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The life of the prop builder is often difficult — they’re crunched between time, budget, and what they can actually accomplish with the creative freedom they’re given.  Reader Eggman, who built this badass chair for the Santa Fe Opera House production of Tea, gives the lowdown on its construction.

The bottom portion of the seat is made out of alder with a plywood seat, as the whole thing was going to be painted.

The circular back part was made from a solid piece. I sandwiched a layer of poplar to both sides of a piece of plywood, with the grain of each layer running perpendicular to each other for strength. Since there was going to be nine of these chairs, plus a throne with the exact same design, the other props carpenter built a jig to cut out the design with a router.

The outer ring around the circular back was another piece. It was made like the interior circle, with several pieces of poplar arranged so the grain ran along the circumference, and sandwiched with another layer where the joints were offset from each other.

There is a frame made of steel rod that runs from the seat to the top of the chair for strength, and to hold the pieces of the design so they appear to be floating. In the back, I routed a channel so the back could fit onto the frame, and then filled it smooth; remember, the whole thing was going to be painted.

Finally, the top “bullhorn” piece was two layers of poplar sandwiched together with the grains running in opposite directions again, to keep it from splitting.

We submit to you that this chair is dope. The fact that it’s a prop just goes to show how much work goes into objects that usually don’t get a second glance — its whole job was to create atmosphere and literally fade into the background. Well done, Mr. Eggman.

Props [Eric Hart’s Prop Blog]


3 Responses to Props For The Props

  1. Jason says:

    holy cow. I also build props for theater and my stuff ends up looking pretty hinkey in comparison (esp. up close). Props to YOU, sir.

  2. Eric Hart says:

    Thank you very much, Jason! And thank you, Toolmonger! I can’t tell you how much of a treat it was to see one of my pictures up on one of my favorite blogs.

  3. Michael Pendleton says:

    I learned most of my building skills in the prop shop of the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington DC and I wouldn’t trade what I learned for anything! Adaptability, speed, and aesthetics, all rolled into one package!

    OK, there was also the absurd hours, and total lack of respect, so I changed fields, but I still take my hat off to anyone who can produce such nice looking things under those constraints! As my shop foreman used to say: “Fine work. Well done. Take a break.”

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