Happy Friday, everyone! For those of you in my part of the country, I hope you survived the winter storm(s) alright. Whether you are back to work or still stuck in your house, here are some prop-related articles for your reading pleasure:
Collector’s Weekly has a great piece on the fifty year history of Easy-Bake Ovens. If you have never checked out their blog, this is a great piece to start on. Their stories are always a cut above the rest, filled with tons of great photographs, and delving into the history of various objects in great detail.
If you are interested in making props while spending barely any money on materials, check out the Cardboard Armory. As the name suggests, this blog details various armor and weapon projects built with little more than cardboard, hot glue and the occasional piece of PVC pipe.
Though directed at woodworkers, Popular Woodworking’s “Top 6 Ways to Become a Better Woodworker” is just as relevant to the prop maker. Ok, it’s actually five ways, since one of the ways is to read Popular Woodworking (though if you build prop furniture from wood, it’s a good magazine to check out).
Alpha Officium makes historically-accurate coins out of real metal. His website has some common coins like Florins and Groats, and he can also do custom orders if you need something more specific.
Happy Friday, everyone! For those of us in the middle of holiday shows, whether Nutcracker, Christmas Carol, Tuna Christmas, or what have you, I hope it’s going well. I have some fun things from around the internet you can read:
Propnomicon has been doing some research into early shipping crates and packaging, and has shared some of the discoveries made. It may be surprising to see that manufacturers were shipping products in corrugated cardboard boxes rather than wooden crates back in the 1920s.
A short article of note tells how 3D printing is finding a home in Hollywood. Of course, regular readers of this blog already know this, but it is still interesting to see specifically how and where prop makers are using 3D printing technology.
La Bricoleuse has an interesting post up about the parasols her students made in her decorative arts class. Now I know many props masters do not consider parasols to be a “prop”; I’m sharing it because Playmakers’ props assistant (and good friend) Joncie Sarratt has a stunning diagram of the parasol she had to create for their production of Tempest.
A few years ago, I was working on a show which had scenes inside a Starbucks. In the script, the characters talked about being in a Starbucks. Nonetheless, for whatever reason, Starbucks did not give permission for any of the props or scenery to show the Starbucks name or logo. I had to make letters for the sign, and it was decided that in some scenes, the sign would be far stage right and only the “ucks” would be visible, while in other scenes, the sign would be far stage left showing only the “Sta”.
Luckily, there is a Starbucks only a block away from the props shop. There is also one three blocks away. Unfortunately, the one that was two blocks away closed down last year. I blame all these independent coffee shops moving in the neighborhood for putting a number of Starbucks out of business. The point of all of this is that I was close to reference images for this prop.
I had the letters blown up to full scale in the computer and printed them out, using this as a template on lauan. As you can see in the photograph above, I added little wooden blocks on the back to give the sides something to attach to. As I write this, I wonder why I didn’t just cut the letters out of a thicker material, like three-quarter plywood. I guess it goes to show that you can always find a better way to build a prop in hindsight. Nonetheless, this method must have made sense for some reason at the time.
I cut the straight sides out of quarter-inch lauan (which is actually 3/16″ thick), while the curved sides were what we call “wiggle-wood”. I should mention that some of the work was divided up with the other artisans in the shop at the time, such as Michael Krikorian.
This project had one final hurdle. The interior loops of the “S” were too tight of a curve for the wiggle-wood to bend. I ended up laminating several sheets of cardboard together to match the thickness of the other sides. Lots of glue and lots of clamps kept all of this together.
Jay Duckworth started off with a coat of darker stain to catch the raised grain and really accentuate it. He went over the whole thing again with a lighter shade. After it appeared on stage during tech rehearsal, Peter Ksander, the designer, wanted to see it a bit darker and richer. I added a light coat of Red Mahagony stain, which got it where it wanted to go; we sealed it with a thin coat of water-based polyurethane. You may have noticed some boxes behind the table, which were the other major props challenge on this show. Below is a wider shot to show the full tableau.
Meredith Ries, who helped us out with a lot of the box work, has a more extensive write-up on the cardboard boxes at her own blog. The pile is about sixteen feet high at its tallest point.