Custom, precision versions of our FCG and Hitcher props
engineered by phantasmechanic Brad Walstrom

Contact: [email protected]

Our props so inspired one builder that he went so far as to CAD-CAM the plans and precision machine them with a computerized Bridgeport mill and metal lathe! This process takes many hours of work, and considering how much faster the methods I use are, I had to wonder why he did it. After all, these props can take a licking and keep on ticking the way we build them. From Brad's perspective, however, that was beside the point.

It's a bit like customizing a car or motorcycle - or going to the moon: Why? Because you can, and the results are so cool. All these props need is a coat of custom paint to be ready for a show. Orange County FCG's? West Coast Hitchers? Never mind - just enjoy these clean machines! You'll also discover along the way some great prop improvement tips Brad passed on to me. For instance, you can now add real bearings to our props affordably, and there's a great new way to make FCG marionette hands that really pose. Keep reading...

Above: Brad's ultralight FCG motor platform is still very strong despite the many holes. He uses 6061-T6 aluminum channel for the frame - it's harder, he says, and machines very well. "Check out a local metal supply house... you can get better material... for the same or less then what you are paying at Home Depot," he wrote, and added, "the 1"X1"X1/8 aluminum angle cost me about $5.50 for an 8' length from Capitol Metals."

Also, notice that there are real bearings on the 3-hole pivot washer. "They [the Torrington NTA 411 bearing shown below] cost me $1.40 each. at Bearing Belt and Chain (602-252-6541) here in Phoenix." He adds, "I used Stainless Steel flat washers I got at Copper State Bolt & Nut (602-548-1975.) A box of 100 cost me $2.89."

(addenda 1/27/05) Brad: The only correction I would like to make is that the NTA 411 are thrust washers and I used them on the hitchhiker at all of the pivot points, although your idea of using them for the pivoting fender washer will also work well. I turned my pivot washer out of aluminum and pressed a roller bearing into it. The other thing I think would be good to add is that I found it quicker and easier to get the right tension on the pivot washers on the hitchhiker by using one nyloc nut rather then the two jam nuts.

Below: The humble FCG hand gets a makeover, below, and finds a way to avoid glue and mess while also finding more agility:

"I got some cheap white cotton gloves from the costume shop ($2.00 a pair.) I then went to a picture frame shop and got some foam core board scraps for free. I cut the foam core board to be the wrist and palm of the hand and then stuck some flexble wire in the edge of the foam core for the fingers. I bent the ends so they would go into the gloves without snagging."

Brad expounds on his marionettte modifications as follows:

"For the body frame work of the FCG and the Hitchers I used gas welding rod. You can get one pound packages very cheap - probably less then $5.00. I used 3/32. It is the same size as a heavy coat hanger. The welding rod is stiffer and holds its shape better than the coat hangers that are soft and more flexible. I also have some 1/16 welding rod I have used for lighter things, but it isn't heavy enough for arms and shoulders."

Below: Brad's lean-and-clean Hitcher mechanism. I'm filled with Bridgeport mill envy. ;-)

Brad adds a helpful hint for shaping the mask heads for the hitcher ghosts:

"The heads for the hitcher can be shaped by putting them in boiling water. The water has to be at a full boil to soften the plastic. Pull it out of the boiling water and hold it in the shape you want it and then dunk it in the kitchen sink full of cold water to set it. I used a pair of tongs to dunk it in the hot water, and as soon as it came out of the water was able to handle the plastic to shape it. You have to work fast because it cools rapidly. It took several tries to get them the way I wanted. You can also do small areas; one side of the head wasn't just the way I wanted so I just dunked that part in the hot water to reshape that one area."

I'd like to thank Brad for all this devoted work on improving our props, and I think many builders will benefit from his advice.



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