Start with a sheet of the hard pink foam insulation that you can get from any Home Depot or Lowe’s. It comes in different thickness. I used the thickest since it resembles the depth of a real tombstone and will hold up better to years of being stored in the basement. One sheet will get you around 6 stones, which is pretty good. Warning, it may not fit in your car, so see if they’ll cut it in half for you….or you’ll end up like me, in the parking lot sawing it in half with a pair of car keys.
Once you get it home, sketch out your tombstones on the foam with a pen. Mine were of various sizes, but averaged 18″ in width and went from 2′ to 5′ tall for some variety. For the shapes of the tops I did everything from square, to curved, a cross, a peaked roof. You really can’t go wrong. Once you’re happy with them, cut them out with a small hand saw, don’t worry about neat edges, your going to mess them up later anyway.
If you want any inscriptions on the tombstones, have at it. Play around with fonts and sayings on the computer, print them out, tape them to the foam and trace them with a pen so it leaves an indentation on the foam. Remove the paper and then carve out the letters with a Dremel tool or file. They also look good plain, so don’t panic if you get lazy half way through.
Now comes the fun part. Bring the tombstones outside and wet them down with the garden hose. The water will mostly run right off. While still wet, use a hand held blow torch (a good investment at $19.00 – you can use it for creme brulee afterwards) and burn the surface of the foam. Where the foam is dry it will burn more than where it’s wet, giving a nice rough finish. Be sure to get the sides and corners as well to give it a really worn finish. Don’t worry, you really can’t overdo it. Just be careful, it is fire after all.
Now let them dry and coat them with some nice grey paint. If you’re feeling really ambitious you can further antique them once they’re dry by running the hose over them again and at the same time spraying them with a can of black spray paint. The paint will run down the tombstone with the water, getting caught in all the nooks and crannies…pretty cool.
To install them, I hammered some pvc tubing into the ground and used duct tape on the back. If they’re going to be seen from both sides you can drill two holes in the bottom and lower them onto rebar in the ground.