Building Fallout Props on a Budget with Chunk-A-Nuke Props

Christopher Hockett got into the post-apocalyptic culture just like I imagine the rest of us did: he grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. Mad Max, Waterworld, The Postman, Escape From New York, and The Day After are all movies Chris cites as influences for not only the way he was raised, but also his style of propmaking.

Chunk-A-Nuke Props is Christopher’s brainchild he began after running across a AER9 Laser Rifle build from Volpin Props about eight years ago. “I have always been crafty since I was little and figured I would give it a go,” he said about duplicating the iconic Fallout 3 weapon.

But Chunk-A-Nuke isn’t all about expensive materials and fancy technology; Chris prides himself on making the best props on a tight budget. “I just have this thing for repurposing,” he told me. “And the way the clothing, armor, and weapons have this grimy, rusty, and hastily thrown-together look due to using whatever you can find laying around to make what you’re crafting serve a purpose, even if it is not what that piece was originally intended for.

“I would have to say that I am a repurposer or just a Cheap-o,” he continued. “I don’t exactly have the money that other big name prop builders have and I don’t want to let that stop me from doing what I love, so I use trash, common household items, and freebies. I try to spend as little as possible. It’s a challenge but that’s how I like it.”

Chris also goes by the name LIBERTYprime (or, at times, L1B3RTYPR1M3) in most of his professional work, dating back to an old moniker he came up with for The Wasteland Outpost forum. That site and community helped him create his first build: a suit of T45d Brotherhood Outcast armor and matching Gatling Laser from Fallout 3. “I still have them both on display with my Fallout collection,” he said. “I don’t think I can ever bring myself to get rid of them as they hold a special place in my heart. I love just looking at them and remembering how it all started for me.”

But Chris admits that his technique hasn’t changed much over the years, aside from his painting style. “I still use trash and whatever freebies I can.” In fact, a Multiplas Rifle that he credits as his favorite work so far was built using electronics that Chris wasn’t sure would even work. “It was quite a challenge for me to build due to the overall shape and the electronics. I’m still surprised I was able to get the lights to work with the junk I used.”

Right now, the goal with these props and costumes is to have the largest Fallout prop collection anywhere. “I think I’m pretty close if not already there,” he said. But aside from the collection, he hopes to just keep making props that people will enjoy. “I really just want to inspire people to get out there and build something.”

That inspiration comes in so many forms with Chunk-A-Nuke’s portfolio, but the underlying lesson here is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to make something memorable. “Don’t let funds, lack of tools, or your skill set get in the way of getting out there and just building something because there is always a way,” Chris offers. “Take as much constructive criticism as you can and don’t get upset when someone says that you can improve on something. It may hurt your feelings a bit when you spent so much time on something but I know it has helped me tremendously and I actually look forward to people pointing out the flaws in my work. Not everyone out there is trying to be a troll.”

Exploring the German Postapo Scene: An Interview with Rad Roach Gear

Photo by Freitag Fotografie

If you’ve been following the current post-apocalyptic costuming and LARP trends, you may have noticed that the European scene is some serious business. No, really… they don’t mess around. Most notably is what’s going with the more hardcore events like Oldtown, Bunker Springs, Fate, Resistopia, and more. Germany has risen as a hub for the very best of this scene, in my opinion, and a couple of the recent stars to shine are Chris and Mika from Rad Roach Gear.

Photo Credit: Moritz Jendral

These two started the business in 2015 after attending their first post-apocalyptic LARP. “I came up with the name because i wanted it to sound interesting,” Chris told me. “And yet convey the message of something that is tough and has a relation to the trash we use to build some of our gear, while not sounding boring and standard.”

Being a huge fan of the Fallout series, I just had to ask if the name was inspired by the game’s squishy, mutated enemies, but Chris assures me that it’s only partially the case. “Rad is slang for radical but also means radioactive, so it comes in pretty handy. And as radroaches convey the feeling for me, we agreed to name our project Rad Roach Gear. So yep, it’s based on Fallout… kind of.”

But it’s where Rad Roach Gear has gone in such a short time that is most impressive, mostly proven by the photos in the gallery below. “Although it started with building LARP equipment, it quickly evolved into much more,” Mika said. “By now we have built show outfits, props, weapon props, decorations, and artsy shit in general. With RRG we take the freedom to create not only post-apocalyptic gear, but also stuff influenced by other genres like horror, dystopia, tribal, etc.”

Photo Credit: Moritz Jendral

In that short period of time, Rad Roach has developed a distinct style that American costumers like our previous interviewee, Larry Hastings of Vulture Production, cites as an influence. “Man, I should have made up a fancy and cool word by now,” Chris joked about naming their style. “But to keep it simple, I would describe my style as ‘art that you can wear.’ Although when I build props or decorations, I’d just say it’s ‘art.'”

Mika, on the other hand, does have a word for her style: “Fancy-shmancy raiderswag.” We couldn’t agree more.

And while it may be a lot of work for the two, Rad Roach Gear is not their full-time job. Mika is currently dividing her time among university study, work, and crafting while Chris has another job. “Building post-apocalyptic props is not really a thing that can make you a living because there is basically no market for it — even less so here in Germany. I studied Graphic Design for two and a half years, and after that i worked as a painter and decorator. But to be honest that doesn’t really matter as people who build postapo kits can come from any background whatsoever. You have lawyers, construction workers, chefs, students, etc. Basically, anyone who loves the genre can join and be creative.”

Chris’ graphic design background did help with the interpretation of his vision for RRG projects, but he cites tabletop gaming and painting miniatures as an early inspiration for what colors to use and learning how shadows work on a real 3D model.

Photo Credit: Traumerloren

Mika has always been interested in art and has several outlets for her creativity. “Next to costumes, I create a lot of jewelry, synthetic dreads, and anything else that comes into my mind,” she said. “For example, I sewed a harness last year.”

Although her post-apocalyptic work is quite amazing, she says that it’s a general direction for her that can lead to other ideas. “It can be influenced by sci-fi, tribal, military, haute couture, and much more. I’d love to do some dystopian/dark futurestuff sometime.”

You can’t just throw some random shit together and call it a post-apocalyptic outfit.

But it’s the improvements to her techniques that Mika hopes to use on these new projects. “I’ve learned different techniques to weather different materials and I’ve learned to find the proper order for the single steps while creating an outfit. But I still tend to get carried away with sewing and end up thinking, ‘Shit! You should have weathered the fabric first…’ Also, I had to learn that good things take time and that quality goes over quantity… and to not force a creative process (at least not too much!) Mistakes were made!”

Chris, however, approaches his technique from a different angle. “To be perfectly honest, my techniques really did not change that much, but I learned that you need to be patient and that a proper kit requires time and preparation. You can’t just throw some random shit together and call it a post-apocalyptic outfit. Of course, I learned to apply different techniques more properly over time, but that’s just the natural development when you learn a new skill.

“Nowadays I draw most of my inspiration from people in the community building awesome gear,” he continued. “To namedrop just a few, Aesthetic Apocalypse, Radioactive Armory, Wasteland Pirate, or Dust Monkey for example. Also the usual influences like movies or games — basically anything that makes me go, “Wow, now that’s cool. Let’s try to build something similar!”

Photo Credit: Micha Beckers

Mika finds most of her inspiration from fashion, be it extravagant haute couture, fetish gear, or even sci-fi costumes. But she says that there’s also an equal part from tribal and native cultures, as well as ancient religions. “Honestly, I feel this question is hard to answer because I, too, have the philosophy of ‘That looks cool, I’m gonna make my own version of it!'”

Mika and Chris are proud members of an elite group of European post-apocalyptic costumers known as the Wasteland Warriors. Chris describes the group as more of a German/International post-apocalyptic act. “We met the Wasteland Warriors at the Roleplay Convention in Cologne in 2016,” he recalls. “After that we became members and met a lot of awesome and talented people. A highlight was working at the world’s biggest metal festival, Wacken 2016, with them as part of a booked walking act. It was hard work but lots of fun!”

Since Rad Roach Gear was started, the two have created several props, accessories, and full costumes. Chris says that his favorite kit would have to be his Wasteland Warrior Riot Gear that’s based on an actual chest protector from the ’80s. “Over the last year i added tons of cool stuff to it and I kept the pieces modular so i can interchange equipment. Last summer i realized that my head got sunburned so i added a hood, for example. The process of building gear is a continous development. In Germany we have the saying, ‘Your gear is NEVER finished!'”

Photo Credit: Rad Roach Gear

“I have the feeling that I always like my latest stuff the most,” Mika adds. “I get tired quickly by my own stuff. But if I had to name something that I like the best it would be my Motocross helmet and my plateau boots, because in combination they give you strange proportions and make you look creepy! A few things i am working on right now seem to turn out pretty decent, so stay tuned.”

Completely intrigued, I asked about those current projects. Just what are Mika and Chris working on? “I am working on a postapo tribal/voodoo/bellydancing outfit with an elaborate headpiece and some basic stuff for a few LARP events in 2017. I have tons of unfinished smaller stuff like masks, jewelry, or gloves in my room, so these things are finished spontaniously. I often create things that aren’t postapo-related at all like dreamcatchers, decorations out of bones, dreadjewelry, etc.”

“I’m working on a mutant costume for an upcoming LARP event in May 2017,” Chris added. “Also, I’m experimenting with casting real animal skulls in resin so you can use them with gear more easily. Other than that, there are tons of different small ideas I am working on: hats, gloves, an acidthrower prop, goggles, different modded Nerf guns, a vest and a jacket just to name a few.”

Chris says that his process involves taking a step back and refocusing when he runs out of ideas. This helps him regain energy and try something different. “I don’t believe forcing creativity works when you’re shooting for the best result.”

Photo Credit: Freitag Fotografie

This advice directly carries over to those looking to get into the hobby for the first time. Whether you’re an established artist looking to branch out into costumes or a veteran costumer looking to get into the distressed and weathered post-nuclear side of things, it’s all about trial and error. “Don’t try to be perfect at your first try,” Mika advises. “I like the creation of postapo-style clothing because it unites many levels of different crafting types. You are going to have to sew, to age, to design, to screw, and to collect and use materials you never used before. It takes time to become familiar with it. So take your time but don’t settle for mediocrity.

“You have the chance to build something amazing out of scratch and are only limited to your imagination, so please don’t settle for mediocrity. This way your clothing can reflect who you are as a person and an artist and you’re never gonna want to take it off!”

Photo Credit: Traumverloren

Another important tip from Mika is about comfort. “Try to make your clothing as wearable as possible. Even if that means you have to wear parts of it for a few hours in your room. Nothing sucks more than spending a tremendous amount of time on an outfit you don’t wanna wear.”

Chris agrees, adding that you should always start small and not overthink what you’re trying to make. “Be prepared to scrap entire projects because you realized that what you had in mind doesn’t work. If that happens, take a step back, disassemble what you built and start new. The good thing when building postapo stuff is that you can’t really fuck it up by destroying your piece. The more you destroy it, the better it will look if you reassemble it because any scratch and hole you made can be repaired and makes your work more believable.

“Start small to save money. Develop your own style. Crafting props isn’t something that can be done one way only, and what may work for others may not work for you!”

Another piece of helpful advice from Chris comes in the form of the old time/money/quality triangle that service professionals and craftsman have been reciting to their customers for years. “You can’t have all three,” he points out. “If there is little time or money, then quality will suffer. The more time and/or money that is available to the project, the higher the quality can be. This theory perfectly applies to building your own postapo gear. If you search for good materials at fleamarkets and yard sales, it will take time. If you dont want to spend this time you will need to spend money for a quality build.

“And for the love of all that is high and mighty, weather and distress your gear! And don’t be afraid to destroy something! The destruction of perfectly good items is part of building postapo gear. A lot of beginners have a fear of ripping apart ‘that new jacket they bought,’ just to end up with a jacket that looks only halfway done. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty! Immersing yourself into a post-apocalytic atmosphere only works when your gear looks old and used, so do not just throw on some fetish gear and assless chaps. A bit of dust is not enough weathering to look like proper post-apocalyptic gear, at least in my opinion.”

Be sure to check out the work of Chris and Mika at the Rad Roach Gear Facebook page and support their art by throwing a like their way.

Next up we have an interview with Deadbeard Props, so look for that one coming next week!

Mouse over gallery images below for photo credits. Header image by Freitag Fotografie.

Industry Legend Mark Cordory Talks Doctor Who, LARP, and What it Means to be SALVAGED

His name may not be a household fixture just yet, but if you’re any fan of sci-fi or fantasy pop culture, you know his work. Mark Cordory has been making magic behind the TV, film, and music industry scenes for over 30 years now, but it’s his most recent incursion into the post-apocalyptic costuming scene that really caught our attention and the attention of the unwashed masses hungry for the genuine article during this tidal wave of popularity for the genre.

Photo credit: Photograph © Mark Cordory Creations

If you do a search for “post-apocalyptic costume” on Pinterest, you’ll notice that the top hits are usually Mark’s masterpieces (go ahead and look, we’ll wait). And this isn’t a coincidence. Mark’s talent, combined with his experience and awareness of current trends, has driven him straight to the top.

I was honored to chat with Mark about his work, for one, because I’m a big fan of Torchwood and Doctor Who in general. Mark worked on props for both Torchwood and the Doctor Who TV series from 2005 to 2007, in what he modestly describes as an extra dash of luck. “Obviously as someone who grew up watching Doctor Who through the ’70s and ’80s I’m immensely proud to have been able to work on the production when it returned to our screens with Christopher Eccleston and later David Tennant,” Mark said. “I was fortunate enough to be working in the right industry in the right city at the right time and when I heard it was returning I was determined to be involved. The fact that I ended up running a whole department for the production will always be a matter of pride and I think we did some great stuff with remarkably limited facilities.”

Mark has always been interested in the artistic side of life, although it wasn’t a simple or easy path growing up in the UK. “Art classes were always my strong point throughout school and so once I left I was always going to try to find a degree course that was artistically based,” he recalled. “Back in the late ’70s, early ’80s there wasn’t really much choice in the UK for courses that provided any specific inroad into TV and film work, though. Theatre Design was pretty much the main option, so that’s what I chose. However, since graduating I’ve worked pretty much full time in the TV and film industries in the UK until I took a conscious decision a few years ago to cut down my workload in that area. But during that time I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some fantastic productions.”

And those production are indeed quite fantastic, spanning everything from children’s puppets to a heavy metal icon. “I guess a lot of things I’ve worked on will only really be known to those who’ve grown up in the UK,” Mark pointed out. “But among the most notable were probably designing and sculpting the dragon ‘Smirkenorff’ for the popular UK TV series Knightmare (a UK children’s game show that utilised really early blue screen, puppets, and computer graphics which ran from 1987 to 1994). I’d also add working as a props maker on the BBC series Maid Marian and Her Merry Men and Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride, and designing and building Eddie for Iron Maiden’s Fear of the Dark album and tour. And, of course, being Head of Dept for Props Fabrication for the Eccleston and early Tennant era of Doctor Who and Torchwood.”

Photo credit: Photograph © Mark Cordory Creations

But Mark isn’t only proud of his professional industry work, he’s also pleased with his freelance creations, including his “The Scourge” pirate goblin puppet that currently acts as his company logo, as well as his post-apocalyptic LARP kit. In fact, Mark is an avid LARPer, having enjoyed what he calls “an abiding passion” for over 33 years now.

Mark started Mythlore LARP back in 1985 and continues to create some amazing costumes, props, and scenic FX for all genres of LARP events all across the UK. Sometimes it’s these individual projects that really keep Mark’s creativity flowing. “I guess you could call pieces like these ‘vanity projects’ or indulgences, but sometimes it’s good not to be constrained by things like budgets and to really let yourself experiment since the things you learn in the process will always feed back into your regular work and help improve it so everyone benefits in the end.”

Photo credit: Photograph © Mark Cordory Creations

But it’s that distinct Mark Cordory style that really makes all of his creations stand out. The attention to detail, the application and realization of what real weathering looks like, and the variation of materials all come together to make truly inspirational pieces. “There are a lot of talented crafters out there in the post-apocalyptic genre and it’s a constant drive for me to ensure my own work remains recognisable and distinct from other peoples,” he admits. “…Especially since this isn’t just a hobby or a job that’s in addition to an existing wage. I need to make my living off designing and making props and costumes both for industry jobs and private clients, so I need to make it worth while for clients to choose me over all the other crafters and makers out there who are also producing great pieces. I think we all have our own approaches, and mine’s certainly informed by my experiences within the industry. You pick up tips and techniques that maybe aren’t widely known, certain ways of using materials and little things that you can build on and develop into different approaches to finishes, etc.”

While Mark acknowledges the hundreds of helpful online tutorials for post-apocalyptic propmaking, he stresses the importance of trying something different. “Personally, I specifically try to avoid some of the more common techniques since they create a very specific finish. Concrete, for example, is often used for dust ageing but I try to avoid using it if at all possible simply because I want to try to make my work look different. There’s no right or wrong approach to designing or ageing items or kit, but as I said, I’m constantly experimenting and working to develop new techniques to try to make my own pieces stand out in terms of style and finishes. I’d hate to think that everyone’s work eventually looked the same because we all took the same approach to designing and ageing our work.”

Of course, Mark’s work wasn’t always so refined. “The great thing about my business is that there’s rarely ever an instruction manual for what you’re making, every job poses new challenges and requires new approaches if you’re going to get the best out of it. My techniques have changed beyond all recognition from when I first started, and yet at the same time many are still based upon skills I learned early on in my career, you just keep pushing them and adapting them and trying new things with them.

“Back when I was first training I was given the task of ageing items that I’d made and the idea of breaking down these things that had taken me days or possibly weeks to make felt like sacrilege, but now, years later, the whole process of ageing and distressing items is quite possibly the most enjoyable part of the creative process for me, especially when it’s applied to my post-apocalyptic work.”

Photo credit: Photograph © Mark Cordory Creations

It’s this unique approach to his work that inspired Mark’s new SALVAGED line of costumes made specifically for post-apocalyptic fans. “Initially, the post apocalyptic work was only a fraction of my work output, but as it increased I realised I needed to ‘brand’ it beyond just my name, and the SALVAGED title just seemed to sum up the way I was working: taking old discarded items and re-purposing them into something new. […]But it’s rapidly become my main passion and I think I get the most pleasure out of making kits for this genre.”

Mark also jokes about the importance of truly repurposing materials, which is perfect for this style. “I also like to think it’s a little bit of payback for my years in an industry that generates quite so much landfill and waste. Many of the materials we use like fibreglass and polystyrene will be sitting in landfill for generations to come, but now I’m taking things that would’ve otherwise just ended up there and giving them a new lease of life. It’s a small spit in the ocean I know, but it feels better than filling up a skip every couple of weeks.

“But in all honesty, SALVAGED has come about simply because I love the work and want to do more of it and thankfully it’s leading to some really interesting commissions and collaborations. In 2016 I launched the SALVAGED line and got some lovely commissions including being invited over to work on a post-apocalyptic escape room in France. This year I’m collaborating with festival organisers, musicians and bands, film producers, new escape rooms and LARP groups and it’s all post apocalyptic work, it just seems to keep growing. I’m also appearing at the large SciFi Weekender convention in the UK in March as part of the Doctor Who panel but I’ll be trading there too. There’ll be a few Doctor Who themed pieces but predominantly it’s going to be my PA work.”

Mark also offers practical advice for those looking to get into an industry that works almost exclusively with plastics, rubbers, and paints. “One important thing I would say though is to always make sure you have a good health and safety regime. Always wear appropriate filter masks and eye protection whenever necessary. Use processes and materials sensibly. I can’t stress this enough: you only get one set of lungs and eyes, make sure you keep them!”

Be sure to check out Mark’s portfolio on his website, his Pinterest account, and find out more about him and his professional experience on his IMDb profile

Mouse over gallery images below for photo credits. Header image © Roy Smallpage.