Prop torches

curtis73

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Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Location
Harrisburg, PA
We're doing Hunchback and I need some torches. I have some silk/fan torches but they are remarkably loud. These will be handheld by actors 12" from lav mics, so they have to be quiet.

I thought about possibly getting the little USB vaporizer/atomizer/mister things for on top of a water bottle, then a smaller fan and some LEDs in the torch, but I'm concerned that the little travel-size atomizer won't put off enough mist to really show up. My thought there is that it would require much less fan to make the mist dance than it does to make silk dance.

I found the thread here about silk torches, and the torches I have are the same ones that Brian Wolfe pictured in his reply.... computer fan, silk, and a couple LEDs.

Ideas?
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
We're doing Hunchback and I need some torches. I have some silk/fan torches but they are remarkably loud. These will be handheld by actors 12" from lav mics, so they have to be quiet.

I thought about possibly getting the little USB vaporizer/atomizer/mister things for on top of a water bottle, then a smaller fan and some LEDs in the torch, but I'm concerned that the little travel-size atomizer won't put off enough mist to really show up. My thought there is that it would require much less fan to make the mist dance than it does to make silk dance.

I found the thread here about silk torches, and the torches I have are the same ones that Brian Wolfe pictured in his reply.... computer fan, silk, and a couple LEDs.

Ideas?
@curtis73 In my days with the Stratford Shakespearean Festival (1977 - 1998) their props department used to fabricate real torches to suit the era, then our IA running crew maintained them and fueled them for the season. We had a close relationship with our provincial Fire Marshall and local fire fighters. Getting a satisfactory mix of fuel was an ongoing process with clean, smoke-free, burning being the lighting designers' major concerns while various directors and set designers preferred orange, blue, and various other colors.
One production, four or six torches were carried on stage by 'spear-chuckers', who stood posed with their torches, theoretically, providing the illumination for a ten or fifteen minute scene. During one performance, the fuel had been consumed and, one by one, the actual absorbent material was all that remained burning. From my position in my sound booth at the rear of the balcony, the layer of smoke began at ceiling level and was steadily growing lower and denser 'til the cast were difficult to see and patrons in the balcony were coughing. It's funny in retrospect but not so much at the time.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

curtis73

Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Location
Harrisburg, PA
Unfortunately, the two houses where I'm taking this show have strict no-pyro rules. I have some auto-snuffing paraffin torches that I would love to use, but I can't.

I miss going to Stratford. Give the swans a side-eye for me. One of them got a piece of me one day, the little prick.
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Unfortunately, the two houses where I'm taking this show have strict no-pyro rules. I have some auto-snuffing paraffin torches that I would love to use, but I can't.

I miss going to Stratford. Give the swans a side-eye for me. One of them got a piece of me one day, the little cygnet.
@curtis73 While Frank Holte was the senior props builder, Frank wanted to fabricate a realistic prop swan and have Chris Wheeler, our Electronics Technologist, and I, conjure radio control for the swan and include two way radio so the swan could hear the conversations of passers by and reply to them. Chris and I were up for it but one of our managers wasn't quite so enthusiastic and severely poo-pooed the notion.
Some people have no sense of fun.

Fun like the day a flat-bed with a wireless jib crane pulled into the parking lot behind the Festival's main stage to make a delivery. From his basement shop window, Frank Holte saw the driver un-loading with his wireless remote, then rest his crane back in its transit cradle and walk into our stage door for a signature leaving his truck idling. Frank grabbed every amateur radio transmitter in his shop and pummeled them until he found one that raised the crane up off its transit cradled.
Frank watched as the driver heard his crane, walked back out, lowered the crane and walked back in.
Once again, Frank made the crane dance.
Once again the driver came out, replaced his crane back in its transit position then reached in his cab and shut his truck down before making his third trip through our stage door.

Not all of the performances are on stage. Oh some of the inter-shop and inter-departmental tricks we played.
@seanandkate 's Kate may remember the cute little lady's clutch Sharon McMorran, Chris Wheeler and I fabricated for designer Susan Benson to carry with her custom gown to the opening of "The Woman" in the Avon one year. The clutch was approximately 4 x 8 inches x a touch over an inch thick. Sharon created it from excess fabric used for Ms. Benson's opening night gown; inside was enough space for whatever fashionable ladies would routinely carry in their stylish clutches.
On one side of the clutch were red LED's spelling THE WOMAN which began with the T then added each letter in sequence before flashing the production's title three times, blanking, and commencing again with the T.
Not all of the fun was on stage.
@curtis73 When did you attend Stratford, in which venues, and for which productions???
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

curtis73

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Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Location
Harrisburg, PA
I hear you on the "performances not on stage." I built a pneumatic, wireless DMX-controlled vomit machine for God of Carnage and we had SO much fun with that. I made my artistic director vomit sympathetically as I did a surprise test in my office across from hers.

There was also a time when we were doing Big Fish and we had a remote-controlled helium fish that came up out of the pit for curtain call to swim around the house. One night we had a bit too much helium in it and it just slowly rose up to the catwalk where it landed on a Leko and the mylar caught fire. The PM and I ran up 8 flights of stairs with fire extinguishers but it was out before we got there... which was probably good that we didn't cause a shower of powdered fire retardant to fall on the house right audience.

A few years ago we did Fiddler in our larger black box (where I make the pyro rules) and our Fruma-Sarah had incredible stage fright. She took the role because the character had a mask and felt "hidden" enough to do the role. We put her on some big guy's shoulders and the costume was a big black, shear robe that covered to the floor. Her exit was to be buttoned with a flashpot going off. Well, during L'chaim, someone had sloshed some of their drink into the flashpot. Our stage-fright actress… expecting a flash and not getting one... panicked and passed out on the guy's shoulders, at which point he is running around trying to balance her. To all of us, it was simultaneously hilarious and terrifying. To the audience, it just looked like Fruma-Sarah running around scaring the other characters.

Let's see... when was I in Stratford. I went every year for about 6 years, and then some before and after that span. First was probably 94, then probably every year from 96-01, then a few seasons on and off until 2012. I always came for the change-over week so I had more shows to choose from. Always stayed at either Queens Inn or Bentleys. I have been to all of the venues. Productions.... I remember Into The Woods, Guys and Dolls (Bruce Dow is a friend of a friend), one of the worst South Pacific productions I have ever seen (I hate the show, but figured if anyone could do it justice, it would be SSF... but alas, it was during the years of a changing of the guard and it didn't grab me), As You Like It with the Barenaked Ladies scoring, Of Mice and Men with Graham Greene, Noises Off (which we just actually closed here with every show sold out) Hamlet, Macbeth, Dick the Prick (my term of endearment for Richard III), The Tempest, Othello, Glass Menagerie, Taming of the Shrew, Midsummer, King Lear.... I usually do about 10 days and do at least 6 shows. Gotta get my money's worth.
 

DrewE

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Joined
Mar 18, 2019
Location
Vermont
What about something based around one of these or something similar? Maybe with a transparent/translucent more flame shaped covering around them.

There are some similar battery operated gizmos available, too, though I suspect they may be somewhat less bright if that is a concern. It oughtn't be too hard to rig up a tiny 12V battery (maybe a few Li-ion cells) and inverter, too; there's no need for hundreds of watts or anything like that.
 

curtis73

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Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Location
Harrisburg, PA
I think until I get 12v worth of battery, an inverter, and everything else, I'll have one very large and very heavy torch.

I can do some LED tape, or maybe multiple flicker or flash LEDs inside some kind of housing, but I don't want a static flame. I have some GU10 flame bulbs like in your link, but they are downright awful. They are dim, and glow with an unrealistic reddish orange.
 

redmagik

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Joined
Feb 10, 2016
Location
Poughquag, Ny
We had a similar problem for a production of Evita and Beauty and the Beast (lumiere's hands). We used similar to these. They look great from the stage and you can build any type of "Torch" base around them.
We bought ours on Amazon. There are a variety of models avaialble.
 

curtis73

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Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Location
Harrisburg, PA
I would love to use those, but not sure how to get 120v into a handheld torch without excessive size or weight. I have taken one of those apart to see if I could bypass the 120v part and just power the LEDs with 12v, but (at least on the one I dissected) if I bypassed the 120v section, all of the LEDs were on solid. No flame effect.

Ideas for getting 120v? I notice they are in the 3-5W range, so I don't need a huge inverter, but I can't think of a practical way to get 120v without a lot of expense
 

NateTheRiddler

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Premium Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2018
Location
Arizona, US
Spitballing (I have little props knowledge, but I like a mental challenge):

What about fiber optic fibers, terminated at irregular lengths, with thin, translucent fabric surrounding in strips? Fiber bundles tend to be semi-rigid, but with a little hand shaking from the actor, they might sway irregularly enough to make the wavy fabric look irregular like flame... you’d just have to shoot the colors you want through the fiber bundle. Probably wouldn’t cast light around them very much, though.

Not sure how feasible or realistically doable this is; I’m making this up as I go from an unrelated class that isn’t holding my attention very well. XD
 
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DrewE

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Joined
Mar 18, 2019
Location
Vermont
Little inverters (150W or smaller, not that much larger than a deck of cards) are available from Amazon, etc. for under $20. Add a small 12V battery pack of some sort and you ought to be good to go. Four Li-ion cells in series would be one reasonable option for a battery that's not too large and not too expensive (should be doable under $10 for the battery with a bit of work). If the torches remain handheld, without being put down whilst on stage, the battery and inverter could presumably be hidden somewhere in the costume rather than in the torch with a power cord running along the arm.

Needless to say, due care would have to be taken to make sure this is all cobbled together in a safe manner that won't shock the actors or start a fire.
 

curtis73

Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Location
Harrisburg, PA
Crisis possibly averted. I found some of those flame bulbs that are 12-24v for landscape/solar applications. I ordered some, along with some rechargeable li-ion 9v batteries (which I'll wire in series for 18v), some 9v connectors, some switches, and bases for the bulbs. I guess I fire up the soldering iron on Friday when it all comes in.
 

Olddog

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Joined
Feb 1, 2018
Location
Canada
Years back I made a tiny battery powered silk flame torch with a small fan it all fit in a 5" bowl. Old school it had bulbs and gels, led's were not so available then.
 

curtis73

Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Location
Harrisburg, PA
I ordered some of those. They came in today. Obnoxiously loud. Returned.

That was my first idea, (to build some silk fan torches) but given my time crunch I didn't really want to put all the effort into it not knowing the outcome.

Once I get them built with the flame bulbs I'll post a video.
 

redmagik

Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2016
Location
Poughquag, Ny
I would love to use those, but not sure how to get 120v into a handheld torch without excessive size or weight. I have taken one of those apart to see if I could bypass the 120v part and just power the LEDs with 12v, but (at least on the one I dissected) if I bypassed the 120v section, all of the LEDs were on solid. No flame effect.

Ideas for getting 120v? I notice they are in the 3-5W range, so I don't need a huge inverter, but I can't think of a practical way to get 120v without a lot of expense

The units we used from Amazon were usb rechargeable. Small push button switch on the side. We also have used the solar powered landscape torches. There are a variety of battery models out there.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NK7XJ9N/?tag=controlbooth-20
 

curtis73

Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Location
Harrisburg, PA
I ordered these. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MG4BLIW/?tag=controlbooth-20

Along with t-connectors for 9v rechargeable batteries (and rechargeable batteries). I figured with 4w and 600mAh from the 18v I'll be sending, they should last at least an hour on a charge... assuming the off-brand batteries I chose live up to their name. By the numbers they should actually last 2 hours, but I'm trying to account for the dubious accuracy of the amazon descriptions of all the Chinese parts. Community theater, after all. Budgets are tight.

I'll probably build the torches out of PVC. Probably 1" handles and a 2" cup. I'll put a cap on the bottom with the switch. Then the PVC torch can be dropped into any one of several different sleeves for different types of torches depending on the show setting. That way they're future-proof for other shows.
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
I ordered these. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MG4BLIW/?tag=controlbooth-20

Along with t-connectors for 9v rechargeable batteries (and rechargeable batteries). I figured with 4w and 600mAh from the 18v I'll be sending, they should last at least an hour on a charge... assuming the off-brand batteries I chose live up to their name. By the numbers they should actually last 2 hours, but I'm trying to account for the dubious accuracy of the amazon descriptions of all the Chinese parts. Community theater, after all. Budgets are tight.

I'll probably build the torches out of PVC. Probably 1" handles and a 2" cup. I'll put a cap on the bottom with the switch. Then the PVC torch can be dropped into any one of several different sleeves for different types of torches depending on the show setting. That way they're future-proof for other shows.
@curtis73 Quoting you: "Community theater, after all. Budgets are tight."
Rarely money to do things right; always money to do things twice.
The lessons of 'Buy once, Cry once' only hold true if / when the items don't leave home without you.
Know when you're being ragged mercilessly.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

curtis73

Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Location
Harrisburg, PA
Success!

I'm trying to upload some photos on our lightning fast internet (sarcasm implied).

All the wiring harnesses are soldered and shrink wrapped and I got one assembled. For future reference, the cheapy pendant lamp socket replacements are a darn-near perfect press-fit in 1-1/4 PVC fittings.

So here is what I got:
- 1-1/4" PVC (one 10' stick cut into six 20-ish inch lengths)
- 1-1/4" x 2" PVC adapters.
- 6 A26 sockets
- 6 of the bulbs linked above
- 9v batt connectors
- some 22 ga wire
- rocker switches

The pictures should be self-explanatory. I haven't "dressed" them yet. I will likely get a bunch of sticks to make a fag (not a slur... look it up) that wraps around the PVC. In the one photo you'll see that I hogged out the shoulder end of the 1-1/4 reducer a little bit to make the cups of the sockets a light press fit, then I coated the inside of the shoulder with epoxy and tapped them in place. The rest should explain itself.
 

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curtis73

Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Location
Harrisburg, PA
They aren't quite done yet. I want to add a short stub of 2" PVC to cover the base of the bulb, and (as I said above), want to wrap it with sticks up to about the top of the bulb to obscure the obvious plastic cylinder, but here are a couple videos.

So far the batteries are holding out brilliantly. I assembled one and it has been "burning" for 45 minutes straight on two 600mAh (advertised) 9v batteries in series.