Last week we introduced the idea of turning your house into a Haunted Mansion. This week we will look at the Haunted Mansion Monster Clock we made. The original is such a great piece in the Haunted Mansion. As with every aspect of the ride, it takes the form of something innocent and puts the slightly creepy macabre twist on it. The entire build took about a week of working on it when I had a few spare moments, with the total build time being about 10 hours. Ours was made entirely from a green 4×8 house insulation foam board that was 1” thick- available at home improvement stores.
All other supplies, easily found in hardware and craft stores, include a tube of construction adhesive, sandable wood filler, flat black paint, silver leafing paint, and PVC pipe. The entire clock was made for around $40. If you plan on attempting to build this be careful, as you will be handling sharp and hot things. This should be attempted by someone with a moderate level of craft skill and is not intended for children to make.
The whole thing could be made with a set of sharp knives, but I did choose to use a hand-held saw, a jigsaw and Dremel to expedite the work. You will also need some sandpaper (or electric sander), a putty knife, a file, and a paint brush. I used a heat gun at one point, but it is optional. I opted to also use some nails and a thin piece of wood like a yard stick to increase stability.
There have been more than a few people that have shared this build online. I read various articles. The most informative was the one on Nightmare Before Christmas Props (which is the one above on the striped wall). While all great, I did not feel that any of them were exactly what I wanted. Some were wall clocks, others were too small or too thin, and others lacked the details I wanted (pictured above left). I started by finding a great image of the original clock (above right). In my research I found 2 clocks. The first, was a silver with black clock hands and box interior. The second, was more of a brown wood color with red hands and box interior. I chose to go with the silver as I thought it would look better in my house. I took the above image and projected it on the foam with a digital projector. I traced the shapes and cut them out. If you can, use the jigsaw with a fine toothed sharped blade, or else you will tear up the foam rather then cut it. This creates much more work at the filler/putty stage.
I started with the elaborate face as it was the most visually interesting and would set the tone for the entire build. I traced the face and used a Dremel, or rotary tool, to whirl away the recessed areas, and used the wood filler to fill in areas I over removed material, and smooth out the overall shape. The clock face is made of pieces of foam stacked one in front of the other with the second back layer serving as the back of the eye sockets. I carved the eyes as separate pieces that I glued in later.
One detail I wanted to really capture was the 3D nature of the teeth. Many of the clocks I found online had the teeth as flat shapes. I achieved this by cutting the basic shape and carving away and sanding each tooth at an angle on both sides. When cutting the hole for the clock face, I would suggest trying to do it carefully to use the piece you cut out as the recessed back. I did not and had to try to cut a piece that fit perfectly in the hole.
Next, I built the main box of the clock. This was the easiest part as it went together like making a box. My father was a skilled carpenter so I picked up a few skills over the years. I treated the foam like sheets of wood, going so far as using long nails to secure the foam in place while the adhesive dried and wood filler when needed. Be careful when assembling your foam to always have the writing on the foam hidden where you don’t see it. It was unnoticeable until I painted it black, but when they are pressing those words and logos on the foam it creates slight depression and crushes the foam. I had to fill in the letters that were visible with wood filler.
I love the cracked texture I found on the foamboard, I went through the stack of foam at the store to fine the one with the most. I think it looks like aged or burnt wood.
I created the pendulum by heating up a PVC pipe with a heat gun. Use gloves and be very careful as this gets very hot. You could opt to make the pendulum out of foam by cutting the arm and shaping it round. The actual one is kind of diamond shaped. Here I opted for stability and strength over accuracy. One thing you may not know is that the weight of the pendulum has a little demon face on it; this was a piece I wanted to include. It is just another of those millions of tiny details the Imagineers put in that goes unnoticed by many.
Next, I made the section between the pendulum case and legs. This was made by stacking assorted sizes of squares on top of each other. I shaped some, rounded another, and filed the groves in the big one using a triangular metal file.
The last piece I attempted was the legs as I knew this would be the hardest part. Many of the builds I found just had only the outline shape of the legs, but I wanted the rounded 3D look of actually furniture legs. This was achieved by cutting about six pieces of the 1” foamboard with the same template, gluing them together, and shaping them. The shaping took quite a while to get the rounded 360 degree look. You may want to wear a mask while doing the bulk of the sanding and shaping. The only detail I did not include was the inlayed groves on the legs themselves.
I felt this was very tricky and could go horribly wrong, which would make me have to remake the legs which had already taken as long as the rest of the built combined. So, I added the wood putty to fill in the seams and sanded to a smooth finish. I added long, thin wooden boards to act as supports along the back of the piece.
The last step was for the whole family to paint the entire piece flat black. I used Rustoleum oil based paint for durability. You can now see the indentations caused by the stamping of the logo on the foam. To remove these marks I took a putty knife applied wood filler to them and sanded the filler until it was smooth.
When it dried, I dry brushed the entire piece with a large paint brush and using Testor’s Precious Metals leafing paint. Dry brushing is done by applying tiny amounts of a paint to the brush, quickly brushing most off by rubbing it on a scratch piece of something, and then lightly dragging the brush over the raised areas of a piece. It is used to add dimension and make your details pop.
The face of my clock was a pdf download made by Travis Jackson. I modified it slightly and opted to cut a piece of plexiglass to cover the print off. I sculpted the warped clock hands out of Super Sculpey, but you could easily use some of your left-over foam. I have plans to add an actual clock mechanism to the face to make it a functioning clock.
The hands were sculpted out of Super Sculpey, baked, and painted black. I attached some 2 sided tape to affix them to the clock face. I wanted something to attach them that was not permanent to allow me to add the working clock hands down the road.
I hope you enjoyed this project. Tune in next week for another great build as we continue to turn our home into the haunted mansion.
Until next time…
The Imagine Ears features the DIY projects, adventures, and thoughts of a father and daughter who use a shared love of all things Disney to create memories together through encouraging her interests in architecture, design, Imagineering, while exploring history and science.