Building Your Own Halloween Village Base Part 1: Arranging the Foam

Halloween villages have become just as popular as Christmas villages in recent years. Though many companies make Halloween-themed villages, two companies stand out as the best when it comes to village pieces. They are Department 56 and Lemax. Personally I am a Lemax Spooky Town person, thanks to the detail, lights and animations. That’s not to say though that I do not have Department 56 in my collection.

Like most people, I add new pieces each year, trying to take advantage of the sales wherever possible. As your collection grows, so does your need for real estate. For many years, I used a pre-made base that I was able to buy from a Department 56 retailer who was going out of business. This was made of the softer, white polystyrene board and unfortunately, because of the softness, took a beating each season. In 2022, I made a 2′ x 3′ base out of Foamular 2″ insulation and was amazed at the results. This year my goal is to do a 4′ x 8′ base to go along with it.

Since this is going to be a completely new and original base, the first thing I did was line up the foam board in an approximate placement situation to get a feel of what space I had. This first step is a rough look at what is possible. Looking at the arrangement, I knew that I wanted the back level to be higher in some areas. From start to finish, the whole process is a work in progress. Expect to change your mind a lot.

Then I took my actual village pieces and placed them on the various levels, seeing how I felt. I knew, due to the size of this base, that I would be able to keeping adding pieces for at least two seasons. When planning placement, you need to also take into consideration how your village may change from year to year. Are you allowing variations in placement for other pieces for down the road?

Since this village was going to have a minimum of three levels, I knew that each level needed to be attacked individually. You should never glue your levels together before each level is complete; it’ll make working on each level a lot easier. I also like to always start from the bottom level and work myself up to the highest level. The lowest level is 16″ deep by 96″ long, which allows for approximately 5 village pieces to sit comfortably, with enough additional space for smaller pieces such as trees, pumpkins, and people.

Since the new base is supposed to be a continuation of the 2022 base, I wanted the front edge to continue the stone wall. The first step is to draw it out with a Sharpie marker. These initial steps can be tedious, but it has a great payoff in the end.

I then used a soldering iron to melt the sharpie lines, creating depth. I still need to experiment with the different tips in this kit to see how they melt the foam. This is another tedious step and you have to be careful not to burn yourself. Once you complete the 96″ you will notice the the foam board is still at a right angle and the “rocks” appear flat. This is where the detailed work comes in.

I use a combination of sand paper and a razor knife. This helps to round out the rocks and by carving in between the rocks, gives even more depth. This is the most time consuming when it comes to village base construction. Don’t worry if whole rocks pop out while carving, this just adds to the personality of the stone wall. Nothing in nature is perfect, so the more damaged things look the better. Plus this is a Halloween village, it should be imperfect.

Once I am done with carving the full length, I take a medium bristle tooth brush and brush the entire wall down. This helps clean out any loose foam and starts giving texture to the rocks. For the final detail work, I wad up a ball of aluminum. This rough surface is perfect for digging into the foam, giving it the texture that you really want. Then you just press the foil onto the surface of the rock wall.

This is the end of the first step for the lowest label. Next up is the create the first level where the village pieces go. Stay tuned!

~David Albaugh

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