Say you want to make a replica of one of Luke Skywalker’s lightsabers… How would you do it? Check out TK560.com, billed as a site with “how-to guides for making your own movie props and costume replicas.” Jim Egner started the site in 2003 as an attempt to explain how to make props, a process he likens to a “black art. You don’t go to school to be a replica prop maker.” What’s the appeal? “Half the fun is making them. There is an art to it and a technical skills challenge,” explains Egner, who grew up on reruns of the original Star Trek TV series. “I enjoy the process of tracking down hard-to-find parts and making my favorite movie props. It, in some way, helps connect me to those movies.” The website has separate sections for Star Wars Episodes IV-VI and Star Trek: The Original Series, as well as miscellaneous scifi props.
Egner was 12 when he took his first stab at making a prop, a Star Trek
communicator or phaser. Pronouncing that effort “terrible,” Egner, who
is also a fan of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation in films like Jason and the Argonauts and It Came from Beneath the Sea,
says he didn’t try again until he was an adult. He started out with
kits — his first was a communicator kit sold by Gene Roddenberry’s son
— “but kit building got old; I wanted more. I wanted to do prop
replica making like the guys at the studios did it,” he says. His first
project from scratch was a re-creation of the Star Wars E-11
Imperial Stormtrooper blaster, building it after tracking down all the
“real world” parts that made up the original movie version. “This gave
me the confidence to try more challenging projects,” he allows.
The E-11 blaster, Luke’s first lightsaber and the M41-A pulse rifle from Aliens
are some of Egner’s favorite props because they’re ones he made just
like the prop masters did. In fact, he kept an online diary tracking
the making of the Aliens rifle because it was so involved.
“After 18 months, a lot of help from Kip H. and Phil S., a bankrupt
credit card, and a lot of flack from the wife, I am finally ready to
start the building process,” the diary reads in part. “There was no
‘how-to’ guide on many of these props,” Egner notes. “I had to just
work out the details and try to contact other builders for help.”