Ward Works builds a vacuum former and presents the whole step-by-step process with photographs. The whole thing was done for under $600, though you can save money if you have a lot of scrap around the shop.
Here we have 9 Real Job Skills You Lean From Being a Cosplayer, which is remarkably similar to the job skills you learn from being a prop maker. Of course, that assumes that they ever let you out of the props shop to look for another job. Back to work!
Whatever happened to Tony Montana’s “Little Friend”? Not that I was wondering, but this Hollywood Reporter article is a fascinating look at an iconic movie prop. Watch as it meanders its way around LA over the next few decades, popping up in other films here and there.
If you’ve never seen Adam Savage’s One Day Builds, you’re missing out! In his latest, he builds a sword from Hellboy. What makes these great is that they do not really skip over anything; it’s just a cameraman in the shop, showing every step he takes, and every mistake he makes. I also like how he doesn’t really use anything that’s out of the realm of the average props shop. His materials come from typical hardware stores and auto body shops, and his tools are pretty standard issue (well, that disc sander is kind of a beast).
The New Antiquarian has a lovely article on the small bookshop that helped the Mad Men props master find all the vintage books used in the show. The characters on the show read voraciously, so the team was constantly hunting down pristine first editions of the books most popular during the time period.
A gallery in LA put on a Guillermo Del Toro tribute show, and Cinema Fantasma made this amazing wooden automata inspired by Pan’s Labyrinth. Check out the video where they transform logs into an intricate moving sculpture.
The Hustle has an interesting article about the women who make a living doing cosplay. It delves into just how someone makes money by dressing up in costumes, and shows how constructing the costumes is just the first step. It reminds me a lot of the new generation of internet “superstar prop makers”, who have fan bases built around watching them work; the actual props are almost secondary, and are never really used in film, theatre or television.
For one of the operas we are doing this summer, we needed some “sconces” made up of armor and weapons: shields with swords crossed behind them and that sort of thing. The designer wanted some pole weapons on one; we had a halberd in stock he really liked. Since we only had one, I had to replicate a bunch more to match it. Since these halberds were only going to be decorative, I could crank them out quickly with scrap materials.
In the photo above, I traced and cut out the main shape of the halberd blade from quarter-inch plywood. You can see the original blade at the very top of the photograph.
I attached a piece of 1-inch pink foam to each side of the plywood. I rough cut the foam to the shape, but left it oversized so I could trim it to the exact shape after the glue dried. I used Gorilla Glue to adhere it.
After the glue dried, I trimmed the foam to the shape of the plywood. I used a knife to make the bevels, followed by sandpaper to refine the curves.
Next I did a very “proppy prop” thing; I used hot glue to adhere some cord to create raised detail. These halberd blades are only meant to be decorative, and are way upstage; also, this is how the original one was made, and I needed them all to match.
The whole piece was then coated in FoamCoat, and sent off to the painters.
First, I wanted to mention that I have redone and updated my online portfolio; it was in desperate need of an overhaul, especially now that I am freelancing again. I went with a free site at CarbonMade.com, because the thought of designing and coding yet another portfolio site was making me tired just thinking about it. I’ve seen some other prop makers who use that site to show their work, and so far, it seems to be working well. Let me know what you think!
Now then, let’s take a look at a bench I made back in 2006 at the Santa Fe Opera. I basically had to build the whole thing from scratch in less than a week, so it’s a bit rough.
They wanted a cast iron park bench. The only real requirements were the size, so I had to find my own research image. I showed the above photograph to Randy Lutz, the prop master, and he agreed it was a good bench to duplicate.
I drew a full-scale layout of the side on a piece of paper and spray-glued it to a sheet of plywood. You’ll notice the decorative parts do not match the photograph exactly. What I decided to do was pull some decorative resin castings and carved wood pieces from stock—the opera has quite a good collection of these. I then arranged them to match the research as closely as possible. I traced them and cut away the extra plywood. You’ll see in a bit when I start gluing them on, it’ll all make sense.
I cut out and added some support runners on the insides of the two ends and began to attach the slats which would make up the back and the seat. It needed some extra support, so I ran a rod along the bottom; you can see it in the next photograph.
Now I began attaching the decorative resin bits. I also used some Ethafoam rod cut in half to make some curved half-round molding. I found a strip of upholstery fringe which added more texture.
Here’s a closeup showing some of the resin bits and Ethafoam, as well as some rosettes and even bits of yarn. If you look really close, you can even make out a bit of hot glue design work; though it’s practically invisible here, once the paint goes on, it will add just that extra little bit of texture that will make the whole thing seem like a single piece of cast iron from the audience.
The paint job is what really helped marry all the different materials together and bring the whole thing to life. The painter of this bench worked as one of the other props carpenters for the beginning of the summer, so none of us knew how good he was at scenic art until he did this bench.
So here it is, ready to go on stage. I even added some round bolt heads running down the middle so it looked like the slats were bolted to the legs. Overall, it was a fun piece for the short time frame I had to build it in.
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies