How to Make Breakable Props

By Jennifer Young

Things Needed

  • Measuring tape
  • Permanent marker
  • Balsa foam, Styrofoam or cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Sculpting tool
  • Engraving tool
  • Hot knife
  • Spray paint
  • Styrofoam adhesive or strong adhesive
A breakaway end table can be built and broken during a stage fight scene.

Theaters often use breakaway furniture or props during stage productions. These props are lightweight and can easily be moved on and off the stage. If the production requires the prop to collapse or break, you can build the furniture so it looks sturdy, but breaks and reassembles easily to prevent or reduce injury to the actors.

Decide which type of prop you wish to build. Props can include tables, chairs or almost any type of inanimate object. Measure the object you wish to create with measuring tape. You will need height, depth, width and circumference measurements as applicable. Draw a rough sketch of the object on a piece of paper and transfer the measurements to the sketch. Label each piece of the construction with a number designation.

Gather balsa foam, Styrofoam or cardboard in sheets, tube or block sizes that will accommodate all of the pieces you need to recreate for your prop. Label the pieces with the corresponding number designation.

Prepare the sculpting tools according to the manufacturer's recommendations, which might include heating the tools and removing any protective packaging. Use the scissors, sculpting tool, engraving tool and hot knife to carve the appropriate shaped pieces.

Assemble the pieces together one at a time using a Styrofoam adhesive or strong glue for the balsa foam. Spray the adhesive on one part, position it on the second part and allow the adhesive to dry completely before adding new pieces.

Paint the prop using spray paint. Allow the paint to dry completely.

Tip

After the prop is collapsed, you might need to make some replacement pieces to use the prop again. Carve the replacement pieces, reassemble the prop and touch the paint up as needed for each performance.

Balsa foam and Styrofoam are both easy-to-carve materials. Household items can be used to carve or create impressions in the materials. Carve a small amount of material at a time so that you can get a good feel for how the tool works and substitute the tool as needed.

Warning

Exercise caution when carving or cutting the balsa foam, Styrofoam or cardboard props. Regardless of what carving tool you use, you can be injured. Use heat-protective gloves when using heat tools and work gloves during cutting to prevent injuries.

Ensure proper ventilation and protective material such as goggles and a mask during gluing and spray painting to reduce the amount of fumes that are inhaled.

About the Author

Jennifer Young has worked as a writer, editor and book publisher for professional life coaches and business entrepreneurs since 2007. She has specialized training and experience in project management and procurement, as well as contracting services. Young earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in both history and Japanese studies.