Got Propmaking Questions?

Ask them and we'll post answers here!

Q: Why are there no modern-day props in the HPLHS collection?

A: In these troubled times of heightened security, making authentic replicas of government documents and the like easily available seems like a bad idea. The vintage designs are so different from the current ones that dangerous misuse of the props is unlikely. If you need modern-day props, write to us about doing custom work.

Q: Do you have a good trick (or product) for making the edges of postage and other stamps? The round perforations are hard to do with an x-acto knife.

>Adam B. Colby

A: Yes, I have two suggestions. A company called Fiskars makes a pair of scissors that will cut a postage stamp edge. It's a very easy way to get the look, but it has a couple of drawbacks, in my opinion. The pattern it cuts is a little bit too big, in my opinion, and you have to do each stamp one at a time. But it's very fast and easy. You can get these scissors at lots of craft and art supply stores these days, and their website is here.

What I have done to make postage stamps is to
use a sewing machine as a perforator. I went to my local hobby/model shop and got a piece of brass tubing 1/16" in diameter. I cut off a piece 1 and 1/4 inches long. Using a Dremel mototool, I sharpened one end of that piece of tubing, making a little circular punching tool. Then I mounted it in the sewing machine where the needle would usually go. That way, you can run a sheet of pre-printed stamps through the sewing machine and punch a straight line of round holes through the paper. You can adjust the stitch length to determine how far apart the holes will be. I found it helpful to tape the sheet of postage stamps to a sheet of light cardstock, so that the punch was actually going through two layers of paper. This made the holes on the top layer cleaner. You can perforate an entire sheet of postage stamps this way, and then tear them off as you need them, just like the post office used to do it.

Another technique you can try is to
use an old manual typewriter as a perforator. If you remove the ribbon, or set the ribbon selector to "stencil" (if your typewriter has that option), you can use the lowercase letter "o" to cut round perforations into the paper. You have to type pretty hard, and it's not kind to your platen, but it produces nice uniform perfectly spaced round holes. I have an antique Corona No.3 typewriter that does a great job as a perforator.

Thanks to C.P. Neugent for alerting us to a product called Postage Paper™ from 100 Proof Press. This is pre-perforated paper you can use to make your own postage stamps.

We've tried it out and it's very good, but it has two drawbacks. One is that the paper is not gummed, so you have to supply your own glue. Really not a big deal. Its real drawback is the size of the stamps you can make with it. The smallest stamp you can make is 1.25 x 1.75 inches, which is a bit bigger than a typical postage stamp. It would be great for making revenue stamps for passports or other government documents.

The fine people at Olathe Post can do custom pinhole perforating for you. They use a genuine antique Rossback perforator which creates perfectly authentic old-fashioned postage stamp edges.

Q: Hi, are the items in the prop pack hard to assemble and are the passports hard to make?


A: We have made every effort to make the prop documents as easy to print and assemble as possible. Each PDF file comes with complete instructions for how to make the finished prop. Cut lines and fold lines are all clearly marked, and files have been designed to print efficiently.

To see a sample of the type of instructions included with the prop files, download the passport assembly instructions here.

Q: I live in Europe and we use the metric system for measuring paper sizes and weights. Can you tell me what the metric equivalents of your recommended paper weights are?


A: We have been trying to come up with a good answer to this excellent question for quite some time, but it has been very difficult. The American system for measuring paper is insanely complex and arcane, and does not translate readily into metric equivalents. The following chart can serve as a very basic guideline.

American Paper Metric Paper
16 lb. bond 60 gsm
20 lb. bond 75 gsm
24 lb. bond 90 gsm
60 lb. cover 162 gsm
80 lb. cover 218 gsm
110 lb. index 200 gsm

For more info, click here.


You won't need a lot of stuff apart from a computer and a color printer to finish the props in the HPLHS collection: a ruler, something to cut with, and a glue stick will be enough for many of them.
Pictured below are supplies that we use here at the HPLHS for making prop documents. You might already have some of these things around the house, but if not you might want to consider investing in them. These items can be purchased at a good art supply store, office supply store, and/or fabric or craft store. If stores in your area don't carry them, try or


A knife is a better tool than a pair of scissors for prop making. It's very hard to cut a truly straight line with a pair of scissors. Get extra blades as well and change blades often.


A steel ruler is the only one that keeps its straight edge. Getting one with a non-skid backing is highly recommended.


Pictured at left is Herma brand dry adhesive, which in our opinion is the very best type of glue for making the props in this collection. The refillable applicators provide clean, even coverage. Herma is sold at shops and websites that specialize in scrapbook keeping.

There are other brands of basically the same product, including Tombo and DryLine.

Advantages: neat, precise, even coverage.
Drawbacks: not as good for large areas.


For most general gluing needed for these prop documents, a glue stick like this is the best bet. It's easier to find than the Herma glue pictured above. Get the colored kind so you can see where the glue is going: it dries clear.
TIP: sometimes it's easier to rub the paper over the glue than rubbing the glue over the paper.

Advantages: neat, dries fast, covers a lot, can see where it's going.
Drawbacks: coverage not always even, sometimes wrinkles the paper


This is a Carl brand personal paper trimmer. It has interchangable blades and is good for both cutting and perforating. Available at office supply stores. Highly recommended


This is an Olfa brand rotary cutter. There are several other brands, including Carl and Fiskars. Takes the same blades as the tabletop cutters, and can be used for cutting or perforating. Advantages: smaller and cheaper. Drawbacks: easier to cut yourself or make mistakes.


Put a blade like this on a desktop or handheld rotary cutter and you can do perfect perforations with ease.



This item is usually used to transfer patterns from carbon paper to fabric, but its small serrated wheel can also be used to perforate paper, if applied with sufficient force. You can get one in the notions department of a fabric or craft store. At left are examples of several types.

Advantages: incredibly cheap. Drawbacks: does a crappy job.


These are Chartpak brand burnishers. They're available at art supply stores. We recommend the fine point burnisher for scoring prop documents. Keep the tip clean, as the buildup of gunk over time can cause the burnisher to tear the paper. The flat side is used to make creases nice and sharp.


This is a Carl brand corner rounding punch. Available at art and office supply stores. Can handle several sheets of paper at once. Recommended.

The Marvy/Ushida brand is not as good.


This is one of many types of spray fixative, useful for preventing ink from your inkjet printer from smudging and bleeding. We prefer the Pressline brand, available from the Kellly Paper Company. But if you can't find that try other brands like Krylon and Chartpak. Do a test spot before spraying an entire prop.


One of the most useful substances in the universe, gaffer's tape comes in numerous colors and is perfect for the finishing touch of binding the spines of booklets, checkbooks, airplane tickets, etc.


Lets you make your own rubber stamps for dates, passport visas, ticket validations, and the like. Most kits these days are self-inking, which is both convenient and limiting.