No serious Halloween haunter should be caught dead without one!
Few Halloween props have the ability to raise the creep factor of a haunted scene simply by just showing up. The Toe Pincher Coffin is one such prop. From creeping out the front porch for the trick or treaters to finishing off a full blown Halloween graveyard display, the toe pincher coffin is definitely among the top 13 Halloween props you should own!
These old-world-styled coffins can instantly transforms any scene because even if the toe pincher coffin is not set up as the main object of interest, people’s eyes are still drawn to it. That’s the power of the coffin’s creep factor – it taps deep into our psyche and tingles nerves right down at our subconscious level.
The Toe Pincher burial box was measured up specially for each individual cadaver – wider at the shoulders and narrower at the feet – hence the name, “Toe Pinchers“. These 8 sided coffins were replaced by today’s rectangle caskets some time in the 19th century – so a toe pincher coffin should be at least somewhere around 100 plus years old. This is why most people distress the toe pincher coffins they build. So when we, the lurking lunatics at Screaming Scarecrow Studios, decided that we were going to build our own Halloween toe pincher coffin we knew that it had to have that old, decayed, just-dug-up look!
Now everybody knows that there are lots of How To articles out there to teach you how to distress wood but we figured nothing does a better job of aging and distressing wood like time. So naturally when a neighbour was tearing down an old garage and they said we could salvage the decaying weathered boards, we were stoked! So that is the first thing you’ll need to find in order to build an authentic looking toe pincher coffin. One that’ll be among the top jewels in your collection of Halloween props.
A common mistake that most people make when they build a coffin as a Halloween prop (or for any other reason) is that they tend to make it too big and the angles are not the right proportions. There is really only one “how to” secret you must know when building a toe pincher coffin if you want it to turn out looking correct… That secret is to get the angles right -but more on that later…
We wanted a coffin which had plenty of cracks and spaces between the boards so that red light and fog could seep out from within. Because we were using old decayed boards this wasn’t going to be a problem. However because the boards were in less than sturdy condition we knew we would have to attach them onto a sturdy frame. We also, for this particular coffin, choose not to have an opening door. This would increase the overall sturdiness and reduce the likely it’d fall apart however, the problem then became how to get the red lights and fog machine into the coffin. We decided that we’d leave the bottom open so that we could prop the toe pincher coffin up on its side and then place the lighting and fog machine on the ground then let the coffin back down. Viola! Easy-peasy!
For the frame we started by cutting four pieces of 4×4 and two pieces of 2×2 lumber 14.5 inches long for how high the coffin was to be. Next we then cut two sets of 1×4 lumber to be screwed into the top and the bottom of the 4×4’s & 2×2’s
- two pieces at 18 inches for the “TOP”
- two pieces at 22 inches for the “TOP SIDE”
- two pieces at 54.5 inches for the “BOTTOM SIDE”
- two pieces at 15.25 inches for the “BOTTOM”
Once all the lumber was cut to the proper sizes it was just a matter of standing up the 4×4’s & 2×2’s on an even flat surface. Two 4×4’s at the head , the two 2×2’s at the shoulders and of course the last two 4×4’s down at the feet of the toe pincher. Then taking one set of the cut 1×4’s and starting at the head of the coffin we screwed the boards to the support posts. First all along the bottom and then all along the top
We added a 25 inch cross brace at the top of the wide shoulder section and at the bottom of the wide shoulder section and then finished off with a three 53 inch length wise 2×2 supports for the top boards of the coffin.
All together this provided us with a nice sturdy frame to which we could attach the decayed weathered boards.
Before attaching the outer boards we painted the frame black – that way any parts of the frame that were exposed through the cracks would be unnoticed during the dark of Halloween night.
With the painting out of the way the next thing we did was clad the outside of the frame with the old boards. We looked for pieces with personality and edges that were decayed. We cut them down to fit the sides taking care to only cut off one side of decay for each length. Then we matched the cut sides with other cut sides and matched the decayed side with other decayed sides. That way at least some corners looked completely decayed while the other corners had new cuts. Like the frame, we also painted the new cuts with black paint (to once again, better hide them in the dark of the Halloween nights.)
Once the outside was finished it was time to put the top on. This also required some kind of frame work onto which we could attach what would become the Lid boards. 2 2×2 and 1 2×3 attached to the wall frame later we could start assembling the lid of out decrepit toe pincher coffin. First we put down one layer of the ship lap board with the tongue groove to the outside. I wanted this to look like old carpentry detailing work. Next we put down another layer of boards onto the first layer, again with the groove out to the edge. This second layer was placed just a bit further in to add to the old world carpentry craftsmanship look. Lastly to finish up a couple of center pieces were cut to fill in the final hole of the lid.
Under the category of “Attention to detail”, while we were salvaging the old boards we also collected a small pail of old rusty nails for the finishing touch of authenticity. We used the rusty nails to attach the decayed weathered wood to the coffin. Which I think was a nice touch!
Over the years we’ve made several coffins for several different uses but this one still remains one of our favourite Halloween prop creations because of it authentic look. If you don’t already have at least one Toe Pincher Coffin in your dusty attic of creepy props what are you waiting for – Halloween? Get busy building one!
Thanks for Reading.