Tag Archives: weapons

4th Annual Prop Summit and Weekend Links

The 4th Annual NYC Props Summit will be held tonight at the Public Theatre. It will be from 6:30-10pm at the Public Theater props shop (425 Lafayette St). It is free to attend. Food and drink will be provided, though you are encouraged to bring your own beverage of choice to drink and share with the group.

The props summit is a chance for prop masters and prop makers to meet each other and get to know the larger community. If you live near the area and want to work in props, you should definitely come. If you freelance or work at a theatre where you need the occasional freelance prop builder, you should definitely come. I have written about the previous three summits on this blog: check out 2011, 2010 and 2009.

You can find out more about it in these articles from Stage Directions and Playbill. If you cannot make it, you can follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #propsummit.

For the rest of you, here are some links to keep you busy this weekend:

  • Many of the futuristic weapons from Men in Black 3 were 3D printed by a two-man company. Their machine allows them to print the props directly out in multiple materials. Check the page out for photographs and a video about their company.
  • In 1970, Robert Resta lost his wallet. Forty years later, someone found it. Check out the post at Retronaut for some photographs of what was inside. It is great research for the sort of ephemera and everyday business one might carry around at that time.
  • Where else can prop makers work? Freelancer Laura Johnson just finished making tiny figurines for a model of Lindisfarne Castle as part of an historical exhibition.

Specter Studios making a Foam Axe

There are only two more days to enter my contest to win a foam baseball bat. The bat is made by a Pittsburgh company called Specter Studios; they use local artists to create and fabricate all the props and costumes they sell. They happily shared some photographs showing the work they do.

Demolding an axe
Demolding an axe

They were not making any bats at the time, but they were building some fireman axes, which are made with a similar process.

Foam axes
Foam axes

The axes have a rigid rod buried within them. After they have the foam cast around them, they are sent off to have the colors airbrushed on.

Airbrushing the base coat
Airbrushing the base coat

So there you have it: making foam axes in the Steel City.

Airbrushing some red
Airbrushing some red

Mixed Links

Next week I will be back in New York City building props for Shakespeare in the Park.

It’s been quite the week for props in the news. The first three stories all came from mainstream newspapers, and all four have been published in the last week!

Weapons Specialists are back in the news, and it looks like they have officially finished their name change to The Specialists Ltd. The New York Times just published an in-depth story on the history and future of this company, one of the premier weapons suppliers and fabricators for film, television and theatre on the East Coast.

The Guardian ran an excellent story this past week called “Time to give props to theatre props“. It talks about the vital role props play in many productions, and how most plays cannot be done without them. Of course, if you read this blog regularly, you already know all that; it’s nice to see a mainstream outlet acknowledge it, though.

The Huffington Post, meanwhile, has an interview with Ellen Freund, prop master for such shows as Mad Men. Are there a lot of props in that show?

Finally, DirecTV (?) interviews Jill Alexander, prop master on the show Damages. The interview gives a good sense of the hectic pace of working on a TV shoot.

Win this foam baseball bat

Hey, everybody. I’m going to be running my very first contest!

Foam and latex baseball bat
Foam and latex baseball bat

Specter Studios is a props, costumes and mask shop out of Pittsburgh, PA. Their theatrical props include a number of soft foam and latex weapons, such as the baseball bat above. It looks real, but you can beat people over the head with it. For theatre, of course. It’s the prize of this contest here.

Specter Studios is a bit different from those pop-up Halloween stores you see every year. They employ a number of local artists to make all of their products. You can actually see photos and bios of them at the website. Their Facebook page has even more behind-the-scenes photographs.

So what do you have to do to win? Simple, just leave a comment at this blog post saying what play, movie or TV show would be improved by the addition of this foam bat. If you follow the blog by email or through RSS, be sure to visit the website itself to leave your comment. Creativity is key, here. The contest will remain open until 11:59pm on Thursday, May 24, and I will announce the winner on the blog that Friday morning.

(The baseball bat can only be shipped to the Continental US, so the winner will have to provide a US address for the prize to be shipped to.)

Friday Link-tacular

It’s Friday once again! I hope everyone was able to finish their taxes!

Last week there was a great newspaper piece on James Blumenfeld, the prop master at the Metropolitan Opera. The operas they put on are among the largest in the country, so it is fascinating to read what it takes to organize and corral all those props.

Here is another great newspaper piece on Torontonian prop maker Chris Warrilow. He runs a prop rental and fabrication shop, but his specialty is custom stage combat swords. The article has some great information about stage weapons.

It must be the year for writing about props people; here is an article on Peter Smeal, the props designer at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte right down here in North Carolina.

You can view the entire “Fundamentals of Machine Tools” (1996) published by the US Army. This is the manual used to train Army members in the use of powered machines for making and repairing things out of metal.

Here is a homemade carving pantograph; you trace your pattern on one end, and the Dremel on the other end carves it into a piece of wood. The commercial kits I’ve seen for this always look so cheap and flimsy.

Finally, if you have the time (about 16 minutes), this video shows the construction of one of Denmark’s most famous chair designs, called “The Chair”. It’s an expert blend of top-of-the-line CNC machines with old-world craftsmanship as the video goes from hundred-year old oaks in the forest to a completed piece of furniture.