Prop Work

It really doesn't take much to make props -- replicas of items from movies, items from history, items of the imagination for gaming use or general enjoyment. Most it takes determination and a willingness to make mistakes and learn from them.

Which I do plenty of. I try to present the unwashed story in my blog and on my Instructables page; all my mistakes and poor choices and dead ends, as well as the discoveries and the happy accidents that will also occur if you are open to them.

I learned in theater, and that still influences how I think and work. Fast and cheap, for one thing. The techniques of theater emphasize soft materials that can be hand-carved, and painting tricks to achieve texture effects.

But this is the age of micro-fabrication, of 3d printing and desktop CNC machines, and more and more I am turning towards metal and acrylic and other materials that have their own unique weight and feel and look. This bleeds into computer aided design, and 3d modeling, which means the lessons get spread out across a variety of posts. One example; the old-school way of doing a joint is with mechanical limits. The new way is servomotors programmed to go to the correct positions -- and that means any posts I make on the subject are as likely to be about learning C as they are about cutting screw threads.

That all said, this page is where I will consolidate the most concise and on-topic posts I can find on some of what I have found useful techniques in prop building.

 Hogleg Maverick

A NERF mod and repaint for a Steampunk friend

An introduction to the world of NERF repaints, how to carve and fit a wood grip, and of course painting techniques.

Documented: Over: These posts:

+2 Arrow

Made for a joke; this represents the arrow from the D&D story "Eric and the Dread Gazeebo."

Working quickly on limited time, also, fletching. I should really do a write-up on this, but it would suffer from the fact that I took no progress pics.

Lara Croft's Necklace

A quick prop done in 3d printing and faux painting.

There is no specific post to this one, unfortunately.

Lewis Gun Magazines

Replica period firearm accessory.

Fun with vacuum formed kit parts, first major MDF carving, and a little introduction to leather work.

Also has an Instructable:

M40 Pulse Rifle Grenades

A replica prop from the movie "Aliens"

An introduction to the metal lathe, turning aluminium, creating mechanisms, doing press-fit of parts.

The highly detailed Instructable is here:


A replica of a prop from the "Star Wars" extended universe.

Introduction to the laser, cutting and engraving acrylic, also, using the Trinket and neopixels in a lighting circuit.

This, too, has an Instructable:

 The Fury Gun

An imaginary pulp-era firearm

Integrating existing parts with 3d printing, Apoxie Sculpt, hot-bent metal, and lots of work to make a practical (aka has moving parts) prop.

Inevitably, the documentation is at my Instructables page.


A display-only reweld of a demilitarized W.W.II machine gun.

More about working with metal; welding, milling, gun blue.

Cadilac-Gauge V150

Creating a figure-scale vehicle for 3d printing

The modeling and adjustment of the model for printability wanders across a dozen posts or more.


More 3d printing in figure scale.

Mentioned in a couple of posts.

Wonka Robot:

A practical drivable wireless camera-carrying stage prop

Working on a tight schedule and budget, using foam carving to make a lightweight decorative shell over an R/C car.

The most useful post on it.

Morrow Project CBR and Med Kit

Replica of a prop from a tabletop RPG

Introduction to silicon molds to cast sculpted pieces in hard plastic and integrate with 3d printed parts, also, fitting ambitious and complicated electronics into a small prop.

A brief Instructable here: a long post here:

Useful Posts and Concepts:

Working With Scale

Working in a Small Space with Limited Tools

The CAD/CAM Cycle

Tech Shop

TechShop is a nationwide maker space that basically functions as a walk-in tool library. Instead of checking out tools, you check in and use them there. They have both serious machine shop and woodworking tools, and a variety of rather expensive high-tech tools, including laser engravers, CNC mills, and water jet cutter.

This post describes them in more detail. These two go into some aspects of working there. And this is a link to the place itself.

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