In previous posts we have showcased how to turn your house into a Disney Haunted Mansion with some general theming, building your own Monster Clock, and making your own Madam Leota Tombstone. This week we will be adding a piece from my favorite section of the ride, the Ghost Ballroom. When I was younger this attraction always amazed and confused me. Now that I am older I know how it is done and it still amazes how such an old technique that is so simple works so convincingly. The effect is known as Pepper’s Ghost and was invented by John Henry Pepper in 1862! The effect uses a light source, panes of glass, and reflections.
Now, I am not trying anything as ambitious as Pepper’s Ghost…at least for this year display anyways. This is a simple conversion and retheming of a piece we already had in the living room, my daughter’s piano. We will simply be converting the piano to look like a Gothic organ to turn what would have been a large piece that stuck out to know part of the room that will enhance the feel. I love that massive organ on the end of the hall, I love the one in Disneyland even more as it was the actual organ used in the Nautilus in Disney film 1954 Disney classic, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
I plan on how large the piece would be. I wanted some height but also knew I would have to be getting downstairs into storage at some point. I settled for a height of 36” and a width of 42”. I knew the piece would be large and size generally equals weight so I began trying to brainstorm how to make it. My first thought was PVC pipe. I knew that PVC pipe generally come in what is known as schedule 40 and 80. This is a reference to the thickness of the walls. I opted for the thinner walled 40. I found a site that helps construction workers factor the weight and 40 adds ½ a pound per foot. Even with the thinner walled pipe it would have been around 25 pounds. I think my wife would kill me if I damaged the piano so I continued thinking. I walked around the home improvement store found various pipes and tubes. I was optimistic at the process of the large cardboard shipping tubes used for posters, but I did not like the fuzzy texture of cardboard nor the spiral seam of the paper twisting up the tube. I eventually found long tubes made to slip over and protect long fluorescent bulbs. They came in 8-foot-long versions, have a wall thickness of .014 inches and weight of .1 pound. Which means the entire piece would weigh less than a pound. They were 5 dollars and I bought 8 of them just to be safe.
Now I just had to cut the pipes to the right length. It was a bit time consuming as the design had 16 pipes. Each pipe would be 1 inch smaller than the pipe to the outside and have its end cut at a 45° angle. You can use and knife or hacksaw, but I used a band saw and set my guard to a 45°. Be careful if using a power tool, always wear eye protection and keep your hands a safe distance. This part took some planning and some time, but once I got in the grove it went together quickly. When finished I sanded the angled ends with an electric hand sander to smooth away any bits of plastic.
I took some of the left over 1” insulation foam board from our Monster Clock and made a pedestal base for the pipes to go into. I made the base 1” wider than the pipes. I made a second base board that went 1” further out on the front and both sides for added stability of such a tall piece. I drew a line down the middle of the top foam piece lengthwise. I then drilled a hole for every pipe using a 1 5/8” hole saw. It is a probably a tool you may not own, but it can be bought at any hardware store for a few dollars.
I applied construction adhesive into each hole and inserted each pipe. I did this with the pipes lying flat on my work surface and the base board hanging off the edge. This was to ensure that each pipe was supported and would dry in a straight and even angle. When that dried approximately 30 minutes later I added the 2nd wider base board without the holes to the entire structure.
I cut a large piece of foamcore craft board (the ¼” thick sheets of foam with a poster board on either side used for school projects and the like) to add some stability and give me something to attach the pipes to other than each other. I took the large square and cut a V shape into the top to match the angle of the pipe V. The cut v was 3 inches shorter than each pipe to hide the foamccore board. I applied a generous amount of construction adhesive to each pipe as well as to the tiered base board where the foamcore would meet it. I applied the foamcore and let it dry.
I applied some of the flat black oil based paint left over from the Monster Clock to avoid any spray paint hitting the foam and causing a reaction. I then primed the pipes with a grey spray prime, followed by a coat of flat black when that dried. When the black was dry I applied a coat of Rustoleum Metallics: Gold. I was not super thorough in covering the black with the gold spray because I was ok with some black showing through to act as a kind of pre-aging or weathering.
When the gold was fully dried I mixed a wash of cheap acrylic craft paint with water to make a diluted and thin mixture. I liberally brushed it on the pipes and wiped it away with a rag. You may want to wear gloves if you don’t want to stain your hands for a day or so. I always wiped the wash away in a downward motion the length the pipes as that is the way the grime would run. I left the wash on the inside of the pipe for contrast. When the wash was dry I added a coat of Krylon Crystal Clear to seal in the details and give it the shiny metallic look.
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.