54 Days 'Til Halloween: Making the Cauldron Pyre - Part Three

The faux fire in the pit is done. It's not as bright as I once hoped so it would cast ambient glow on other things in the display, but that's just fine. I love the subtle hot ember effect it ended up having. It's a nicer atmospheric detail that enhances rather than calling too much attention to itself.

Since we last left off in Part Two, I added more blobs of expanding foam to look like coal and (after drying) base coated the whole mound in flat black. Once the paint dried, I placed orange X-mas lights inside (the top of mound is removable). They were not arranged in any special way, just evenly spread out with small drops of hot glue on the strands, here or there, to keep somewhat in place.

With the X-mas lights on, I used a rotary tool to sculpt the foam were needed so it looked a bit more natural. I also gouged out spaces between blobs and scraped off more opaque painted areas to let the glow shine through better.

I drilled hundreds of random small holes everywhere, especially in the top to let heat escape. The holes also let the light shine through completely unobstructed giving the fire extra highlights.

I wanted the coal mound to look somewhat believable during the day when not lit up, so I added ashy texture and detail to it. A combination of gently sanding with a fine grit paper and dry brushing on a light grey acrylic wash worked. I would of literally spray glued on real ash had I had some handy.

The internal glow has a simple flicker effect using the old Disneyland Imagineering trick of adding a fluorescent light fuse to an extension cord. I'm not going to try and explain how to do this in fear of not explaining it well. I learned how from an old co-worker who was a professional effects person. DON'T TRY until you've researched it thoroughly. Electricity can be dangerous.

Here's a brief video of the fire effect in action.

The cauldron sits on top very well balanced and solid without needing to secure with glue or screws. We'll see if that remains the same once I add Grool the Zombie inside. That's next.


  1. Fantastic! Thanks for the video too.

  2. Looks fantastic! The day lit prop looks very convincing as well!

  3. Wow! Yep, you're right....even better than the first one!

  4. Hi Dave, Looks fantastic, but would a whole pile of ash and ember flicker simultaneously? What if you took a string of lights with chase circuit and changed out some of the bulbs with different colors such as orange, yellow, purple, etc and turned the chase down to real slow rate? Maybe that would give you more realistic glowing effect?

    It looks fantastically amazing though, I could never ever accomplish what you did here!!!

  5. William, thanks. I need to figure out a way one day to use the sound fx I put in the video and have coming from the actual prop.

    Dismal, thanks. I think it works. A friend had a cute idea of having a water bucket nearby during the day as if has been doused.

    Cameron, thanks. I do too. I almost went with the first version, just to be done with it, but I'm glad I didn't.

    In Irons, you're right, a realistic fire would have much more random flicker. Really good ideas. One day maybe. For most of my Halloween stuff I try to use materials that I already have and keep my budget super low... spending money only on essential materials I can use for all my props like glue, paint, etc.

    Also have to remember treat candy money needed and the usual electric bill spike for October.

  6. One issue when I was creating my cauldren, which does not compare, but was when you're trying to stay somewhat realsitic. How does the cauldron support it self, how is it being held over the fire? Not sure if that came to your mind, I said scree it and no one ever asked lol

  7. Empty_W,

    As you said...sometimes you just gotta say screw it. Halloween should be your own world to create with it's own laws of physics. LOL

    I gave some thought to that myself and considered a grate across pit or maybe chains hanging it from a frame, but I decided to just go with it sitting on top of the mound. I thought makes it fun looking and adds a sense of unstable danger.

  8. I buy cheap computer speakers (http://cowlacious.mybigcommerce.com/products/Cowlacious-Audio-Player-Board.html) and ask my friends if they have any unwanted or cheap phones they have laying around! Most newer phones will let you put a sound on them and loop it, and I just hook that up to the inexpensive computer speaks and instant sound! The volume isn't horribly loud, but it works good enough.

    I'm not too worried about either getting destroyed, but I do try and enclose them in something to keep them weather proof! I know a lot of people that *NEED* the latest and greatest stuff, so they have no use for older model phones, ipods, etc.. a shame, but it keeps my costs down and I find it's a decent alternative to getting a soundcard that would have ten or so different outputs so you could play different sounds at each prop, or a fancy audio card at each prop that loops the sounds!

  9. WOW.... think of the marshmallows you could roast on that baby! Fabulous, as always! :)

  10. Thanks for this wonderful post and hoping to post more of this!

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