Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Build of Giant Mushrooms

Hi there! Welcome to my first ever build of Giant Mushrooms! I originally wanted to build these for an Alice in Wonderland Event but my budget was cut short at the time. I was determined to get around to them though and managed to fit them into my Haunted Garden Set. This build is 2 Giant Mushrooms in total. The largest one, pictured above, is 9' tall and there is another at 7' tall. These mushrooms are made of wood, chicken wire, cheesecloth, pvc tubing, electrical conduit, Versi-Foam Spray Foam, spandex and paint. I hope you enjoy my tutorial. There is a 4 minute 'Making Of Video' at the end. Thanks for stopping by!

When I originally decided I wanted to build these bad boys, I searched the internet far and wide for a tutorial on how to build such a thing. I found nothing solid with materials and design but Pinterest had some great pics of a few large shrooms that inspired me. So I printed a few pictures out, picked a shroom out of my yard for inspiration and got building. Hopefully this will make its way around the ether so others who desperately want to build giant mushrooms can get some help. I know I needed it and let me tell you, this was no easy task at first. It had a bit of a learning curve as we started building the cap. The hard part was making it strong. That is very important.

The shrooms are 3 major elements. The stem, the cap and the underside gills. Let's start with the stem.
 I'll be very honest with you, I don't really remember the specifics of this design so this whole tutorial won't be very "exact". The top and bottom of the stem was made from 3/4" plywood. I cut them into squares and then rounded the edges. The sizes for everything will vary depending on the size of the shroom you want to build. These were probably 18" in diameter. We used (3) 2x4s inbetween. At first, I had a 1x2 in the center but I don't think it was necessary at all. What IS necessary is using lag screws and washers to connect the 2x4s to the bases. Strength. Is. What. It's. All. About.
The lag screws were roughly 3/8" in diameter and 4-5 inches in length. The washers are very important and should match the diameter of the screws. We used a nut driver to tighten the screws. Make sure you pre-drill your holes.
My husband was all about measuring for the holes, but when I built the second shroom, i eyeballed the whole thing and it worked out perfectly. If you like to be exact, more power to ya.
So what you end up with is a very basic 8' tall stem with a top, bottom and support for chicken wire. Notice the bottom base, which is a piece from one of those electrical rolls. It is VERY heavy and works wonderfully to keep your shroom from falling over. I was lucky enough to have 2 of these on hand, but you probably don't have one lying around, so find something heavy to use as a base to attach this to or your shroom will not stand on its own. I'm sure there is something at Home Depot that could be substituted.

Ok time to bust out the chicken wire and steel snips.
Those 2 items are super important. You can find chicken wire in the gardening section of Home Depot or Lowe's. 
I wrapped the wire around the bottom of the stem and used a staple gun to attach it to the wooden beams. Then I wrapped more until I reached the top. I left a small opening at the top in case i wanted to run electrical. Ok moving on to the cap for now.

The cap took us several tries before we got it right. I won't bother you with how to not do it. But once again, it is about strength. This thing needs to be sturdy when moving and transporting, especially once the foam goes on so it doesn't rip off the skeleton. The cap skeleton consists of the following:

The conduit is found in the electrical section of Lowe's or Home Depot and comes in 10' sections. You can get it in different diameters. We used 3/4". I think. What is so great about the stuff though, is that it bends. Oh yes. It bends. The poly Flex tube is found in the pvc plumbing part of the store. We used that for the outer edge of the cap.  The 4x4 lumber is in the decking section of the lumber dept. 
Ok first order of business is to create the stem of the cap itself. This was done using leftover plywood and that 4x4. We cut this piece into a 1 foot section. Use lag screws and a washer to attach the two. Ignore the sides we built around the egde. That is not necessary. The tricky part was figuring out where to pre-drill holes for the conduit to go through. 
I really don't have any specs for this. As you can see above, we used a very large drill bit for the (4) pieces of conduit to go through. You just need to space them enough so they don't hit one another. Got it? Good.
Ok, once you have your conduit through the holes in the center stem, you can start bending. Think of creating an umbrella shape. 
Then using our very scientific method of centering by standing on a ladder and eyeballing it, you can then wrap your pvc tubing in a circle to create the egde. No really though, just measure from one edge to the other to get your 10' diameter. 
Once the tubing is to your liking, pre-drill holes where it will attach to the conduit and then bang the crap out of the conduit to smash it down a little so the screw can get through. This was a total pain in the ass and there is probably a better way to accomplish it. Either way, it worked. 
Ignore the fact that chicken wire is already attached. You do that after. Simply screw the conduit to the pvc tubing uisng screws, washers and nylon lock nuts.
Take your chicken wire (the wider the better) and lay it over top of the cap structure. Cut around edges and wrap excess under tubing. Attach with zip ties. 
Oh and be careful. It is sharp and stuff.
2 Mushrooms pre cheesecloth, pre foam. The bends are subject to your own creative desires. 
Cheesecloth is used to create a skin for the foam application. Without it, well, your foam would just go everywhere. Cheesecloth can be found at craft and fabric stores or on amazon. There are a few different versions of density. Try to find the denser version so the foam doesn't spray through the fabric. I applied the cheesecloth to the cap using a hot glue gun. I glued the fabric directly to the conduit and pvc tubing outer edge. I used spray adhesive to lightly adhere the fabric to the chicken wire. 
This is a view from underneath.
You do the same thing with the stem. And now you are ready for the foam fun. 
I used a closed cell spray foam system from Versi Foam. This is the System 50 kit. It comes in 2 tanks and it is magical. With shipping, this system cost us a little under $800.  To learn more about Versi Foam, visit http://www.rhhfoamsystems.com/. Geez i need some sponsorship from these people. 
Follow insructions. Take all precautions. Be safe. This stuff is not to be messed with. Besides you end up looking like the cool Walter White. It's FOAM BITCH! (Breaking Bad reference if you didn't know). 
Yes, you read that right. You have to shake the tanks vigorously. They weigh a freakin ton. Have fun with that. 
What you get out of these amazing tanks of awesomeness is a fast drying foam that comes out wet and sticky and cures to perfection.
Ready for paint!
This is absolutely 100% necessary. Keep it clean in between colors or it will die a quick death. 
I chose a color palette that was inspired by Alice in Wonderland. One mushroom was a dark gray and purple. The other a taupe and turquoise. I bought a light beige and light gray for highlights.
The cap is huge, so place it vertically for paint. I even had to use a ladder at times.
The process is very easy and fast with the sprayer. I did 2 coats to make sure i got all the crevices. 
Paint complete, time to create the gills. 
This was a painful, time consuming process. The fabric i used was 120" wide spandex purchased from Spandex House in NYC.  You could use whichever fabric you like really. The reason I chose it is because of its stretch ability and how it glows with lighting. In the end, it was a bit too white but they didn't sell cream 120" spandex so this was what worked for me. It took me a little while to figure out how to attach the fabric. What you see above is not how I actually did it. But I had to get it up there to see what started happening. I came to realize that the best way to achieve the most yield from your fabric is to cut opposing triangles. It is tricky though and i cut as i stretched. Like I said, time consuming, arms over the head, painful experience.
So basically, I pleated the fabric starting at the inside center. I pleated and then stapled the fabric in sections. That is about the size of each section. 
I then pulled the fabric out to the outer edge where I then pinned the pleats to the foam using push pins. 
I cut the edges off to prepare for hot glue. 
I burned the ever living F%@#! out of my fingers during this process. Once you pull the pin out, just keep the pleat in place, fold edge over and behind and glue...over and over and over again.
This is the 9' Mushroom with me underneath to give you a sense of scale. 
The Haunted Garden 2013
The Haunted Garden 2013
The Haunted Garden 2013
The Haunted Garden 2013
Big Dub Festival 2014
Nightmare Festival 2014
Nightmare Festival 2014
Nightmare Festival 2014
Dreamscape Festival 2015
Dreamscape Festival 201
Big Dub Festival 2015
If you would like to see a quick, fun Mushroom Making of Video set to a funky tune, check out my video below. Visit my You Tube Channel for more! Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, feel free to comment and I will always respond.