Tag Archives: vacuum forming

Spiritual Stones

Spiritual Stones from Legend of Zelda

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.

Vacuum formed jewel
Vacuum formed jewel

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).

Layout of Goron's Ruby
Layout of Goron’s Ruby

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.

Cut and shaped
Cut and shaped

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.

Piecing together the emerald
Piecing together the emerald

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.

Drawing the sapphire setting
Drawing the sapphire setting

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.

Cutting and shaping
Cutting and shaping

It had to be cut out with the jigsaw and cleaned up by hand with files. Some further shaping was done with the Dremel.

Kokiri's Emerald
Kokiri’s Emerald

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).

Spiritual Stones
Spiritual Stones

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.

Using a Big Boy Vacuum Former

Using a Big Boy Vacuum Former

I have been working at the Santa Fe Opera for a few weeks now. While I haven’t completed anything enough to show on this blog yet, I did shoot the video below. I needed to vacuum form a giant champagne bottle which I turned in foam on the lathe (actually, half of the champagne).

The Opera has a large vacuum former capable of taking full 4′ by 8′ sheets of plastic; even cooler is that the whole thing was built by the technical director, Eric Moore. This video shows me pulling a sheet of thin styrene over my form.

Rupees

Rupees from Legend of Zelda

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.

Wood form
Wood form

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.

Vacuum formed half
Vacuum formed 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.

Painted green
Painted green

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.

Rupees
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.

And that is how you make a rupee!

Vacuum formed turkey

A Disappearing Turkey

To all of my American readers, I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving this week! Brian Wolfe from Costume Armour sent me some photographs of a trick turkey they recently created, which seems apropos to the holiday.

For this trick, a waiter needed to walk in with a food cart. He lifts the lid off of a covered tray revealing a delicious roast turkey. He replaces the lid, and the next time the lid is removed, the turkey is gone. Instead, an actor’s head is on the tray, and the actor begins to speak.

This is the drawing he shared with me:

Drawing for a turkey trick
Drawing for a turkey trick

They needed a giant, oversized turkey with enough room inside to fit a head; it also needed to be light enough that it could be lifted along with the tray (you will see why in a minute). They had a rubber turkey in stock, but it was too small and heavy. So they decided to vacuum form a new one. They carved the turkey in foam, made a two-piece mold, and vacuum formed it in 0.04″ Kydex plastic.

Vacuum formed turkey halves
Vacuum formed turkey halves

They cut out the pieces, glued them together, and painted them. Next, they cut a large hole in the bottom:

Hole in the bottom of the turkey
Hole in the bottom of the turkey

The tray was also vacuum formed, this time in a heavy 0.093″ Kydex plastic with a metallic finish. The bottom was formed over a wooden mold, while the lid used a plaster mold. They also added some artificial lettuce which was bought.

Vacuum formed turkey
Vacuum formed turkey

A brass drawer pull completed the look to the lid. The small black rectangle next to it in the photograph below is a small toggle switch:

Tray Cover
Tray Cover

When the waiter flips this switch, a small battery-powered electromagnet turns on (shown in the next photograph). The turkey had a small piece of flat steel hidden on top which is grabbed by this magnet. So when the magnet is on and the tray lid is lifted, the turkey travels along with it, hidden from the audience’s view.

Battery and magnet
Battery and magnet

The diagram below illustrates how the whole trick was set up. I’ve seen this same basic principle carried out in a number of different ways, but the combination of the hollow turkey and electromagnet makes this execution especially elegant; you can control whether the turkey or head is visible simply by the flick of a switch. The actor underneath does not have to do anything.

Turkey trick diagram
Turkey trick diagram

Hope you enjoyed this! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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.