Tag Archives: metal

King's crown

Making of a King

Our last show of the season at Triad Stage is All’s Well That Ends Well, a Shakespeare piece I had worked on before (you may recognize the cannon I built for the previous production at Shakespeare in the Park). There were no cannons this time around, but we did need a crown for the King of France. Since Shakespeare isn’t our typical shtick, we did not have any crowns in stock. I had to make one.

Brass bar
Brass bar

The base of the crown was a piece of one-inch wide brass bar that was 3/16″ thick. I ordered a long piece of it from McMaster Carr in case I messed up and had to make another one.

Ring bender
Ring bender

I ran it through a cheap little ring bender from Harbor Freight. It’s small, but it can handle metal up to an inch wide, so I was golden. I covered the brass bar in tape because the wheels on the bender marred up the soft metal. The bender made a nice circle, but since the crown was actually an oval, I had to do some shaping by hand to get it just right.

Solder paste
Solder paste

I had some stamped brass fleurs-de-lis which I needed to solder on. I discovered “solder paste”, which is a mixture of flux and powdered solder in a liquid form. You just squirt it into the joints you want to be soldered and then run a torch over it until it melts.

Soldering with a propane torch
Soldering with a propane torch

Since the solder paste has a very low melting temperature, I could use a regular propane torch from any hardware store. Brass has a very low melting temperature, and since the fleurs-de-lis were very thin, I was worried that any kind of brazing or silver soldering would melt them before it melted the solder. The solder paste was a great solution.

Upholstery tacks
Upholstery tacks

Next I added some decorative upholstery tacks to the crown. I drilled some holes for the tack part to stick through. At first, I thought I could solder them on from the back, kind of like plug welding. That wasn’t working, so I just soldered them from the front. I was using this giant piece of aluminum tube as a heat sink so that the torch would not de-solder the pieces I had already soldered.

Moleskin Lining
Moleskin Lining

I was able to remove all of the charring and discoloration with some #000 steel wool. I lined the inside of the crown with moleskin, a very thin but soft padding. You can find self-adhesive pads of it in any drugstore near the foot pads and shoe inserts.

King's crown
King’s crown

I think you can get the solder paste in a copper or brass color; I was going to cover up all the silver bits of solder with some brass craft paint, but they didn’t show up once the crown was on stage. I think I look pretty good as a king.

Mid-Week Links

Things have been hectic here in the Hart Household, and you may have noticed I’ve missed a few posts. So I am switching things up and posting a bunch of links on a Wednesday rather than a Friday. Here we go:

Chris Ubick has been the props master on dozens of films, such as The HelpPractical MagicMilk, and The Internship. Dianne Reber Hart has written a great article on her life and career which you should check out.

This article is a few years old, but worth mentioning: The Last Electronics Project I Completed. It’s a little deep and heavy at times (the author was building a fake bomb prop in lower Manhattan in early September of 2001) but it brings up some questions about the questionable legality of what we sometimes find ourselves building.

On a lighter note, here is how to force a patina on carbon steel. Short answer? Shove it in a lemon.

And finally, here is an interesting Instructable on assembling a vacuum-formed model. If you have tried vacuum-forming before, you will know that making the parts on the machine is just the beginning. You still have to trim, assemble and reinforce the parts to get a usable prop. This Instructable steps through some of those processes to make a fake ammo drum.

Kevin Caron’s Welding Videos

Kevin Caron’s Welding Videos

Welding is a great skill for a prop master or prop maker to have, though it can be a hard one to begin learning. The best way to learn is to have someone teach and guide you as you practice on your own. Whether that’s possible or not, it is also a good idea to watch some videos on welding to pick up background information and to get a different perspective on some of the techniques.

I discovered Kevin Caron’s videos on welding; he has dozens of videos covering all sorts of welding styles and techniques. His background is in metal art and fabrication, so the way he demonstrates welding is close to how a props artisan approaches welding. We rarely have to deal with all the technical information one might get with a traditional welding course, and it can be easy to get overwhelmed with all of that when you are just starting out and simply want to join a few pieces of steel together for a static prop.

So check out everything he has to offer, or just start with the one below. Whether you’re just starting or you’ve been doing it for awhile, you’re sure to pick up something new.

Friday Fun-o-Rama Links

Dug North has started a series on working with brass, and in the first installment, he shows several ways to cut brass. Whether it’s brass rod, tube or sheets, he knows the tools to use.

This is pretty great: the “Women in Leadership” column at the Guardian has highlighted Hayley Gibbs, a prop maker in the UK. It’s heartening to see a news outlet acknowledge that people who work with their hands and make things can be leaders too.

Here’s a quick little tip for making windows look broken without removing or destroying the glass.

This is quite the extensive interview with Puppet Kitchen’s Michael Schupbach.