Tag Archives: techniques

Props You Can Make at Home

Header image which summarizes the information as blog post.

How do you build props when you have no shop, few tools, and basic materials?

In this month’s S*P*A*Minar, I will show you some tips and techniques to build props cheaply and safely right in your home, with materials you can buy locally.

When: Sunday, April 18th at 8pm EST
Where: From the comfort of your home!
REGISTER here: http://bit.ly/PYCMAHregistration

With this S*P*A*Minar, we’re also doing our first-ever giveaway! One lucky attendee* will win a copy of my new book: Prop Building for Beginners: Twenty Props for Stage and Screen.

We are once again requesting pay-what-you-can donations to support this S*P*A*Minar programming. All money collected will be used to offset webinar operation costs with additional funds going to our annual grant program for early-career prop people. The suggested donation amount is $3.

Donations can be made via PayPal Money Pool here: https://bit.ly/SPAMinarMoneyPool

Registration will remain open until 6PM EST on April 18th and a link to the Zoom S*P*A*Minar session will be sent out to all registered attendees 1 hour before the start of the webinar.

All S*P*A*Minars will be recorded, and a video will be shared on the S*P*A*M Youtube page the week following the event. You can watch all previous S*P*A*Minars there for free.

*Attendee must be present at the S*P*A*Minar to win.

Kevin Caron’s Welding Videos

Welding is a great skill for a prop master or prop maker to have, though it can be a hard one to begin learning. The best way to learn is to have someone teach and guide you as you practice on your own. Whether that’s possible or not, it is also a good idea to watch some videos on welding to pick up background information and to get a different perspective on some of the techniques.

I discovered Kevin Caron’s videos on welding; he has dozens of videos covering all sorts of welding styles and techniques. His background is in metal art and fabrication, so the way he demonstrates welding is close to how a props artisan approaches welding. We rarely have to deal with all the technical information one might get with a traditional welding course, and it can be easy to get overwhelmed with all of that when you are just starting out and simply want to join a few pieces of steel together for a static prop.

So check out everything he has to offer, or just start with the one below. Whether you’re just starting or you’ve been doing it for awhile, you’re sure to pick up something new.

Graining Some Wood

Our production of Anna Christie closed last night at Triad Stage. The first act takes place in a bar, filled with wooden furniture. The bar, tables and chairs all needed to match, and since they were constructed from a variety of wood and other materials, the best way to do that was by painting all of them.

Our scenic charge artist, Jessica Holcombe, helped us develop a process to match the wood sample that our designer picked out. The base coat was a wet blend of two colors: a light tan, and a slightly darker beige. We blended them in the direction that the fake grain would go.

Base coat
Base coat

The next layer was a maroon/pink graining layer. A lot of the graining was done simply with a chip brush lightly dragged along the surface to make stripes. For some of the larger surfaces, we broke out the grain rocker to make some knots and other grain characteristics.


For the third layer, we made a glaze from some amber shellac and a bit of brown tint, and painted that over the whole thing.

Glaze coat
Glaze coat

The picture below shows the progression of this graining process, starting with an unpainted chair I bought.

Step-by-step wood graining process
Step-by-step wood graining process

When the furniture got on stage under the lights, it was too bright and the grain had too much contrast. We added another glaze coat of tinted shellac, this time using a darker brown to tint it. Jessica also showed us how to flock (edit: I mean “flog”) this layer, giving it a bit of the subtle pores and perpendicular stripes you can see below.

Final glaze
Final glaze

When doing a wood grain, the more layers you can add, the richer and more realistic your final result will be. There are many other techniques and tricks you can utilize depending on the specific type of wood you are trying to replicate; it is important to have a clear reference photo or physical sample of what you want your wood to look like.



Black Friday Props Links

David Neat, author of Model-Making: Materials and Methods, has a blog going with all sorts of model making techniques. Posts on painting, mold-making, working in scale, and more are described and shown with ample photographs.

I really like this illustrated chart of hand tools over at Popular Mechanics. The chart itself is good-looking enough to hang up in your shop, while the tools pictured on it give you a great idea of what your shop is missing.

Smooth-On has a ton of great videos over at their website showing how to mold and cast with many of their materials. If you haven’t checked them out yet, start with one of their newer ones on how to make a mold for a replica of an antique rifle.

If you ever wanted to take the time to make chain mail by hand (as opposed to just spray-painting some crocheted yarn), Make Projects has a great tutorial on just that.