Getting In to the mindset of a prop builder. Nimbus 2000 build. (Pics heavy)


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Hey Everybody,
Another, first ever prop build and another partly inspired by “Still Untitled”. It’s there where I heard about The RPF and couple of months ago I finally decided to check it out. Being interested in filmmaking, I heard about prop building before, but never tried it for couple of reasons. First of all - I live in a place where such thing as prop building just doesn't exist. Second – seeing some of the amazing projects, it just didn't seem right thing for my not too crafty hands. And if you do something, do it right. However after listening for Adam, Guillermo del Toro and some other guys speak with such passion about props and storytelling (the later maybe is a little more interesting for me) and also being one of stereotypical guys in his mid twenties having many interests but no profession or skill, finally decided to try it out. It couldn’t hurt.

First thing to decide – what to build? So many possible choices. For my first build I decided on building Nimbus 2000 from Harry Potter. Reasons for that being my huge interest in story, the feeling I remember of seeing it first time in my mind when reading and then on screen in movies and possibility to build it from real materials. By real materials I mean the same materials they are building brooms in that world. It just adds another dimension of reality.


This being my attempt to get in to the mindset of a prop builder, research comes first. I collected most of the shots from first three movies, featuring the broom. Then investigated internet sources for more information and replicas made by others. I was gladly surprised that there weren’t many builds of them. The one massively produced replica was from Cinereplicas (Nimbus 2000 Limited Edition - Harry Potter - - Movies and series collectables and gifts). It looked like nice reference material at first, but I was greatly disappointed by it later on. Neither Noble Collection, neither various other shops had Nimbus 2000s in their catalogues. RPF had several ingenious builds using axe handles (, which were awesome. As it’s my first build and I’m here to learn, I decided to not ask for help from the community and do it all myself.

After carefully analyzing screenshots from first three movies I immediately came up with a problem – the broom looks different in many of the shots. Different brooms for different type of shots. Two of the most noticeable differences seemed to be the shape of the tip, Nimbus 2000 logo and wood finish. Some quidditch scenes had more of an aero type shape, and the tip during some standing scenes had kind of a little lip on the very end. Nimbus 2000 logo sometimes went with a line between “Nimbus” and “2000”, and sometimes without. Finish was the most confusing part – sometimes it’s a little glossy, sometimes its matte and so on – and then there is possible color correction, lighting… Maybe I shouldn’t get in too it too much, because it would be a long rant :]

I hoped to get some more definite answers from Cinereplicas replica which, as the descriptions says, was “Designed by real professionals using the Warner Bros official references”. As my main goal was to get in the mind of the prop builder, it was all about the details. Sadly, it’s exactly the details where this broom goes wrong. The shape of the tip is definitely incorrect, Nimbus logo is at the wrong angle, stem shape is wrong… I do understand that to massively produce something, you need to make some exemptions, but I decided not to use it as a reference and just make some decisions based on versions given to me by the movie.

So after doing the research, some calculations were needed to establish the length, thickness and other properties of the broom. I found the height of Daniel Radcliffe (yeah, some stoking action going on here) and proportionally calculated the length of the broom used in the first movie. The screen used prop length seemed a little too small and in the end, I decided to calculate the length of the broom according to my own height. Again, this just may add a little more reality in to it. And naturally, if I want to later use this broom for commuting round town, so I cannot be using a child sized one...

This decision led to another challenge. What’s the right length for my height? I could not use Harry/Nimbus proportion as he used broom in couple of movies and because of growth spurt that proportion varied greatly. I checked out other broom/character proportions in movies and finally decided to use Malfoy/Nimbus 2001 proportion. This decision was made following story psychology - Lucius Malfoy is a pretty wealthy guy and would definitely buy the correctly sized broom for his son. So the right broom length seemed to be about ~10cm longer than the height of the rider.


Finally we come to some building action. First of all I needed to get some timber. The original Nimbus 2000 is made from mahogany. I searched for it without any luck. It was only sold by cubic meters and in the price range which was nowhere near my budget. Tried to look for some other types of timber, but in the end had to settle with cheapest construction pine.
For me, the stem of this broom is the most important part. Somehow it’s a part that is mostly discriminated by other replicas. It’s actually shaped very beautifully and elegantly and even has important aerodynamically elements. It starts narrow, then goes slim, then flares out to an ellipse and afterwards goes in to the round shape again. The second part of the stem starts with an edge on top and roundness bellow and then goes to a settle sloping down. Also the tip of the broom forms kind a V shape with almost flat planes on both sides and clear edge connecting them with the top. I don’t know if I made it clear, but there is some serious broom awesomeness going on there.

Jigsaw, sander and jack-plane came in to help and after some time, the broom started to take shape. Pine being very soft, it wasn’t hard to shape, but every wrong movement left some kind of dent or other artifact. With my lower than average woodworking skills it took a long time to shape it in to the exact shape I was aiming for. After a while those planes, ellipses, and lips come in to being and it started to feel like an actual racing broom. It just felt right in the hand.

The color was a real pain. It changes constantly during screenshots. Personally I loved the color and texture on close up shots. That grain texture of mahogany was really appealing. Sadly after a lot of experimenting I wasn’t able to get it. I’ll not get too much in to it, but I tried various stains, sealers in mahogany and rowan colors, also different varnishes. Nothing was really looking right for my personal taste, although some variations looked close enough to some screenshots. I really have no idea how to figure out the actually right color, because it depends so much on color correction, lighting and other factors and I couldn’t find any quality pictures of screen used props. For example, it seemed that Alfonso Cuaron and Michael Seresin had very little red color in their palette and there is no trace of mahogany tone there.

So after some stain, some varnish, it was time for the logo. X-acto knife comes in to action. I used simple label paper for the stencil. It definitely wasn’t right for this kind a job, but it’s the only one I had. To apply gold a brush was used. It would be easier to just use spray paint, but I don’t think that “Nimbus Broom Company” use spraying cans. Sadly, paint was too watery and my label paper wasn’t sealing well, so result was adequate. Better decal film, better paint or better coating was needed. I decided to cheat and use a gold lack marker. Mostly because it’s cheaper and it still gives some brush marks. The paint still is watery, but I can control it better.

The challenge in making the sweeping end was to use authentic materials. No plastic, foam, glue or resin. The armature was constructed from a simple round bar with couple of retainers welded on. I drilled a deep hole in the stem, to push in the round rod and give the whole structure overall integrity. To have the perfect control, you want your broom end to move together with the stem as one piece. Metal for armature was chosen because it seems that the sweeping end gets some abuse while in proper use and some stronger construction would be a good choice here. To keep it in place I also screwed the armature to the stem too and to give it the right shape, a wooden circle was added in the right position.

It was time to figure out the position of leg retainer. On another Nimbus build in here a photo from TWWOHP (thanks to TONKA1675) with a close up of that section was shared. I guess it supposed to be screen used prop, but that part of that broom definitely wasn’t in any of the movies (maybe my research was lacking). This construction also lacks some reality as it looks incapable to hold someone’s legs firmly. The position (and the shape) of retainer could be best seen in the walking scene in the second movie. It’s clearly seen in these shots, that the retainer is fitted between first and second winding. It’s not very clear, but it also seems that the retainer comes from both sides of the holder.

I welded together a simple structure and screwed it on the right position. Something was not right. This is an important part of broom control and it takes a lot of force from the legs. Screws are not right here. Using some steel wire I wound the holder and stem together. This should be enough to reach the right amount of integrity. I know that nobody is going to see this, but its right for the story. After some digging around in my random screws’ drawer I found one with the right patina for this kind of build.

I used the same shots for the shape of the retainer. The right width and the length were calculated from proportions. After some bending and welding action the retainer was taking shape. Some gold paint later it looked quite fine.

To give the broom a little more gloss and weather protection (you don’t want to get caught in rain with an unprotected broom!) I applied a coat of yacht varnish. Later on I regretted it as it looks much too glossy now. Another thing to fix in later iterations.

Finally we come to the branches. First – what type to use? I chose birch for couple of reasons. The broom end coloration in movies looked reddish/brownish and birch branches turns a little red while drying up. Most importantly birch branches are traditionally used to make brooms in Europe, so story wise, it seemed like the right thing to do. Willow could be a choice too – it has nice coloration, long straight branches, which are bendy and just thick enough. Using willow may have been more screen accurate and for anyone trying to get that exact look, it’s the way to go. It’s just that nobody makes real brooms from willows and while cleaning brooms and flying brooms are kind of different, they are both made for sweeping. One is for sweeping dirt, the other is for sweeping out the completion! Also, if we would take the only shot where the anatomy of broom end appears (in Alfonso Cuaron’s HP3) the branches closely resemble branches in actual brooms.

I bought couple of brooms made from birch, but was not happy with them, so went for a collecting mission to find nearby birches. After some time, I managed to distinguish four groups of different types of birch branches. Those types were – young, dried up, grown and broom. Young branches bend beautifully, but were too short. Dried up branches break while bending, but have the right color. Branches from grown trees are good in length, but color is not right. And in the end it turned out that I wouldn’t be collect enough of any of those… (Insert grunting noise here). This meant a lot of sorting and trimming…

Willow branches:

Different types of birch branches:

After the right amount of branches it was time to begin shaping them. Over-sized clamps came in to help here.

Real brooms do not use glue to hold them together, so I wanted windings to do the actual job here and not just be an accessory. First I tried a 3mm hard wire, but it was way too hard to wind up in an elegant way. Something a little softer was needed here. Then I tried plastic covered wire which actually looked quite good, but it felt wrong to use something with plastic. Finally I had to settle on thin stainless steel wire because it’s soft enough to be wound up quite elegantly, although it’s definitely not thick enough. I should have used aluminum wire, but it just was too expensive.

To keep windings in place I looped the start and the end on the nail, which then went in to the stem. It may not look very good, but it looks archaic technology, which was ok story wise. To keep the shape of the broom I colored some white string with mahogany stain. It’s thin enough not draw attention and hides itself pretty well among all the branches.

To avoid using spray paint (although I already did when painting leg retainer…), I again used a brush to color the windings. This was not the cleanest way and I should have done better more diligently with winding and painting.

Broom end was varnished a bit, to give it some gloss, like in the movies.

To give the broom some more reality, I decided to make an order sheet for it too, which includes some of those varying things like the shape of the tip, length and so on. The only broom designer mentioned in the story was Arkie Alderton and the order is signed by the founder of “Nimbus Racing Broom Company” – Devlin Whitehorn. The order sheet was printed on parchment paper and specifications written in emerald ink, native to wizarding world. Not surprisingly, I managed to make a mistake in the last word… This will be fixed later, when I get more parchment paper. Using some decorative nails I placed it on a sheet of birch plywood stained with mahogany stain and golden Nimbus logo on top. This should look nice together with the broom.

To finish it off a broom hanger was needed. I know that one must hang his/hers broom with branches facing downwards, but I really wanted it to be in flight-like position. At first, hook like design came in to mind, but with my primitive metal bending skills I wasn’t able to make it hold the broom stable. Then I just reused some scrap metal and made an easy two point holder.

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In the end I made more exceptions than I wanted in building process it doesn’t look exactly like the real one. Someday, I hope I’ll get to make one from real mahogany and not cheap out on all the other details, but for now this is it.












In the end, the most important thing about the broom is not how it looks, but how it works. UP!

More process pictures: Nimbus 2000 Build - a set on Flickr
More finished pictures: Nimbus 2000 - a set on Flickr

Any critic, suggestions and recommendations are very welcome. Both on the build and on the techniques.
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Wow that is epic, I like the Potter films but I'm not a massive fan, but I can certainly appriciate the effort put into this, totally amazing stuff :D:thumbsup
Thank you guys. It's not talent, it's just materials that are easy to work with. Gonna build something a little more futuristic next, to learn to work with some more prop-native making techniques and materials. Thinking about m-o (microbe obliterator) from wall-e, so I hope it goes well.
IMHO yours looks better, and more realistic as its completely authentic (and wouldn't they all be made by hand anyway which would account for the slight differences between them?), way to go buddy, great start :thumbsup
I hate to say it (because it always seems to diminish the result) but this is amazing for a first build. I'll clarify. It's amazing AND it's amazing that it's your first build.

Even though the firebolt was the "best" broom in the books, I hated the way the prop turned out and loved the Numbus 2000 from the movie.

I know how you feel on being both really pleased at the making, but slightly disappointed that it didn't come out exactly how you imagined even though you had the time and taken the effort to plan and execute everything "perfectly" (quotations for myself). my Iron Man faceplate was like that.

I'll look forward to your next project.

Well done, and a better shape than my first build (also a nimbus 2000), which I posted a couple of weeks ago. I would have much preferred a rounder, thinner broom but I didn't think it would have the strength I needed, especially after the first one broke. Yours looks much more like the screen used one. Fantastic job!
Thanks all of you guys for good words. This makes me want even more not disappoint on the next project :]

Jimnightshade> I loved the sweeping end on your Nimbus. It looks exactly like used on screen.
Fantastic job! The wood finish is absolutely beautiful, and the tail looks incredible. Can't wait to see what you turn out next!
That is so awesome. I would say talent definitely played a role in making that broom as well as a wide range of skills. I actually said "wow" out loud a couple of times. Amazing job.
This is a beautiful build. Not only the quality of work that you have shown ,but I am thrilled with the story of your project. What I mean is the presentation. I was as captivated by your description as I was with the actual prop. My hats off you, awesome job.

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