provide a fixing point.
An alternative fixing for the lid is to drill some aligned holes in the top and the side and then simply tie it on – again only down the longest edge.  This will allow some degree of opening, or if these are left a bit looser, you could stage it to look like the coffin lid is falling open thus exposing the fake corpse or skeleton….
Paint the inside of the coffin with black paint – including the hinge if used.
Add the finishing touches to your coffin with Halloween coffin decorations based on the theme of your party or Halloween haunted house scene. If you're leaning your coffin against a building, don't forget to add some moss and leaves around the base to give that forgotten and permanent effect, adding some very fine white spider web from the top corners back to the building will also add to this effect. These finishing decorators tips are equally applicable to purchased coffins as well.
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