The following two videos come courtesy of The Replica Prop Forum. The host, uh, Star Wars Chick, visits the armory at Independent Studio Services. ISS is one of the major prop rental and fabrication in the Los Angeles area, and they have an especially large collection of weapons, as you can see in the videos below.Â Larry Zanoff, one of the armorers in the weapons department at ISS, does a great job explaining the difference between real guns and movie guns, the kind of training an armorer needs, and what kind of safety procedures they implement on set.
In part two of the video, Star fires a number of the weapons in their warehouse. I think it is important to note that while movies use real guns altered to fire blank rounds, theatres typically use block-barreled guns which were never meant to fire real ammunition.
Theatre and films seem to have an awful lot of tobacco smoking in it, so it can be useful to the props person to be able to identify the parts and anatomy of common smoking devices. Cigars, cigarettes and pipes have endless variations of shapes and styles and have evolved much throughout history, but they do have parts that have remained somewhat consistent over time.
foot – the end meant to be lit.
cigar band – a paper or foil loop that identifies the type and/or brand of cigar. The hobby of collecting cigar bands is known as vitolophily; you can find over 1,000 examples of old cigar bands at the “Up-in-Smoke” Cigar Band Museum.
wrapper – a spirally-rolled leaf of tobacco.
head – the end closest to the cigar band that goes in the smoker’s mouth.
tuck – where the wrapper is folded in to keep itself from unraveling.
tobacco – dried and fermented bunches of leaves.
filter – a cellulose tube not filled with tobacco meant to lower the amount of tar and other unwanted particles from entering the lungs. Invented in the mid-1920s. By the 1960s, the majority of cigarettes had filters, though even today you can still buy unfiltered ones.
foot – the end that goes in your mouth. On a fully-smoked cigarette, this is known as the butt.
band – similar to a cigar band but usually printed right on the cigarette paper. Can have the logo or just a simple design.
paper – a combustible tube-shaped wrapper to hold the tobacco.
tobacco – shredded tobacco leaves, tobacco by-products, and other additives.
bit or mouthpiece – where one puts his or her mouth.
stem – the part that joins the shank with the bit or mouthpiece.
saddle – a flattened part for easier gripping.
shank – where the mortise on the bowl connects with the tenon on the stem.
bowl – part used to hold the tobacco. The interior hollow area is known as the chamber. Unsmoked tobacco in the bottom of the bowl after smoking is called dottle.
lunt – another name for pipe smoke.
cover – folded paper or cardboard piece to hold the matches. Frequently contains advertising or logos on the outside. The abrasive striking surface, or friction strip, used to light the matches is on the back cover. The hobby of collecting matchbook covers is known as phillumeny.
saddle – the area between the front and back of the cover.
head – the part of the match that is lit.
matchstick – the stem of a match.
front flap – the bit of the cover tucked inside to hold the matches.
staple – used to secure the matchsticks between the cover and the front flap.
Tables are a type of furniture which have innumerable variations, types and styles. Nonetheless, some basic parts show up in the majority of tables, especially the kinds which find their way onto the theatrical stage. Knowing the names of these parts is helpful forÂ facilitatingÂ communication between designers, artisans and other members of the team; if the set designer asks for the apron to be smaller, you want to know which part you should change. What follows is some quick definitions of the parts in the illustration above.
top – the flat surface of a table
apron, skirt or frieze – the under-framing which connects the legs to the top
leg – the main vertical piece which supports the top and raises it off the floor
knee – the upper portion of the leg
foot – the bottom part of the leg which touches the floor. A table may have completely straight legs with no distinct knee or foot.
drop leaf – a portion of the top which overextends the apron and can be hinged down to take up less space when not in use
stretcher – cross pieces which connect the legs to add strength and stability. Some common configurations of stretchers include the H stretcher, X stretcher, and box stretcher.
For long-term fans of my blog, you may have picked up that I am working on a book about props. It will be an expanded treatment of the paper I presented at the SETC Symposium in 2009, essentially setting forth a “scientific method” to approach the construction of any type of prop. It’s going to be a lot more fun than that sounds. To get in the spirit of things, here is a diagram and definitions of the various parts of a book.
text block – Everything between the covers.
front flap – The section of the dust jacket on the front of the book which is folded so it sits inside the cover.
endleaves – Two or more leaves at the front and back between the cover and the text block.
fore edge – The side of the book opposite the spine.
leaf – A single sheet of paper is a leaf, and each side is a page. The front page is known as the Obverse or Recto, while the back page is the Reverse or Verso.
gatherings – A group of leaves formed by folding a single sheet of paper. The text block is made of a series of gatherings.
headband – The narrow cloth band on the top and bottom of the spine. In hand-sewn books, it is functional and adds strength, in machine-bound books it is decorative.
cover/case – Whatever covers the text block. It consists of the cover panels and cover spine.
back flap – Like the front flap, but in the back.
dust jacket – Books used to have these to protect the covers. Of course that was before they had dust repellent paper.
front face – The front section of the dust jacket. The portion of the cover underneath is the front cover panel.
joint – Where the cover panels meet the cover spine.
spine – The back part of the cover where the text block is attached. It’s what you see when books are on a bookcase.
back face – The back section of the dust jacket. The portion of the cover underneath is the back cover panel.
Ephemera can be some of the hardest props to research and produce accurately, but thanks to the falling prices of bandwidth, storage, and digitization technologies, we see more and more scanned images of ephemera online everyday. It can be daunting to go through all the galleries and collections, and search engines are still less than ideal for finding the perfect image. Here are some sites I’ve discovered to help aid your search for the minor transient documents of everyday life. A lot of sites post a ton of links to other sites, but it can be frustrating as many places do not post images online, their images are unusable, or the navigation and search are just too complex and esoteric to use. Remember to search my blog in case you don’t see one of your favorite sites listed; I may have listed it in an earlier article.
The Ephemera Network has a lot of images uploaded by users. Because it is a community, there is also plenty of discussions and interaction concerning other places to track down ephemera. If you are a die-hard fan, you can even join in and share your interests or ask questions with other members.
The Ephemera Catalog has a very large and very varied selection of ephemera for sale. The great thing about sites that sell ephemera is that they offer high-quality scans to entice buyers. The site also has a fantastic selection of ephemera links which should give you a few hours of entertainment.
Quadrille Ephemera shows a rotating selection of what they offer for sale. The shop specializes in more hand-written and personal ephemera, like invitations, checks and holiday cards.
Scott J. Winslow specializes in selling American historicalÂ memorabilia, mostly from the nineteenth century. The images on the site are pretty high-resolution.
Sheaff: ephemera has a lot of great images in a variety of interesting categories. Be sure to check out the “links” on this site; you’ll never leave the internet.
Beer Labels has nearly 5000 beer labels. The images on the website are watermarked, but they say they can email higher-resolution files without watermarks.
This huge collection of Wine Labels is organized by subject as well as brand.
The Ad*Access Project has over 7000 American and Canadian advertisements from 1911-1955.
A Nation of Shopkeepers is a collection of trade ephemera from 1654 to 1860. Check it out if you need business-related items from old-timey Britain.
Scrapbooks are great because they preserve many types of ephemera of lesser importance and pedigree that would normally be passed-on by collectors, but are nonetheless vital to adding detail to the world of the play. Heritage Scrapbooks has images from 21 scrapbooks of various ages. You can also check out Marion’s Scrapbook, from a young woman during her college years of 1913-1917.
If you’re interested in medical and surgical imagery, you can browse several thousand images at the History of Medicine.
Arms, crests and monograms began to be used on stationary in England in the 1840s. They replaced the wax seal in many cases, which is oh-so-popular as a theatrical prop device. For the prop-maker obsessed with utmost historical accuracy, you can browse crests organized by topic to add to the stationary in your show.
Like stamps? Who doesn’t like stamps? Though images of stamps aren’t terribly difficult to search for, you can save time with this comprehensiveÂ index of stamps from around the world. Browse by country or topic and narrow your search by year.
Dying Speeches & Bloody Murders is an interesting collection; in 18th and 19th century Britain, broadsides were sold at public executions with an account of the crime or description of the criminal. They’re like an old-timey (and more gruesome) version of a program at a sporting event.
Similarly, the Roscommon Historical Research site has ephemera from County Roscommon in Ireland. They do not have many examples online, and the pictures are too small to print directly, but they have such a great range of items that are often overlooked at other sites.
If you are interested in learning more about ephemera rather than merely looking at it, the articles at the Ephemera Society of America delve into the histories of all sorts of fascinating categories and subcategories of printed paper materials.
As always, one of my favorite sources for ephemera is Flickr. Do you have any favorite sites or sources? Leave me a comment and let me know!
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies