Tag Archives: armor

Last Links in April

Hey, if you haven’t gotten my Prop Building Guidebook yet, you can get it direct from Focal Press for 20% off until April 29th! Just use code MRK95 at checkout. It makes a great gift for graduation (hint hint).

This seems like one of those weird Buzzfeed articles, but it actually has a whole lot of cool photographs from a tour inside Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.

Legacy Effects has a great video on the making of the suit from the new Robocop film. Sure, there is a lot of 3D printing and digital fabrication involved, but there is also a surprising amount of traditional artistry going on, including sculpting, painting and sewing.

La Bricoleuse discovers an armor maker right here in North Carolina. Dr. Eric Juengst is the Director of the Center of Bioethics at UNC Chapel Hill, and he spends his spare time fabricating historic suits of armor (and suits of armor for animals). Check out these photos and video of his workshop and his creations.

Here’s a good step-by-step tutorial on how to do a life cast of a face from Lauren Daisy Williams, a student at UNCSA. I met Lauren at the USITT Young Designer’s Forum this year, where she had all sorts of fun molding and casting projects on display, so it’s nice to see her share the process for some of her work online.

Black Friday Props Links

David Neat, author of Model-Making: Materials and Methods, has a blog going with all sorts of model making techniques. Posts on painting, mold-making, working in scale, and more are described and shown with ample photographs.

I really like this illustrated chart of hand tools over at Popular Mechanics. The chart itself is good-looking enough to hang up in your shop, while the tools pictured on it give you a great idea of what your shop is missing.

Smooth-On has a ton of great videos over at their website showing how to mold and cast with many of their materials. If you haven’t checked them out yet, start with one of their newer ones on how to make a mold for a replica of an antique rifle.

If you ever wanted to take the time to make chain mail by hand (as opposed to just spray-painting some crocheted yarn), Make Projects has a great tutorial on just that.

Friday Links on Display

It’s another Friday, and another September. This always seems like the busiest time of the year for the whole entertainment industry. Some of you may have gotten a four-day week this past week, but for most of us, it was an eight-day week. So take a seat, relax, and enjoy these links for a few minutes:

Huffington Post has an interview with props master Peter Bankins. Bankins has been a prop master in film for the past 25 years, working on movies such as Young Guns, Grumpier Old Men, Erin Brockovitch and many more.

On the other side of the pond, Farfetch has a short photo essay called “Our Day With Thomas Petherick“. Petherick is a young prop maker and set designer working mainly on fashion photography shoots.

Bill Doran and his wife created a fairly detailed set of armor and weapons from the video game Skyrim for this year’s Dragon Con. He details the lengthy build process as they fashion parts out of wood, EVA foam, Worbla, resin and more.

Finally, here is a familiar face; I was displaying some of my props at last month’s Burlington Mini Maker Faire. Coffey Productions was going around filming the various exhibits, and shot this video of me talking about my props and my book. Check it out!

20000 Objects in Opera Property Room, part 5, 1912

The following is the fifth portion of an article which first appeared in the New York Sun in 1912. You can catch up on the first part, the second part, third part and the fourth part.

In addition to the mass of less frequently used properties which are distributed among the storehouses there are at the opera house itself five large rooms filled with hundreds and hundreds of the objects oftenest in demand. In one of these rooms, which is called the armory, are rows of helmets, great stands of spears, racks full of guns, innumerable swords, including the famous one of Siegfried, the white one of Lohengrin and that of Telramund. Here is Caruso’s armor, which, as he dislikes to wear or carry anything heavy, is made of aluminum. His helmets are of aluminum too. These stage weapons are never sharp enough to do any damage, even if some one accidentally got in their way.

The guns are the real thing and are loaded with powder. A permit to keep explosives on the premises has to be had every time an opera is given in which guns are fired or conflagrations imitated.

In one of the property rooms at the opera house, which is always spoken of as “Frank Furst’s room,” an employee is generally at work rubbing up gun barrels, swords and armor, or polishing brass armlets. Guns are used not only on he stage, as in “Tosca” and “Carmen,” but off stage in taking up cues.

If a great crash is to be produced half a dozen stage hands are armed beside them with a prompt book following the score. As the cue approaches he counts, “one, two, three, four, five!” At five they fire simultaneously, while at the same time there comes a clap of stage thunder. The resulting noise is big enough for any kind of a crash.

A curious phase of the property department’s work is the way it sometimes has to dovetail a job with some other department. For instance, in the last act of “Tosca” there is a flag which floats on the top of the tower. It really does float, the breeze blowing it with every appearance of naturalness. An electric fan adjusted behind the side scenes provides the breeze. In this case the flag is put in place by the property department, while the electric fan belongs to the electrical department, which must see that it is set up and running.

In the second act of “Madama Butterfly” several large Japanese lanterns with standards are brought in by Suzuki and set about the stage. Lights are burning inside them. The third act opens with the same scene after a lapse of several hours, which passage of time is indicated by having the lights in the lanterns flicker and go out one by one. This is the way it is done. When the lanterns are brought on they contain lighted candles which come under the head of properties and which therefore are put in and lighted by some one in that department.

When the curtain goes down a property man takes out these candles. Then an electrician sees that the standards are placed over metal plates in the matting, Suzuki having set them in approximately the correct position. Then he puts in electric bulbs, wires from under the stage are connected with the metal plates, contact is secured through the base of the standard and the resulting light is then turned on and off from below to simulate a flickering candle flame. After the scene the electrician comes and gets his bulbs before the property man can carry off the lanterns.

This article will conclude in a later post. It was originally published in the New York Sun, February 25, 1912, page 16.

Costume Armour

This past weekend I made a trip up to Cornwall, NY, to visit Costume Armour. Brian Wolfe, the general manager, happily showed me around the shop, storage areas and all the pieces they have on display. Costume Armour was founded over 50 years ago by Peter and Katherine Feller, and later purchased by theatrical sculptor Nino Novellino in 1976, and has produced pieces for nearly every Broadway show since then.

Knight of the Mirrors from "Man of La Mancha"
Knight of the Mirrors from "Man of La Mancha"

The piece that kind of began Costume Armour is the armor from the original Broadway production of The Man of La Mancha. Before then, armor was either leather, felt or heavy metal. They solved many problems by vacuum forming a suit of armor from newly sculpted molds based off of historical research. Though the suit itself predates the company, Novellino made it while working with Peter Feller on the vacuum forming machines built by Feller to construct the Vatican pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair. Costume Armour still has those machines, and they are part of what makes their company extraordinary. The vacuum tank is over 1000 gallons, and they can produce pieces from sheets of plastic as large as 52″ by 12′-0″.


The shop was in the midst of a big order for the Disney Jedi Training Academy, Star Wars Weekends and Celebration, which they have been doing since 2004.


I was interested to learn that the shop still uses Celastic quite a bit for many of their sculptures. The original brand-named Celastic has long ceased being manufactured, though they did have a few rolls stock-piled for those extra-special projects (pictured above). The modern equivalents are a bit thicker, but act the same; the cloth is saturated with acetone, than draped or molded over a form or sculpture, and when the acetone evaporates, you are left with a rigid and rock hard surface. Brian explained that it is unrivaled for making realistically-sculpted drapes and clothes on statues.

So I stand corrected on my earlier article on Celastic, in which I claimed that it is rarely used and that there are less toxic alternatives that can do the same thing. Of course, using it requires the proper safeguards for dealing with large buckets of acetone, but working with most materials in the props shop requires understanding and protecting yourself against any potential hazards and toxins.

Jesus and C-3PO
Jesus and C-3PO

While I saw something cool around every corner, I thought I would point out the above picture. They cast a head based off of a scan and model of the Shroud of Turin, so what you have here is what many believe to be the real head of Jesus. He is, of course, on a shelf next to a C-3PO mask.

See you later!
See you later!

The statue pictured above was produced was was sculpted in foam, molded in silicone and cast in fiberglass . Though larger than me, I could easily pick it up off the ground; most of the weight, in fact, came from the plywood base, and not the statue itself.

Novellino was featured in the American Theatre Wing’s In the Wings series; watch the video to learn more about the company and to see the vacuum forming machines in action.