Shortcuts to Good Design – Christopher Schwartz shows how he uses scrap wood and wire to quickly mock up a furniture design. He can check the proportions and scale from all angles before building anything too complicated.
How to Choose, Cut, and Bend Sheet Metal – I always want to do more sheet metal work, but rarely find the opportunity. But it’s always amazing what you can achieve with just a few hand tools and basic power tools.
The most incredible parts of Carnegie Hall are offstage. As a theatre person, I’m more interested in the backstage and behind-the-scenes parts anyway, but Carnegie Hall has some especially interesting and historical details going on under the hood. Atlas Obscura takes us on an illuminating tour deep into the depths of this famous performance hall.
Dug North continues his 16-part series of automata tips with this article on cams and cam followers. A cam can give some pretty intricate movement to a prop just from a single spinning shaft.
We’re going back to Tested with this great article on creating the practical creatures from Gremlins. Videos and photographs show how Chris Walas and Joe Dante made dozens of ground-breaking animatronic puppets on a shoestring budget to bring the story to life.
David Neat starts us off with making smooth shapes from Styrofoam. He’s dealing with the real-deal Styrofoam here, not that white bead foam stuff. And sure, this article is over a year old, but it has some really useful techniques.
Bill Doran has a helpful video on adding rust to your props. Ninety percent of the time when I show a completed prop to a designer, they say, “that’s great… once we age it down a bit.” Knowing how to weather, age, distress or generally tone down props is an essential skill for a props person, and adding rust is one of the ways to do this.
Make Magazine takes a look at some Maker-Friendly hardware stores from around the US. It’s a fascinating look at the vast array of materials a store might choose to stock, as well as a sobering reminder of how awesome hardware stores used to be to those of us whose only local options are Lowes and Home Depot.
I covered some basic stitching for fabric in my Prop Building Guidebook, but if you get into embroidery and ornamental stitching, there is a whole other world of ways to manipulate needle and thread. Tipnut has some great vintage illustrations of ornamental borders and the basic stitches to make them happen. It’s a relaxing project for when you are bored in tech and the designer wants the napkins to be “fancier”.
Finally, here is an article called “The Most Important Lessons in Woodworking“. Robert Lang uses his experience cutting plugs as a lesson in woodworking in general, and I think this lesson can be expanded out to prop making in general. It’s not just about how to use specific tools or techniques, but how to approach your whole project in the most efficient and easiest manner possible.
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies