Prop Aquarium Fish Mechanism


prop aquarium fish

Prop aquarium fish

A recent stage production required a prop aquarium in one of its scenes. An empty Perspex box with some water plants and a fish hanging from the prop aquarium light had been provided but it was a very static arrangement. The designer requested some way of giving the fish some movement within the aquarium.

The mechanism we designed is basically a miniature cable car. Two large pulleys have a continuous steel cable around them which is tensioned so that the rubber fish can be suspended from the cable. A 12V electric motor drives one of the pulleys via a belt drive which causes the cable with the suspended fish to move around the interior of the prop aquarium. The second pulley is spring loaded to maintain a constant tension on the cable.

The video below shows the operation of the mechanism and illustrates its layout.

Mobile Phone Tower Disguise

Disguised mobile phone tower

Mobile phone tower palm tree

A mobile phone tower is not an attractive addition to any landscape. They are littered about our cities and suburbs with very little consideration of their aesthetic appeal. Where they are located is governed primarily by technical considerations. A mobile phone tower can however be disguised so that it becomes less of an eyesore.

A mobile phone tower disguise

There are many examples of ingenious ways to disguise a mobile phone tower, some more successful than others. In Dubai, where cost seems a secondary consideration in every facet of life, how else to hide a mobile phone tower than by disguising it as a palm tree!

Admittedly the fronds look a little on the dry and shabby side but overall it works quite well – even though its the only palm tree that height for miles which makes it stick out like a mobile phone tower.

Bamboo Fence Disguise

Fence bamboo disguise

Railings made to look like bamboo

Here is example of a fence in disguise so it looks as if it was made of bamboo. The Chinese are masters of disguise and apply these skills in the most surprising and intriguing of places.

In this case it is in the suburbs of Taipei in Taiwan and it reflects how prevalent and entrenched the imagery of bamboo is to the artistic and cultural heritage of the Chinese psyche.

Bamboo Downpipe Disguise

The former British consulate in the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung has an interesting disguise on the buildings gutter downpipes. Someone has gone to a lot of effort and time to disguise the downpipes from the roof gutters to look like bamboo. It’s a nice touch and looks so much better than plain downpipes.

Disguise as Bamboo

There are many instances in Taiwan and China where a little extra effort has gone into decorating otherwise bland everyday objects so they blend into their environment. Bamboo is a popular disguise and many examples abound once you know what to look for. More bamboo disguise can be found here.

Downpipe disguise

Detailed view of downpipe

disguised downpipe

Fake bamboo downpipes

Rubbish Bin Disguise

Rubbish bin disguise

Rubbish bin disguised as a rock

The Chinese invest a lot of effort to disguise everyday items to look like they are part of the natural environment. An example are the steel safety railings on paths through National Parks that are disguised to look as if they are made from rough timber poles. The Chinese go to a lot of effort in their National Parks to keep them looking as natural as possible. This creative disguise technique is used extensively for theatrical sets and it is great to see these techniques used this way.

Rubbish bin disguise

One cute example of the use of theatrical techniques in real life I discovered at Maobitou (or cat’s nose) at the southern most tip of Taiwan. It was this rubbish bin disguised as a rock. It’s a great idea but makes looking for a place to put your rubbish a challenge for your observational skills and a major exercise in lateral thinking.

Block A Window

Block a window

Blocking out a window

There are times when you need to block a window. The attempt shown in the photo is unimaginative and uses far too many wooden corner brackets from Bunnings. If that wasn’t bad enough to block a window they have used a piece of unfinished cheap plywood as a cover. To really make it look terrible they have used walnut wood stain which highlights the tacky grain pattern of the plywood.

No effort has been made to hide the screw heads securing everything and the name (photoshopped out to save embarrassment!) are large brass house letters, also from Bunnings.

No way to block a window

There are two of these windows that have been blocked in this manner and, being quite large, are a real eyesore on an otherwise wonderful Art Deco hotel. It is not a good method to block a window.

A better solution would have been to dispense with the corner brackets and brass letters, have a plain painted panel filling the window and then attach an Art Deco inspired grille to the front.

Metallic Coloured Silk Flowers

A recent request for coloured silk flowers that had a metallic shine proved an interesting challenge. The designer wanted the colours to shine under lights.

Initial experiments using spray chrome paint as a base under transparent glass paint were a failure. The initial bright metallic silver finish from the spray chrome was instantly killed to a dull grey when anything was painted over it’s surface. The resultant colour was dead and leaden.

Dismantling the silk flowers and applying silver leaf to the petals solved the problem. Being a real metallic finish its lustre was not affected by the solvents in the applied colours which resulted in a brilliant finish. The steps involved in the process are as follows;

Step 1
Dismantle the silk flowers and seal the petals with PVA glue. This prevents the size being absorbed into the fabric making poor adhesion of the silver leaf.

Dismantle silk flower

Dismantling silk flowers

Seal fabric with PVA

Seal petal fabric with PVA

Step 2
After the PVA has dried apply German size to the petals. You could use gold size but it can get a bit messy. After it is touch dry apply the silver leaf to the petals. I grouped several petals in a group so a single sheet of silver leaf could be applied over all the petals.

Applying the size

Applying the size

Application of silver leaf

Application of silver leaf

Step 3
After pressing the leaf firmly onto the petals with a soft cloth remove the excess leaf. This can get messy as the leaf is so light it blows everywhere. A solution I found was to place a metal gauze over the petals and use a vacuum cleaner to suck up the excess silver leaf. After this each leaf can be wiped of excess using a soft cloth.

Vacuuming excess silver leaf

Vacuuming excess silver leaf

Removing excess leaf by hand

Removing excess leaf by hand

Step 4
Because I was using a fushia coloured petal I had to repeat the process on the reverse side of the petals. If you use white petals you could omit this step. Now that the petals are silvered they can be reassembled again ready for painting.

Finished silver leafed petal

Finished silver leafed petal

Reassembled silk flowers

Reassembled silk flowers

Step 5
The petals are now painted with transparent paint. The best two to use are Rosco’s Colorine range (have a fantastic mauve and red!) and the Decorfin range (turquoise to die for!). You will need two coats to get nice colour saturation. Use only thin coats because thicker applications just drip and pool where you don’t want it to.

First coat of colour

First coat of colour

Completed flowers

Completed flowers

When the paint is completely dry trim the edges of each petal to remove any frayed edges of the silk. The flowers seemed to glow under lights because of the silver backing on the petals. The combination of silver leaf and transparent paints is a great way to achieve highlights of colour.

Art Nouveau Gates

Very different fine jewelry and silver shop in Santa Cruz

Very different fine jewelry and silver shop in Puerto Ayora

In Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, an island in the Galapagos group, you cannot miss the silver Art Nouveau gates at the entrance to a white stucco fine jewelry shop on the left of the road on the way to the Charles Darwin Research Station. The Art Nouveau gate is of particular interest. It is obvious that a lot of work has gone into its design and fabrication. It is something you do not expect to see on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!

Front view of jewelry shop

Front view of jewelry shop

Detailed view of the front gate

Detailed view of the front gate