How to Make a Light-Up Halloween Gravestone

Sunday, October 7, 2018 -

*This post is sponsored by DAP Products and The Home Depot. I have been compensated for my time and provided with product or payment in exchange. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. 

I love Halloween. I was one of those weird kids who had their costume picked out in June. Halloween was always my favorite holiday. A couple years ago we went nuts decorating our front porch in a graveyard theme, and we've kinda stuck with it every year since then. 

This year, I wanted to use some of my massive scrap pile to make a faux tombstone or gravestone (is there a difference?). I thought it would be really cool if I made the gravestone light-up from the inside. It was actually way easier than it sounds. Check it out...

Materials List:

(1) 2 x 4 x 96"
(1) 24" x 48" x 1/4" plywood
(1) 24" x 48" frosted white acrylic fluorescent light cover

Cut List:

(2) 2 x 4 @ 30-3/4"
(2) 2 x 4 @ 11"
(2) 1/4" plywood @ 23-3/4" x 18"

1. Inner Frame

I started by constructing the inner frame of the gravestone from lengths of  2 x 4. To hold the pieces together, I used fast drying DAP RapidFuse all-purpose adhesive

I connected two, 2 x 4 x 11" between two, 2 x 4 x 30-3/4" boards. I used the clamps to keep the pieces aligned while the glued fully cured. 

2. Lettering 

I designed the gravestone inscription ("RIP", name and date) to fit within the dimensions of the plywood panels. I basically made a cutting stencil from paper. Here's the JPEG image I used. Click HERE to download the full sized file for free.

I sent the inscription image file to my local Staples to have it printed on an oversized 18" x 28" engineering print. It only cost $1.78, but if you want to avoid that step, check out the website (I know, terrible name). Basically, it breaks down large pictures into multiple images so you can print them at home and tape the pieces together.

To hold the stencil temporarily in place, I sprayed a fine coat of DAP Weldwood contact cement on the backside of the paper, as well as the front plywood panel. Once tacky, I stuck the two together.

With the inscription stencil in place, I carefully cut out each letter, using my scroll saw. Now I'll be honest, this took WAY longer than I expected it to. Apparently, I need a lot of scrolling practice. Alternatively, you could use a jigsaw or Dremel, but I would recommend maybe choosing a less ornate design.

3. Acrylic Shade

The thin, frosted acrylic sheet I used to diffuse the light behind the lettering actually came from a standard size fluorescent light cover (the kind you see used with a dropped ceiling). They are cheap and easy to find in the lighting section of Home Depot. The actually dimensions are 23-3/4" x 47-3/4", so I only needed to make one cut to get my final 11" x 23-3/4" panel.

I aligned the acrylic shade on the backside of the front plywood panel, making sure to remain 3-1/2" from each edge. To hold it in place, I used a bead of RapidFuse around the perimeter.

4. Assemble 

I sandwiched the inner frame between the plywood panels, applied more RapidFuse adhesive, and clamped it all together while it dried. I wanted to create a more "halloween-y" shape, so I used my circular saw to miter the top corners.

I realized there were some defects in my 2 x 4 frame. Since I plan to display my tombstone in the front yard where it will be exposed to the elements, I knew I needed to fix any gaps or cracks.

 I used DAP Platinum Patch outdoor filler. It's pretty sweet stuff. It's designed to be used on wood, metal, or vinyl and is rain ready in 24 hrs. Even though it's technically an exterior filler, it spreads and sands like butter! I'm probably going to start using it on any project that's going to be painted.

5. Access Hole

I needed a way to access the inside of gravestone to place the light source. I used Multi-tool to plunge cut a rectangle from the back panel, approximately 6" x 4".

6. Paint

I stuffed the inside of the access hole with paper towels and moved on to paint. I started with a base coat of stone textured spray paint from Rustoleum.

A few of the letters had small detached pieces, which I held in place by sticking on a strip of painter's tape.

Next, I alternated between flat black and flat gray paint, to give the gravestone kinda an old weathered look. 

7. Support Dowels and Access Hole Cover

This step is totally optional, but I figured it would be nice to have something to hold the gravestone in place in the ground. I cut two 1/2" x 6" dowels and added points to the ends. I drilled 1/2" holes, 2" deep in the bottom on the gravestone, inserted the dowels and held them in place with more RapidFuse.

Like I mentioned before, I needed to be able to access the inside area easily. I figured the best way to attach the doors was to use magnets.

I cut small wood tabs and aligned the access door in the opening. I drilled a 3/8" hole, only about 1/16" in the wood tabs as well as the back side of the door. I glued a neodymium magnet inside each hole. Then, I glued the tabs to the inside of the access opening.

8. Adding the lights

I recently received a few different LED lights from Husky tools. I've been using them as utility lights around the house and shop, but I figured one of them would work perfectly for my light-up gravestone as well. 

I first tried the 200-Lumen Husky clip light.  It has two light settings and a handy magnetic clip. It worked well but probably would have been a better option if I had made the access door larger.

The next contender was the round Multi-Use LED light. It packs 200 lumens as well, but also wasn't perfect to fit inside the gravestone.

The winner was the 300-Lumen LED Dual Beam Unbreakable Headlight from Husky. It's super compact, but crazy bright. I selected the brightest setting and placed it inside the gravestone.

I replaced the access door, drove the support dowels in the ground, and waited till it got dark. 

To add to the creepy scene, I placed my new Ridgid 18V Bluetooth Radio behind the gravestone.

I downloaded a couple of Halloween sound effect tracks (doors creaking, children laughing, heartbeats, etc.). I'll turn them on once trick-or-treaters start running around.

I paired the radio with a Ridgid 18V, 6Ah Octane Battery, so that thing will run for days. It has a run time 4X greater than standard lithium-ion batteries. Also, since it's Bluetooth enabled it can send me security notifications, which might come in handy leaving it outside on a dark evening. 

I love how the light-up gravestone turned out! The acrylic shade works perfect to create a soft glow and illuminate the letters.

If I'm totally honest and I were to do this again, I'd choose a much simpler design that wasn't so time consuming to cut out and make 2 or 3 of them. I think that's my plan for next year.

However, not including the time I spent fighting my scroll saw, the whole tombstone only took about 2-3 hours to complete. It's a perfect project to knock out this weekend and have in your yard with plenty of time for Halloween. 

This design got me thinking. I could use the same steps to create any kind of light-up yard sign. Maybe I should draw up a Christmas design. Want to build you own? Feel free to pin the image below to save the idea for later. 

how to diy wood halloween tombstone gravestone lighted yard sign outdoor

If you like this project, you'll love these ideas: 


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1 comment

  1. Love your projects! Just a heads up. If you have Microsoft office installed, ms publisher can break an oversized image into a multipaged poster for free.


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