Wednesday, April 28, 2010

No - I don't make 'props'

... what I make here are REAL objects.

I interested in having you make one of these for me but on a much smaller scale than the original used in the movie made by WETA studios.The one i have in mind is about a 5lb mace.I have included a link to a short video on the making of that particular mace if it will help.

If you watch the video clip, the first thing you see is how difficult it was for WETA to make the original film prop. Plus, even made of foam, how difficult it was for the actors to handle the results. This even for staged, single motion shots!

A great Fan built Replica
Artistic Rendering

There is a raw physics problem with what are more correctly called 'mourning stars' (short handle, chain, weight).

The correct way to use one of these is spinning it in a figure eight pattern before your body. (You remember from the film this was NOT the way it was employed!) There is absolutely no defence - it is a purely attack weapon. Even a small mass on the end of that circular motion imparts incredible impact energies. Its also easily possible to break your own wrist as the user should the motion get interrupted in the wrong spot in the cycle (or your technique is incorrect). Even a fist sized rubber ball can hit hard enough to cause serious injury - and the chain causes the head to wrap around things (like necks). There is no way to make a 'safe' version that will even remotely perform like the real weapon. This is why groups like the Society for Creative Anachronism forbid the use of 'ball and chain' class weapons in sport fighting.

For the film, they used a large piece of very soft rubber (likely a material like that used for foam door seals). This allowed them to get the physical size they required without the raw weight. You do see how they discuss how difficult it was for the actor to even make the simple, single motion, staged shots used in the film.
If the head had actually been made of metal at that size, it would easily have been several hundred pounds or more! Plainly impossible. (Not just a matter of magical strength, you would have to magically also add and subtract inertia!)

The replica seen above was in fact made of styrofoam - its worth taking a look at the web site that holds the image and a brief description of the construction.

If anyone wanted to proceed with creating a prop weapon for costume use based on the object from the film, I have this suggestion:
Get some high density soft foam - the stuff they use for sleeping pads for back packing. This is easily cut to shape with scissors. The required thickness can be built up by using contact cement to glue thinner pieces together. You can purchase plastic chain from the hardware store or a curtain and blinds shop.

Those materials can be easily painted after construction. This is basically what was (most likely) done by WETA.

For a 'real' weapon on this pattern, the shapes would have to be reduced to something closer to 3 - 4 inches high, cut and welded up from 1/4 inch thick plate. The cost of production would be considerable, several hundreds of dollars at least.
I would also check the legal codes for your jurisdiction. There is a possibility such a 'real' weapon might prove illegal.

1 comment:

Glendon Mellow said...

As someone who has seen your craftsmanship (mastery is a better word) firsthand, you make no mere props.

I mean no disrespect to people in the prop industry - most of my favourite movies have props and 'splosions, but the work from Wareham Forge is solid and real.


February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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