Say you want to draw a hexagon with equal sides. Say you want this hexagon to fit within a circle of a certain size. Go ahead, say it; I’ll wait.
You can do this with just a compass and a straight-edge. First, start off by drawing your circle with your compass. The distance from the pointy end of your compass to the pencil end is the radius of the circle. Don’t change this distance just yet.
Pick a spot on your circle where you want one of the hexagon’s corners to be and mark it. Now stick the pointy end of your compass on this mark and draw a line with your compass that crosses the circle. Move your pointy end to this intersection and repeat, all the way around the circle. The picture below will help if this does not make sense.
Your final mark should overlap with your first mark. You now have six marks evenly spaced around your circle. Connect these marks with your straight-edge, and you have yourself a hexagon.
A pentagon is a five-sided shape where the sides are equal in length. It can be a useful shape in prop making; it can also serve as the basis for a five-sided star. It may be difficult to lay out with standard drafting tools, but with the method below, you can draw one with just a compass and a straight-edge.
Start off with a circle of a size that will perfectly fit your pentagon; that is, each corner of your pentagon will touch the outside of your circle.
In my circle, I have drawn two perpendicular lines which run through the center point O. Where they cross the circle, I have labeled A, X, Y and Z (A will be the top point of the pentagon, so place it accordingly).
I have bisected line OY to find point M; that is, M is exactly halfway between O and Y.
Put the point of the compass on M and extend it so the pencil touches A. Draw an arc that crosses line XO; we will call this intersection “R”.
Move the point of the compass onto A and extend it so the pencil now touches R. The radius of your compass is now equal to the length of the sides of your pentagram. When you draw an arc from R to your circle, you will find point “B”.
When you move the compass to pivot on B and draw an arc, it will cross the circle at two points: A and a new point “C”.
Returning your compass to A, draw an arc that crosses the right side of the circle to find “E”.
Move the compass to E and draw an arc to find “D”. In the picture above, I drew the arc so it crossed the circle twice, at point D and again at point A. You don’t need to actually do that.
To check that your pentagon has five equal sides, you can put the point of your compass on D. The pencil should touch C.
A, B, C, D and E are the corners of your pentagon. All that is left to do is connect them with a straight-edge. Presto! Perfect pentagons!
Last night finally brought us to the opening of Tony Kushner’s new play, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures, which we’ve been in previews for since March (and rehearsals since February!). I was the assistant props master on the show. There’s been quite a stir with Mr. Kushner this past week as well; first, he was set to receive an honorary degree from John Jay College, but then the board of trustees of CUNY voted to deny it; Mr. Kushner wrote an eloquent and biting response asking for their apology; finally, Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote an editorial on the matter and opened it up to reader’s comments. Last night’s opening even saw some protesters show up in support of Tony Kushner.
It’s a fascinating (and important) story if you are involved with theatre. But if you read this blog just for the props, don’t worry, I have some links for you to finish off the week:
Here is an absolutely fantastic inside look at the Office of Exhibits Central for the Smithsonian Institute, which fabricates the displays and exhibits for their various museums. Besides more traditional materials and methods like mold-making and fiberglass, they have also made a huge push into new technologies like 3D scanners and printers, CNC routers, fabric printers and more.
Jean Burch has posted a list of project management skills over on her Technical Direction Tidbits blog. I fell a Props Director is similar to a Project Manager in many respects, and this list shares many of the skills which a props director also needs.
Do you like pencils? Here’s a whole page dedicated to pencils. You can peruse hundreds of photographs of different pencils while learning their history, as well as view some classic pencil advertisements.
One of the things I am interested in (in relation to props) is the way in which our world makes objects, or as I like to call it, the “genealogy of things.” For example, a book is made of a cover and paper; the paper is sewn together and covered in ink. The ink was put on the paper in one factory while the paper was made in another. Further, the paper originally came from a tree, which lived in a forest separate from all the factories.
I find it a little hard to explain, which was why I was so happy when I came across “I, Pencil”, an essay by Leonard Read, originally published in the December, 1958 issue of The Freeman. I hope this excerpt from near the beginning will explain what I’m talking about:
My family tree begins with what in fact is a tree, a cedar of straight grain that grows in Northern California and Oregon. Now contemplate all the saws and trucks and rope and the countless other gear used in harvesting and carting the cedar logs to the railroad siding. Think of all the persons and the numberless skills that went into their fabrication: the mining of ore, the making of steel and its refinement into saws, axes, motors; the growing of hemp and bringing it through all the stages to heavy and strong rope; the logging camps with their beds and mess halls, the cookery and the raising of all the foods. Why, untold thousands of persons had a hand in every cup of coffee the loggers drink!
So on this holiday weekend, take a break from working in the props shop and read the full essay of “I, Pencil” on WikiSource.
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies