Bats and Spider Cutouts DIY Halloween Decorations Tutorial
October 16, 2016
My father raised us kids in a very DIY atmosphere. "Why buy it when you can make it?" could probably be the Kneale family motto. When it comes to holiday decorations, I tend to want to make things myself: durable, reusable, customizable. After posting some progress shots on FB, I thought I'd make up a tutorial so others can try it themselves! So here's my DIY Halloween Decoration Tutorial for Bats and a Spider cutouts!
1/4" plywood, luaun, or lightweight MDF
"Clean" wood jigsaw blade
Scroll jigsaw blade
Cost: $10 for 2'x4' sheet of Luaun, $4 for can of black spray paint. Tools and other materials vary.
Time: 1 to 3 hours (depending on how many you make! 7 bats and 1 spider, from sketch to painted was approximately 3 hours).
Step 1: Get Your Materials
I chose a 2'x4' sheet of 1/4" luaun as my material for my cutouts. Luaun is basically a thin, nice sheet of plywood. But you have other options. Here's a basic breakdown of pros and cons:
1/4 Lightweight MDF --- Pros: Smooth, easy to cut/paint. Cons: very fine and somewhat toxic sawdust, more expensive, difficult to find.
1/4" or thicker Plywood --- Pros: Cheap. Cons: splinters, thicker is harder to cut, heavy, hard to sand.
Step 2: Draw Your Cutouts
I chose to draw my bat on a piece of thick sketch paper. I started with half a bat, and folded it over to make sure both sides matched. Then I cutout and traced the paper over and over on my 1/4" luaun sheet. I also free-handed a spider, who is kinda wonky but still has the spoopy factor. *
***Sharpie warning: SHARPIE IS FOREVER. I used a fine tip sharpie for my outlines. If you have any intention of staining or painting your cutouts a different color than black, don't use sharpie. It will bleed through anything eventually... Even duct tape or those fancy paints that said "Will stop sharpie!" Give it a few years and the sharpie will be back to haunt you. If you DO want to use sharpie like me, make sure you cut off or sand off all your marks. Or paint your cutouts solid black and your lines won't be that obvious. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.***
Step 3: Prepare to Cut
Make sure you have a nice open space, either on sawhorses or on a work bench. My garage is super crowded with boxes, projects, and a motorcycle that's in pieces, soooo... not the ideal, but I had enough space to maneuver. I put down a piece of 3/4 ply on folding sawhorses to use as a small workbench.
Also, get your safety gear on. Trust me when I say you do NOT want a splinter in your eye. It's an awful experience that I've unfortunately been through even when wearing safety glasses. I therefore, tend to wear goggles. They won't fall off nor will splinters somehow find there way around the sides. Also very good ideas: hearing protection, dust mask, and gloves.
Step 4: Cut
Position your material on your work bench. You can either clamp it down, or just let it sit, depending on the thickness/weight. I clamp down luaun so it wont move around or break as I cut. It also reduces the vibration and makes your cuts cleaner.
Make sure your lines are nice and clear before you start cutting. You don't want to be second guessing what you drew in the middle of a cut!
I start with my standard Clean Wood blade (My Ryobi jigsaw uses t-Shank and I usually use Bosch blades because they have excellent multipacks). This blade will cut nice smooth long lines. If your cutout is large enough, you can use it for everything. This is an AGGRESSIVE blade. Remember that when you're trying to make those cute little ears or turn a tight circle. I only use the clean wood blade to cute the long lines and separate the bats. (My spider was entirely with this blade due to the nearly straight lines).
For the tighter curves, I used a scroll blade, also known as a turning blade. I stupidly didn't take a close up of my blade (may edit that in later!) so you'll just have to look at this generic one I stole off the internet. It is very DELICATE (can snap, again WEAR EYE PROTECTION) so be cautious. If you're ever going to snap a blade, it'll be this one.
Rule of thumb: if it's difficult to push through the wood, you're doing something wrong. Let the blade do the cutting. Also, you don't have to have the jig run full speed to make cuts. I generally keep mine at half speed or less, giving me more control.
Now switch to scroll blade!
Hey look, a bat!
Spider is a bit... wonky. I'm not the most symmetrical sketcher! Still cute though.
Step 5: Sand, Stain and Paint
Sanding: I just used 220 grit sandpaper (tearing small pieces from sheets) to knockdown the splintered edges. Depending on your material, you may want finer or grittier. You may even want to route if you're using something super thick. 3/4" ultralight MDF would look awesome for this project, as you'd be able to sand in a little detail or route
Stain: I decided to make a mix of finishes for my bats. I stained 2 of the 7 with oil based red mahogany by Minwax.
Paint: I used a black acrylic paint (because I had a lot) on 3 of the bats and the spider, and a gold spray paint (also, because I had it) on two bats. You can pretty much use anything to paint these. Spray paint is going to be a lot easier just because the wood is porous. If you're brushing on acrylic, you're going to have to water it down a lot just to get the edges covered. MDF users, you'll probably want to go acrylic or prime the hell out of it before spraying. MDF is thirsty!
Seal: You can seal your bats once they're fully dry/cured if you're going to leave them outside for, say, the entire month of October. I usually use Minwax Polyurethane in a semi-gloss. You can also get some great clear coat in spray form by Rustoleum!
Hang them from the ceiling with monofilament, or attach them to the wall. Endless possibilities with your durable, customized, DIY Halloween decor!
These particular cutouts are for the grand opening of Burled and Knotted Community Woodshop in Newport News, Virginia. I'll be teaching classes there on how to make cutouts like these soon!
I hope you enjoyed this DIY Tutorial. If you'd like any clarification on any of the steps, or some helpful jigsaw tips, let me know!