View Full Version : Cave Scene help and direction
01-18-2013, 11:01 AM
Hey everyone, I was looking for advice on creating a cave scene in the haunt this year. I was thinking of using chicken wire with burlap and monster mud, but I don't know how resiliant that would be to 10,000 people streaming through. So I was hoping if anyone had some great ideas or advice they would be willing to share, I for one would be really appreciative.
01-18-2013, 11:41 AM
It would be helpful to know what kind of budget you are working with.
01-18-2013, 12:04 PM
Yea that would help... I was planning on a 6ft long hallway going into a 10 X 12 ft room. Cielings would be around 8ft high. I was hoping to keep the cost of the room below a 1000.00, not including lighting and props. But I can be flexible...
01-18-2013, 04:16 PM
Have you considered coated styrofoam? Those coatings can make that stuff so resilient its kinda incredible, plus its easy to shape, and you can usually find quite a bit of it for free (try furniture stores or rent-to-own places!)
01-18-2013, 04:48 PM
What we do professionally is instead of drywall, you do what you had planned and use concrete, sand and bonding agent available these days at Lowes. Quickrete bonding adhesive you mix with water and use instead of water in the mix of 1 part portland cement and 2 parts sand. There it is, plain and simple, now I'm going to watch 40 posts about bullshit stucco products that cost $60 and $80 a bucket and foam machines and contractors that are going to cost a minimum of $2,000. This concrete mix in burlap costs about 30 cents per square foot. But, there I tried, I shared. I have caves that have been out in the wilderness for 16 years now that have survived and are only about 1/4 inch thick on a metal frame. Once you have the burlap coverage and shapes you can shoot the cement formula with a hopper, tint the material with dry tints and paint it to taste.
I even gave a seminar on this crap and no one cared so I'm not sure I want to share anymore. Sakrete has similar bonding agents. Shit I'm sharing again. Why can't I STOP! I know there is going to be a big bunch of posts of crap that is going to cost 3 times as much. Why do I do this to myself?
01-18-2013, 04:55 PM
I'm definitely going to try that. I have a rockwork project coming up soon and that sounds handy as all hell.
01-18-2013, 06:35 PM
We used Chicken wire and then covered it with burlap and sprayed Mortar onto it with a mortar sprayer.. Here's how it turned out.
01-18-2013, 08:16 PM
Hey Greg thanks for the sharing. That is some great info. I will definately try that one out. I like the idea of the durability. Especially when the drunks get stupid in there and try to run.
01-18-2013, 08:41 PM
Hey Brandon that looks good to, thanks for the picture. What kind of weight are you dealing with regarding something you have to tear down every year and store?
01-18-2013, 09:55 PM
I would estimate it to be 100 - 125lbs for a 4x8 Wall, it is sprayed about a 1/4in thick, this probably wouldn't be your best option if it has to be able to come down, I would probably suggest using Styrofoam and then coating it.
Scenic Art Productions
01-18-2013, 10:07 PM
Hello fellow haunters.
Yes, even though I do use alot of stucco products the Quickcrete is a harder outcome. I do not use stucco as a hardcoat though. I use stucco as a texture coat. I normally use a high end urethane hardcoat over foam for the protection. I have had items outside for many years with the hardcoat and stucco over foam. The roofing foam is fine for indoors but pricey. I hope I helped.
Scenic Art Productions
01-20-2013, 05:18 AM
i know you are putting a lot of people through your haunt. this is a pic of our cave. made with paper.
01-20-2013, 12:13 PM
That cave looks great, I really like the addition of the bottomless pit you have there. I was thinking of something a bit larger with using stalactites/stalagmites for some supports and inset red led lights scattered about. with some low lying fog across the floor. At least thats the idea I am messing with in my head right now.
Thanks for sharing
01-20-2013, 01:08 PM
The ones we have made are more dramatically curved paths with deeper reliefs and angled rock formations where things vary from 8 to 12 inches rather than square and flat looks. They end up being very heavy and I'm not sure about how portable they would ever be. You can make sections outside laying down and then stand them up with plywood bolt together flanges. Still even the 1/4 inch ends up being about 195 pounds per 100 Square foot. I have imagined building them on trailers and taking them into places and removing the wheels and springs but, that hasn't been required anywhere yet. Most of the places we have done have an outdoor trail component and simply the mess and being in the way they are usually outdoors or in a permanent haunt.
A bonus is that on an outdoor trail these caves become off season storage sheds. The cement and additive makes it feel like a cave because of it insulating all outside noise and weather. Spray foam may look like a cave but it feels more like a home products show instead of a cave. On one we were asked to dispose of a pallet of mortar mix and the end result was something too soft and powdery compared to the concrete formula. It got fixed with dozens of coats of paint but was not a stable material for long term. It has been done for hundreds of years using mortar formulas but generally these are finishes on something heavy like rebar and 12 inch thick concrete base.
When trying to make things that are not earthen in nature look like something natural, you usually end up with something that looks like a flinstones cartoon or a playschool cave. There are just limitations to any art or decor technique. If you were really considering something portable I would begin with a fiberglass shell with concrete over that.
You can put rubber gloves on and use rubber trowels to just put a texture on the surface rather than shooting it with a drywall hopper. I have no idea what a mortar shooter is.
01-20-2013, 11:24 PM
A Mortar sprayer is also a stucco sprayer unlike a Texture Hopper, this has larger jets for thicker materials..
01-21-2013, 07:35 PM
Okay, I officially love mortar sprayers. Except for the application. Portland and agregates whether it is sand, prickly pear, shreded paper or what have you without an additive needs to end up being 3/4 of an inch to 1 inch thick to demostrate any structure. Also using additives in concrete to get tht 1/4 inch thickness and as a result us 25% the material and end up with a finished structure, additives and hoppers are not a good combination. Of course we do this all the time and have hoppers we have even gotten at garage sales for $5 or $10 and years ago stopped worrying if they shut off and duct taped them wide open. The additive eventually glues the moving parts and any lubricant eventually eats out the seals.
So we have a bucket thing that the hopper fits into and you pour material on it and it is on! Literally going in the bucket and you pull it out and get after it. Working with additives you don't want to be dealing with more than about 3 batches at a time or 300 square feet worth of material as it is setting up as soon as it is mixed and has a short dwell time. There are secret retarding agents or just keeping the additive cool works. Sort of the multiple air brush theory, I have multiple drywall accoustic hoppers all set to a different nozzle size for what I want the end look or thickness to be.
Using the smaller hoppers can use a drywall texture rig or smaller 110 V compressor. The videos on the mortar shooter site say use a 60 gallon 8 HP air compressor or one that hooks up to 220 volt to make something that is going to be totally off the grid with solar power. Something isn't right there. I guess you can rent big gas run compressors like used for sand blasting.
Still mortar and plaster formulas need to be pretty heavy and you will have $1200 in materials when it can be done pretty large for $400 in materials. Then someone or some mixing machine needs to mix 4 times the amount of materials instead of one guy with a drill and a bucket.
Another slick thing to get it down to one guy instead of two mixing is we have cut a hole in the back of a wheel barrow, put the dry mix in it and as we run the drill in the additive, add dry mix to just the right consistency and go. No high dollar mixer. 3 inches of the mixed up additive 1 part additive, 2 parts water to about 10 inches of dry mix, in a seperate bucket you can measure out 6 inches of filtered sand and 4 inches of portland cement. Or there are a variety of already set up spray deck formulas. YOu can get them with fiberglass strands if you want and shoot that.
Still under 30 cents a square foot. Maximum 90 cents a square foot if you go crazy and shoot the outside of the structure too to encapsulate the structure. I'm a fraid using additive in the mix and in one afternoon the mortar shooter would be totally coated and need the incredible hulk or bane to lift it up and shoot. With additive, you do 300 SF and clean everything. There are all kinds of expensive shooting contraptions and some even have your material going through hoses and the demos look cool but, they would never clean up and I always ask how much is a replacement hose and that fact alone has made me never buy some big hopper machine. It works for drywall and materials that have no polymer in them fine but, you have to have the structural thickness to make them work.
I also stay old school and want additive I add to the material as I need and do not want any magic material that has polymers that you just add water. Years of testing proves getting too thick can result in curing problems that make the end product weak and powdery and I really like other contractors using those things because we get to grind it all off and do it right.
It is possible to do a 30 foot cave that is 10 foot high at it's peak for less than $800 in materials with a cheap or even rented texture rig. Normally a texture rig uses only 12 to 20 pounds of pressure in a high volume pump on 110 volt and slower means you have more control of adding material. Several light coats instead of your burlap or wire mesh taking on too much weight and sagging and looking like a giant waffle cave.
We actually go much cruder than having burlap. Even encapsulated in cement mixes, with a torch the burlap still burns and smolders. So we hang plastic on the outside and shoot into the wire several times until it fills up with material, then shoot the back side, then go nuts on the inside again so that everything is this cement and additive and a metal frame work. The actual structure is cheaper to do in rebar like 3/8 inch all pre bent to strange shapes and screen or harware cloth attatched to that all done with bailing wire. You could weld everything together but once it is all encapsulated in cement it doesn't come apart.
Using weird fillers that are not already flame retardant and public attractions do not go together very well and some fire marshals just say no to foam and styrofoam pieces. So we want metal and concrete. You can use anything like plasters, drywall, mortar and cement with just water added but it would all just be expenable and a one or 2 years thing before it became a hassle about now how do you get rid of this thing. So we spent about $1700 on the first cave as a grand experiment and it has entertained people for more than 13 years averaging 8,000 people per year out in the middle of nowhere. So it has made 104,000 people think they were really in a cave with bats. That's like 1.6 cents per customer and that dollar figure is getting lower each year.
In the bigger picture it is the highest quality for the lowest amount of money and making something last for a return on investment instead of every year is blow out budgets and wondering if you will get it back. It is also doing thing in materials that give off the proper feel and don't freak out safety officials.
01-23-2013, 01:24 AM
Thanks Greg I appreciate all the advice. I am so looking forward to it warming up to where we can start our build for the new year. I am currently drawing up the plans for the cave. Everyone has had some great advice, thanks for taking the time to help out. I am planning on posting the pics of the finished cave as soon as its done come this May when the snows melt.
01-24-2013, 01:50 PM
You should contact Ethan Turon from Hundred Acre Manor in Pittsburgh. He made a HUGE cave 2 years ago that looks amazing. I can't remember what it cost him but it wasn't that terrible given the size it was...
02-04-2013, 11:33 AM
Thanks for the advice, I am trying to plan this to be modular in some regard to be able to move and break down easier. We are not in a place it can be left up all year. I understand its going to have some weight to it, but any ideas on what you would use to tie the wood framing together? I was planning on making some of the ceiling supports with stalactite/stalagmites as well some of the twisting halls of it. But I really want to make it in a modular fashion.
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