Iterative gravestones

This post of tips for scripting at Clark’s Tech Blog is well worth reading. I especially like the first tip: Consider scripting an interactive process. Don’t expect you’ll get everything right the first time; get it written, start using it, and fix bugs/add features as the need arises. This weekend I was able to use this idea outside the realm of scripting, on some old Halloween decorations.

I first made a set of faux gravestones about a ten years ago. They’re cut from some old wooden shelves left behind by the previous owner of my house and painted gray and black. Like many projects of this sort, they were hacked together out of the materials at hand.

The stones look OK, as these things go, but I’ve always had a problem keeping them upright in the yard. At first, I had wooden stakes nailed or screwed to the back sides, but the stakes were hard to drive into the ground, because I’d have to hit the top of the stake with the sledge repeatedly without hitting and damaging the gravestone. Not a terrible problem, but a once-a-year annoyance that didn’t have to be.

So this year, when October came and we started pulling the Halloween decorations out of storage, I decided to fix this bug rather than continue to live with it. Each gravestone now has a pair of ¾-inch conduit hanger brackets glued to its back side. A ½-inch conduit, 2 to 2½ feet long, is driven into the ground until its exposed height is less than the height of the gravestone. The gravestone is then slid down into place, with the conduit running through the brackets.

The size mismatch between the conduit and the brackets was deliberate. As time goes on, I expect the top ends of the conduit pieces to mushroom out from the pounding. The bigger brackets should be able to accommodate the increasing conduit diameter.

The carpenter’s glue I used to attach the brackets is probably not the most robust solution. Bolts would make the strongest attachment, but I didn’t want any hardware to be seen on the front side. Construction adhesive (e.g., Liquid Nails) probably would have been the best choice, but I didn’t have any lying around and didn’t feel like buying a full tube for just a few dots of adhesive. The carpenter’s glue is another iteration; if it doesn’t hold, I’ll do another bug fix next year.

Update 10/27/09
Next year came early. The carpenter’s glue failed on one of the headstones in about a week. I redid all the brackets with an indoor/outdoor construction adhesive, which held up to some reasonably tough twisting tests.