Skull Mountain Village Display

by Mike Melius


Skull Mountain Foam Halloween Village DisplayThis was a 4’x4′ panel with a finished vertical of 2′-3″ so the person I built it for could get it through doorways. It’s a stand alone layout but he has three more 4’x4′ panels that attach to this in the form of a Halloween city.

Eps foam sheets
DIY Halloween village

I started with laying up 2″-thick architectural foam horizontally (I lay it up both ways depending on what I am carving and hiding the seams. Using a rough sketch to get the creative processes going definitely helps and having the village pieces at hand allows me to design scope and scale placing them at intervals in the construction.  Ideas automatically come to me and I implement them immediately. Its one thing to fabricate something out of foam, but mine has hidden lights and wiring needs access so must consider that in my designs too.


DIY Department 56 displays


Basically, I use the Pro 6″ Hot Knife to do the majority of my cutting, but to get a certain shape the Freehand Router gets it done to my liking.


DIY Spooky terrain


My own talent shapes the foam to give a certain look–in this case, strong narrow vertical rocks around the skull to accentuate height and make it look eerie, as if the skull had something to do with making the sheer rock walls that way. Color is water based acrylic, sprayed and brushed, depending on effect I want to attain.


Village Display Waterfall Technique
Halloween Village Display WIP

The waterfall has a backing of ceiling light plastic, cut to size. I then spray glue one side and apply a thin piece of cotton. After it sets up I distress it with an xacto saw blade pulling the blade sideways from top to bottom in straight strokes to create the “foam” at the bottom. Sometimes I lightly spray glue the cotton with “snow”, usually near the bottom of the falls to give the impression of splashing. Clear silicone is used near the top to round off the edge, or I heat the plastic and roll the edge before applying the cotton. Color is applied sparingly, but in the case of the polluted waterfall on Skull Mountain, LOTS of glow colors were used because on a Halloween Village, black lights make all the colors jump out. Skull Mountains waterfall is even backlit and different colors can be turned on or off. Every waterfall I build can take on a different look, depending on the length, width and just how fast the water is. Experiment and you’ll have a great looking falls in no time!

Skull mountain
Department 56 Halloween

The skull is front-lit by floods hidden in boulders, interior lit with red 12v bulbs and the waterfall is backlit with yellow and green 12v bulbs. All can be turned on or off separately. Mix this with the black light floods on the layout and the colors are off the charts in visual assault, as you might expect.  I have about 100 hours in this panel alone, but that is ALL fabrication time, beginning to end.

Suggested tools/materials for this project:

Sculpting Tool Kit • Pro 6″ Hot Knife & Freehand Router Kit