Tag Archives: tool

How I Organize My Tools

Over the summer, while the theater was dark, I had some time to organize my shop and execute some larger projects. One area I focused on was my tool storage, which has always been a bit improvisational and haphazard.

Triad Stage prop tools
Triad Stage prop tools

The cabinet itself began life in the scene shop to organize their hardware and supplies. A few years ago, they removed it to build a better solution, so I snagged it for my own shop. I also added the pegboard along top.

This past summer, I tore out a lot of the shelving in the bottom and replaced it with more custom pieces. I prefer my tools and supplies to be visually “out in the open”; I find it difficult to deal with things in drawers or behind closed doors. My feeling is that “if I can’t see it, I don’t have it.”

Of course, securing the tools is another thing. I may add doors on the front to lock it at night, but during the day, I would still keep it open. My shop itself is kept secure, so I haven’t had things walk off with this kind of setup.

I like using pegboard to organize tools because it allows me to see what I have and it takes up very little floor space. For tools like saws, files, and rasps, it also prevents the edges from becoming dull and dinged, which is what happens when they are stored in a drawer and other tools are constantly thrown on top of them. I would probably use more pegboard if I could, but this was the largest piece I found in the shop.

The tools are roughly organized so that similar tools are kept together: measuring tools, cutting tools, assembly tools, etc. If you are looking for a mallet, and you find the hammers, you know the mallets will be close by. Accessories and consumables are also stored in close proximity to their tool; drill bits are near the drills, and sanding discs are near the orbital sanders.

Most of the smaller paraphernalia is kept in plastic bins, but I made some custom organizers for Dremel bits, router bits, and my tap and die set. Again, keeping router bits and taps in a bin would ding up the cutting edges as they rubbed against each other. Dremel bits just become a nightmare when you start mixing them together into one giant container.

For the future, I may add even more dividers so that the power tools all have their own “cubby”; it would be great to determine which tools are missing just by glancing at the cabinet and seeing an empty space. I may also add labels and trace out the outlines of the tools on the pegboard.  I find its easiest to keep things clean if every item has a specific location that it returns to.

Do you want to share images of your tool storage? Shoot me an email, or leave a comment on my Facebook page!

Friday Night Sites

I guess Harbor Freight finally realized that they are a top destination for cosplayers and prop makers here in the US. They posted their top 10 must-have cosplay tools/accessories.

Prop maker Gemma Wright has been working on an exquisitely detailed replica of the game board from Jumanji. Check out the months-long process on her blog, or skip to the summary and photographs on this post at Nerdist.

Chris Schwartz has some good thoughts and advice on how to store your hand tools (be sure to check out parts two and three as well). Of course, props get a little more complicated because we have tools from many disciplines, and never build the same thing twice, but the basic principles here are still worth exploring for your own hand tool storage area.

Midsummer Links Dreams

It’s opening weekend here at the Santa Fe Opera! Two of our five operas open, the first tonight, the second tomorrow. It has been quite the hectic schedule, and we still have three more operas to open before July is out. Nonetheless, there is always time to read fun articles about props; here are a few that came out this week:

In “The Art of Animatronics: How Old School Movie Magic Compliments CGI“, Jim Nash looks at how practical effects are still being used despite the pervasiveness of computer-generated imagery. He points out how the technology that controls animatronics has gotten more sophisticated over the years, and how practical effects can sometimes be preferred for budgetary reasons. And the article has pictures of dinosaurs.

As if to reiterate the points in the previous article, the Stan Winston School blog has an article about the making of the Spinosaur for Jurassic Park III. Even with the advances in CGI since the first Jurassic Park movie, the third one still built a 12-ton, 1000-horsepower “puppet” version of the Spinosaur for many of the scenes. The iconic fight scene between the Spinosaur and the Tyrannosaurus Rex was mostly achieved by having several tons of robots crashing into each other. CGI simply enhanced it.

For a step back in time, Tested has a great article on the robot shark technology in Jaws. The mechanical shark in that film arguably ushered in the age of animatronic creature movies through the 80s and 90s. It’s a great look at how the shark was made, with some nice photographs as well (it looks like the shape of the shark was achieved with plywood!).

Whew, that’s a lot of articles about animatronics for a props blog! How about something a little more prop-related: the Dremel. Make Magazine has ten tips for Dremels and rotary tools.

Using a Big Boy Vacuum Former

I have been working at the Santa Fe Opera for a few weeks now. While I haven’t completed anything enough to show on this blog yet, I did shoot the video below. I needed to vacuum form a giant champagne bottle which I turned in foam on the lathe (actually, half of the champagne).

The Opera has a large vacuum former capable of taking full 4′ by 8′ sheets of plastic; even cooler is that the whole thing was built by the technical director, Eric Moore. This video shows me pulling a sheet of thin styrene over my form.