What's all this, then?

Each Halloween season, when the Greenwood Reaper inhabits my yard, people ask me “How did you make it?” and “What is it made from?”.

Since I’m making a bigger and better reaper I figured I’d make this blog to answer those questions. This is also a way for interested parties to ask questions and see the progress of the project.

The only regular time I spend building is on the week-ends, so it’s likely posts will appear early in the week.

The posts appear with the newest on top, so if you're new to the sight scroll to the bottom to read the beginning.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Reaper in his natural habitat...

The last few steps were pretty simple; get him dressed (using more of the landscape fabric) and add a few more cheap landscaping lights.

Now it’s your turn. Get out there and create!
Start sketching and collecting useful junk…
find a tool and learn how to use it…
conspire with your friends and neighbors…
be creative and don’t be afraid to fail!

Formulate, craft, create, build and construct!
Feel free to write to me if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to help.

I hope to see a whole legion of yard critters out there next year.

Big thanks to strixboy (Wayne Buck) for the great photo! http://www.flickr.com/photos/14114878@N00/

Monday, October 6, 2008


Raising the whole thing was a simple 3 step process.

…wait, did I say simple?

Rigging: With the able-bodied help of Dave, we rigged a modified mechanical belay system (replacing the center snap link with a pulley) between the chimney and the far corner of the arbor. This was the best way we devised to get the pulley point as high as possible. A rope was attached to the torso (about 2/3 of the way up the spine), through the pulley then down to the ground.

Joining: This step involved connecting the torso to the legs. Two of us held the torso in place while a third inserted the hinge pin (see Structure Basics for more details).

Lifting: Two of us lifted the torso from the front until the angle was right for the rope to pull effectively.

Once everything was upright a few swings from a framing hammer persuaded everything in place. Six truck cargo straps leading to five foot steel stakes cinched everything securely to the ground.

Attaching the lamp

Not really rocket science here... using a cheap landscape lighting kit I hooked up 4 of the lights (16 total watts) inside of the lamp, attached a loop of 5/16th steel rod for the handle and hooked up the wire that was inside of the right arm.

The landscape lighting kit came with a timer.

Fitting the robe

After the robe was complete I twisted and folded it up and jumped up and down on it to give it that “been reaped in” look. I made a simple hood and put it on the head. I fitted the top part of the robe on the torso and attached the hood using hot glue then proceeded to hack and slash the life out of it. This made the robe tattered looking as well as allowing the wind to pass through it.


The scythe needed to be tall strong and light. My first plan for the blade was to carve a skeletal frame out of a white pine board, then put a fiberglass skin over the whole thing. Once I cut out the basic shape I realized how light it was. The fiberglass was not necessary.

To make sure the base of the blade (where the most torque is) was bullet-proof I welded a length of aircraft cable to a steel ‘L’ bracket, attached the bracket to the base of the blade and ran the cable down a groove that I carved into the top of the blade. I attached a piece of ¾” aluminum square tube through the bracket.

I ‘sharpened’ the blade with an angle grinder and left the tool marks for texture.

After that, I fastened a 3” ABS ‘T’ joint to the aluminum tube.

The post was fifteen feet of bent ABS smudged with some brown spray paint.

That's one BIG party dress

My original plan for the Reaper's Robe was to use the modern, light-weight nylon fabric one would find a tent made out of… but then I spied a roll of landscape weed-block in the corner of the yard.
This particular stuff was/is pretty rugged. It’s stiff like construction paper and looks to be made out of fiberglass. I got my trusty sketches of the robe, tallied up the square footage needed and started unrolling. There was plenty for the job.
One Saturday morning Suzanne (my wife) and I sewed all 93 total feet of the outfit. I showed her the sketches and made a very quick scale model out of paper. Once it all gelled for her she said “Oh, like a party dress?”
I stared blankly and replied “Uhhh…, yeaaa…”

To get everything lined up I used a regular office stapler to hold the pieces in place. I piled all of the stapled pieces in the living room and walked them into the dining room (where the sewing machine was) and, as they were sewed, pulled them into the kitchen. The fabric sewed surprisingly easy. No catches, no bunching and very little swearing.
Once it was all sewed and pulled out into the yard and the scale of the nearly 100 feet of costume came into focus Suz chuckled and said “That’s one big party dress.”


One of the delay problems I was having was the need to make everything dis-assemble-able. This increased the complexity times ten. Making a static, permanent sculpture is a piece of cake, but when it’s something that needs to come down and be stored, ‘easy’ goes out the door.
Then one night while I was watching the Discovery channel (which is almost all I watch) I came to realize that maybe it doesn’t need to be completely modular…
The documentary was about one of those enormous tunnel-digging machines. Turns out that even though that gigantic machine is assembled on-site there are still tons of pieces that need to be welded in place. This ‘allowance’ made the last part of the torso construction move right along.

I needed to make sure all of the parts were going to fit properly as well as make sure the geometry and stresses were geometry-ing and stressing correctly, so I ended up putting together the torso 4 or 5 times.
The girls next door (Paige and Lauren) appreciated this since they are big fans of “The Scary Guy”.