Tag Archives: wood

Another Fine Set of Links

Puppets are still very much a thing, according to this American Theatre article. Scott Cummings checks in on some of the companies, festivals, and books dealing with puppetry in a contemporary context.

The costume shop at PlayMakers Rep is working on the enviable task of recreating costumes for the Museum of Science Fiction. Rachel Pollock takes us through the steps of making Neo’s costume from The Matrix.

Popular Woodworking magazine brings us this awesome process for faking antique wood. It uses just paint, lacquer and a heat gun. No crazy chemicals or stains needed!

Propnomicon shows us some great primary research on “Things in a Jar”. If you’ve ever made preserved specimens, Britta Miller works at a museum specimen collection, and has kindly shared all kinds of visual and technical details about the actual jarring and labeling of things in jars.

Finally, Make Magazine shares top tips from 17 amazing makers. I wanted to point out one quote that many of us props people can relate to:

“He was giving the interviewer a tour of his shop, showing the towering shelves of carefully-sorted industrial junk. He said something like, ‘Properly sorted, this is a parts library and a useful tool. Unsorted, and it’s a pile of junk and a curse.'”

Four Findings for Friday

Ok, this isn’t props, it’s models, but still pretty cool. Tested has a long profile on Greg Jein, one of the main model makers on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1941, and Star Trek. Despite advances in CGI, he is still going strong, working on new films such as Interstellar.

Propnomicon has a great history of adhesive plaster, the fix-it-all tape used before duct tape was invented. Besides the history lesson, he has some great photos of vintage packaging for the plaster.

Korwin Briggs has put together this fun and educational infographic on the gross and deadly history of color. He reveals the origins of many popular coloring agents, such as mummy brown (made from ground-up mummies) and ultramarine (crushed-up gemstones).

Make has a great round-up of five wood gluing tips. I’ve done the ol’ “nail the boards together before gluing them trick” but always thought I was somehow cheating. It’s good to know it’s an actual technique used by others. Not that you can actually “cheat” in props. If it lasts until the show closes, then it’s a good technique.

Doctor Who Sword Cane Handle

Last spring, I was approached by a local pastor for a project. He walked with a cane, and he had found a sword cane he liked, but the handle had broken off. He wanted to know if I could make him a new one.

He was a dedicated Doctor Who fan, and wanted a handle in the shape of a question mark. He also wanted his name inscribed in Gallifreyan on it, and painted in Midnight Metallic Blue to match his Doctor Who-themed automobile.

I put together a video highlighting my whole process from start to finish.

I made the handle out of some of the ash I had left over from my Game of Thrones chest. This handle would need to be strong and hold a lot of weight. The shape of the question mark made me concerned that parts of it would split no matter which way I positioned the grain. I decided to laminate two thinner pieces together with the grains running perpendicular to each other.

Preparing the boards
Preparing the boards

As you can see in the video, the shape was cut out with a jigsaw and cleaned up with a belt sander and oscillating spindle sander. I then ran it through the router table with a large round-over bit.

Cut and rounded
Cut and rounded

A Dremel and a file helped clean up and refine the shape. If you are wondering about that strange file in the video, it is a Japanese saw file. I had just gotten it and this was my first project to use it on. It rasps like butter and is easy to keep unclogged.

He wanted his name carved in Gallifreyan. Gallifrey is Doctor Who’s home planet, and the language uses a series of interlocking circles and lines to write words. I found an online Gallifreyan transliterator and plugged his name in. I adapted the result to fit the shape of the handle, and mirrored it so it was the same on both sides.


It took a few coats of filler primer and a lot of sanding to get it smooth and shiny. The last pass was a wet sanding with 600 grit sandpaper. Then I sprayed a few light coats of the Midnight Metallic Blue paint which I had ordered from an automotive paint supplier. The paint also came with its own urethane clear coat, which I applied when everything was dry.

Doctor Who Sword Cane Handle
Doctor Who Sword Cane Handle

I threaded the end onto the sword part of the cane and glued it together with epoxy. He loved the final piece. So the next time you see a preacher in the woods fighting off snakes with his Doctor Who sword cane, you know where he got it from.

Wooden Ratchet Noisemaker: Video

Back in 2009, I made a wooden ratchet noisemaker for a show. The prop was cut. Then they wanted one for a show the next year, so I gave it to them in rehearsal; it was cut again. I published a nice Instructable showing how it was made and that was that.

I recently built a whole bunch more, so this time I shot a video of the process. I redesigned them a bit; they no longer have bolts and pegs in the body, relying instead on glue to keep them together permanently.

Prop Time Links

Warner Brothers has a huge prop and costume warehouse hidden somewhere outside of London. CNN brings you some of the first pictures from inside, showing us props from films such as Harry Potter, the Batman series and Gravity. Don’t forget to check out the video as well.

Propnomicon does a great job showing us some of the best props from the Cthulhu mythos and similar realms.  But this one time, he found this faux-antique vampire-killing kit that was so horribly done that he just went to town criticizing every aspect of it. From the random screwdriver gouging and haphazard use of a blowtorch, to the over-reliance on upholstery tacks, this prop has it all. It is actually a good lesson on what not to do when ageing your props. It’s very distressing.

Olivia O’Connor used to be a prop maker in Sydney, working on films such as The Wolverine and Mad Max: Fury Road. But she’s given that all up and now carves rocking horses out of wood on her parents’ farm in south Gippsland. It’s amazing what you can do with the skills you pick up as a prop maker.

The Spaeth Design website has a whole slew of videos up giving a behind the scenes look at their shop. They have a couple of episodes of “Making Magic at Spaeth Design”, where they look at the various departments and people who work there. Spaeth Design is the New York company that builds animated window displays for companies that include or have included Macys, Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue.