Tag Archives: definition

Parts of a Sword Hilt

There is no such thing as a generic or universal sword, thus no single drawing can encapsulate all the possible parts and various names for them. The diagram I made here is based off a Renaissance-style rapier, which is what many of us traditionally keep in our stock and use for stage combat. Interestingly, swords in all time-periods and cultures share at least three basic parts: the blade, the pommel, and the grip.

Parts of a sword hilt
Parts of a sword hilt - Click for a larger view

Button – Also known as a pommel nut, pommel bolt, capstan rivet, or tang nut. In some swords, the button is screwed on to the end of the tang to hold the grip on.

Pommel – The counter-weight at the end of the grip.

Grip – Handle

Tang – The hidden part of the blade which the grip is mounted to.

Shoulder – The corner portion where the tang and the blade meet.

Guard – A blanket term for all the parts that protect the hand.

Quillon – Extended portions of the guard.

Écusson – or quillon block. The metal center where the quillons meet and all parts of the guard attach to.

Ricasso – Unsharpened portion of the blade which extends from the grip to the end of the guard.

Props in Movies, 1922

The Property Man

Who Is Qualified to Become One?

By Ray Chrysler, Matter of Properties, Metro Pictures Corporation, 1922.

Picture a curiosity shop and you can visualize clearly the property room of a large studio. In it, one will find everything from a suit of armor to a canary bird’s nest. From it, several well-furnished homes or hotels could be outfitted. Complete with such appointments as fine linens and such accessories as art objects.

The term “prop” really covers everything. Sometimes it means a stable, another time a bull dog, a box of candy or an automobile, a work of art, of any of a million other things. In a motion picture studio, a “prop” means some object that is used in the making of the picture.

To qualify for fitness in being master of all this vast domain of materials, one must indeed have special training. The property man must be a very resourceful person, for it is up to him to know the location of any one of a thousand articles in his property room, and to be able to place his hand on almost anything that a director could call for in the work of filming a motion picture.

The property man has not as yet received his place in that limelight which seems to bathe all other studio executives. But when it is considered that a property man should have brains, initiative, and a good, retentive memory, it seems that he, too, is entitled to his share of glory. One thing is certain; he has a thousand times more worry and responsibility than his brother property man in the legitimate theatrical world.

It is from the ranks of the stage property men that many of the screen’s property men are recruited. Still there are amateurs as well who have essayed the role of property man and have made good. To become a successful property man one must believe nothing impossible. Should he receive an order to produce a set of furniture of the time of the discovery of America, he must know or find out just what style of furniture was popular in those days.

Once he ascertains just what would be proper, he attempts to locate it and if it is not to be found, he must produce it. So he prepares plans, and then turns them over to the studio carpenter shop, where the needed articles or pieces of furniture are manufactured.

On an average, the property man has about twenty-four hours’ notice of the various “props” that will be needed in a new production. Within that time two or two hundred pieces of furniture, a piano, a phonograph, a harp, a violin, twenty sets of curtains, half dozen rugs of various sizes or anything else imaginable must be in its proper place on the “set” where it is to be used. It is the duty of the Property Department to furnish all interior decorations that are not permanently attached to the walls of the Settings themselves.

To care for this conglomerate assemblage of things, there is a department head and a corps of prop boys. Every article that goes out of the prop room is checked—the name of the picture in which it is to be used, the number of the stage which it is to be set on, and the number of scenes in which it is to be photographed. This is done for two reasons: first, to keep track of the articles; and second, it is a distinctive object, so that it wll not be used conspicuously in another picture. You see it would be very poor business if a handsome hand-carved chest, which adorned a star’s New York apartment in one picture, were to be used in his Spanish castle in his next. People would say, “Well, they take their furniture right along with them, don’t they ?”

Many times articles of great value are used in pictures. These are sometimes rented from antique shops, or private collections. While they are in the studio they are in the care of the “prop” department, and checked out each day along with the rest of the studio props.

To illustrate the variety of props purchased or rented I might mention that Goldwyn recently rented a “freak” prop – a trained mocking bird for which they paid $5.00 a day (the wage of an extra man or woman).

Originally printed in Opportunities in the motion picture industry, and how to qualify for positions in its many branches; published by the Photoplay Research Society, 1922 (pp 83-84).

Parts of a Chair

Learning the names and terms for parts of objects is important in developing your shared vocabulary for easier communication. If a designer asks you to “make the splat wider”, you don’t want to waste your time trying to widen a drop of paint.

For chairs, this was a little tricky trying to distill down all the general parts. Not all chairs have all the parts. Some parts are only specific to certain styles or time periods. Various people refer to similar parts by different names; in some contexts, they can be synonyms, while in others, they might have slightly different definitions. I’ve tried to exclude terminology which describes styles of parts. So while I defined a “leg”, I haven’t included a “cabriole leg”.

Some parts of a chair
Some parts of a chair

You can refer to the drawing above as well as the one below when looking at the definitions. At the end of today’s post, I’ve included a full-size drawing of both diagrams together at a higher resolution so you can print it out and hang it up. Have fun!

Some more parts of a chair
Some more parts of a chair
  • apron – the strips that run between the legs and connects to the surface (seat)
  • arm or armrest – part that supports your elbow and forearm
  • arm support – generalized term for the upright piece which supports the arm
  • back rail – rails specific to the seat back
  • back upright – synonym for “stile”
  • corner bracket – item which connects two members for added support and structure
  • cresting – ornamental topping, usually set in the center of the top of a chair-back
  • cresting rail – rail which contains the cresting, aka top rail
  • ear – small projecting member or part of a piece or structure, either decorative or structural
  • foot – bottom of the leg
  • headpiece – another word for “top rail” or “headrest”. With cresting, can be called “cresting rail”
  • leg – support for the chair
  • lower rail – lowermost rail of the seat back
  • manchette (arm pad) – upholstered patch or cushion on an armrest
  • mid rail – rail close to the vertical center of the seat back
  • rail – horizontal bar (of the back)
  • seat – the piece you set your bum on
  • seat back – general term encompassing the whole back of a chair, from the seat on up
  • seat rail – a synonym for the apron, or a single piece of the apron
  • shoe – a piece that sits on the back seat rail and holds the bottom of the splat, allowing easy replacement of a broken splat without disassembling the whole chair
  • skirt – band of fabric that hangs free from the bottom of an upholstered cushion. Sometimes used as a synonym for “apron”
  • slip seat – a seat which is easily removable to facilitate re-upholstery
  • spindle – a cylindrically symmetric shaft
  • splat – a vertical central element of the chair back
  • stile – outside vertical framing member (of the back)
  • stretcher – horizontal support element joining the legs
  • top rail – uppermost rail of the seat back
  • upholstered back – a padded back covered in fabric
  • upholstered seat – a padded seat covered in fabric
  • upright – vertical members of a chair back
Diagram of the parts of a chair
Click to load a large version for printing

First use of “Property” in the theatrical sense

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the use of the word “property” in the theatrical sense first appeared around 1425 A.D.  In the prologue to the play, The Castle of Perseverance, the second flag-bearer announces to the audience:

Grace, if God wyl graunte us, of hys mykyl myth,
þese parcellis in propyrtes we purpose us to playe
þis day seuenenyt

(emphasis mine)

This transcription comes from The Macro Plays, edited by Frederick James Furnivall and Alfred William Pollard, published in 1904. You can see the original manuscript below:

first known written appearance of properties in the theatrical sense in the Castle of Perseverance
first known written appearance of "properties" (in the theatrical sense) in the Castle of Perseverance

In a modern translation offered by Alexandra F. Johnston, we have:

Grace, if God will grant us of his great might,
On scaffolds with costumes the roles we will play
This day sevennight

While certainly clearer in meaning, this translation has the unfortunate side effect of replacing “properties” with “costumes”, thus nullifying the Oxford English Dictionaries assertion of the word’s first appearance. Still, I think we can give the OED a little more scholarly weight in this instance.

According to Wikipedia, The Castle of Perseverance is not only the earliest known full-length vernacular play in existence, it is also important for its inclusion of a set drawing. The drawing is also one of the earliest known surviving examples of its kind. It hints that the play may have been performed in the round.

Stage and Set Design for Castle of Perseverance
Stage and Set Design for Castle of Perseverance