Manning Makes Stuff - Halloween decorations, paper mache masks, costumes, party ideas, and more

Manning Makes Stuff - Halloween decorations, paper mache masks, costumes, party ideas, and more

Making a giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon!

Published by Manning on February 23rd, 2019

I’ve been marching with Skeleton Krewe every Mardi Gras since 2013, and every year we give out either wooden nickels or metallic doubloons with the Krewe’s logo on them. This Mardi Gras the group is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and I decided to make this giant-sized doubloon; I’m not even sure what I’m gonna do with it yet! Here’s how I made the thing…

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - silver spray paint

Here’s what the real doubloon looks like, with a quarter for scale:

real Skeleton Krewe doubloon with quarter for scale

For my giant doubloon, I started by deciding on a size: 15″ for the diameter, and about an inch thick.

I resized our Krewe logo in Photoshop and laid it out across four pages, and then I printed out two different versions — one version is the whole doubloon in pieces so I could assemble them into one big 15″ cut-out, and another version is all the little letters and other pieces spread out with more space in between them so I could easily cut them apart.

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - designs

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - printing out the design

Building the base

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - cutting out foam board circles

I measured and drew two foam circles at 15″ on foam board, and cut them out with an X-acto knife; see my article about drawing precise circles. You can see the strip of pasteboard and the awl I used for this at right in the pic above. I used these same tools to trace the same size circle onto craft foam; more on that coming up later.

I also cut out a bunch of strips of foam board and folded them into triangles to serve as inner supports for the coin structure. I cut these at 5/8″ wide, since the two foam board disks are 3/16″ thick; the two disks plus these inner supports will add up to 1″.

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - taping foam supports in place

I taped the triangular supports onto one of the disks, then set the other disk in place and taped all of this together.

I cut a couple long strips of poster board, at just under an inch wide, to serve as the outer wall around the edge of the coin.

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - covering the disk with shipping tape

I taped the strips of poster board all around the edge of the structure. I then covered both sides of the disk shape with shipping tape; this is to help prevent warping when I cover the shape with paper maché later. I didn’t go all the way to the edges with the tape, since the tape wouldn’t be able to fold over the edges nicely without creating ugly wrinkles. Close to the edges is good enough.

I embedded two little magnets in one side of the doubloon (not shown), right near the edge; these will make the piece easy to hang up later. I just cut out a little hole in the foam board, set the magnets in place, and covered it over with a piece of shipping tape; the tape will help prevent the magnets from tearing out. The more magnets you stack up the stronger the connection is, and I did a test and determined that two magnets in the doubloon and two on the wall would be strong enough to hang this thing up.

Paper maché

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - paper mache

I then covered the whole doubloon shape with several layers of paper maché to make it nice and sturdy; you can read about my paper maché process and materials here. I did three layers on the side with the magnet, and two on the other (for starters).

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - pasting the guide

Before starting the paper maché, I’d taken one of my printouts and carefully tore it into big pieces and set them aside, so that as soon as the paper maché was done I could lay these pieces in place on the doubloon, while the paste was still wet. You can see I numbered and lettered them so as to not get (even more) confused! Once the pieces were in place I smoothed a bunch more wallpaper adhesive over them to paste them down completely. This printout will be the guide for where I’ll place all the 3d elements, coming up.

The reason I tore the printout into pieces is that if you try to paper maché a large piece of paper onto a surface, it will get super wrinkled as the paper absorbs the paste and expands. Smaller pieces are much more manageable and dry much smoother.

I should note, when it was time to set the printout in place on the doubloon, I made sure to first locate the magnet in the back and make sure that it was near the top, so that if I hang the doubloon by the magnet the design is right-side-up.

I was concerned that the edges of the printouts might be too visible when the doubloon was done, so I decided to conceal them with some tiny pieces of paper maché. I added more little pieces wherever I could without hiding the guides too much.

Now the doubloon had about three layers of paper on each side. I did this on purpose because paper maché tends to warp as it dries, and if you’ve got more layers on one side of something, that side may warp more than the other. Keeping the same numbers of each side can help encourage the piece to warp less overall. The layer of shipping tape I added earlier helped a lot too. I’m pleased to say that the doubloon stayed nice and flat for every step of this project; that’s always a relief! Some of my paper maché projects end up getting really warped and that can be a real drag; there are so many factors involved, like even the weather and the drying time. Sometimes it’s possible to fix a warped piece by setting heavy books on it or whatever, and sometimes not. Sometimes I just get lucky!

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - pasting the shapes onto foam

While the doubloon was drying I worked on creating the 3d elements. I took the other one of my printouts and cut all the individual pieces apart. I pasted these onto sheets of craft foam using the same wallpaper paste I use for paper maché; I just spread a bunch of paste onto the craft foam, then laid the printouts in place, and spread a little more paste over them.

The craft foam warps and curls as it dries, but this is no big deal; as soon as the paper is removed (coming up) the foam will become perfectly flat again.

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - cutting out the foam shapes

When the paste was dry, I cut out all of the shapes with scissors and an X-acto knife. Here’s something important! I marked the back of each craft foam shape with a Sharpie marker, with a dot or two at the top of each shape; this will let me know which side is the back after the paper is removed, and the placement of the dot(s) will let me know which side is up, for letters like “S” or “O”.

To avoid confusion with the larger and smaller letters, I marked two dots on the back of the larger letters, and one dot on the smaller ones. I didn’t bother to order the letters in any way; I don’t care if the “S” in “Gras” gets mixed up with the “S” in “since.”

When all of the shapes were cut out and marked, I soaked them in a pan of water, paper side down, for about half an hour. This makes it easy to slide the paper right off of them. I then rinsed the letters to get any remaining paste off of them, and laid them out to dry for a bit.

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - hole punch for foam dots

Note: I didn’t bother to use this technique with the printouts for all the little dots that make up the two concentric circles; I just punched these out of craft foam with a hole punch. Luckily the size was just about perfect!

I also didn’t bother with printouts for the big foam ring that goes all the way around the edge of the doubloon. I just drew a 15″ circle on craft foam using the same tools I used to draw the two foam board disks at the beginning of the project, and then I drew a slightly smaller circle inside that, and cut ’em out.

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - pasting the foam pieces in place

Finally, it was time to paste all the craft foam shapes in place. I spread a ton of wallpaper adhesive over the surface of the doubloon, and carefully laid each piece in place on the guide and pressed them down to make sure they connected to the paste all over. This was pretty tricky work, especially all those little dots! I let all of this dry for about 24 hours. I love how insane this thing looks at this stage! So busy!

(By the way, I only did one side of the doubloon; the other is just blank!)


giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - two coats of spray gesso

I then took the doubloon outside and applied a couple coats of spray gesso, waiting an hour or so in between coats, to help smooth out and unify the texture all over. This also helps glue down all the edges of all the craft foam pieces a little bit; the gesso can get inside any little cracks where the edges of the pieces aren’t perfectly flat against the surface of the doubloon.

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - silver spray paint

The next day, I spray painted the doubloon a super shiny metallic silver, and let that set for a day. I wanted to protect the paint job with gloss spray, but I tried doing the back of the doubloon first, and it definitely lost a little bit of its metallic shine, so I opted to not do the front.

And with that, the doubloon is done!

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - making a stand from foam board

I made a little stand for the doubloon out of foam board, masking tape, and a couple layers of paper maché; I figured out the shape by Googling stands for decorative plates. I spray painted the stand black and later added a coat of matte spray, which will hopefully prevent it from sticking to the metallic silver paint on the doubloon. Now the doubloon be can be displayed either on the stand, or hanging up with the use of the magnets embedded in the back.

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - finished stand

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - on stand

giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon - finished!

This project was fun! A nice diversion from my usual masks and monsters. Happy Mardi Gras, everybody! Now, on to the next project…

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