Tag Archives: youtube

Umbrella Gun

The umbrella gun scene in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is one of the most visually memorable in the play. George, tired of his wife Martha’s insults in front of their guests, exits offstage. He sneaks back wielding a shotgun aimed at her head. The guests see him and scream as he pulls the trigger. Instead of the loud report of a bullet, though, a brightly-colored umbrella emerges from the barrel. Hilarious, right?

The original production was written to use a trick umbrella they already had in stock, but every production since has given the props master a headache as they try to figure out the gag. I initially checked with other theaters who had done this show, but theirs had either broken or been disassembled. The rental options out there were either too expensive or looked unrealistic. I decided I needed to build my own.

Drawing the stock and fore-end
Drawing the stock and fore-end

I needed a pretty thick barrel to fit an umbrella inside. It would look out-of-proportion if I just stuck it on a regular shotgun body. I scaled up the stock and fore-end to cut and shape out of oak.

Chainsaw disc shaping the wood
Chainsaw disc shaping the wood

I bought a chainsaw grinding disc for this project because I had always wanted to try one. It was amazing; it acted like a wood eraser. I just pointed it to the wood I didn’t need and it made it disappear. I will never attempt wood carving without one of these again.

Scaling the receiver to match the stock
Scaling the receiver to match the stock

The receiver would need to hold all the parts of the shotgun together and hide all the mechanisms inside of it I cut out several pieces of flat steel stock to weld a hollow container.

Welding the receiver from steel
Welding the receiver from steel

With just a welder, angle grinder, and belt sander, I was able to fabricate a decent looking receiver.

Spring mechanism for umbrella
Spring mechanism for umbrella

I took an existing umbrella from stock which had its own spring mechanism to make it pop open. I cut off the handle but left the hollow shaft in place. I welded a steel rod to the shotgun that the umbrella could sleeve onto and travel back and forth. To minimize binding, I put a bit of UHMW rod on the end of the umbrella that was slightly smaller than the inner diameter of the copper tube I was using for the barrel. I used copper tube because it was the most rigid tube I could find with the thinnest walls.

Pieces of the trigger mechanism
Pieces of the trigger mechanism

I drew up a full scale trigger mechanism in cardstock to figure out what would fit within what I had built. It was just two pieces: a trigger that rotated on a pin, and a long lever with a latch on the end that held the umbrella against a spring until the trigger was pulled. I traced the pieces to steel and cut them out. I slipped a small piece of spring into the fore-end to return the trigger after it is pulled. I slid a long spring over the metal rod in the barrel to actually propel the umbrella after the trigger is pulled.

Finished trick shotgun
Finished trick shotgun

I painted the barrel to match the receiver and stained the wood pieces darker before sealing them. I coated all the static pieces of interior and exterior steel with shellac to prevent rust. Any pieces of steel which moved against another part was coated with dry lube. I built the gun for easy disassembly in case any future users needed to fix or replace a part.

Umbrella Gun

I have a video which shows all the parts as they are assembled. You can see the various inner mechanisms in more detail if you are interested in how it all works, and if you wanted to see it actually fire.

 

 

 

 

Forging Ahead with Props

Stormbreaker – Avengers: Infinity War – MAN AT ARMS: REFORGED – If you’ve seen the new Avengers film, you know that Thor gets a pretty awesome new axe. And if you watch “Man at Arms”, you know they forge famous pop culture weapons from real steel. So buckle up as the team at Baltimore Knife Company fabricates this mythological axe/hammer combo fit for a god.

Hong Kong Court Convicts Props Master for Possession of Fake Cash – A judge in Hong Kong has convicted two film crew members for possession of fake cash from a film. Though the bills were clearly labeled as film props, and were not even attempted to be used as real currency, the crew members were still given prison sentences. This is a chilling verdict for members of the Hong Kong film industry, which is seeing more and more interference from the Chinese government.

“Costume-making Is Dying. We Can’t Get the Skills.” – The head of costumes at the Royal Opera House in London is finding it hard to staff her shop with skilled artisans. I have heard similar rumblings in the world of props. Despite the rise in hobbyist prop makers, actual professional positions are getting harder to fill. Do we, as an industry, have an obligation to train the next generation of prop artisans?

An Award For The Best Prop? – Aurelie Gandilhon asks why there is no category in any of the major performing arts awards for best prop.

New Behind The Scenes Look At The Art And Practical Effects Of ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’! – Check out all these photos and video of the animatronic dinosaurs used in the new Jurassic World films. Even though they do a lot of CGI replacement for the final film, they still build full-scale dinosaurs for filming.

Video: Fake Hairspray

This week’s companion video for The Prop Effects Guidebook is the last one before the book releases this Friday! It is a short one too, demonstrating a can of fake hairspray, sometimes known as “haze in a can.” Though short, I think props people should see this product in action, since it can solve a lot of “burst of steam” type of challenges.

Hairspray

You can watch all the companion videos on YouTube.

The Prop Effects Guidebook is available for pre-order now at most major retailers.

Video: Blood Knife

The companion videos for The Prop Effects Guidebook just keep on coming. This week I demonstrate how to build the most basic type of blood knife you can. A blood knife is a specially-prepared knife that administers blood as it “cuts” an actor.

Blood knife

I will be releasing more of these companion videos 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.

Video: Glowing Coals

I am back with another companion video to my upcoming book, The Prop Effects Guidebook. This is a quick and simple effect for making red hot glowing coals without the use of flame or heat. I first learned it from Jay Duckworth, who probably learned it from his mentor, who learned it from his, on back through history to Ancient Greece, when Propcrates invented props.

Glowing Coals

I will be releasing more of these companion videos 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.