Sunday, July 1, 2012

OBJECT #12: Phaser

    This is a relic from my teen years.  I discovered Star Trek at about age 12, as a week day afternoon re-run on our 12-inch black and white television in the basement.  My parents only used the television on rare occasions like a televised Pirates or the Steelers playoff game.  I don’t remember how or why I discovered Star Trek, but it didn’t take me long to became a Trekkie.  Kids today have no concept of what it is like to have extremely limited access to tv shows and movies.  Star Trek came on at 5 pm and if you didn’t catch the first part of the episode, who knows how long it would be before you’d ever see that bit again.  78 more episodes had to air before you’d come back to that one again!  (Although it seemed that certain episodes aired more frequently than others.)   I’ve told me kids (probably too many times) that when Star Wars came out, some avid fans would go to the theater to see it several nights every week.  Kind of extreme, but not quite so much when you consider that before VCRs, when a film went out of circulation, it was gone.  All you had were your memories.

    When I was about 13 I went with my family to San Francisco to visit relatives.  My parents were kind enough to take me to a Star Trek store in Berkeley.  A whole store filled with Star Trek stuff.  I had saved my allowance for weeks ahead of time but found that even with all that saving I couldn’t afford most of the things in the shop.  I bought an “official” uniform emblem patch and some other similar small items, but left without any props or uniforms.  I don’t remember being disheartened, though.  I think I was inspired.  When I got some I went to work making my own props.

    I decided to tackle something easy first, and I made a tribble.  A tribble is just a ball of fur. No legs, no eyes, no mouth, no ears.  Tribbles were easy.  I kept those tribbles for years, but it’s been just long enough now that I’ve lost track of what became of them.  Many of my childhood items finally met their end when my oldest children were small.  They loved to play with Mom’s stuff and did so frequently enough that... certain incidents occurred.  We’ll leave it at that.

    I found a blue long-sleeved shirt and stitched the official patch on the chest and some glittered rick-rick trim around the cuffs.  Fortunately for me, costume design had not reached the degree of sophistication it has today.  It was relatively easy to create a fairly authentic looking uniform.

    I made some Vulcan ears out of foam and painted them with acrylic paints, trying to match them to my skin tone.  I don’t think they were very convincing.  I had much better success with the props.  I had been working with wood since I was about three years old.  My parents tell me I started pounding nails into boards at a very young age.  I almost cut off my finger with a coping saw at age six, but that did not deter me at all.  I just learned not to be careful.  (The only other accident I remember was several years later when I slipped with an X-Acto wood carving knife and found out that blood can spurt, not just leak.)   So by my teen years I had all my major mishaps behind me and had learned how to use tools pretty well.

    I had already purchased some plastic model kits--a phaser, a communicator and a tricorder-- so I had more than just photos to guide me.  The plastic models were pathetically small, though.  The phaser looked way too small even when held by a child.  I wanted a real phaser.  So I took measurement and doubled the size of the plastic model.  This may have been the first time I used a large block of wood and I can’t remember how I actually cut it.   It must have used my trusty coping saw. Some of the details were made of foil.  I did not know much about types of glue back then and it’s amazing that the whole thing stayed together with just white glue.   The communicator is a little worse for the wear, as the homemade metal hinge was a bit delicate.

    Several years later, as an older teen, I made a tiny phaser as a necklace charm.  It’s not junk in my basement, as it resides in an old jewelry box in my bedroom.  (Burglars would be very disappointed with the contents of that jewelry box:  phaser necklace, Sunday School attendance award pins, a cheaply made bagpipe pin, a Roman coin, a few other award pins, and my collection of my primary teeth (well, the Tooth Fairy would have thrown them out, so I decided to keep them).  
      When I switched from Star Trek to Star Wars, I created a Chewbacca suit and a Darth Vader mask.  But those are junk in my attic.  When I run out of junk in my basement, I’ll have plenty of material left in my attic.

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