(Or for those of us who have trouble learning without making the mistake first.)
• Start building from the interior-out
There’s nothing worse than spending days working on a prop only to discover that there’s not enough room inside it for some crucial detail. Case in point: the AEP Laser Pistol. I built up the main body of the gun but when it came time to make the battery fit inside, there wasn’t enough room! I ended up Dremeling out space for it but it would have saved a lot of work and time to know to use a thinner MDF for the gun’s body.
• Build the basic shapes before you worry about details
The temptation is to completely finish a part with all its fun detail once you start. But if the part doesn’t fit where it needs to or it’s the wrong size, all that finishing time is a waste. It’s better to build the basic pieces so you can see how everything will fit together. Decorate once you’re satisfied that.
• Don’t glue anything until it’s absolutely necessary
Test fitting will save you hours of work. The best way to build is with screws, bolts and pins so that if you need to get into a small recess, you simply disassemble. Some parts will just have to be permanently attached to proceed but there’s no reason to limit your options unnecessarily.
• Some details won’t make sense until you get there…don’t let unknowns keep you from starting
When you’re doing your research and drawing out your plans, there will be details that just look like blobs, especially if you’re working from screen caps. Take your best guess at drawing them and move on. Once you start building, those pieces will make more sense as you see what everything else is doing.
• Don’t be afraid to re-build
You’re almost done and suddenly you realize a part that you slaved over is just plain wrong! As painful as it is, you should just accept the fact that you’ll have to re-build it (as I just experience with the Yu-Gi-Oh cuff). The bright side is that you’ll build twice as fast and it will turn out twice as good. And remember, if you don’t, that detail will be the only thing you notice every time you look at it.
• Don’t get intimidated. Take it one step at a time
The biggest prop build can be broken down into little steps. Focus on completing each part and don’t sweat the enormity of the project.
• Don’t buy a tool or supply until you need it
There are many ways to build any object. If I bought all my supplies at the beginning, I’d have to return half of it because I will have found a different, better way to build it. This will also keep you from buying tools just because you want them.
• Work consistently
Set up a work schedule and stick to it. The more you delay, the more likely you’ll never finish it.
• If you don’t know, ASK!
Thanks to the Internet, you have a whole planet full of prop makers to consult with. Forums like The Replica Prop Forum and Blaster Builder’s Club are great resources for advice. In my experience, you can get answers to your questions within a few hours.
• “What one man can do, any man can do!” (to paraphrase one of my favorite movies, “The Edge”)
Even experts started where you are. You CAN build it if you work hard enough!
• BE PATIENT!
Some days nothing seems to go right. Or you’ve got a headache that just won’t go away. Or there’s some personal issue that’s bugging you. Recognize the symptoms and put the tools down before they go flying across the room.
• Just because you make a mistake, doesn’t mean you suck
Don’t be discouraged by false starts, screw-ups and epic fail. Figure out what went wrong and do it again.
• GO BUILD SOMETHING!
Your full-size Battle Droid isn’t going to build itself…get started, already!