This is great:Â Michael Fichtenmayer experimented with a number of available art products to create copper finishes and showed off his results. It’s incredibly helpful to see them all together so you can do a quick comparison.
Here is a tutorial to build a homemade plastic bender. Now, remember to do this only with adequate ventilation; heating plastics can release all sorts of chemicals. No one really knows what we’re breathing. The MSDS for the plastic won’t tell you either, because they only have to disclose what the plastic is made of, not what it turns into with the application of heat.
Prop Phone is an app that allows you to trigger an iPhone or iPod Touch to ring over WiFi or Bluetooth. They have a video up showing how to make sure the phone can’t receive calls during a performance; I didn’t realize you could out an iPhone in Airplane mode and then turn WiFi back on; I know, I’m practically Amish.
When you are building a prop, you are often working off of some kind of reference material. In many cases, a photograph is the only reference you have. I’ve learned a couple of tricks over the years to help me construct a prop from a photograph.
The first thing you want to do is take note of all the details in the photograph to learn as much as you can about the context in which it was taken. Do you have a time, place, name of photographer or name of subjects to go along with your photograph? If you do, you can use it to search for additional photographs of the same object. For a production of La Boheme, I was given a poorly-photocopied image of a street cart vendor as research for a cart I needed to build. Using that image, I found the above picture online, which is a crisper and cleaner reproduction of the exact same photograph. If you’re lucky, your research will lead you to multiple pictures of the same object, showing different angles or details. Otherwise, do your best with the single image you have.
Next, you want to figure out the scale of the items in your photograph so you can begin assigning measurements and dimensions to the different elements. The above photograph offers one of the best items to scale against: the human body. By measuring against our own body, we can determine the heights of the various elements. The photograph of the crepe cart gives us a great advantage by showing the cart straight on. We can essentially lay a grid over the whole image using the man as the basis for the measurements.Â We know that the man uses the handles to push the cart, so we can use our own hands to decide the optimal thickness of the handles rather than trying to guess it from the picture.
(You’ll notice the cart in the photo above does not match the research exactly; the designer made some changes and alterations of his own based on the needs of the production.)
Sometimes the photograph has nothing in it to scale against, and we need another method. I had to build a park bench once based off of the research below. Though we do not know the size of that park bench, we do know the sizes of other park benches.
Most seats have a sitting height of eighteen inches. Even if the specific bench in the photograph above has a different height, the actors on stage will be most comfortable in an eighteen-inch high seat, so we can decide that this bench will have a sitting height of eighteen inches. Now that we have that measurement, we can again determine the rest of the measurements and draw out a full-scale version of what we are making. The length of the bench is a little harder to determine. For that, we can defer to the needs of the production (by asking how many actors need to sit in it at one time, and what the maximum length the set will allow is) as well as the length of typical park benches to come up with our length.
I’ve posted a new Instructable on making a stuffed kitten; that makes a whopping total of two since my wooden ratchet noisemaker last year. The cat wasn’t a prop for a show, but I thought I’d share it for two reasons. First, I made it out of materials from a previous show that would otherwise have ended up in the trash. Second, our prop shop had just gotten our first sewing machine. Before this, our artisans had to go to the costume shop to work on upholstery and making things out of fabric. I’m not much of a soft-goods person; in fact, the only actual item I’ve ever made out of fabric is probably a sweater in my seventh-grade home-ec class. I took this new acquisition as a chance to practice a must-needed prop skill; you’re never too old or awesome to start learning something new.
It is noteworthy in connection with this circumstance that the apparatus was devised by an Englishman and that Wagner employed an English property-master to design and make the dragon for the “Siegfried” performances at Baireuth. The English pantomime productions, which involve the manufacture of numerous mechanical and trick properties, have sharpened the ingenuity of English property-masters until they have come to be acknowledged at the head of their profession. “Siegfried” never having been given in England by any but a German company whose scenery and properties were brought from Germany, theÂ combat with the dragon remained as ludicrous a feature of the performances of this work as it was conceded to have been at Baireuth, until the production of “Siegfried” at the Metropolitan Opera-House. For this a dragon was designed and manufactured which the German artists declare to be the most practical and impressive monster they have seen.