Monday, May 10, 2010

If at first you don't succeed...

Patience is a virtue that I am sometimes lacking as a props master. I know, for example, that I need to give adhesives time to set and paint time to dry between steps, but I still try pretty regularly to cut corners. Almost as regularly I end up setting myself back even further or getting a final product I'm not really happy with.
This happened again to me a few mornings ago, so I thought I would share my cautionary tale about the benefits of doing the work patiently and getting it done right the first time.

I needed to fill some cheap plastic juice glasses to make them look like they were filled with water, they are placed on a cart that moves very quickly down a ramp and onto the stage, so real water wasn't an option. I decided to use gel candle wax. I melted it down on the stovetop (note: gel candle wax will not melt in a microwave, something I would have known if I had taken the time to read the package before wasting 15 minutes microwaving it), and then poured the gel wax into the glasses at varying levels. After a couple of minutes I noticed that the wax wasn't setting very quickly and that the cheap plastic glasses were starting to warp. Instead of pouring the wax out though, I tried sticking the glasses in the refrigerator. This was a horrible idea. The fridge couldn't cool down the wax fast enough, the glasses continued to melt, and eventually the still-hot wax began to pour over the top of the glasses, making a huge mess in my fridge.
To add to the excitement, it was 10:30 am, and the glasses were needed for the 1pm matinee at the theatre an hour away.
I drove first to the closest grocery store, none of their plastic glasses were right; then to the dollar store, no plastic glasses there; then to the Target, where I found some glasses that were good enough.
There was no room for mistakes with these glasses, so I had to take the time and effort to do it right. I placed all the glasses in the freezer while I remelted the wax. Once it was melted I turned the heat on the stove down as far as possible. I took the glasses out of the freezer two at a time, poured 1/2" of wax into them and then put them back in the freezer to cool before adding another layer. As you can imagine, 1/2" of gel wax cools and sets much more quickly than 4" of gel wax, so the glass was never exposed to the heat long enough to warp. After I was done with all the glasses I let them sit in the freezer for ten more minutes to cool, threw them in a plastic bag, booked it to the theatre and had them placed on the cart just as the house lights were going out.
On another note, I really liked the gel wax as a fake drink option. It's a little pricy, but one of the 23oz tubs I bought at JoAnns probably would have been enough to do the job (since so much was lost in the mess, good thing I bought two). I'll try to post pictures later of the good glasses, I didn't have time in my hurry to get them to the theatre.

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