The past few shows this season have called for a lot of fake food props. Here are some of our tips and tricks.
1 & 2: Severely Charred Hamburgers. I cut MDF circles, rounded the edges, painted in white glue and dipped in a texturizing agent (Pearlite). Then I painted them with black latex paint that was made to bubble up with a heat gun. (See our post on distressing furniture to look charred: http://proplandia.tumblr.com/post/45308539811/a-recent-play-we-worked-on-took-place-inside-of-a ) If you want less-burnt hamburgers, paint them accordingly.
3 & 4: Bowl of Latkes. Latkes are Jewish potato pancakes. I planed some pine boards down to get longer, stringy pieces of sawdust that are a similar color and texture to raw shredded potatoes. Then I cut out some uneven cardboard bases, spray glued either side, and dipped in the sawdust mixture. I painted them with semi-glossy brown glazes. Could have probably gone a little darker…
5 & 6: Fish Basket. If you’re trying to make an ‘ice’ effect but don’t have enough fake ice, use shiny plastic bags over grey painted foam/wood to heighten the icy glare. Aluminum foil is another common hack to help along fake ice. We bought the acrylic ice on Amazon and had some fake fish in stock.
7+: Cheese Wheel. This one was a little more complicated because the actor had to slice off a chunk of fake cheese AND a piece of real cheese to be handed out onstage. I started by cutting out some bead styrofoam with a jigsaw, then shaped it with a rasp and cut out my wedges. I embedded strong magnets in the fake wedge so it would join together with the main wheel until the actor ‘cuts it’, and embedded a fork and a few more pokies on the other side to hold the real slice. The outside was covered in foam coat for the ‘rind’ then pressed into burlap for texture, and the inside was covered in SmoothOn’s Dragon Skin, a rubbery flexible silicone that has a texture similar to cheese. Painted the whole thing with yellow/orange tones, and voila.
Our completed Dalek. All the lights work, the flashlight telescopes out, the head spins around, and the ’hands’ move when puppeted (there’s a trap door in the back for someone to climb in). Some of the materials we used: a flashlight, bike lights, plastic garden edging, security mirror, nerf balls, plastic ball pit balls, whisk, grabby claw, a bunch of large tubs, round insulation foam, mylar tape. It was supposed to be more like a cobbled together ‘bad prop’ than an exact replica.
You read that correctly— a sandwich PUPPET. Genius. They have some great details of common and not-so-common food hacks.
Make Your Bed Part 2: Distressing
So now that you’ve made a beautiful bed for your ma, it’s time to destroy it. Here’s how to ”Russian it up” and give it that quaint 19th-century shtetl look of being dug up from the mud, thrown down a flight of stairs, and then left in the rain for 10 years.
1. The beautiful freshly-made bed before and after.
2. Weapons of mass destruction: a rasp, a dull draw knife, a board full of nails, several wire brushes, hammer, and a scraper.
3. I started with taking bigger rough chunks out of the edges with the scraper and draw knife. (Said the designer, “Do you have an axe?”) The rasp also helped to roughen up the edges. Special attention was given to the bottom of the legs and the corners, where there would be the most wear. I followed that with wire brushing (attached to a die grinder or a drill) to raise the grain of the wood and also smooth some of the more splintery edges.
4. Next I took a board full of nails and pounded it into the wood at random for a ‘wormwood’ effect. I also used the hammer and scraper to add dents and nicks.
5. For paint, I used washes of burnt umber, raw sienna, and Payne’s grey. I also experimented with adding a legit oxidized patina with washes of steel wool that had been dissolved in vinegar, and not only did it work, but it turned it into a very dark grey that we ended up having to tone down. Unfortunately I didn’t document this process, but found some instructions here: http://thefriendlyhome.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-to-oxidize-wood.html
After everything was dry, I went back over with sandpaper to bring out the raised grain and add some worn contrast to the edges.
6. The finished bed!
Make Your Bed Part 1: Building
Did your mom ever nag you to make your bed? Now you can impress her by making HER bed. From scratch. Here’s the process to creating your own rolling Snow-White-Meets-Russian-Peasant dream bed:
1. Our inspiration.
2. Start with 8/4 hardwood. I used alder because it’s cheap and relatively soft (therefore easier to work with). If this was actually meant to be heirloom furniture, I’d choose something stronger like oak, maple, cherry, walnut, etc.
3. Trace out your pattern, cut the fancy headboard profiles using a bandsaw, then sand it to perfection. I scaled up our drawing to actual size and used the poor man’s carbon copying trick: Print your drawing. Scribble liberally with pencil lead over the lines on the reverse side. Tape the drawing securely to your wood and trace over the drawing with firm pressure— it should leave a faint pencil outline on your wood. Pro tip: Keep the direction of the wood grain in mind when laying out your drawings.
4. I used a dowel jig to drill perfect, straight, centered holes for the spindles to join into. I bought the spindles from a woodcrafting store, but I suppose you could lathe your own if you want to be extra impressive.
5. I banged the spindles in each side along with a liberal amount of glue. Pro tip: I saved the cut-offs from the curvy shapes, so when I had to bang things together I could clamp it back onto that and have a flat surface to work with.
6. I used a combination of dowel and biscuit joinery to attach the 8/4 wood posts together, and dado/router grooving to inset the panel of 1/4” oak veneer plywood. Working with curved shapes made it a little more complicated to cut and fit than regular rectangles (like the footboard), which you can easily groove on a table saw. Once you have it all joined together, clamp the heck out of it. Pro tip: To avoid clamp marks on your wood, use scraps of wood, cardboard, or cloth as a cushion between your boards and your clamp.
7. To create our slatted frame, I glued and screwed on strips of 3/4” plywood onto the bed rails to form a shelf, and glued and screwed some slats to run between them. I also added the ‘shelf’ strips to the head- and footboards. The designer wanted the bed to appear to be a rope bed (where the rope would stand in for slats), so I fake-threaded some rope through, hot gluing and stapling the ends to be out of the way of my actual construction.
8. The bed was assembled with a piece of OSB sitting on top of the slatted frame to hold the mattress. On a real bed, you would probably use a box spring instead. As you can see in the previous picture, I used pocket hole screws to attach the rails to the head- and footboards, and then reinforced that with metal brackets. We wanted it to be dis-assemblable later, but using actual joinery like dowels and biscuits would be a better choice if you want something more sturdy and permanent. I added cross-bracing underneath that was notched and screwed into the slatted structure to hold the mondo-casters (this is the theatre after all— everything must roll!).
Tune in next time for Part 2: Distressing!