The American Museum of Natural History has an amazing historical photo archive, many of which show the setup and construction of their dioramas and exhibits. Museum props is props too!
Here is the curious evolution of the typewriter, with pictures. I’ve certainly had to provide my fair share of vintage typewriters for shows, but I’ve never had to track down one of those writing ball machines.
Haley Polak, a props artisan, had to build a mastodon skeleton. She used urethane foam and FoamCoat to pull it off.
Finally, here is a very cool photo set of an android being built. It has lots of great process shots of sculpting, molding and casting.
These are so cool: US bread wrappers of the 40s and 50s. Besides being tons of fun, the pictures are good enough to print out if you need to make period wrapped bread. Incidentally, the site this is from, How to be a Retronaut, is chock-full of the most wonderful vintage and historical pictures. You can waste hours of time on this site while rationalizing that you are “doing research.”
I’ve pointed to the Early Office Museum site before, but I just found this gallery of Really Big Stuff. It’s photographs of early office equipment, like typewriters and rubber stamps, constructed at large scales (think “parade float” size). It’s also a good opportunity to check out the site if you haven’t heard of it before.
The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards is an extremely useful source of information for the hundreds of chemicals listed as “hazardous” by OSHA and found in the stuff we build props out of. Rather than serve as an exhaustive guide to all information, it lists key information about each chemical relevant to work. You can view it online or download the whole thing as a PDF; I’m also throwing the link up in the sidebar of this site so you can find it every time you visit.
The Historic Naval Ships Association has a 1949 training manual titled Engine Room Tools presented in full on their website. It illustrates and describes the tools one would find on a ship at the time, namely metal-working hand tools. They are surprisingly similar to the metal-working tools you would find in a props shop, and the illustrations demonstrating their use are very cool.
Christmas is fast approaching, so I have less time to write, and you have less time to read. But if you really need your props fix, here are some fun links to check out:
Vacuum Bagging – If you’ve ever worked with fiberglass or carbon fiber, you may find vacuum bagging to be a helpful way to squeeze the layers together. I’ve even seen it used to laminate veneer into bent plywood. This is a great tutorial.
Wooden Halo Gun – Over on the 405th (a site for those interested in prop and costume replicas for the Halo video games), a member is documenting the gun he is building from scratch. The cool part is that the original model he made is constructed out of wood. Go carpentry!
Medical Objects brought to life – The Science Museum in London has photographs of over 3,000 of the objects in their “History of Medicine” collection. It’s a great research source, and also a fascinating collection of curious objects to just peruse.
Typewriters – A lovely collection of vintage typewriters.
StageBitz – This looks interesting; online software to manage your prop lists. It’s still in beta testing, but I’m one of the beta testers, so I’ll let you know how it is.