How did you get started?


Active Member
First off, this community is INCREDIBLE and hats off to all the amazing prop, costume, model and other makers here!

I unfortunately went to a crappy high school where there was NO metal or wood shop so I have ZERO experience making ANYTHING. It's frustrating because I've always had an interest in doing so. I'm generally artistic, a musician and a Web designer by profession.

So my question to you fine folks is, how did you get started? Did you wake up one day and say, I'm going to make some bad arse armor today! Did you have the pleasure of knowing someone that already did this kind of thing?

My other question is how do I get started? I'm in San Jose, California, if you are nearby and wouldn't mind somebody shadowing you in any kind of metal making, wood making or sculpting, I would forever be in your debt.

If this post is in the wrong place please forgive me.
My wife got me the Illusive HIC for a wedding present and I realized that all this stuff is made by SOMEBODY, so why not make some stuff myself?

That was a very expensive present, in more ways than one. :lol
I was in the Sixth Form in secondary school (British equivilant of Sophomore-Senior) and decided I wanted to build a Proton Pack from Ghostbusters... I can't remember what the spark that led to this decision had been, but I'd set to work drawing the main body of the pack up on some huge chunks of styrene, with the plan to use them to make a vacuum-formed shell.

Suffice to say that back around 2002/2003, this plan never reached fruition. It'd be another six years and collecting a good number of the neccesary parts before I'd achieve my dream and have a fully assembled Proton Pack.
"Han in Carbonite"

I think it was the prequel trilogy that slowly pulled me into the RPF ... 1999 is my official join date, but I may have been lurking earlier, even possibly on AOL.

I remember being young, and in high school, and building my first serious replica prop - a prequel-style saber from a pool thermometer, ribbed black plastic hose, a big screw (which would become the requisite red button) and a small screw, and a plumbing hole-cover-thingy. I was stupidly proud of that. I remember taking it to school to show-ff, and taking pictures of it with the library's digital camera, which wrote onto floppies. This was also when I grabbed reference photos of the BTTF II Nike Mags by photographing a TV screen with that same camera.

About that time, I was also fiddling around with some photoshop knock-off program. I drew-up the futuristic 7-Eleven logo used in BTTF II. I made myself a sexy banner and an avatar.

So, here I am.


Actually, I'd fantasized about a Delorean for the longest time. My dad found a local owner, and arranged to have him pick me up from school on the last day of middle school. Blew my little mind! Suck it, rental limos! I also could not quite see over the dash.

See, movies are a gateway hobby, then you graduate to harder drugs, like props. :lol

-Mike J.
I wanted to build props and models for the movies. Went to school to learn how to do it. Worked in film and tv for a while. Needed to find like minded people to keep the "creative juices" flowing. Enter the RPF.
I remember taking it to school to show-ff, and taking pictures of it with the library's digital camera, which wrote onto floppies. This was also when I grabbed reference photos of the BTTF II Nike Mags by photographing a TV screen with that same camera.

Reading this made me grateful to have not started propping until floppy disks, etc. were dead.

I got started in high school with a hardware Luke ESB saber, with grips from Blast-tech. It was a couple years before I made my next prop, but that was the beginning. We had wood shop at my high school, but the counselor pretty much decided what we took each year, and he decided that I was smart enough to take Spanish a year early and get all 3 years. 10 years later I still resent him for that and barely remember any Spanish.
I've always been "artistic". As a kid I drew, built models and all that. After Star Wars came out, I was all about sci-fi and fantsatsy films. I tried making both Boba Fett and Vader helmets and costumes.

I didn't really have any formal training. I took "shop" in Jr and Sr high, but didn't really do much in the classes. After school my interests turned to audio and video, and I did a few DIY projects including the speakers for my home theater system.

When the prequel trilogy was released, it resurrected my interest in Star Wars, and my desire to have a lightsaber. Initially I settled for Rubies costume sabers, but then I discovered the World Wide Web which eventually led me here by way the ASAP Board.

And the rest, as they say, is history...
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I started with this website, I looked (and continue) to look at very thread theat interests me. In doing so I have found more projects than I could ever complete, but you get exposed to methods, tools, designs, etc. There is a wealth of info here, and everyone I have asked a question to has responded amazingly!

I surf the Internet for reference relentlessly, I save odd images from droids, scifi film set shots, weapons, you name it. There are plenty of books on the subject that inspire and shown you how to start out. I am never satisfied with the amount of reference.

As for projects, just pick one and dive in. Perhaps start small, maybe something that you could finish in a couple of weeks. This builds confidence, and you won't get frustrated with as with larger projects.

There are many ways to work in this hobby, so pin pointing specific starting point is tough. Drawing out your plans, setting small goals, picking a budget, and enjoying the process are rules I live by.

Tools are a necessity, you don't need all at once, but a sharp hobby knife, hot glue gun, metal ruler, and a good can of grey primer spray paint are good places to start.

Junk yard is another one of my rules. I save every scrap of crap I can get away with (my wife makes me throw out the rest) everything from plastic bottle lids, plumbing parts, strange plastic objects, or anything else that I can see as useful.

I also suffer from "multiple-projects-at-once" syndrome. Isn't always the best method, I've posted a dozen or so builds, not all are finished. Honestly though, I'm fine with it, I get burnt out on one, I move to another for a while, most of the time I move from a large project to a smaller one to recharge my batteries. I complete the smaller and then get back on track.

The bottom line is, there is no one place to start. Everyone does things different. Some of us on this site are obsessed with every detail, making every replica 100% screen accurate, and let me tell you, they are amazing works of art. Others are more lax, and others still (I fall into this category) take reference and create our own stuff inspired by real props. The point is, get out there, make a mess in the garage, basement, or the kitchen table. Take progress pics and post them here, cause it's not real until we see

Most important, enjoy the hobby, don't get too frustrated, most of my first props were really crappy, now most are only sort of crappy, and one or two I'm actually proud of.

Hope that helps, and hope to see your stuff posted soon!

- Brian
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In the fall of 2009, I had some friends introduce me to firefly. I went online to see if I could get a copy of Mal's pistol, and a few new member windows later, joined the RPF. I would say Mal's pistol is what made me jump in with both feet, but almost every time I see a thread like this, or the "What was your first prop" I keep thinking of something I did much earlier. I've made stuff for as long as I can remember, but that was the beginning of this hobby for me.
Does your local community college have a sculpture program? If so, you could look into the curriculum and see what their intro to sculpture or intro to 3d design involves. I'm recommending comm. college specifically because they tend to be cheaper per credit hour, and because a lot of them have voc/tech curricula running alongside their academic programs.

If you can find one with a well equipped sculpture lab or machine shop, you might be able to get access to it for the cost of a couple of credit hours, and it'll be the instructor's burden to show you how to safely operate all the equipment as part of the course. A good intro class should also get you familiar with basic casting techniques and show you where to buy the materials you need to get started.
I'd say that 80% of the design/build knowledge that I have came from the internet. Between youtube and forums like this, you can learn anything you need to build basically any prop you want.

I had always built my own halloween costumes. A few years ago I designed and built a Dark Knight Tumbler Transformer costume. It came out pretty amateur but I was proud of the ingenuity it took to make it work.

I realized there had to be an easier way of making such things, surfed the internet, discovered pepakura, pepakura research led me here. From there my knowledge and skill have been increasing exponentially.

My first build since joining the RPF is my Ironman helmet which still isnt finished. I've been adding new ideas and projects to my table. My next milestone will be my first mold and cast
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