This blog-entry was inspired by an event that I helped out at today.
It was focused on the tools we use as set dressers, to which I offered up some of what I've learned over the years.
"This Saturday, January 17th, beginning at 9:00AM, Local 479 member and Warner Brothers Property Atlanta Manager, Nikki Giovacchini, will be hosting a workshop entitled, Set Decorating 102, "Building Off Of The Basics".
This class will be building off of the 101 class, with a more focused approach to Set Decorating. Come ready to have fun while learning your craft.
Who: Local 479 Members in good standing
What: Set Decorating 102 " Building Off of The Basics"
When: Saturday, December 17th, 2014 9:00AM
Where: 3645 Southside Industrial Pkwy., Atlanta, GA 30354"
I also participated in an informal round-table discussion about set decorating.
I am really impressed with these workshops and wished they had something like it when I was first starting out, so many years ago.
Like Riding a Bike...Sort of
It's been a while since I've worked regularly as a set dresser or for that matter a lead person. In order to prepare for the workshop at which I was going to be speaking, I needed to brush up and do some research. I hit the internet which was interesting, more on that...
I also decided to start off with the list that IATSE ( International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) Local 44 has written in there contract. I joined that local as a property person almost 25 years ago.
From the 44 contract:
"No employee shall furnish his own equipment (other than trade tools) or use such in furthering or assisting the Producer when compensated at minimum wage rates. All agreements to furnish equipment must be approved by the Business Representative of the Union.
Tool List for Property Person
12 oz. Claw Hammer
6-8" Adjustable Wrench
Cordless Screw Gun"
The Bare Minimum and Beyond
While that's a good starting point, I don't know anyone who has been set dressing for very long that brings that little to the job.
I decided to see what local Atlantan Set Dressers and lead persons thought were important tools to do your job, got on Facebook, on the Atlanta Art Department page and quiered,
"Good morning and TGIF; I'm helping out at tomorrow's Set Dressing 102 over at Warner Bros Property; We're going to be talking about tools; So what are some of the top essential tools for a Set Dresser."
The responses ran the gamut....
I've removed the names to protect the innocent and not so innocent.
- Here is one NO ONE EVER HAS...A Point Driver...for framing...you know how many times we have to take the glass out of picture frames, and end up taping the back, then you go to return the piece with the glass out and tape on the back, then the show ge...See MoreFletcher-Terry 07-500 Fletcher Frame Master Point Driver Wood 5/8 in.Picture framing tool that fires the new wax free flat...amazon.com
- NO...It is not a staple gun......and here is another tip...when using ...Do Not press down hard, as the impact can crack the glass..Be gentle..
- Good one but that really should be part of a Leadman kit. IMHO
Hammer hatchet combo...
- Yeah, back in grad school it was a toss up between that and a mat cutter.
I bought the mat cutter
- I'm my experience, if you ain't got it. Your gonna need it.10 hrs · Like · 5
- Jon Danniells That's funny because I used to carry with me a brad pusher, which is the hand tool version of what you posted and I haven't seen one in ages, and since I have been mostly decorating I haven't bothered getting one. On that note I think its about ti...See MoreCRL Brad PusherBuy CRL SCREW EYES AND WIRE BRADS - Best Prices! DKHardware - Home & Industrial Hardware...dkhardware.com
- blue tape, flashlight
- Alarm clock. Be on time.
- Jab saw/ Gomboy
Drill bit set
Screw bit set..
- Small level w magnetic side, changeable screwdriver flat and philips, small flashlight or get app for phone, gloves, tape measure, small nail remover that is also a small hammer on one side, always keep a micro rag in pocket, blue tape and electrical tape should hang from dresser belt, power drIll, in set dresser tool bag should be various hanging material for pictures and different size screws, etc., sharpie, small pencil, small note book, small pushup razor, box cutter, pliers, needle nose plier,….just off the top of my head….oh yes, READ THE SCRIPT!
- Good list Side question is reading the script a "on duty task"? Or something the dresser is required to do at home on there own time?
- it should be done at work…instead of being on fb
- Some dressers take the scripts on the trucks and read them there….but really dressers can quickly skim over script and get the jest of the story. Unless you are core, day players should not have to read script
- Handy dandy wire strippers. Also, there really is no set list
I had a show where I used a chainsaw for 2 weeks. Set dressing is random. My advice, be Batman. Every payday, buy something new. Look at other dressers. Hell, I have a 5 foot tall job box loaded, a plastic cart, a wooden cart with full box attached...loaded with stuff. You can't go wrong with tools. At some point you will need it no matter what it is.
- pair of dikes
- Something I wish people would hammer into others are the different screw types and the different sizes in the types, and the importance of using the correct driver.
I.E. the most common Phillip's is a size 2, but you will run into size 1 and 3 which l...
- Security Frame wrench- for pulling art off the wall in hotel lobbies, hospitals, etc
- Pipe cutter
- Proper outerwear. That way you don't piss and moan when it rains and you weren't prepared
- Oh.....and a damn phone charger. Don't be that guy. Don't be a Juice Snake
- I'm an on set dresser so my kit is a little different but the greatest gift I ever got was when a leadman gave me a full set of security & torque bits
- Yep… ALL the security drivers. Even the proprietary ones- the five sided hex-key (pent key?) for pulling big flat screens off the wall
- I also really like my folding pocket saw. I don't even use it every show but it sure has come in handy sometimes. I have an altodis tin that I keep in my belt pouch with just some emergency hardware items. A couple S-hooks, three or four screws, a clot
- A bus ticket. Rubbers. An alibi
- The ability to chew with your goddamn mouth closed
- oh shit..lol
- THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY
- .....'s a walking talking escalator.
- My kinda dude
- It was only a matter of time ....
- Chain splitters nobody ever has those,,and Joe's sticky
As you can see, a lot of opinions out there. And while it would be great for everyone to have the perfect bunch of tools to supplement the lead man's "tool for every purpose and occasion" kit, it's not realistic or even practical on many levels.
The producers typically only compensate leads and on-set dressers for their equipment. And because of the Jack-of-All trades nature of the job, no one and I mean no one has every tool for every possible situation and/or enough to have at every site we might be at.
As a lead, I have had to buy or rent specialty tools for one specific task. Generally the production company pays for that as it doesn't fall under what one would have in a standard kit, In many situations, we have needed to repurpose tools and equipment to become practical for a task that doesn't come up in "normal" situations.
For instance, I've had to have dollies custom made on many occasions, to make a heavy or awkward piece of dressing more "film-friendly". We had to age and distress thousands of feet of hemp rope on one show. After many different attempts, we came up with several different techniques that sped up the process, using tools in ways they were never intended to be used.
That said what makes up a basic set dressing "kit"? Keep in mind this post is Set Dressing 102, so by its very nature, I am addressing the basics and it is also only my opinion.
Also, when one is first starting money can be tight, so I'm keeping that in mind as well.
- Cheap and Easy
I went down to Home Depot and picked up this little set of tools for 20 bucks,
Not a bad start:
- 1 tape measure: 12ft., 1 level: 9 in., 1 claw hammer: 8oz1 adjustable wrench: 8 in.
- 4 nylon clamps 1 slip joint pliers: 6 in. , 1 long nose pliers: 6 in. , 1 diagonal pliers: 6 in. 1 Utility knife; 5 knife blades
- 4 precision screwdrivers: slotted: 3/32 and 1/8 in.; Phillips: PH00 and PH0 1 pair of scissors 22 hex keys: .050, 1/16, 5/64, 3/32, 7/64, 1/8, 9/64 5/32, 3/16, 7/32 and 1/4 in., 1.27, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5 and 6mm (SAE CRV and Metric CRV)
- 29 1 in. CRV bits: Phillips: PH0, (2) PH1, (3) PH2 and PH3; Pozi: PZ1, PZ2 and PZ3; Slotted: 1/8, 5/32, 3/16, 7/32, 1/4 in.; Star: T10, T15, T20, T25 and T30; Hex: 1/16, 5/64, 3/32, 1/8, 5/32, 3/16, 7/32, 1/4 and 9/32 in.
- 1/4 in. Hex x 1/4 in. square drive adapter; 1 blow mold case
I'm not going to make another list , but I will add several comments.
Tape Measure- I suggest 25 foot.
Screwdriver-A four-in-one will cover the majority of situations
An extra battery--Make sure they're both charged.
Safety Glasses and Gloves--Take care of yourself
Headlamp-Better than a flashlight, frees up your hands.
It's important for your stuff be organized and mobile.
The pen, Sharpie, the notepad, tape measure, knife and multi-tool should be with a set dresser at all times.
I could go on and on and on in regards to "The Basic Set Dressing Tool Kit" , but I'll stop for now.
There will be additional posts on Set Dressing issues as well beggining to touch on the job of Set Decorator and Buyer.