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Fake Wood
kay, you pervs.  Get all the jokes out of your system right now.

Do you have plans for a huge facade across the front of your garage?  Need a spooky rotting sign to post your haunt rules?  You need a lightweight material that can stand up reasonably well to the elements and is easy to work with. 

Cardboard will get waterlogged.  Plywood is expensive, and because of its weight it requires a significant amount of engineering just to hold it up. 

One solution is foam board.  It's waterproof, paintable, and best of all...you can carve it into just about anything.  In just a few simple steps you can learn to make a convincing wood grain.  We'll also step through a painting technique called "dry brushing" to complete the effect.

...and if you make yours before noon you can claim to have morning wood.  There.  I said it.

Signs and signposts...

There are a couple of ways to mount a foarm board sign to a sign post.  One way is to loop a couple of pieces of wire through the board and draw it tight (but not too tightly or you'll rip through the foam) around the post.  Here's a diagram.

When you poke the wire through your sign, make sure to make your holes about the same distance apart as the width of your post.  Any wider and your wire may cut through the foam.

Another method is to use a strong glue like Liquid Nails or Gorilla Glue to cement the board to the post.

A combination of wire and glue is even stronger.  Just keep in mind that a good wind can rip your painstakingly-made creation to shreds.  Wind likes to play tricks like that.

Stupid wind.

How to "make wood" out of foam

Fake wood grain

Step 1 - Start carving

What kind of wood do you want when you're finished?  A knotty irregular pattern like the side of an old barn?  Smooth and sexy lines like the paneling in your uncle Armando's basement rumpus room?

Start by laying out the general pattern using your blunt dent maker. Drag across the surface with just enough pressure to leave an indentation.

If you're feeling more adventurous, fold a piece of sandpaper a few times or roll it into a cylinder and use it to draw the grain. With this method, use short strokes.  Carve out out small areas, then smooth them out with your sandpaper cylinder.

Foam board Whatever pattern you decide on, I've found that the more irregular it is the more realistic the final product.  Use lots of curves. Straight lines tend to look drawn.  

Carve all the way to the edge of the sheet.  Make deeper grooves in between the "boards".  If you're carving a full sheet of foam, stagger the ends of your "boards" so they don't all line up.  Use your screwdriver to gouge out some knot holes.  Chew up the edges. Dig some worm holes.  Have fun!

When you've finished carving, go back and smooth everything out with a good sanding.  Sanding the surface will help it to more easily accept paint and makes a nice texture.  Round off sharp edges with sandpaper, too.  By the way, pay no attention to the half-painted board in the pictures. I forgot to take pictures before I started painting.

Step 2 - Lay down a dark base coat

Fill in every crack, crevice, and hole with dark paint.  When you come back later and dry brush, you don't want any pink or blue spots. Sort of looks like little blobs of bubble gum.

Allow to dry completely before moving on to step three.

Step 3 - Dry brush the highlights

Dry brushing is a simple and effective painting technique that really brings out the dark grooves in your wood grain.

The idea is to apply paint only to the high spots.  To do this, load your brush with paint, then wipe most it back off again.  Usually, just dragging it across the lip of the paint can is sufficient to remove enough paint.  You can wipe your brush with a rag, but this wastes paint.  You don't want it to drip into the low areas, so don't thin your paint.

Lightly drag the brush across the surface perpendicular to the direction of the grain.  This will help to keep your bristles from expanding into the grooves.  If you've been having trouble visualizing what we're attempting, it will become apparent after a few strokes.  The wood grain should really (magically) start to stand out.

Step 4 - Admire

Check out that cool knot hole.  Now is when you'll wish that you had made lots of other neat digs and gouges.

That's all there is to it.  Before committing to carving a full sheet of foam, you might want to practice on a smaller piece to get the hang of it first.  Mastering the technique of dry brushing will open new avenues in your other projects from scarecrows to tombstones.

If you found this write-up helpful, please let us know!   Have fun haunting.