Hi, I really want to make something but i have no clue where to start. I'm pretty good with a welder and lathe and I can hold my own at woodworking, I'm just looking for advice on how to begin the process of making.
1st you have to find a prop your interested in making.....then use the search bar to find other people who share your interests.
then you just go for it.
the only way to get good at something is messing up a million times until you get it right.
you gotta start somewhere:cool
I'd hit the blogs -- especially Volpin's and Blind Squirrel -- Instructables, and there's a couple of nice prop building videos with Adam Savage and others. Those will give you a sense of the stages of developing a prop from research through drafting through building out to painting and distressing...and also give you a lot of nifty little hints.
So to elaborate, I would think that the only way to stay with a project through the flubs and redos would be for it to be a project so close to your interests that you're still energized for it when things fail. I think you know what kind of project excites you. Start there. Then after a some net surfing, build on the path laid by others.
-Pick a project/concept that amazes you,fits your posture and lies within your crafting capabilities
-Find reference material (photos/videos) that catches all angles and details of your project
-Make a list of the material you need for the project
-Search forums/youtube/instructables for step-by-step advice/instructions/hints,tips & tricks
-One step at the time...and don't forget to take pictures in the process
-Create your own thread when it's done; that'll save you and forum members frustration.
I'm trying to think of aspects of development and construction that are unique to replica props. On the development side, not a lot; the main one being that unlike almost any other construction project, you will never have complete information. It is always a matter of looking at pictures, making guesses, talking to other people, and in short trying your best to get as close as possible to an unknown goal. Otherwise, it is really like any other project -- often, any other large/complex project. All the development tools from drafting to estimates to milestones are as true for a prop as they are for software development or building a house.
On the construction side, it isn't necessarily so, but prop-making leverages a long history of expedient methods and materials, some of which go all the way back to live theater. They are not unique to props-making, but props are unique in the focus and some of the kinds of application of these methods and materials. Understanding some of them helps in achieving the size and detail of many props whilst staying within limitations of weight and budget and construction time.
Worbla, sintra, foam carving, vacuum forming, hot glue, epoxy clays, bondo skinning, balsa, basswood, acrylic, aluminium, resin casting...and these days add the time savings and surface effects sometimes achievable with laser cutting, 3d printing, pepakura, CNC routing.
You don't need to know all the methods but any one prop is likely to use several methods and materials. And the more you know, the more avenues of approach open up when you are in the planning stage.
If I had to write a guide this morning, on my first cup of coffee, I'd put the essential stages to keep in mind as something like the following:
1) Research. Collect as much as possible. Talk to other prop makers and see what discoveries they may have made. Collect it all in a folder -- don't rely on memory.
2) Drafting. Collate everything you have learned into as close as possible to a single comprehensive design document. This gives you an overview and lets you get a grasp of the basic size and complexity and weight of different elements (allowing you to plan methods of construction), it provides a working reference to keep you within what you researched when you are neck-deep in a sculpt, and it also indicates (far too clearly!) what parts of the prop were obscured by an actor's hand or otherwise unknown and have to be interpolated.
3) Estimates. Before starting to cut, figure out how big it is, how much material it is going to take, how long it is going to take, how much it is going to cost. You don't want to set out only to find out half-way through an essential part won't even fit on your scrollsaw, or the final sword is too heavy for you to lift!
4) Mock-ups. Make mock-ups and massing studies. Any experimental techniques (and even things you know but haven't done recently) you should try out with cardboard, on scraps, etc. Cut out something you can pick up and physically check the scale on. Spray the paint on a scrap and see if it is still good (and is the color you need).
5) Divide and conquer. Split the prop into parts and/or phases. The more you can work on a single part in isolation, the less you will scratch up the finished parts next to it, the less you will mix incompatible materials (like getting aluminium shards in your sculpting clay -- been there, done that!) And even more, it make a project digestible, and gives you a clearer sense of your progress. Oh and yeah; splitting up often gives you such things as ability to take apart for transport, for painting, for adding internal electronics, etc.
Yeah, I'm deep in planning stages for an ambitious prop right now; why do you ask?