Tag Archives: telephone

Pink candlestick telephones

Phoning it in

Yesterday was strike for Crazy For You, the first musical I prop mastered down here in North Carolina. I’ll be posting some of the projects I did for this production at Elon University over the next few days. One of my favorite builds on this show was a set of twelve matching pink candlestick phones. I’ve dealt with getting multiple period phones in the past, so I knew with this budget these would have to be a custom build. I have already posted about how I made a vacuum former to create the bases.

Assembling the base
Assembling the base

On the right in the photograph above is the model for the base of the phone. In the upper left are some vacuum-formed shells. Dead center is a shell on the base with a section of PVC pipe forming the “candlestick” portion. Behind the half-completed phone are three sections of PVC pipe with a flange in them. I made a video showing how to form these.

A completed but unpainted phone
A completed but unpainted phone

The neck piece which connects the mouthpiece to the candlestick is a solid piece of poplar I turned on the lathe. The receiver (mouthpiece) was also turned on the lathe. The only difference between the prototype above and the final phone is the hook which holds the receiver. I sliced a section of PVC pipe, made a slit down one side, than used a heat gun to open it up into a “U” shape. I bent the ends out so the receivers could be pushed in and the hook would snap back to hold them snugly.

Painting the telephones
Painting the telephones

The plastic parts were primed first with a plastic spray paint primer. I then hit the rest of the parts with a sandable primer. The sandable primer helped make all the surfaces appear to be unified and made of a single material, and I could smooth out minor imperfections.

Pink candlestick telephones
Pink candlestick telephones

All the phones were painted pink. Bright pink. The kind of pink that hurts your eyes. It was a gloss pink too, and because the phones were sufficiently primed, the gloss made them look like solid chunks of plastic. I intended to add more paint for highlights and to differentiate the parts (and maybe throw some glitter on for good measure), but this show really came down to the wire (I was working up until the house opened on Opening Night) and I ended up not having time.

Bring! Bring! "Hello, Bobby!"
Bring! Bring! “Hello, Bobby!”

Regardless, they looked great in the context of the scene. It’s a big dance meant to be a fantasy sequence, with lots of flash and movement. You can see in the photograph above how well the color worked in that number. The shapes of the phones were distinct enough to convey their essence. They were a pretty big hit, and some of the audience thought they were rented.

Weigh out the silicone

How to make a breakaway telephone

One of the trick props we needed for The Book of Grace was a phone which John Doman smashed during every performance. We decided that the phone receiver would remain real, but the part it hung on would be cast from plaster. It would all hang on a wooden base, and a collection of “phone innards” will be held inside the plaster part, so when it broke, an assortment of metal bells, chip-boards, and other electronic components would be left hanging on the wall.

Weigh out the silicone
Carefully weigh out the silicone

We made a two-part silicone mold of the phone. Making a two-part silicone mold is beyond the scope of today’s post. However, I did get a photograph before the pouring of the first part. At this point, Natalie Taylor Hart took over the project.

Preperation for making a mold of the phone
Preparation for making a mold of the phone

Normally, the next step is to make the second half of the mold from the back of the phone. In this case, the shape of the back was far more complicated than what we needed, and we were worried the plaster cast would be too thin. So we took the first part of the mold and built up the thickness we wanted to achieve out of Klean Klay. The Klean Klay is the yellow substance in the photograph above, and remains flexible like plastiline. It also does not contain sulphur, which reacts with the silicone mold-making compound. The mold still needed some tweaking, so Natalie carved directly on the silicone to perfect it.

A view of the mold
A view of the mold

We wanted the color of the phone receiver to match the back part, which was the sort of taupe that most appliances from the late twentieth century came in. When the plaster phone gets smashed, the broken edges would show up white. Thus, we needed to dye the plaster while it was still in liquid form. Natalie found that a tablespoon of Rit tan dye in the mix made the best color match.

Adding dye to the plaster mix
Adding dye to the plaster mix

Natalie sifted the plaster into the water until tiny islands of plaster began to form on the surface. Once she had made a few phones, she had the exact measurements of both plaster and water marked down.

Combining the plaster into the water
Combining the plaster into the water

Next, she let the plaster sit in the water for about 30 seconds. “Wetting” the plaster allows it to mix more thoroughly.

Letting the plaster wet up
Letting the plaster wet up

With such a small amount, she mixed it by hand. This also gave her a tactile way to ensure all the lumps were worked out of the mix.

Mixing the plaster
Mixing the plaster

Natalie discovered the best way to pour this particular mold was to slosh plaster over the top half before putting it together. It was important to get plaster in all the cracks and crevices or the strength would be compromised.

Pouring the plaster into the mold
Pouring the plaster into the mold

The phones set up overnight, but they actually took two to three days to fully dry. We could not get any kind of adhesive to keep the plaster parts onto the bases until all the moisture was completely out. We ended up needing around 40-50 phones for the run of the show, but since we could cast more than one a day, we could make them throughout the run rather than all at once.

Phones
Phones

Finally, here’s a video showing the end result. This was taken earlier with a different phone model, before they changed it to the slimmer model.

Nokia cellphones

Nokia cellphones and Legos

Today is a fairly random posting, but I’m knee deep in the two Shakespeare in the Park shows for this summer, as well as a little side project.

Here is a pretty sweet timeline of Nokia phones over the past three decades:

Nokia cellphones
Nokia cellphones, 1982-2010

I had a Nokia cellphone for about three years. Still have it, in fact.

Here’s a similar timeline which Lego put out on the fiftieth anniversary of the Lego brick in 2008:

Lego Brick Timeline
Lego brick timeline

Friday Link-astrophe

Here are some more proppy prop links I’ve rounded up for the week.

  • The Dark Power – A blog showing off various rubber monsters, sculpture, models, and special effects. Lots of great process photographs.
  • Consollection – A massive photo collection of video game consoles from throughout their brief history.
  • Production Illustration - A blog showcasing production illustrations from various Hollywood films, often comparing them to the final film. It’s great to know there are detailed illustrations for “Hotel for Dogs”.
  • My Imaginative Own – Though dealing with makeup effects, there is enough crossover with sculpting, carving and materials on this blog.
  • Antique Telephone History – The site itself is a bit of a throwback to late-nineties web design, but it has a great deal of pictures, dates and descriptions of telephones throughout history.
A visual history of telephones from 1876 to 1976

Telephone History

Ron DeMarco, head of props at Emerson University, had these images on a CD he shared with me showing a visual history of the telephone. It’s great for research! Click on any of them for a larger view.

A visual history of telephones from 1876 to 1976
A visual history of telephones from 1876 to 1976

The next image is virtually identical to the previous, but it includes some additional models.

Telephones from 1876 to 1965
Telephones from 1876 to 1965

I can’t wait for that picture phone! Finally, here’s a quick history of public telephone styles:

Public telephones from 1890 to 1985
Public telephones from 1890 to 1985

If you have a play that requires a public telephone in a contemporary setting… what play are you doing? Just kidding; though rare, you can still find payphones in many cities these days.