From Prop Making to Authoring

Last Thursday, I gave a talk to the Alamance Makers Guild at STEAM Junction in Burlington, NC. I’ve been a member of the AMG since 2012, and it was great to finally give a featured presentation. STEAM Junction is the new Maker Space started by the same people.

My talk was called “From Prop Making to Authoring.” I started off discussing my career as a prop builder and what that entails, before moving onto the blog and how that ultimately led to writing The Prop Building Guidebook: For Theater, Film, and TV.

My wife broadcast the entire talk over Facebook Live, and now the video is up on YouTube. It is a little over an hour long, so only the most diehard fans will make it through the whole thing.

The audience really enjoyed it. I was able to explain how my work informed the blog and how that built an audience for the book. I talked about why I blog, and how I use social media to promote it. Much of what I discussed was relevant to makers of all kinds, not just those who build props. It is all about teaching and sharing knowledge, and how to get people interested in what you do.

Mid-February Prop Links

Shop Tips: Cutting Foam for Propmaking – First up, Tested visits Frank Ippolito’s shop to see what tools he uses to cut flexible foam sheets. I want to try one of the blades he uses, which allows him to make some interesting cuts.

Shinken Sword Commission – The Prop Solve is back with an epic post on fabricating a fantasy sword for a client. The post is filled with pictures of every step, showing not just the successes, but the mistakes and learning experiences along the way. I especially like the build break-down she prepared for her client.

Queens Prop Shop Has Crafted Real Name for Itself in Booming Industry – NY1 visits the Prop “N” Spoon warehouse over in Queens and fabrication shop in Rahway, NJ. Check out the video to see some of the cool props they have built as business booms in NYC.

Adam Savage Examines the Props and Spacesuits of The Expanse! – We go back to Tested for this video of Adam Savage talking with James Murray, props master for Syfy’s The Expanse. Check out all the scratch-built armor, weapons, and other sci-fi elements for this sprawling space adventure.

Paperhand puppet master takes Chapel Hill-Carrboro teachers to school – In local news, puppet maker Donovan Zimmerman is teaching puppetry to local elementary students. Zimmerman is cofounder of Paperhand Puppet Intervention, which produces incredibly imaginative and poetic masks and puppets out of mere cardboard and papier-mache. It’s a wonderful program that will probably be cut as both art and education are eliminated in the next four years.

Fiberglass with Aqua Resin

When we think of fiberglass, we think of the smelly, toxic resins used to reinforce it. Many props people avoid fiberglass for that reason. Water-based resins offer a less toxic alternative. Aqua Resin is one brand which is useful for theatrical prop building with fiberglass. You need a dust mask when handling the powder, but once mixed, it is non-toxic.

In my latest video, I show how to make a prop using fiberglass with Aqua Resin in a one-piece negative mold.

You can see how the mold was made in my post on matrix molding, and you can see photos of the finished prop in my post on the Magic Seashell.

Using fiberglass is one of the techniques that now has a step-by-step photo tutorial in the second edition of The Prop Building Guidebook: For Film, Theater, and TV, which comes out February 10, 2017. You can see all the companion videos at the Prop Building Guidebook website.

Matrix Molding

A matrix mold appears like many other molds, where a thin mold of silicone rubber is supported by a thicker shell of plaster or fiberglass. However, you make a matrix mold by pouring the plaster first, then filling the area between the plaster and the model with silicone rubber. You do this by using clay to take the place of the rubber when pouring the plaster.

It is a very economical way of making a mold, since you use the least amount of silicone rubber necessary; the rubber is the most expensive material in a mold.

I made a video demonstrating how to create a one-piece matrix mold.

Matrix molding is one of the new techniques added to the second edition of The Prop Building Guidebook: For Film, Theater, and TV, which comes out February 10, 2017. You can see all the companion videos at the Prop Building Guidebook website.

Saturday Props Forever

‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’: Props to the Prop Master – Yahoo! TV was invited to a show-and-tell of props from Agents of SHIELD hosted by prop master Scott Bauer. There’s some cool stuff in here if you are familiar with the show. And for the journalists out there: please stop using “Props to the Prop Master” as your title.

Book Review – Make: Props And Costume Armor By Shawn Thorsson – La Bricoleuse has a review of this long-anticipated book by Thorsson. You may have seen his work online, whether it’s the life-size ED-209 from Robocop or his giant Space Marine armor. Now he shares all his techniques in this highly polished book.

Up Your Game with the ‘Make Pretty’ – Christopher Schwartz shares one of his secrets to making good furniture. After the fabrication is complete, but before he begins finishing or painting, he takes a few hours at the top of the day to just go over the whole piece and sand or trim all the minor defects.

The Thing ADI’s Creature Work Behind-The-Scenes – This is an oldie, but a goodie. The 2011 Thing was originally going to use practical effects rather than digital, and this video shows all the crazy monsters that could have been.

Learn the Double-Stitch Technique to Handsew Leather – Finally, Make Magazine teaches us the best way to sew leather by hand.

Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies