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What is real?

Along the lines of my liking of Star Trek, I have also been starting a new hobby in 2020. I've always been fascinated by technology and of course the technology in Star Trek is portrayed as very much advanced from what we use today (although laughable at times). We watch actors on TV playing roles and using gadgets and it all looks very cool but it's not real... is it?

The answer is, yes and no. There are usually real props these folks manipulate in the episodes but typically they aren't what we call "real" in that a phaser doesn't really hurt anyone and a tricorder doesn't really scan anyone or anything. Still it's fun to imagine a time when something like this could become real.

Since I was a kid, I have always wanted to hold these items in my hands and "play" Star Trek, get fully immersed in the experience of the shows, the stories. So in 2020, I stumbled on a prop making group on Facebook for Star Trek props and immediately was amazed at what folks like us could do on our own to make that wish of holding a PADD or Phaser, or have a LCARS terminal on our desk, a reality.

I started looking at things that would be "easy" to make and decided PADDs made sense. So I started looking for kits I could put together and found some on eBay and Etsy. I purchased one and got started.

Fresh acrylic PADD layer (top)

The kit was comprised of 3 acrylic panels laser cut in the shape of the PADD and some decals I would put on last. I quickly found friends in the group willing to help and encourage me with my prop making efforts and started sanding the acrylic. I did it all by hand and it took a little while to sand things smooth and rounded off where necessary.

Sanded layers

Once I had things sanded, I figured I better find some paint so I could make the PADD match screen used colors as close as possible. I was told that Krylon is most desired but some original props used Rustoleum or other automotive paints. Krylon goes on nice and dries faster so I went with a pewter grey Krylon paint for this PADD.

Paint applied and rough spots ready for gluing.

After painting it was time to glue things together. I have some superglue and that seemed to fit the bill nicely. I made sure there were roughed up areas inside the "sandwich" of acrylic layers so that the glue would adhere nicely and was very careful to line things up.

Assembled, painted acrylic layers

Amazing! This actually is starting to look like a PADD from the shows DS9 and Voyager.

Finally I applied decals, very carefully and man, I was impressed how close it looked to what I saw on screen. I was so happy and my friends also liked what they saw. Now the PADD was real to me in that I was able to hold one in my hands, feel what it would have been like to be one of those actors holding a similar prop on set while delivering some lines of technobabble to get the ship and crew out of danger, or to just read while sipping on some Klingon Coffee.

Finished PADD prop replica

Later on, I realized I had forgot something as the paint started to rub off especially on the edges... clear coat! I ended up repainting the edges and then applying a clear coat over the whole thing and now that PADD sits on my desk every day.

That was just the beginning however. I will write more about my adventures in prop making and enjoyment so watch this space!

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Lots of things to talk about, haven't made an entry in a while. Wanted to post that I have secured and can be reached at among other methods. I will write more later.

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Dan Zimmerli
Dan Zimmerli
Jan 11, 2021

Incidentally if anyone is interested in purchasing my props, let me know and I can get you the details. I have 3 for sale (not including this one), 2 are DS9/Voyager style like this and one is a "Voyager Endgame" PADD (shown in the main image for this post)

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