Tag Archives: tape

Four Findings for Friday

Ok, this isn’t props, it’s models, but still pretty cool. Tested has a long profile on Greg Jein, one of the main model makers on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1941, and Star Trek. Despite advances in CGI, he is still going strong, working on new films such as Interstellar.

Propnomicon has a great history of adhesive plaster, the fix-it-all tape used before duct tape was invented. Besides the history lesson, he has some great photos of vintage packaging for the plaster.

Korwin Briggs has put together this fun and educational infographic on the gross and deadly history of color. He reveals the origins of many popular coloring agents, such as mummy brown (made from ground-up mummies) and ultramarine (crushed-up gemstones).

Make has a great round-up of five wood gluing tips. I’ve done the ol’ “nail the boards together before gluing them trick” but always thought I was somehow cheating. It’s good to know it’s an actual technique used by others. Not that you can actually “cheat” in props. If it lasts until the show closes, then it’s a good technique.

Friday Fun with Props

This is from a few years ago, but it has everything you need to know about Blood for Film. Okay, maybe not everything, but it has a ton of information, a break-down of helpful ingredients, and a couple sample recipes for different types of fake blood.

Here’s something everyone will like: a history of masking tape. I’m sure all of you have looked at masking tape and wondered who invented it, and why. It was Richard Drew, and he wanted a tape to mask paint.

Tested stops by Frank Ippolito’s shop to see how he made sci-fi armor based off of a video game. This eight-and-a-half minute video shows how he took the 3D models in the game and turned them into patterns to cut out of foam sheets, followed by lots of gluing and painting.

Do you like making your own tools for your shop? Because Homemade Tools is filled with instructions and plans for a whole assortment of tools and jugs you can make yourself.

Five Prop Quick-Fixes

Sometimes you need to fix things right, and other times, you need to fix them right now. Here are four things which prop people rely on to fix a prop when the audience is already seated and the curtain is about to go up.

Hot Glue

hot glue gun
Hot Glue Gun

It’s a common prop adage that “anything can be fixed with hot glue.” That’s true in many cases, and the fact that it cools in minutes (sometimes seconds) and is removable makes it a great candidate to hold two things together at the last minute. When you need to separate the items, just peel them apart. Keep in mind that it is not structural, and it will not come out of most fabrics.

Gaff tape

gaffers tape
Gaffer's Tape

Gaff tape is short for gaffer’s tape, so named because of its use by gaffers to tape down cords and cables. It’s like duct tape for prop people; unlike duct tape, it leaves no residue when removed, and most importantly, it comes in black, so it disappears on stage (and can be used in a pinch to make other things disappear on stage as well).



Wire of all different thicknesses is great for tying things together when adhesives just won’t stick. It’s also key for hanging things from walls or ceilings. With glue, there’s always a chance the weight will prove too much for the bond and cause the prop to come crashing down on someone’s head.


Mortite rope caulk
Mortite Rope Caulk

Mortite, or rope caulk, is a type of caulk that will not dry out. It’s great for keeping glasses from sliding around on a tray, or vases from toppling off of a shaky table. It also makes it very easy to remove the prop when needed, as when an actor needs to pick up the vase during a scene.

5-minute Epoxy

5 minute epoxy
5 Minute Epoxy

I prefer the kind that comes in the easy-dispense tubes, which makes this product as idiot-proof as possible. Epoxy resin is a liquid which comes in two parts; when mixed, it sticks to many materials and becomes rock-hard. As the name implies, 5-minute epoxy hardens in 5 minutes, making it one of the quickest ways to get a very secure bond.

A brief history of gift wrap

With Christmas coming up, I am reminded that a variety of plays and musicals take place during this time. Let’s say you need a present as a prop. Is it wrapped? What kind of paper would you use? A lot of these answers depend on the specifics of the text: the time period, setting, class and ethnicity of the characters who are involved with the present. Still, it’s nice to have a rough timeline of the various technologies and customs involved with the wrapping of presents in Western culture.

I’ve organized this timeline in reverse order. Merry Christmas!

1970s-80s – Wrapping paper begins to have movie and television tie-ins, with characters printed on the paper (“A History of Gift Wrap” by Mac Carey).

1950s-60s – Wrapping paper patterns become more realistic (Carey).

1939-1945 – During World War II, gift wrap was not rationed to keep morale up (Carey).

1930s-40s – Wrapping paper patterns become more stylized due to influences from Art Deco. Some more popular patterns include ice skaters, snowflakes, Christmas trees, and candles (Carey).

1930 – “Scotch” tape is invented. Check out the Tape Innovation Timeline at the Scotch website for more milestones in transparent tape, as well as pictures of vintage tape dispensers and packaging. Before this, gifts were tied up with string and sealing wax (Carey).

1917 – According to the Hallmark site, Joyce Clyde Hall and his brother, Rollie, invented modern gift-wrap in their Kansas City, MO, store. When they ran out of their solid-colored gift dressing during the peak of the Christmas season, they began substituting the thicker French envelope liners for wrapping presents. It sold so well they began printing their own. Previous to this, they sold white, red and green tissue and one holly pattern for gift-wrapping.

1912 – Cellophane paper is used to wrap Whitman’s candy. Sales of cellophane triple between 1928-1930 following the introduction of moisture-proof cellophane. It is used as wrapping paper, either alone or in conjunction with regular paper.

Early 20th Century – According to the Hallmark press room, gifts are wrapped in tissue or plain brown paper during this time (an archived version of the page is available at the Internet Archive).

1890 – Flexography, a printing process using a flexible relief plate, is patented. It makes possible the mass production of a foldable, stiff paper which could be printed with colored inks (Carey).

1881 – Stockings hung either by the fireplace or bed and filled with presents were in common usage in England at this time (BBC, The Ten Ages of Christmas).

1874 – Louis Prang, the “father of the American Christmas card,” becomes the first printer to offer Christmas cards in America.

1857 – Joseph Gayetty introduces toilet tissue to the world (The Toilet Paper Encyclopedia). Tissue paper springs from this invention. In 1863, Ebenezer Butterick chooses tissue paper for his newly-invented graded sewing patterns, implying that it was somewhat widely available by that time. The use of tissue paper for gift-wrapping soon follows.

1843 – A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is published. He describes presents which are wrapped in brown-paper parcels in the past (circa 1836).

1843 – Sir Henry Cole of London commissions the first commercial Christmas cards from John Callcott Horsley (Inverloch Historical Society, January 2004 newsletter).

Victorian Period (1837-1901) – Wrapping paper is decorated similar to the Christmas cards of this era. Flowers, cherubs, and birds are among the more popular patterns (Carey). “Christmas papers were intricately printed and ornamented with lace and ribbon. Decorated boxes, loose bags, and coronets bore cutout illustrations of Father Christmas, robins, angels, holly boughs and other seasonal decorations” (“How is wrapping paper made?” by Gillian S. Holmes)

1823 – First publication of “A Visit from St. Nicholas“, aka “‘Twas the Night before Christmas”. St. Nicholas fills stockings hung by the chimney with toys. There is no mention of presents under the tree, or whether anything is wrapped.

1804 – First advertising for Christmas gifts in America (South Main Preservation Society).

19th Century – Gifts were sometimes presented in decorated cornucopias or paper baskets (Carey).

1745 – We have a mention of “brown or wrapping paper” used “to wrap up Goods, therefore called Shop-Paper” (The Harleian miscellany, by William Oldys, pg 339).

1509 – Earliest-known sample of wallpaper. It was used only briefly as gift-wrap because it cracked and tore too easily when it was folded (Hallmark’s History of Gift Wrap).