Oversize Tiffany Style Gift Box

Oversize Tiffany style gift box

Oversize Tiffany style gift box

A dance prop in the form of an oversize Tiffany style gift box was required for a competitive dance routine. The box was to be big enough to conceal the dancer inside and light enough so it could be carried onstage for the routine with the dancer inside. It also had to be strong enough on the top so the dancer could perform her routine on the lid.

For rigidity the dance prop frame was constructed using 12mm hollow square steel with extra braces in the base and lid sections for additional support. To keep the weight as low as possible it was clad in 7mm marine ply which was liquid nailed to the frame. Small hand cutouts were cut in the sides to enable it to be carried and a small lip attached to the front of the lid to make opening it easier.

When the dancer burst out of the oversize box by throwing open the lid it put considerable stress on the lid stays. These were custom made using 3mm flat steel to stop the lid opening too far so the dancer to get out and close it easily. Another 30cm square wooden replica of the oversize box was built to act as a step to facilitate the dancer stepping up onto the closed lid. This was incorporated into the routine to make the transition as seamless as possible.

Tiffany style box opened

Tiffany style box opened

Heavy duty hinge stays

Heavy duty hinge stays to support the lid

Silk Flame Campfire Prop

The above video demonstrates the operation of the silk flame campfire.

Battery operated silk flame campfire prop

Battery operated silk flame campfire prop

This silk flame campfire prop was made for a theatrical production that needed a safe but realistic campfire effect onstage. Real pieces of timber were arranged around a circle leaving a space in the middle to accommodate a rectangular light box.

The light box was made from ply with several non-symmetrical holes cut in the sides with orange gel glued over them. Two small electric fans were mounted in the bottom of the light box along with three amber 12V automotive stop lamps mounted on the inside of the box.

Three layers of 10mm egg crate diffuser was fitted on the top of the light box to stabilise the airflow and to provide a platform to mount the silk for the flame effect.

Two of the 12V lamps were connected to a flickering candle effect so their intensity varied over time. The fans and lamps were run on a small 12V 9Ah battery. A long lead with a switch was used to control the campfire when it was on stage.

Timber arranged with a space for the light box

Timber arranged with a space for the light box

Top view of light box with the egg crate diffuser removed

Top view of light box with the egg crate diffuser removed

Large Crown Display Table

Completed large crown

Completed large crown display table

This post describes the finishing of the large crown display table frame. The table is 815cm high and was used as a display stand for a birthday cake however it could also be used in any situation that required a unique and stylish display centre piece.

The main objective in making the large crown is to get the finish of the timber framework as smooth as possible. By its nature raw timber is uneven due to its grain. The crown frame was first sanded to remove large irregularities and then cleaned with compressed air. Next the first of several coats of undercoat were applied.

The first application of undercoat was the most important as it absorbed into the timber causing the wood grain to expand. The timber crown frame was then sanded smooth again. After the first undercoat any imperfections in the finish became blazingly apparent. These were first filled with Spakfilla and sanded back again before subsequent applications of undercoat. After each application had dried the frame was sanded back yet again which gradually filled remaining small surface imperfections. The display table had seven undercoats before the finish was acceptable.

Undercoated timber frame

Undercoated timber frame

Drilling guide holes for upholstery nails

Drilling guide holes for upholstery nails

Once the undercoating was finished the decorative trimming was applied. A simple fleur-de-lys was fitted to each of the six laminated curved sections of the large crown frame and domed brass upholstery nails were aligned along all the edges. A small jig was made to drill location holes for the upholstery nails to ensure they were all an even distance from each other.

Fitting decorative trimming

Fitting decorative trimming

Undercoat again to seal the trim

Undercoat again to seal the trim

After yet another undercoat application and light sanding of the timber framework the upholstery nails were fitted. It was better to leave the nails till last so that they didn’t obstruct the sanding process. After the upholstery nails were fitted the whole large crown frame was sprayed with metallic gold paint.

Upholstery nails fitted

Upholstery nails fitted

Large crown painted gold

Large display crown painted gold

Oversize Music Box Dancer Base

round music box dancer base

Oversize round music box dancer base

This oversize music box dancer base was made for a show where a young ballet dancer, standing on the base, would dance when the handle on the side was cranked.

The base was made by routing rings of timber with different profiles and stacking them together to form the structure. It was hollow inside so a speaker could be installed to play music on cue when the handle was cranked.

Below are some photos showing the construction process.

Routing the profiles

Using a router to cut the profiles of the timber rings

Routed timber rings

Routed timber rings stacked to form the base section

Making the central core spacer

Making the central core spacer

Fitting the central cor

Fitting the central core to the base section

Fitting the top section to the base

Fitting the top section to the base and clamping in position

Cutting up a rubber door mat to make the trim

Cutting up a rubber door mat to make the trim

ready for painting

Central trim fitted and ready for painting

Completed music box base

Completed music box base painted gold

For stability the base was fitted with five legs instead of four. On a round object five legs look much better than four.

Garden Bird Mobile

 bird mobile for the garden made in stainless steel.

Copy of a bird mobile for the garden made in stainless steel.

Several years ago on a trip through the Southern Highlands of NSW I saw this cute metal garden bird mobile which I thought would look great in the garden at home. It wasn’t expensive so I bought the item and put it in the garden and enjoyed it for several years. It was made from thin tinplate with a weathered rust-like finish like many similar styled garden decorations available at Garden Nurseries around Australia.

Unfortunately, being exposed to the elements, the painted rust finish finally gave way to very real rust and corrosion. Being made of thin tinplate it was reaching the point of falling apart and being useless as a garden ornament. Because I liked it so much I decided to resurrect it and make a copy of the garden bird mobile in stainless steel which would eliminate future corrosion problems.

I based the reproduction on commercially available stainless steel balls welded together. A variety of different thickness stainless steel rods and wires were obtained to make the feet and spectacles. The wings, tail and top hat were cut from a small sheet of 0.7mm stainless steel sheet. After all the parts had been made they were assembled, balanced on their perch and then placed back in the ground making a sparkling addition to the garden in the morning sun.

View of the original tinplate birds after several years in the garden

View of the original tinplate birds after several years in the garden

Detailed view of the male bird showing the onset of corrosion of the tinplate

Detailed view of the male bird showing the onset of corrosion of the tinplate

Comparison of the original birds and the stainless steel copies

Comparison of the original birds and the stainless steel copies

View of the new stainless steel birds back in the garden

View of the new stainless steel birds back in the garden

Making Foam Wings

Completed wing

Completed flexible wing covered in fleece fabric

The recent Wayside Chapel winged heart project had two large wings that flapped up and down under the control of a pneumatic cylinder. For safety reasons it was decided to make foam wings so they would be flexible enough to prevent someone getting their head taken off if they happened to contact a wing when it was operating.

However part of the wing had to be structural for the correct flapping motion to be achieved. This was solved by making the bottom section of the wing with a plywood core and the rest from a sandwich of 5mm closed cell foam. The steps of the construction are shown below.

Clicking on an image brings up a larger image.

Plywood and foam wing core

A 12mm foam core extension is glued to the edge of the lower plywood core

Perspex stiffener for foam wing tip

A polycarbonate stiffener is glued to the foam to hold it straight while still being flexible

Front and back foam cover sheet

A 5mm sheet of foam was glued to both sides of the plywood and foam core for strength.

Foam covered wings

Both wings have the front and back of their ply and foam cores covered in 5mm foam.

Another sheet of 5mm foam was cut out to the wing shape and the lines of the feathers were cut. Narrow strips of foam were then glued along these cuts so that when it was turned over there would be a raised feather line in the foam.

Feather line cutting

Here the foam has been cut following the line of the feathers

Raised sections on feather lines

The strips of foam glued along the feather cut lines to make raised sections

Rasied feather lines

Raised feather line foam layer glued to a wing showing the raised outline of the feathers

More raised detail added

More raised foam detail is glued to the front wing surface

Next ivory coloured cotton fleece fabric was glued over the foam wings. This gave the wings a softer look and highlighted the raised feathers and other detail.

Glueing fleece fabric to wings

Glueing cotton fleece fabric to the foam wings

Feather detail of completed wings

Completed wings fitted to the wing mechanism showing the feather detail

Making a Giant Heart

Completed giant fibreglass heart

Completed giant 3D fibreglass heart

The making of a giant 3D heart for the recent Wayside Chapel winged heart project was a great exercise in how to sculpt large objects for armatures to make large fibreglass moulds. The heart had to be made as quickly and cheaply as possible so some shortcuts were made that had both positive and negative consequences.

Instead of making a two piece mould it was decided to make a perfectly symmetrical half mould so both front and rear sections could be cast from the same mould. This was achieved by first drawing half a heart on a piece of plywood. A second piece of plywood was fastened under the first and then both pieces were cut as one on a bandsaw. After sanding the the edges smooth the plywood *sandwich* was split and fastened together, side by side, making a perfectly symmetrical heart shape.

Heart outline in ply

A symmetrical outline of the heart was made from ply and fastened to support table

making armature with ply strips

Building up the heart profile using templates and ply strips

Heart shape in ply strips

Rough heart shape defined by ply strips

Hessian covering over ply

Ply framework covered with hessian

Plaster applied over hessian

Casting plaster was applied over the hessian covering to make it rigid.

second layer of plaster and hessian applied

A second layer of casting plaster and hessian is applied over form work

To smooth the heart shape a thick layer of Gyprock top coat filler was applied using a spatula taking care to make the layer as smooth as possible.

Applying Gyprock

Applying the Gyprock top coat filler over the plaster form. It was carefully filled out to match the heart outline defined by the base ply template.

Smoothing the form

Form ready for smoothing after the Gyprock dried

In the rush to get the mould made I decided to save time by not making the heart form super smooth before applying gelcoat and matting. Instead I would apply a double thickness of gelcoat when making the mould and then sand any irregularities from the mould directly. A quick coating of wax mould release was applied before applying the gelcoat and fibreglass matting over the heart form. This was a big mistake. The wax soaked into the not quite dry Gyprock allowing the gelcoat to stick firmly to the heart form making its easy removal impossible.

Mould completion

With the fibreglassing completed the mould was ready to be removed from the form but it would not budge.

Removing the heart form

The mould was firmly stuck to the heart form. Weighing in at over 100kg the mould had to be lifted from the work table so the form could be cut out from underneath the mould

Removing formwork

Once the bottom of the mould was exposed the timber formwork could be dug out

Plaster removal

Removing the plaster and hessian reinforcement

Once the ply form work and hessian had been removed there was still a thick layer of plaster and Gyprock stuck firmly to the fibreglass. The only way to remove it was to use a hammer and chisel. The chisel had its corners rounded and the cutting edge dulled to minimise the inevitable damage that would be done to the mould interior surface.

Removing the plaster and Gyprock

After 4 hours work only half the mould had been cleaned.

More plaster removal

About 8 hours later the last of the plaster and Gyprock was removed from the fibreglass surface

Cleaning mould

Wet’n’dry was used to sand the irregularities and scratches from the mould inside surface

Waxed mould ready for use

The mould after being cleaned and waxed ready to have a cast taken

Red gelcoat in mould

First layer of gelcoat with red pigment applied to the mould. This was followed by two layers of matting.

Fibreglass casting from mould

The first fibreglass heart shell removed from the mould. It popped out very easily because the mould release was applied correctly this time.

The shell of fibreglass was very flexible and had to have bracing fitted inside to make it rigid. This was done by hot glueing pieces of cotton rope on the inside and applying fibreglass matting over the top. The front shell also had a steel framework fitted so it could be attached to the wing mechanism.

Internal bracing of heart shell

The internal bracing in the front heart shell showing the cotton rope before being fibreglassed.

Completed 3D heart

Heart shells join line covered with cloth tape and polished

Circular Display Frame

Assembled circular frame

Chair inside assembled circular frame

This circular display frame was one of two built to highlight special displays such as wedding cakes, people or other display props.

The open framework was designed to facilitate the addition of flowers, greenery or custom signage making them very flexible for innovative displays.

The frames are made of 25mm hollow square steel making them extremely strong while keeping their weight to a minimum.

Disassembled circular frame ready for transport

Disassembled circular frame ready for transport

top securing bolt

Top bolt securing semi-circular frame sections

At over two metres in diameter the frames posed difficulties for transport so they were designed as two semi-circular frames which bolted together on a base platform. The frames can be assembled by one person in a matter of minutes without special tools.

Semi-circular section bolted to the base platform

Semi-circular section bolted to the base platform