I was asked this year to help put on the first kids not so spooky Halloween event for my city. They needed an attraction that the kids would be talking about and make them want to come back the following year when they could expand the event and make it bigger and better.
Years ago, I made a simple version of spider web walls on some scaffold as part of a small haunted walk-through. I had always wanted to try it full scale and here was my opportunity. The goal was to create a maze you could see through, couldn't get lost in or turned around, and the parents didn't have to enter to watch their kids complete it.
It also needed to be not so spooky but still fun enough to have people want to try it out.
Total cost was a bit steep, $1800ish. The city helped me fund it which is great because that was way out of my budget.
Here was the result and the build.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
I needed to make 75 panels (Actually 79 but we will get to that)
225 2x4x8 premium fir studs
600 eye screws
8 gallons of paint - I bought 2 originally. I may have miscalculated on paint coverage
1000 2.5" deck screws
8000 feet of 1/8th nylon braid rope
150 tap con screws - securing to the parking lot
Also bracing: Another 30 fir studs
Decorating - beef netting - Trenton Mills
Corn stalks - farmer friend
Straw bales - another farmer
Old Dark Room revolving door for the entrance.
Glue - Elmer's white glue - general purpose not kids glue.
Don't use Elmer's glue. general purpose is not water proof and melts away
Clothes Pins: To sort out how to make a maze with 75 panels.
Hand held drill
painting gear: brush and roller or HVLP gun
counter sink bit
drill bits and drive bits
screw driver - to spin the eye screws in
something to clip the zip ties - i used a pair of Klein dykes which they now call high leverage diagonal cutting pliers.
Painters cloth - or black plastic
spacers to keep boards from sticking
Step 2: Figuring Out the Size of Each Panel
I started out with 2 panels that were 8'x 4'. They were my trial runs to make sure the theory of making a web panel would work. They felt too tall for the web in the center and I needed to shorten them to make the web fit better. I ended up with a 7' tall panel instead. When cutting the sides down to 81" to get to my 7' panel height (add in 3" for the top and bottom 2x4 thickness = 84" or 7'), it left me with 15 inches extra. I used that to make a brace on each corner to help hold it square and sturdy it a bit. (See following step).
We started out using the two panels as templates for the webs and would tie webs into them, remove the webs from the eye screws and tie another. This allowed to a few webs to be tied prior to the painting being done. But it ended up being a hassle stretching them back together so as soon as the panels were painted, assembled and ready, each web was tied in a frame and left permanently.
These panels were then taken back apart and painted with the rest as seen in a few steps.
Step 3: 2x4 Frame
The 2x4s were cut down.
2 sides were 81" each. (150)
The tops and bottoms were 48" (75 boards cut in half to 150 total pieces)
And the bottom corner bracing was the left over 15" from the sides cut at 45 degree angles (150)
The tops and bottoms were pre drilled as well as the corner braces (600 holes)
Once assembled, although not yet, they become 7'x4' panels
Step 4: Painting and Eye Screws
Each side (all 6) was painted 2 times to help keep the weather out and the boards from twisting with changing humidity. I used an HVLP spray gun to apply the paint one side at a time. It was then followed up with a roller to ensure even coverage and adhesion to the boards. To save some money I used a few darker mis-tint paints to coat 3 of the ends and a couple of the sides. I ran out of that and switched to black. In all it took nearly 8 gallons of paint for two coats on everything.
Once the board were dry, I had to drill holes for the eye hooks to go into. I wanted all panels to be the exact same and interchangeable so I measured in and drilled each board the same. The top and bottom had one hole in the center at 24". The sides had the center at 40 1/2" as well as a hole 8 1/2 inches from each end. This gave me my web pattern with fairly even pieces or pie shapes, in a rectangular pie of course.
Step 5: Tying the Centers
To get the web to be taunt, the center strings needed to be tight to begin with. There are 4 strings that make up the centers. 3 were 7' 6" each and 1 at 4' 6".
I tied the shorter center piece first. To get each string tight, one end was tied to an eye screw. The other end was then pulled through the opposite eye screw and held tight with pliers while the end knot was tied. I can hold the rope way easier with pliers and not have it slip than just finger tight. Once a section was tied, a zip tie was placed on each knot to keep them in place and from loosening up.
The second rope tied was the top to the bottom. This was tied at one end, wrapped around the center string once, and tied pulled tight at the other. This creates a wrapped cross in the center.
A corner string is then tied from one corner to the other without wrapping the center. This helps to center your two already wrapped ropes under it. Figure you are creating a dissecting line with the corner to corner and move the center ropes accordingly.
The last corner string is wrapped over the center and pulled tight. Now the whole center is secured and ready to be turned into a web.
16 knots per panel x 75 panels = 1200 knots to get the centers completed
Step 6: Making the Web
A 79 foot piece of rope is used here. Why 79 you ask? Well I a bit of math
8000 feet of rope purchased.
75x7.5 for the center = 562.5
75x7.5 for the left corner = 562.5
75x7.5 for the right corner = 562.5
75x4.5 for the middle =337.5
Total 2025 feet
(8000 - 2025) / 75 = 79.67
Not knowing if I had extra or if the machines were exactly calibrated, I went with 79. And then I ended up with about 300 feet of extra rope. But hey, I had enough 79 foot pieces to complete all 75 panels.
Each piece was tightly wrapped around a holder. I used cut down paint stirrers, some cardboard tubes that used to hold essential oils my wife ordered, and even a block of wood. Whatever you have works, just wrap them tight.When you wrap them how you thought was tight, they unravel and mess everything up and you wrap them again tighter mumbling under your breath the whole time.
Then you start in the center and tie approximately 72 knots, all the same, just a simple clove hitch. Each time you pull the knot tight and when you get done you have a web. 79 feet actually works out pretty well for spacing of the webs. It is almost as if I trialed a piece before I bought 8000 feet so I knew how much I really needed. Or maybe I laid it out after the fact and got really lucky that I didn't just get 7000 like I planned. Likely the latter of the two.
You will find that the webs are now adjustable. If one is a bit loose just slide the knot. That is fun until some kid comes up and messes with it and you have a ton to readjust. So I glued them, all of them, with white all purpose Elmers glue and a paint brush. Now they will all stay in place, until it rains, and you find out Elmer's all purpose glue is water soluble, even though it doesn't say it is. Then you get a half a gallon of white glue that runs off the webs during the rain, and gets on your clothes as you set up. Its a good time, or so I am telling myself because it took 15 hours to paint all the knots with glue.
75 (#panels) x72 (knots per panel) = 5400 knots
+ 1200 from the 16 knots per panel to secure the centers and we have tied over 6600 knots to make webs. My fingers hurt.
Step 7: Putting It Together
The maze is secured in a couple of ways. First the panels are attached to each other with more of the deck screws. I put 3 screws per panel, top middle and bottom.
Next the panels are screwed into the parking lot. I pre drilled the bottom boards, then used a concrete bit to drill into the parking lot. A tap con screw was then put into each hole to secure it down. I used 2 tap cons per piece, or 150 overall burning through 4 bits which are completely dull now.
When I drew out the final layout of the maze, it took 79 panels. I had made 75. So I used some straw bales on corners as fill in panels to create the whole thing square. Some rebar in the bales secured them upright. We made it look like it should have been there, adding pumpkins, spiders, and webs.
The maze ended up 32x32. I has 40" to 48" walkways throughout the whole thing to ensure a wheelchair could make it through. I hinged one panel and put a latch on the outside to open up for any kid that needed wheeled through vs using the revolving door.Those kids deserve to go in an awesome maze just as much as everyone else.
We wanted a giant inflatable spider on top but no place had one to buy and I couldn't find one to rent.
We spent all day setting it up, and even worked into the night to get the spiders on and some webbing on corners for added effect. I was hoping to decorate it more, but was just too tired to do any extra, maybe next year.
Step 8: Epic Entrance/ Crowd Control
A friend of mine owns a printing business. He bought out a company who shut down and got a revolving dark room door from them. I asked to buy it from him and use it as a maze entrance. It fits into a 36" opening and the inside is only about 24" wide although it is circular. This allows for great crowd control. You can only fit 1 or 2 kids in at a time or one adult and child. So no mad rush of 20 people running into the maze.At one point 4 small kids crammed in and spun around to the other side. A little girl even had a cake type dress. She barely fit in the circular door but it worked great.
Only one adult said oh heck no, I am Claustrophobic, and turned around. The door was a bit too scary I guess. They weren't even interested in the maze as they couldn't get out quick. Everyone else loved it.
Step 9: Finished Maze and Kids Day.
The day of the event, it rained, a lot. The rain started at 12:30 and didn't stop until 6pm, just a steady downpour. Our event ran from 2-5pm. Even with the rain, over 700 people went through the maze without umbrellas. We had over 2000 at the whole event. Not bad for our first year, 45 degree weather, and a monsoon blowing through or so it seemed.
The Covered Bridge in town was also part of the event and something we worked on covering with cob webs (beef netting) and spanish moss and spiders. It is always a picturesque stop for local weddings. One joined us while we were finishing up putting in the lighting for the event. A noise activated spider dropped and scared the photographer. It was pretty cool to be part of. I hope the Bride had a great day despite the weather.
Step 10: Taking It Down to Store for Next Year
The maze came down with 4 people in about 3 hours. It was stacked up all nice for transport. It was nice and sunny that day. Two days later, we had to transport it to city hall and then carry the panels up 3 flights of stairs to the 3rd floor which isn't used or even built out. A dozen people showed up to help. Still, going up the stairs that many times, is not fun.
As well, it was raining so everyone was wet. We did have pizza though so that kind of made up for it, right?
The panels were stacked 10 tall with popsicle stick spacers between them. This will keep them from sticking together for next year. Between now and next year, I have to re-glue all the knots with permanent glue or epoxy. I am not looking forward to that but at least I have more time to do it.
Fifth Prize in the
Halloween Contest 2018