One of my favorite things about cosplay is the potential to create a masterpiece from what seems like thin air. While it may take thousands of hours to become a Master prop builder, the truth is anyone can start at any level. You aren’t required to have any background or field of expertise. All you need is a little info and a whole lot of patience.
Zach Pickard has a meticulous attention to detail and many hours of labor have produced some of the most amazing props and cosplay. I had the honor of interviewing him and I must say, He is one of the most down to earth and humble people in this community. I’m sure he would never say it, so I will.
“Zach Pickard is a Master in prop building and cosplay.” Get to know him here….
Mind if we tell the world who you are?
Hi I’m Zach, aka QE Props or Quantum Entanglement if you’re not into brevity. I’ve been doing prop and costume making since early 2013 as a hobby. Shortly after I started making props for myself and family I started getting requests for commissions and decided to make my hobby a side business.
Do you have any formal training that helped you with your craft?
I’m a mechanical engineer by trade with a background in composites, welding, machining, and drafting. I think having a background in some hands-on trades definitely helps with the manufacturing portion of the craft. My mother did a lot of sewing when I was young and I managed to pick up some knowledge from her as well.
That’s great having all those trades under your belt. How long have you been building?
I’ve been “building” since I was 5 years old when my parents got me my first Lego set. I started building plastic models around 8 years old. Home construction/remodeling and pinball machine repair started around 12 years old. It was only about 3 years ago that I decided to try making props and replicas, but I’ve always been working with my hands.
3 years is all? That’s amazing. What was your first build?
My first prop build was the M-97 Viper from mass Effect video game series. It took a couple months to build, didn’t have much detail or feature lights or moving parts. It was made from MDF and weighs in at almost 8 pounds. It’s a beast to carry around at conventions, but it’s built sturdy.
What methods do you use (Pepakura, Worbla, EVA foam, cardboard etc.)?
I use quite a few methods and materials depending on what is being built and what the purpose is. I like to use MDF for my prop weapons because they end up really sturdy and you can always swing them like a club if you need a real weapon. I’ve started working more with EVA foam but I’m still not sold on using it for every project. I also do some molding and resin casting when I have time and the materials.
Seeing as how It’s such a popular tool now, do you own a 3D printer?
I don’t own a 3D printer. I’ve worked with them quite a bit in my engineering jobs and I’m not convinced that they’re always the right tool for the job. And when I think about how long it would take me to make a 3D model and then print it and sand the surface smooth, I could build the same thing from scratch in just about the same time without having to worry about making sure the printer works properly. I have lots of friends that use printers for various projects and I just chuckle to myself every time they mention that something is broken or needs to be recalibrated.
Where do you purchase most of your materials? Do you ever get funny looks?
Occasionally when I’m checking out of a hardware store or fabric store they’ll ask what I’m working on. A lot of my materials come from online stores so I don’t have to explain what I’m making.
You have a beautiful Sparrow and are currently working on an awesome R2-Q5, what is your favorite build?
I’ve done so many projects over the last few years it’s hard to say which one is my favorite. Especially since most of the stuff I’ve built gets shipped off to customers all around the world and I don’t get to see them anymore. The Sparrow is by far the largest and people get really excited when they see it at conventions, but the rest of the year it just sits in the garage under a sheet. R2-Q5 is in work right now and my kids absolutely love that I’m building an Astromech droid. I think my Shield of Gondor and Orcrist from the Lord of the Rings movies would probably be my favorite. The shield only took a few days to build and I did it right before Fantasy Con here a few years ago because they had announced several stars from the LotR movies as special guests. I took the shield and got Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, and John Rhys-Davies to autograph the back of the shield for me. I hope to catch some of the other actors in the future and add to the collection.
Man that signed shield sounds priceless. Have you made weapons?
I’ve made a couple real swords. There was a Zelda fan film in work locally last year and they wanted a steel and an aluminum sword. The steel blade ended up extremely sharp. There’s a video on my Facebook page of me slicing through a pineapple. I felt no resistance when cutting through the pineapple and it kind of scared me for a second.
Ha-ha you’re a real life fruit ninja. Who’s your favorite Superhero?
I would say Tony Stark is my favorite superhero. His engineering mind and all the toys he gets to play with would be perfect for me.
How do you make time for your craft?
I usually only get a couple hours each evening to work in my shop after I get home. It’s not much but it keeps me sane.
Have you ever screwed up something so badly, it couldn’t be fixed?
I’ve had a couple setbacks. I was working on a Monado sword last year and the wires that were holding it up while it dried gave out. I went out the next morning and found it on the floor with a couple big dents. It set me back a couple days while I worked to repair the damage but I’ve never had to scrap an entire prop. I’ve scrapped small portions of them before when I try one method and it doesn’t work as well as I thought it would.
Dang that’s rough seeing all that work go down the drain. Have you ever taught anybody your method?
I try to post pictures to my pages every day that I’m working in the shop. I want to share my process with everyone so they can see how I do it and try it for themselves. I’m certainly not trying to keep my process a secret!
What’s your favorite snack?
Breakfast foods. I like pop tarts and cereal as snacks, but most breakfast foods will keep me happy.
Where can we find your work?
If you’re looking online, I have a page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/QEProps and I’m on Instagram and Twitter @QEProps. If you want to see my work in the real world, there are commissions all over the globe. I only adventure out to Utah local cons right now, travel and transportation costs are a bit too high for me to travel.
What advice would you give to newcomers in Prop building?
Get started building! EVA foam and MDF are cheap. Just start building something and learn how to do it yourself. There’s plenty of other builders out there that have tips and tricks, or how-to videos.
Shout outs? Mentors?
If you’re looking for other makers to follow and learn a lot, go for Frank Ippolito, Evil Ted Smith, Coregeek Cosplay Creations, Ryan Wells, and Punished Props. They all do great work. And they all dive into the details to show you how to do what they do.
Check out Zach P. here at QE Props
RYNO-666 of RYNO666.com
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