The set for 39 Steps at Triad Stage was reminiscent of an old vaudeville theatre. One of the focal points was a massive chandelier overhead. I knew we could never be able to afford to buy a five-foot diameter chandelier, and even if I could find one to rent or borrow, transporting it would be difficult. So I figured we would just spend the time making one.
The design of the chandelier made construction simple; it was just three rings with beads of crystals draped between them. I found rolls of garland with acrylic beads, which spared me from having to string them all individually. I took a lot of the individual crystals from another chandelier I had in stock. The arms came from an existing chandelier as well.
I put together a video showing the progression of the build. Though straightforward, it was a very time-consuming prop. Towards the end, I got help from Lisa Bledsoe and DeDe Farrell with attaching all the crystals and getting it wired.
We opened Pump Boys and Dinettes here at Triad Stage a few weeks ago. Set in a diner famed for its home cookin’, we needed some pies. They sing about them, after all. Of course, we didn’t want to be buying brand new pies for every performance, so I asked my assistant, Lisa Bledsoe, to make a few.
She started off making the pie crusts out of Crayola Model Magic. She shaped a layer into a glass pie tray and let it harden over night. She cut some white bead foam discs to fill most of the inside.
She was making two pies; a fruit pie and a coconut cream pie. For the fruit pie, she had some fake strawberries from the floral section at Hobby Lobby, and cut all of them in half to make a layer on top of the foam disc. She painted the disc red to continue the illusion that it was strawberries all the way down.
To top the coconut pie, she used actual dried coconut flakes. They were painted with acrylics to make them look toasted.
The Model Magic did not stick to the pie tray, so she was able to pop the whole pie out and paint the crust with acrylics before popping it back in. The cream on top was made from acrylic caulk. She had visited the hardware store and picked up a few different brands and types of caulk and spackle to test out which would dry the most like a cream pie.
The strawberry pie got a lattice crust made of more Model Magic painted with acrylics. So there you have it; the Double Cupp Sisters’ famous pies!
Here are the last of my Legend of Zelda props I made last month for a local theatre group. I previously posted about the Master Sword, and some rupees; you can find out more about this project in general at those links if you are interested.
The last prop, which is actually three items, are the spiritual stones. These are various colored gems in gold settings. They have names, too: Kokiri’s Emerald, Goron’s Ruby, Zora’s Sapphire.
As with the rupees, I cut the shape of the stone out of a piece of wood, vacuum formed two halves out of acrylic, and glued them together (painting the inside before gluing, of course).
Starting with Goron’s Ruby, I used some reference images from the video game itself to lay out a full scale drawing of the stone’s setting onto some 3/4″ MDF.
I made most of the cuts on the table saw (my nifty cross-cutting jig lets me safely cut arbitrary angles on small pieces). The bevels were also cut on the table saw with the blade set at an angle.
Since the emerald had a sort of “wrap around” design, I cut the pieces individually and glued them on one at a time to achieve an exact fit. It was a bit tricky getting all the angles right, but it gave the nicest result.
Because the shape of the sapphire is trilaterally symmetrical, I used my compass and bevel gauge to make sure all three parts were drawn the same.
It had to be cut out with the jigsaw and cleaned up by hand with files. Some further shaping was done with the Dremel.
Once finished, the pieces just needed to be primed and painted. The emerald was painted with the stone already attached. For the others, I painted the settings first, and then the stones were glued in (so I didn’t have to mask anything).
Of course, it always helps to take cool photographs of your props. One day, I’ll get around to posting a quick tutorial on photography.
For the last few weeks before I came out to Santa Fe, I was building some props for a local theatre group known as The League of Extraordinary Thespians. They are doing a musical of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The first props I finished were the rupees, which are a type of jewel used in the game to buy items (some of you may have already seen these in an Instructable I posted last week. Sorry).
I figured the best way to make a translucent gem was to vacuum form the shape. You remember my ultra-cheap vacuum former, correct? Before I could use that, I would need a form. I decided to do the front and back of each rupee separately, and then glue them together. So first, I would need to cut a piece of wood into a rupee shape.
You can see I’m using the (oddly-named) GRR-Ripper from Micro-Jig; it makes accurate cuts on tiny pieces in a safe and straight-forward manner. I did all the cuts with my table saw, giving me a pretty clean-looking rupee half.
I got a sheet of clear acrylic from Hobby Lobby. They only had it in one thickness; I’m not sure what it is exactly, but it’s less than 1/16″. I started vacuum forming the halves and trimming them out, leaving exactly what you see above.
Before gluing the halves together, I painted the insides. This way, the paint would never wear off, no matter how much the actors handled them.
For the green ones, I tried watering down acrylic paint. It was pretty tricky, since the paint kept wanting to bead up. Normally, you would lightly sand the surface of the plastic to help the paint adhere better, but that would kind of kill the “translucency” effect. So I bit the bullet and bought some blue and red spray paint so I could just lightly dust the other rupees.
I used a solvent-based glue (Amazing Goop) to glue the halves together. The glue was a bit thick and dried flexible, which helped make a stronger bond since the edges didn’t quite match up exactly.
We just closed and struck Cloud 9 here at Elon University. I was the prop master on the show and built a lot of the pieces. One of the fun (and funny) props I constructed was a grand Victorian-era wedding cake. It was meant to be a bit over-the-top, with a grand appearance at the end of Act One when the hastily-arranged wedding occurs. Part of the visual humor came from the cake toppers; the scenic designer (Natalie Taylor Hart) wanted the groom to be a detailed representation of a man striding atop of a Royal Orb, while the bride would be a much smaller and crudely-made figurine stuck in the cake as an afterthought (the play, for those unfamiliar, deals with gender politics in various degrees).
To make a sculpted figurine of the groom, I started off with bending a wire armature into the pose I wanted. This also let me establish the proportions of the limbs. It wasn’t anything fancy; I cut up a wire hanger and held it in place with plumber’s putty. Plumber’s putty is a type of epoxy putty which is soft and shape-able when you first mix it together, and becomes rock hard after a few minutes. I liked it on this project because I could build up the sculpture bit by bit, allowing the parts to become hard as I worked on other things. I could return to the sculpture later and add more bits without worrying about smooshing the parts I already made. It also did not need to be fired or coated to finish it. The putty I used was left over from another show, so I did not have to spend any more money on a show with a tight budget.
In the last frame of the picture above, you can see I added some clothes. The putty is not very good for getting fine details; you can machine and carve it after it has hardened, but I wanted a quicker way to get some semi-realistic clothing texture on top. I took muslin and soaked it in glue and water, than manipulated it over top until it “draped” like a shirt and pants. After the glue dried, it retained its shape.
The rest of the cake was pretty straightforward. The bottom base is a strip of wiggle wood wrapped around plywood formers, while the top is a solid chunk of white bead foam coated in joint compound. I used painter’s caulk for the icing details. Normally you want to use acrylic caulk rather than silicone caulk, because silicone caulk does not take paint. However, I found some newer stuff which is a mix of acrylic and silicone; the acrylic makes it paint-able, while the silicone keeps it a bit flexible and lets it dry a lot faster. I bought a few decorative cake icing tips, and just attached them to the end of the caulk tube so it would come out all fancy.
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies