Tag Archives: weapons

Video: Arrow Into Wall

Here is the third companion video for my upcoming book, The Prop Effects Guidebook, coming this February. The book has a few photographs demonstrating the old “shoot an arrow into the wall” trick, but this video goes into more detail and shows the trick in action.

This is a great trick for Deathtrap depending on how you stage it. I have also used this trick in Wait Until Dark, though that is a knife-throwing gag.

Arrow into Wall

These companion videos will continue to be released as we draw closer to the book’s release. You can watch all of them on YouTube.

The Prop Effects Guidebook is available for pre-order now at most major retailers. If you need a Christmas gift for that special props person, be sure to check out my first book, The Prop Building Guidebook: for Theatre, Film, and TV.

Props for the Weekend

Turning a Realistic Harry Potter Wand on a Wood Lathe – Make Magazine has pictures and a video to show how easy it is to crank out a wand from Harry Potter in less than a day.

Faking It: How Outlander Got That Battle Scene To Look So Real – Outlander is a time travel story set in the 18th-century British Isles. Jim Elliot, props master and resident arms expert, talks about how they recreated the historic 1746 battle of Culloden for a recent episode.

Creating Evenly Spaced Intervals with Dividers or a Sector – Learn how to create a number of evenly spaced marks within a length of material using a sector. I haven’t heard of a sector before this, but Lost Art Press wrote about how to make one last year, and even included a downloadable template.

OMG…I Had a Productive Production Meeting – Finally, Jenner Butler talks about the importance of keeping a production meeting on topic and under three hours.

Four Fun Friday Links

The Force Awakens Blog has posted photographs of 50 weapons and helmets from Star Wars: The Force Awakens in stunning high-resolution. It would be fun to make some of these in anticipation of the movie’s release (though most theatre chains have banned replica guns from their screenings).

I wrote a review of The Theatrical Firearms Handbook for the latest issue of Theatre Design and Technology. It’s an invaluable book for everything gun-related in theatre and film. If you are ever involved with a firearm on stage, you should own this book.

The New York Times has restored designer’s names to reviews of shows in their paper. This is very good news to anyone who has been following this story. Meanwhile, props people consider it a victory to be listed in the back of the program next to the brand of carpeting used in the lobby.

Eyeballs Studio makes a pretty stunning Dwarven Axe using mostly closed-cell foam and PVC pipe. It is amazing what you can accomplish with such cheap and readily-available materials.

Mace from Deathtrap

Anyone who has done Deathtrap knows that the “wall of weapons” could be a challenge. I was able to source most of what we needed, but the mace was a bit tricky. I had a flail, but when we got to tech, we decided it really needed to be a mace. It is never used, but the characters reference it a few times, and they would know the difference between a flail and a mace. I was pretty much out of money, so I decided to build one with whatever I had laying around while they worked on lighting and sound cues.

Mace parts
Mace parts

I printed out some research of a flanged mace that had a cool look but was not too intricate. The shaft was a length of PVC pipe. I attached a bit of wooden dowel on either end; one for the handle and one for the head. I cut the flanges out of craft foam. I drilled out the center of a few wooden toy wheels to make the various ridges, and a lamp finial finished off the top.

Painted pieces
Painted pieces

I attached the flanges to the head with some hot glue and sealed it all with some fiberglass resin. I only used one coat, which did not really stiffen the foam, but since it was just a wall-hanger, I figured it was enough. Everything got sprayed with various metallic spray paints before I attached it all together.

For the handle, I wrapped tape around it to give it more of a bulging cigar shape. I wrapped the final layer of tape in a spiral to make it look like a leather-wrapped handle.


I finished the whole thing off with some weathering and aging using acrylic paints. The end result looked pretty a-mace-ing.

Shooting at the OK Corral

This past weekend saw another accident with guns used during a performance, this time at a Wild West reenactment during Tombstone’s Helldorado Days.

According to Tucson News Now, “One of the Vigilantes arrived late and did not have his gun properly inspected. He then accidentally shot another member of the Vigilantes.” The show was stopped immediately, and it turns out the shooter’s gun had been loaded with six live rounds, and five of them were fired.


We could talk about all the things that “should have” happened. They should do a gun check before every show. They should have an armorer in charge of all the ammunition. They should cheat their aim away from other actors. They should, they should, they should.

But it sounds like they do that. The Tombstone Vigilantes have been performing reenactments since 1946. They do several shows a month. Collectively, they have probably fired off more blank ammunition than most of us have even seen. And they have done it without an accident for 69 years.

So what happened? I don’t know. We may never know. But the important thing to take away from all this is that weapons safety protocols are important no matter how experienced you are, or how many times you have done a show. No matter how much training you have, or how qualified you become, you can never skip over proper safety procedures.

Learning about proper weapon safety isn’t like a vaccine, where once you learn it, you are protected from future accidents. It only works if you follow it each and every time weapons are used on stage. There is no new procedure or protocol we can invent that will imbue us with perfect safety; we already know all the proper procedures, we just need to follow them.

I recently ran across the following passage from an 1874 issue of Harper’s Monthly Magazine. We’ve had safe weapons procedures for a long, long time; it goes to show that accidents only happen when they are neglected:

“A careful property-man keeps his ramrod attached by a cord to the wall, so that he may not by mistake leave it in a gun-barrel after loading the weapon. Accidents have arisen from a neglect of this precaution, and also from the improper or careless loading of weapons, as was the case a short time since in Washington, where a young man was shot and killed on the stage of a variety theatre by a too-heavy wadding, which entered his head from the gun of a horrified comrade. Paper wads are very dangerous; among the other accidents possible through them is that of their setting fire to the scenery; hence in well-regulated theatres a special wadding is used, made of hair, and which will not communicate fire to surrounding objects.”