I received a question last week about how various prop houses store their weapons. First, there’s how they should be stored. Every prop house I’ve worked at, and every one I know of, keeps their weapons locked up. The depth and breadth of rules and regulations dealing with weapons, theatrical or replica, varies incredibly amongst states, cities, municipalities, and institutions. Locking up is the least you can do.
But I digress. The question was geared more toward the logistics of weapon storage. Props storage is a never-ending compromise between the ease of locating a specific object with the need to cram as many objects into a limited space.
Swords and knives
Here at the Public Theatre, we hang many of our swords from the hilt, and keep a number of them in buckets. The Santa Fe Opera also hangs their swords by the hilt. Anna Warren tells me that at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and Skylight Opera Theatre, they also hang them from the hilt. I wish I had a picture, but if you can imagine these hammers as swords, you can see how you can fit a lot of swords in a small area while keeping many of them visible and fairly accessible:
As I mentioned above, the Public also has a number of swords in buckets, and I’ve seen this system used in a number of other prop storage areas. While less elegant, it certainly gets the job done. It can be useful if your inventory has a large number of identical swords, or want to keep rehearsal swords separate from show swords.
You’ll notice in this picture that some of the swords are still in their scabbards. The Museum Replicas website advises against this and explains why:
Tight fitting scabbards are prone to trap moisture from the air and other sources. And leather is usually tanned with chemicals or lacquered to condition it; great for the leather but bad for your steel long term. If at all possible store your blades in a cool dry environment after cleaning and protecting them.
Knives can be stored the same way as your swords, or they can be kept in smaller bins, crates, or even filing cabinets.
Almost every prop storage I’ve ever come across keeps their rifles in some variation of a gun cabinet:
Pistols can be stored in individual cases, together in larger cases, or like at the Public on a shelf above the rifles in their gun cabinets.
Other methods of storage
Ron DeMarco, the props director at Emerson College, says:
A few years ago (when the economic climate was better), we had a bit of money left over in our season budget. Since we had primarily costume bladed weapons not worthy of stage combat — and not even many of those — we decided to invest in some swords and daggers and all the associated scabbards, frogs, etc. to go along with them. We also had a custom-made storage case created by Big Deal Custom Casings: http://www.bigdealcases.com/arts.htm.
They were given an inventory of what we were purchasing and made a rolling case that had foam cut-outs especially for the new equipment.
How sweet is that? Warder Kevin O’Shaughnessy has plans for a portable, take-apart sword rack. You have to scroll down about halfway, but you’ll find complete blueprints and instructions.
I’d love to hear how everyone else deals with their weapons storage. Just leave a comment.