Tag Archives: instructable

Mid-Week Links

Things have been hectic here in the Hart Household, and you may have noticed I’ve missed a few posts. So I am switching things up and posting a bunch of links on a Wednesday rather than a Friday. Here we go:

Chris Ubick has been the props master on dozens of films, such as The Help, Practical Magic, Milk, and The Internship. Dianne Reber Hart has written a great article on her life and career which you should check out.

This article is a few years old, but worth mentioning: The Last Electronics Project I Completed. It’s a little deep and heavy at times (the author was building a fake bomb prop in lower Manhattan in early September of 2001) but it brings up some questions about the questionable legality of what we sometimes find ourselves building.

On a lighter note, here is how to force a patina on carbon steel. Short answer? Shove it in a lemon.

And finally, here is an interesting Instructable on assembling a vacuum-formed model. If you have tried vacuum-forming before, you will know that making the parts on the machine is just the beginning. You still have to trim, assemble and reinforce the parts to get a usable prop. This Instructable steps through some of those processes to make a fake ammo drum.

Monday Morning Links

Fon Davis runs a company called FONCO Creative, which makes miniatures and models for film and television. He’s worked on some lesser-known films such as Matrix, Star Wars Episodes I-III, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Make: Believe visits his studio and posts some photographs and this video below. It is great to see a fairly young and high-tech company still embracing the use of models and miniatures.

You should see this “Death Row” router table; so-named because it was found in a prison woodworking shop where tools often need to be, um, improvised.

New York Magazine has this snarky look at how terrible the newspaper was in Back to the Future. Slate Magazine than has a rebuttal, calling the critique very funny, but very wrong. Both articles are highly entertaining; you might remember them the next time you need to make a fake newspaper prop.

Here is an interesting Instructable for making your own machinable wax. Machinable wax is a wax which will not melt or deform from the friction of a high-speed rotary cutter; it is useful for trying out a part on a CNC machine before you waste your real material (and it can be machined faster and without wearing down your tools).


Vacuum Forming on Zero Dollars

I am currently working as props master on Crazy for You at Elon University. In one of the musical numbers, twelve showgirls dance around the main character while talking on the phone. The show is set in the early 1930s, so that is twelve candlestick phones needed (all of them painted pink). If you’ve ever had to get candlestick phones, you know that the real ones are prohibitively expensive, and even the replicas are too expensive when twelve are needed. I decided I would make them all (which is what most theatres do).

Most hand-built candlestick phones I’ve seen have a pretty simple base, and I wanted to try for something a bit more interesting and realistic. Since these were just being used during a dance number, the dial didn’t need to work. It looked like I could sculpt the base as a solid object and than just vacuum form twelve copies. The only problem? I don’t have a vacuum forming machine.

Vacuum forming one of the telephone bases
Vacuum forming one of the telephone bases

I ended up assembling a very small and fairly weak vacuum forming system out of tools I already had and scrap materials which were laying around. Other than my time, the cost was free. I was able to make all the phone bases I needed though the process was a bit inelegant at times. I like what vacuum forming can accomplish, and I think I may spend some more time (and maybe even some money) making a more usable vacuum former after this show opens, but it was nice to be up and running without too much investment on my part.

I have posted an Instructable on how I built my free vacuum forming machine if anyone else is interested in how this all works. I also have a video of how it works and what it looks like when it’s being used:

Maker Faire 2011

This past weekend in New York City I attended the second annual World Maker Faire. Readers of this blog may recall I attended the Maker Faire in 2010 as well. If you read Make Zine or follow their blog, you can guess what the fair is like: a strange mix of science fair plus craft fair, with a Burning Man—vibe thrown in.

Floor of the interior portion of Maker Faire
Floor of the interior portion of Maker Faire

I headed to the Instructables booth because they were giving prizes to their authors, of which I am one.  If you don’t know Instructables, take a moment to check it out; it’s usually one of the first places I visit when I need to figure out how to make something or work with a new material.

General Electric tweeted me while I was there, which was kind of strange. Maybe it’s because I talk to light bulbs.

60-Foot Dragon
60-Foot Dragon

The 60-foot long fire-breathing dragon constructed of scrap materials was quite a sight to behold. Check out the video detailing its construction and the story behind it.

Speaking of videos, I meant to get a video of Arc Attack, who I missed last year. My phone kept crashing, but you can find plenty of videos online. It’s pretty breathtaking to watch in person.

A MIDI-controlled drum machine
A MIDI-controlled drum machine

The Faire certainly steers towards the science and technology side of making, with lots of circuit projects, computer-controlled devices and engineering solutions. Still, a props person can find a lot to keep occupied while here. Companies like Smooth-On, Autodesk and ShopBot were there, as well as organizations such as Materials for the Arts, many of which are familiar faces to those of us who work in props. It’s always fascinating to see what people with similar interests and skills are doing outside of the entertainment industry.

Mario Kart in real life
Mario Kart in real life

Link Before you Leap

We’re right in the middle of tech for this year’s Shakespeare in the Park, so I don’t have time to write as extensively as usual. Here are some interesting links to keep you busy in the mean time.

  • Jesse Gaffney writes about her goal to create a Chicago props community. It’s a good rundown of how to create a community of props people in any locale, which is good for sharing resources, mutual borrowing agreements, and knowing who to recommend when you can’t take a job. We have one here in New York City.
  • If you’re a fan of Instructables, you’ll like Make: Projects. From the same people that publish Make Magazine comes this library of user-submitted DIY projects and how-tos.
  • Speaking of Instructables, if you are a teacher and like the promise of the site, but are unsure how to integrate it into your classroom, the editors have just published a post on how to use Instructables at school.
  • Here’s an oldie but a goodie: an in-depth look at Nino Novellino, founder of Costume Armour Inc., one of the largest creators of theatrical armor and all manner of sculpture and props.
  • And finally, it’s always a good idea to remember How Not to Hurt Yourself On a Table Saw.