Tag Archives: accidents

Friday’s Rehearsal Notes

The Food Network gives some credit to the shows’ prop master (or design director). Wendy Waxman is responsible for decorating and accessorizing the sets of all the shows filmed at the Food Network’s studios at Chelsea Market.

Congressman Das Williams has introduced legislation to make flesh or proximity detection technology mandatory in all table saws sold in California after January 1, 2015. I have mixed feelings about this. I think safety is important, and I feel in a lot of situations, companies will put out unsafe products until forced otherwise; this is more true with chemicals and toxic substances. But this kind of feature on a table saw is expensive and unwieldy. The vast, vast majority of table saw accidents happen on untrained home hobbyists. 1 This law would make trained users pay for a safety feature that’s more needed for untrained users. Not only that, but job site saws and contractor saws are far too small and light to utilize this technology; I’m only guessing, but I would imagine these kinds of saws are more likely to be used by home hobbyists. Why stop at the table saw? Why not legislate these features on band saws, planers and circular saws? Is it just because a table saw is statistically more dangerous? Because if we’re looking at statistics, a door causes just as many finger amputations per year as a table saw; why not require flesh detection technology on all doors? Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming months.

Speaking of dangerous tools, AnnMarie Thomas makes the case to let kids use real tools to build things, and not those cheap toy versions. She mentions how an engineering professor asked his class of 35 first-year students whether anyone had ever used a drill press before, and not a single hand was raised. Looks like props people are single-handedly preserving manual-arts training in higher education. Maybe if kids were taught to use tools, we wouldn’t have so many table saw accidents (the majority of which are sustained by men in their 50s; age does not make one safer, only training does).

I’ve wanted something like this for awhile, but never actually sat down to plan one out. But this adjustable sanding jig for a disc sander looks like it’s the perfect design.

The Studio Creations website has a nice tutorial on vacuum forming plastic. Don’t have a vacuum forming table? No, problem, they have a tutorial on how to build one of those as well.

Notes:

  1. Popular Woodworking analyzed the injury statistics for table saws put out by the CPSC last year.

Weapon Safety is Nothing New

As a reminder that accidents with stage weapons are nothing new, I have two brief stories of mishaps from over a century ago. The first comes from The San Francisco Call, September 27, 1896:

A few weeks ago a tragic accident happened in London. The actors had to fight a duel on the mimic stage. They did not rehearse with swords, but on the night of the first performance the property-man gave them their weapons, which they used so realistically that the delighted audience wanted to give a recall. Rounds of applause came again and again, but the man who had fallen did not get up and bow before the footlights as dead actors are in the habit of doing. He was dead in real earnest, killed by a thrust of his comrade’s sword. When the horrible truth dawned upon his comrades the curtain was lowered and the audience dismissed from the play, which had ended in an unrehearsed tragedy. The next day the papers were full of lamentations over the sad event and blame was given to the management for the carelessness which had permitted sharp swords to be used without first testing them thoroughly at rehearsal.

No training, no rehearsal, weapons that should have been dulled… these are the exact same reasons accidents happen today.  This isn’t new technology or unknown knowledge; we know, and have known for well over a hundred years how to prevent accidents from stage combat weapons, yet they still happen.

The second comes from The New York Times, September 12, 1907:

Maz Davis, 30 years old, of 434 West Thirty-eight Street, a property man for David Belasco, was injured on the right hand last night by the accidental discharge of a stage gun, the “wad” of which pierced his hand, while the powder burned both his hands and face. Just before a rehearsal of the “Girl of the Golden West,” he was examining a revolver when he accidentally pulled the trigger. He was taken to the Roosevelt Hospital.

Ouch. Remember, stage guns are still dangerous, even if they are only “blank-firing”, “powder” or “toy cap” guns.

Friday Links

Happy March 3rd everybody! Wait, it’s March 2nd? Did an extra day sneak in there somewhere? Anyway, I hope you enjoy the following websites as much as I did.

This brief article is about Adrienne Call, the only (undergrad) theatre tech major in props at SUNY New Paltz.

Here is a collection of the 50 most powerful images from the Civil War. There are a lot of illustrations and some photographs too.

The Wood Database, as would be expected, contains pictures of over 300 species of wood and ways to identify them. Many of the woods have multiple photographs showing their grain patterns as well as items constructed from them, and information on working with them and safety considerations (some wood is poisonous or toxic).

Basketry: this lengthy article talks about the history of basket-weaving and basketry, the materials used, the different methods of manufacture, and where basket-weaving techniques are used. There are a lot of pictures, but (unfortunately) no step-by-step instructions on making your own baskets. Still, it’s very informative for anyone having to deal with baskets and wicker work.

There are No Accidents” is a series of public service videos by Prevent-It, a Canadian occupational safety organization. Most of the videos show a worker getting in a horrible (and often gory) accident, than recovering and explaining how workplace “accidents” are often the combination of employers pushing the limits, supervisors not maintaining machines and following policies, and workers doing something they know is dangerous.

Finally, not to get political, but the title alone of this next article is so apt for prop people: You Actually Can Put A Gun Rack In A Chevy Volt, Newt Gingrich.

Odds and Ends

For all of you hip people, I am on Twitter, @ericbhart. I share links about props and theatre, and sometimes say funny things.

In case you missed it, About.com had an article about the lack of recognition for theatrical props people, featuring some quotes from me, Eric. In a similar vein, BroadwayGirlNYC wrote this heartfelt appreciation for those who work behind the scenes of theatre after a stagehand died backstage of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Here is an (unfortunately, very brief) look at how the California Shakespeare Theater releases all the blood in Titus Andronicus.

Speaking of bloody, here’s a newspaper article on Autonomous F/X, a California company that makes realistic body parts and corpses for medical dramas and police procedural on television.

This site is pretty self-explanatory: Table Saw Accidents. It takes a comprehensive look at the statistics of all reported saw injuries and explains why table saws can be dangerous. Not surprisingly, most table saw injuries occur making common cuts rather than attempting things out of the ordinary.

Recollections of Dirty Snow, 1916

The following little gem comes from Recollections of a Scene Painter, by E. T. Harvey, published in 1916:

Stage snow can now be bought by the barrel, and is made by cutting paper into small discs. In the old days it was quite a laborious task for the property man. He and his assistants would have to work for days with shears to get a supply, and it accordingly was carefully preserved. One night when the “Angel of Midnight” was being played, Barras, who watched everything pretty closely, told the property boy as he went up in the “flies” with the snow box, “to let it down in a perfect avalanche” when he gave the signal. The snowstorm in “Way Down East,” for instance, is done by pulling backward and forward a folded, perforated piece of cloth that sifts the snow down on the stage, and an electric fan dashes it mixed with coarse salt against the window pane and into the open door as “Hannah Moore” is driven out into the storm.

But in the days of fifty years ago the property boys usually just scattered it by the handful from up in the gridiron. When Barras gave the signal for the “avalanche,” Bill Sullivan, the property boy, took the hat box and turned it upside down, emptying the contents upon poor Captain Satan (Leffingwell) lying on his back on the stage, and Sallie St. Clair bending over him. In the box were nails, screws, and all the trash that had been swept up from time to time. Barras had several troubles during that engagement.

Recollections of a Scene Painter, by E. T. Harvey, pp 26-7. Princeton University, 1916.