Tag Archives: Make Magazine

Friday Fun Time

Chicago PD prop master Jim Zemansky talks props in this video, particularly the use of replica guns and blank-firing weapons. If you pay attention, you will see one crew member using what looks like a paintball gun off-camera during gun battle scenes; it appears he is shooting it to simulate bullets hitting around the actors. I found that interesting.

I’ve been following this build of a life-size ED-209 from Robocop for the past couple months, and it is finally finished. Here are all the parts in Make Magazine’s series which followed Shawn Thorsson as he built this massive robotic replica. Also check out Tested’s short video which looks at the final piece when it debuted at Maker Faire.

Princeton Magazine talks with TD Chris Nelson and prop master Michele Sammarco of McCarter Theatre about a recent production designed by Eugene Lee. There are some great little tidbits in this piece, such as Michele’s quote that “actors don’t like squishy chairs”.

Not all screws are the same. Popular Woodworking Magazine tests several types of screws on the market to show how they act when driven into hardwood. Personally, I know drywall screws should only be used for drywall, but I still use them. I’m usually working with cheap materials anyway; if I am doing fine furniture out of hardwood, I don’t use screws at all (brad nails all the way).

Good Friday Links

David Neat starts us off with making smooth shapes from Styrofoam. He’s dealing with the real-deal Styrofoam here, not that white bead foam stuff. And sure, this article is over a year old, but it has some really useful techniques.

Bill Doran has a helpful video on adding rust to your props. Ninety percent of the time when I show a completed prop to a designer, they say, “that’s great… once we age it down a bit.” Knowing how to weather, age, distress or generally tone down props is an essential skill for a props person, and adding rust is one of the ways to do this.

Make Magazine takes a look at some Maker-Friendly hardware stores from around the US. It’s a fascinating look at the vast array of materials a store might choose to stock, as well as a sobering reminder of how awesome hardware stores used to be to those of us whose only local options are Lowes and Home Depot.

I covered some basic stitching for fabric in my Prop Building Guidebook, but if you get into embroidery and ornamental stitching, there is a whole other world of ways to manipulate needle and thread. Tipnut has some great vintage illustrations of ornamental borders and the basic stitches to make them happen.  It’s a relaxing project for when you are bored in tech and the designer wants the napkins to be “fancier”.

Finally, here is an article called “The Most Important Lessons in Woodworking“. Robert Lang uses his experience cutting plugs as a lesson in woodworking in general, and I think this lesson can be expanded out to prop making in general. It’s not just about how to use specific tools or techniques, but how to approach your whole project in the most efficient and easiest manner possible.

 

The Luck of the Links

Happy Friday the 13th! While the rest of the day may be unlucky, at least with this blog, you’re lucky to get a great list of things to read today.

Kamui Cosplay has a great tutorial on using expanding foam for prop making. You can find this stuff in a can at home improvement stores, with names like “Great Stuff” (it’s used to seal and insulate cracks in houses). While it is certainly “great stuff” for some applications, it is a polyurethane foam, so you should only use it in a well-ventilated area and it should be allowed to cure in an area with separate ventilation from where you are working. If you work at home, you especially should not let this stuff cure in your house, where it will off-gas toxic and irritating fumes for 24 hours or more.

Over at Theatre Projects, Jesse Gaffney makes a half-eaten chicken carcass. With just bits of wood, some Model Magic, muslin, and a few coats of latex and Glossy Wood Tone, she comes up with a pretty convincing prop that looks like it came straight from someone’s fridge.

Here’s a great tutorial on turning clear glass into tinted glass. It is not useful for glass jars that need to be filled with water, but it uses nothing more than Mod Podge, food coloring and an oven.

Make Magazine reminds us that it is not only useful, but vital, that we document the process of building our props. Taking process shots is useful not only for your own portfolio, but it can help with the creative process itself. It is also helpful with sharing your work with others, since others can learn from your process, even when you think what you have done is simple or common knowledge.

A book called 507 Mechanical Movements has been around for awhile, and a number of reprints can be found at bookstores and online. Now, you can view all 507 mechanical movements online as well. The website is great because it has animated some of the movements, and has plans to animate more of them. These movements are useful when building moving or trick props, and you need to figure out, say, how to make a prop spin when you pull a string, or how to make a rod move in a straight line using a spinning motor.

Good Links for a Good Friday

Tested has another great episode of their talk show where Adam Savage, Will Smith and Norm Chan discuss building an inexpensive toolkit for beginner makers. By “maker”, they mean someone doing small-scale fabrication of wood, various metals and plastics, some fabric and leather, model-making, and a bit of electronics, so really, it’s great advice for beginning prop makers as well. You can either watch a video or listen to a podcast of the show, which runs about 41 minutes long. They have also written down the list of tools they suggest, though it’s a good idea to listen to the show because they talk about how to buy tools and why you should get certain tools as well.

In case you missed it, I came across The Painters Journal, a publication about scenic art that ran from 2003-2010. All 22 issues are available online to read. Scenic art deals with paints, coatings, texture and sometimes even sculpting, so many of the articles are invaluable to props people as well.

Make Magazine has posted ten tips for using a circular saw. They’re all pretty good, though I would add that hearing protection should be worn too, as circ saws are almost always loud little beasts. A dust mask is usually a good idea as well.

I liked this recent article about Nick Ruiz, a theatre carpenter in the San Jose area. It’s simple and probably familiar to a lot of us in the industry, but stories like this are so rarely written.

And just a reminder that you have less than a month to enter the Prop Building Guidebook Contest! Surely you have a photograph of a prop you’ve built, and who doesn’t want a grab-bag of prop making supplies? The entries I’ve received so far look fantastic, so thanks to everyone who has already submitted.

Beware the Sites of March

Beware the Sites of March

This post is a few years old, but interesting nonetheless. Art Direction, Props and Authenticity talks about the importance of realism in prop making, specifically the realism of a prop’s weight. A prop that appears too light can take the audience out of the moment.

Game of Thrones has a new video out showing some of the work that goes into their props. It features prop master Gordon Fitzgerald, some drawings of props, and a look at how the smallest details are taken care of.

The Make Magazine blog featured a cool tip for using polycaprolactone plastic to make sanding blocks (they use Shapelock, though Friendly Plastic is another familiar brand name). If you need your sanding block to have a different shape for fitting around a curve or other odd surface, just heat it up in boiling water and reshape it to what you need.

Finally, if you have the time (about a half an hour), here is a good video featuring Adam Savage as he weathers and ages a prop. He articulates his process rather well, even though a lot of the process is carried out by instinct and intuition: