hands, feet, etc.
• Do not be afraid to let out the “blue smoke.”
Everyone should short an LED and get it out of their
system. Sometimes you make a mistake. Learn from it and
• Get parts from uncommon sources. Always be on the
lookout for things that can be repurposed and used in a
build. You can salvage cords from appliances you are
throwing away, powerful magnets from computer hard
drives, and stepper motors from that printer you are about
• Wander the aisles of home improvement stores for
ideas. Familiarize yourself with what products are available.
Consider uses for parts other than what they were
designed for. PVC pipe is the perfect example. I have yet to
use it to run water in a prop, but have found an incredible
number of other applications for it.
• Use blue painter’s tape. It’s easy to see and remove
without leaving a sticky residue.
• Make a jig. When multiple identical pieces are
needed, a jig is your friend.
• Use heat guns. They are extremely helpful when
working with PVC. You will no longer be confined to using
the stock angles provided by available fittings. Heating the
PVC allows you to shape and bend it into your desired
• Use lock nuts. Use when bolting components
together to prevent unintended disassembly. Failure to
make secure connections can cause catastrophic results!
• Incorporate nylon washers or bearings on bolts. Use
between moving components to aid in smooth operation
and to reduce friction as much as possible. Use a friction
reducing spray which not only allows pieces to keep
moving freely but can protect against rust and corrosion.
• Use chain link tension wire. This is useful for
providing a stiff yet adjustable armature.
• Have some two-part epoxy on hand for repairs and
fabrication. My favorite is Pro-Poxy 20 and it can be
shaped, sanded, drilled, and tapped (see Resources).
Putting on the Show
• Have quick repair materials handy such as a glue
gun, gaffer’s tape, bailing wire, braided fishing line, zip ties,
super glue, as well as some zapper and transparent duct
• Watch where you put 9V batteries. Do not put them
into your pockets with metal objects. It is very easy to short
the contacts and create an unplanned and dangerous
heating element. I use plastic storage containers to keep
mine (see Resources).
• Darkness can be your friend. For those of us that
enjoy constructing Halloween displays, we have the luxury
of working at night. No, we are not vampires, but our
displays are viewed mostly in the dark. The strategic
placement of light can work in your favor by allowing your
audience to only see what you want them to see, when you
want them to see it.
• Prioritize so that the most important items are
completed. If time allows, you can add the extras.
• Order parts early to avoid costly shipping. Who
wants to pay for overnight shipping on that part that
absolutely needs to be here tomorrow? Sometimes it’s
necessary, but I don’t want to make a habit of it.
• Label parts when disassembling for transport or
storage. Use your phone to photograph and store assembly
photos so they are easily accessible when you are away
from your computer. This can save precious time when you
need to reassemble your creation (see Figures 5A and 5B).
• The canvas style painter’s drop cloths are not only
paintable to create whatever design or solid color you
want, but they are excellent for walls, ceilings, doorways,
etc. They are easy to store, re-use, and can easily be
treated with flame retardant.
• Consider security if your creations are in areas where
they can be tampered with or stolen. Cameras, alarms, and
sensor lights can all help deter would-be troublemakers.
Figure 5B. Now it’s a quick and easy job to reassemble.
Figure 5A. I think this goes here. Or is it here?
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