what is the basic kit needed for prop making

Discussion in 'Replica Props' started by jaingskirata, Jul 14, 2015.

  1. jaingskirata

    jaingskirata New Member

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    Hey guys, just wondering what is the most very basic tools you will need when first starting making props, just so I can start to put together my tool collection, hope someone can help me
  2. Moviefreak

    Moviefreak Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    A good Dremel tool is a necessity.
    Jedifyfe likes this.
  3. Noeland

    Noeland Sr Member

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    I started with just wood carving tools, clay carving tools (that I use for milliput), paint brushes, acrylic paints, some spray paints, and your basic set of simple tools like screw drivers and such. You will eventually need a rotary tool like a dremel, a set of rotary tool tips, a respirator, and you may opt for an airbrush. Blue painters tape is also very useful for masking. Good luck, have fun.

    Oh, almost forgot sand paper. You will need sandpaper.
  4. DL 44 Blaster

    DL 44 Blaster Sr Member

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    A benchtop drill press can be invaluable when making precision holes, more of a luxury than a necessity, but a tool that you'll eventually want.

    Also an Xacto knife / kit, and some precision screwdrivers, plus a #2 and flathead screwdriver
  5. bigbisont

    bigbisont Active Member

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    All that stuff above, plus a hacksaw. A small 6" hacksaw and a regular size one are great and underrated.

    If you can afford a few power tools, I recommend a 4.5" angle grinder. You will save yourself a TON of time in cutting and grinding metal and you can get cheap ones (although like with everything else, you often get what you pay for).
  6. Serenity

    Serenity Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    A miter box can be helpful.
    Disposable latex/rubber gloves.
    Compressed air to get rid of dust on parts you're painting/detailing.
  7. clarence

    clarence Well-Known Member

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    Before You get any tools make sure You have a inquisitive mind and lots of imagination and You'll make it as a prop maker.
  8. alchemy42

    alchemy42 New Member

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    I'm just starting to get my tool set together for my first build. I'm planning to use polystyrene for my building material, so my current shopping list is:

    - polystyrene sheets, tubes, etc. (plastruct or evergreen)
    - good metal ruler and set square
    - pencils for marking
    - X-acto knife or similar for scoring/cutting
    - As Noeland said, sandpaper (emery boards are good as well)
    - Glues/Adhesives plastic weld and cyano acrylates (i.e. krazyglue)
    - masking tape/painters tape
    - flush cutters (aka nippers, sprue cutters)

    I think that is the basics. Other items that may make your work easier would be:

    - mitre box (for cutting angles)
    - pin vise for drilling small holes
    - compass/protractor for figuring out curves
    ...and so on...you could go nuts with this stuff

    As others have said, Dremel tool could be useful. Not sure about for polystyrene, if your not careful it could generate enough heat to melt the styrene.

    Of course once you build your model you'll want to paint, so primers, spray paints and possibly airbrush systems. I'm really interested in trying airbrush myself so I may go that route, but not until I've built something worth painting.

    Don't forget graph paper and pencils so you can make a plan before you start.

  9. TomVDJ


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    I'd say a bluray player to get high-def reference material of screen-used props ;-). Books are good too, but you are onlu 100% sure about screen-used props, if you actually see them in the movie. I have the "from Star Wars to Indiana Jones" book, but quite some props in there are b-props or production made but not screen-used at all. So I only trust high-def screencaps as referenece material...
  10. Belgen

    Belgen New Member

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    If you use Pepakura for build stuff you need a printer, good paper (not so simple) and a pair of scissor/cutter/x-acto. You must try (and find) your type of glue. Other tools change if you use fiberglass, foam, cardboard, metal or wood.
  11. Kopesh

    Kopesh New Member

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    It really depends on what you plan on working with first, after that you just pick up what you need over time. It isn't so much a tool as a material, but looking back I wish I had had a tube of epoxy putty on hand for some of my earlier projects. It is great for minor gap filling and varying degrees of sculpting/shaping. Small files are nice to have, given all the sanding and finishing you will pretty much inevitably end up doing. And stir sticks, especially if you end up in the casting end of things. The perfect starting "kit" is all personal taste, so my best suggestion would be to decide on your first project and pick up what is relevant to that. As you get to know what build methods work best for you and what you need to achieve your desire product, you can expand your arsenal appropriately.
  12. zorg

    zorg Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    a dremel type tool, various grades of sandpaper, body filler, respirator , straight edge, a quiet place to sit and have a cry about how you wasted your life.
    DL 44 Blaster, Jedifyfe and Sean like this.
  13. nomuse

    nomuse Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I second that it is totally a matter of what you chose to work on. Every material/process has its own kit, but almost nothing is mandatory; they are instead those tools that generations of people have found to make the work go more smoothly. Take leatherwork; you can literally do basic leatherwork with a sharp knife. Maybe add a small file and a blunt nail. You can even make your own veg dyes. But even a simple wallet is a trial of patience without a handful of more specialized tools.

    And many props can be achieved from a multitude of directions. Take your basic gun-from-a-game. If EVA foam is your gig, or pepakura, then either will give good results. Or if you prefer to carve then foam, wood, sintra -- all will work. Or sculpt from clay. Or 3d model it and have it printed. Some people get excellent results with nothing but recycled cardboard and a hobby knife. Point being, pick props that suit the methods you think you'd like to adopt, then adapt those methods -- and add to them -- when tackling the next prop along the line.

    I come from a theater background myself where my first instinct is to find a soft material and start shaping it. Other people from the same background have the instinct to find a shape that is as close as possible (soda bottles, random hardware, whatever) and adapt that. But I'm slowly working my way crabwise to realizing the whole thing in 3d and then using various digital fabrication tools as part of the build process.

    Which adds another wrinkle on to the "What tools do I need to start?" question. Because this new age of micro-fabrication and maker spaces has opened up new workspaces. There is really nothing like having your own shop, and one way or another you really do want to have some hand tools so you can tinker around over a long lunch or into the wee hours the night before a cosplay convention. But you can access a lot of incredible tools, plus the classes on how to use them and the network and support of other enthusiasts, by checking out tool rental libraries, maker spaces, Techshop, and fabrication services like Shapeways and Ponoko.

    But with all that said...

    Yeah, I love tools. I love owning my own, and I love my techshop membership. I've spent decades learning tools, collecting tools, finding the tools that are most comfortable to me. But the most important "tools" are not the ones you buy at the hardware store. They are your mental toolset. And there is a core set there which is appropriate for every prop, just like being able to swing an X-acto blade is a critical skill almost no matter what materials you are going to work with. The core mental skills are being able to visualize in 3d space. Being able to estimate and prioritize. Being able to observe, and to characterize what you observe so you can re-create it.

    Learning how to do research, how to create and communicate with drawings and diagrams, how to problem-solve on paper, how to plan and budget a project; these are very good tools to have.
  14. rundown

    rundown Sr Member

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    a respirator! nough said!
    swgeek likes this.
  15. Yeats

    Yeats Active Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    A Dremel with many different bits...

    Safety glasses... gotta be safe :)

    Also I would say don't just buy loads of tools to start with buy them as you need them, stuck on a task or need an easier/better way to do the task... find the tool!
  16. Jedifyfe

    Jedifyfe Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Dremel, Xacto knife, sand paper, styrene
  17. GaryArm

    GaryArm Member

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    I agree with the suggestion above but it depends on the project you have selected to build.
    A Dremal is a great tool, I have worn out about six of them as I use it so much.
    To start making props you can start with some basic tools and add more specialist ones to your kit as you get more confident with your skills.
    There is always some new tool I am wanting to add to my workshop even after doing this for forty odd years.
    Sheet Styrene is a great material to start with, it comes in different thicknesses and can be heat formed. I like to use auto paint thinners as a glue on styrene as it melts the surface and thus welds the plastic together, when dry the plastic cannot be broken apart. Auto paints on styrene will also give a great bond having the thinners in it also.
    The important thing is to just go and create something, it may not be that great at first but the more you do, the better a builder you become
    good luck
  18. OB10

    OB10 Sr Member

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    Great question. And great responses.

    Like they say, depends on what you want to make, and what materials you want to use. That said, for me it would be: Dremel & bits/tools, files, razor saw, hack saw, ruler, calipers, compass, sandpapers, primers, paints, safety glasses, clamps, rubber bands, masking tape, respirator and dust masks, X-Actos and different blades, hot glue gun, eventually a heat gun. Plus lots of references (pics and patterns/blueprints where available), a computer and an internet connection, printer, DVD (or better yet, Blu-Ray) player and discs.

    For what I do, besides various glues (Elmers, superglue, epoxy, wood glue), and spot putty (I usually use automotive red spot putty) I also find Plumber's Epoxy Putty and Minwax Wood Hardener occasionally priceless. Menard's has a Plumber's Epoxy Putty in their plumbing section, but there's a better one (I forget the brand name) in their paint and glue section. It cures quickly (5 minutes or so), and gets very hard. It can be used for attaching pieces, and for creating shapes to join other shapes. Be prepared to file and sand, then spot putty and sand... Apoxy Sculpt is another great epoxy putty. More expensive, but you have a much longer work time; you can actually sculpt it, and need less spot putty and sanding. Minwax Wood Hardener is great for taking wood, MDF and cardboard and making it hard and waterproof(ish). Really handy when working on some of the thicker cardboards like chipboard (super thick cardboard). You do not want to use that stuff without good ventilation.
  19. novacat17

    novacat17 Active Member

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    Lots of good stuff here, but I would like to reiterate the importance of a good respirator or dust mask, especially if you plan to work with certain materials (like MDF). Your lungs will thank you!

    I would add wet-dry sand paper and some design or good drawing programs (inkscape, gimp, and others are free and a great place to draw up designs).

    MAKE BELIEVE Sr Member

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    Basically, everything; once it depends on what you'll be doing...
  21. redzthenew

    redzthenew New Member

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    The ability to keep changing your approach,determination and don't give up. lots of methods work in different ways. try to replicate how it was made originally as much as possible get it right then start again with that knowledge to make the one you set out to achieve in the first place. its the approach I'm taking . I'll let you know how it goes. Love
  22. smurf

    smurf Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Just buy what you need as you go. There is no point of running out to buy lots of tools if you may not even use some for a while. More than likely you will start a project and realize that you need something you don't have anyway. Before you know it you will have lots of tools and supplies.
  23. Contec

    Contec Master Member

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    Safety first... a first aid kit,
    With an X-acto blade you are going to cut yourself.
    An Dremel tool+ Cut-Off Wheels is going to make the wheel burst into pieces and fly into your body (wear eye protection when using a dremel as well.)
    Superglue is going to glue together your fingers.
    A belt sander is going to sand your knuckles,

    Good tools to have are a Dremel (rotary tool), Note that we(rpf people) use the Brand name DREMEL when talking about all the Rotary tools. 15 or 10 years ago Dremel was the best brand for rotary tools, That has since changed and dremel is pretty much crap now days. there is other brands now that work better.

    Get a couple of metal rulers in different lengths.
  24. Teddz

    Teddz Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I can't stress this enough... CLAMPS!! Lot's of clamps... different sizes and types. You can never have enough of them.

    Trying to outfit your work area with everything you 'think' you'll need from the beginning is 1. expensive and 2. not necessary since you're guaranteed to need something you didn't get 3/4 of the way through your build. As others have said, stock up as you go along.

    It also helps to have a decent work area with enough room to expand or build whatever you want without having issues of space.

    Your area should also be well lit. Either natural light during the day or lights at night, having a single lamp over you won't help much. The more light you have the better... especially when a part falls to the floor (and it will).

    It really depends on what you'll be working with.

    Power tools that I consider helpful (but not really necessary for everyone):
    - Belt/Disc sander
    - Band saw
    - Scroll saw
    - Angle Grinder
    - Dremel rotary tool with as many attachments as you can get, especially the flexible extension.
    - Soldering Iron
    - Heat gun
    - Hand held drill
    - Drill Press
    - Lathe
    - Milling machine
    - Welder (mig or tig)
    - High-volume compressor with associated filters and moisture traps
    - Miter saw
    - Table saw
    - CNC Router
    - CNC Laser cutter/engraver
    - Decent size shop vacuum
  25. nomuse

    nomuse Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Yeah, yeah...all depends on the project, but some things are either used for everything, or just so useful you'll come up with a reason to have them:

    X-acto. The most common is the smaller handle and the #11 blades; buy them by the pack because the worst mistake you can make with an X-acto is trying to force a dull blade through your material and either gouging the work...or yourself. Sure, there's a wide variety of blades, but get used to the #11 and you can do almost everything without having to keep switching blades around. And you can sharpen them sort of...I use a stone myself, but wait on this until you have used the thing enough to have a good feeling for what the blade should cut like.

    Dremel. The most expensive starter tool you'll get, but can do everything with time and patience and care. There are people who have done gunsmithing with just a Dremel (and some small files.) It can also get very expensive especially if you are trying to use it for larger projects than it is designed to handle; those bits add up. On that; all low-end rotary tools are created equal; most of what you pay for in a Dremel is the name plate. So get an off brand...or save up the money for one of the pro alternatives.

    Safety glasses and dust mask. Especially if you are going to be messing with a dremel, get safety glasses. I tend to use the cheap plastic ones these days; under ten bucks, throw them away when they get scratched, will fit over glasses. Goggles are nice if you are going to be playing with anything that floats or oozes like paint, solvent, solder, or sanding down Bondo. And use that dust mask. I've met scene technicians in their 30's who have the lungs of a 50-year old.

    Zap-Gap. Dangerous stuff, and probably smart to pick up a bottle of "nail polish remover" in the cosmetic's department of your local supermarket now, rather than after you've glued so many fingers together you can't pull out your wallet. There are a lot of things it will glue poorly. But it will glue practically all of them anyhow, and is fast and easy to use, and cheap if bought by the bottle. Get a small bottle, though...it will dry out, no matter how careful you are. And it WILL spill (see above...and above that; you really, really, really do not want to be trying to get cyanoacrylate medical-strength adhesive off your eyeballs).

    Grey primer. For a lot of things, a rattle-can of primer will tell you how well things are working together and where the holes that need filling are. And it also primes; fills in the pores and preps the surface for painting. And, heck, it is one of those great moments when you lay down a coat of primer and for the first moment that wad of random junk and sawdust you've been struggling with actually starts to look like a real prop.

    But other than that, there's no sense in putting together a starter kit for generic everything. Better to pick a starter kit for SOMETHING.
  26. taeyounglee254

    taeyounglee254 New Member

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    Well I figure, you build up your tool collection as you go. You need a tool for a certain task to make a certain prop so you go out and buy it. But I would start out with a dremel, a paint gun, a buttload of sand paper, xacto knives, hot glue gun, drills, screwdrivers, etc....
  27. cavx

    cavx Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    It really depends on what kind of props are you wanting to make?

    Whilst all the suggestions are great sometimes something as trivial as a clamp is the difference between success and failure.

    Because I do molding casting, then Vacuum Chamber is very important and I am now looking towards getting a Pressure Pot. For this kind of work, these become your best friends.

    A rotary tool (with a case of attachments) of some description is probably the single most useful tool in my kit. I didn't even buy a "Dremil" brand, rather a cheap unit I got at Aldi for less than $50. Apparently they go on sale again this weekend, so might have to buy a back up unit. Mine has build a full set of TK armour and my Imperial Gunner not to mention countless other projects. If I need to cut something made of plastic, chances are that is the first choice tool.

    I have a press drill but don't really use it much.

    On my wish list is -

    A proper work shop.
    A pressure pot and compressor.
    A table saw.
    A welder.
    A lathe.
    A milling machien.
    Laser cutter.
    3D printer.
    6 Minions.

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