Starting when I was young I loved making things, which lent itself naturally to my desire to make props from my favourite tv shows and movies. Along the way I’ve learned much from some great friends and had the opportunity to work on props professionally as well. This blog is going to be a discussion about my love of, or perhaps more accurately obsession with, props, toys, and just plain cool stuff. The focus will be mainly on how I make props and prop replicas, the tips and tricks I have come across, but will likely also stray into discussing other cool props, kits, and more! I am hoping to be able to post at least once a week, as time permits, or as I have projects to discuss.
Thinking back, from a young age I had a keen interest in making things and investigating how things work. I loved to build many things from Lego, cardboard boxes, or whatever I was allowed to use. A favourite memory is of a GI Joe base made from a large cardboard box with multiple floors, walls, doors that opened, and stairs, all held together with some tape and mainly straight pins because even as a kid I wanted the “inner workings” to blend in seamlessly and hopefully invisibly.
Making props began, if memory serves, when I decided I needed a proton pack from The Real Ghostbusters, who wouldn’t want one? Ghostbusters has become an obsession later in life by the way. I set to work making a pack from old cereal boxes, aluminum foil and some ingenuity! As Halloween drew near it retrofitted it so that the top would open and a plastic bag inside would become my candy carrier, I didn’t want to sacrifice the authenticity of my costume by carrying a bag!
The next year for some reason I wanted to make Freddy Krueger’s glove. I was far too young to have seen Nightmare on Elm Street so I’m assuming it had been commercials or something that led me to think his glove was cool looking. I found an old yellow glove of my dad’s and made it, fairly accurately considering my lack of reference, from cardboard and duct tape (for the metallic look). That year I was Freddy Krueger for Halloween!
Another year with my father’s help I made a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume with a shell made from roofing rubber, Raphael’s sais which were metal that my father and I bent up and welded, and a rubber mask, which I had to customize to be more accurate with some model paint and cloth to augment the bandanna.
Discovering Replica Props as a Hobby
Making things has always been a part of my life, largely thanks to my jack of all trades father who taught me a little of everything, but making replica props was something I stumbled into rather randomly. In about 2000-2001 I was perusing eBay and happened across an auction for a Darth Vader lightsaber replica. This blew my mind that I could actually have replicas of items from movies I love. Immediately I started searching for more stuff from movies, the Proton Pack was near the top of the list. This led me to a forum called A Site About Props (ASAP), where people were talking about Ghostbusters props, researching them, sharing info and plans, and even selling parts! Eventually I found other larger forums like The Replica Prop Forum (RPF) and it snowballed from there!
What started as me trying to collect a few lightsabers it turned into to me building and selling replica lightsabers to fund other items, which led me to collect other props/prop parts and build and sell, and so on. At the time it was a hobby where with a good number of people discussing, researching, building, and selling almost any prop you could imagine on forums. The hobby has grown from from that to something much more massive, with companies dedicated to licensed replicas and many many more people are now into the hobby of building and collecting replica props. It’s become almost part of pop culture.
Beginning with Star Wars as my main focus and then to a decade plus obsession with Ghostbusters props where I have spent most of my time researching and building props over the past nearly 15 years, I’ve grown my interests to include other franchises such as Firefly, Indiana Jones, Warehouse 13, and Back to the Future (to name a few). My career in Graphic Design meant my attention to detail would aid in my desire for perfect replicas, and this growing skill-set led me to meet some great friends who would enable or encourage me to do some props and prop replicas professionally. I’ve had the opportunity to make props for use in TV shows, commercials etc. through Oxenham Designs, Karl Derrick, and personal contacts. I’ve also been able to work with some replica prop companies who make and sell licensed replica props.
Attention to/Obsession with Detail
The attention to detail that often follows someone interested in the building aspect of the hobby is something that can be a never ending rabbit hole, an obsession in and of itself. Ever since I was a kid putting together my GI Joe vehicles and obsessing over getting the stickers applied just right, or on Transformers, or the details on a scale model kit, I have been a detail hound. I get caught up in the details, I love trying to find new details or perfect some small aspect of many of my favourite props. I’ve spent all these years researching Ghostbusters props in particular and still am on the journey of trying to make the most accurate Proton Pack and Hero Ghost trap that I can make. It becomes a never-ending, often frustrating, but always fun journey.