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© John Long 2005.
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The crowbar hurt my fingers when it
was time for the Communicators to
go back home.
| A shot of the assembled Comm
with the grid in the closed position.
Here are the three Communicator replicas I made, that were featured in issue 152 of the Star Trek Communicator magazine.
Shaping a Communicator antenna.
Here we see the two-piece die, and the procedure used to create the communicators antenna grid.
| Note: In keeping with the appearance of the
original props, I
used an excessive amount of solder, and did a somewhat
less than meticulous job applying it.
Here are the three finished antenna grids.
|Freshly pulled vacuum-formed plastic shells!
After making a tracing of the original, we're ready to get started!
With the help of my trusty bandsaw, and a sanding block,
we start to see a Communicator immerging from a block of wood.
Thanks to the generosity of a good Friend,
I was able to use these two screen-used
Communicators as reference .
The comm furthest from the camera, was
actually disassembled and had to be
mocked-up for the pictures. The fact that it
did come apart, was however quite helpful
for the documentation. This allowed for the
seperate elements to be more easily
measured and even traced!
|At long last, the opportunity I longed for since I was eight years old, the chance to examine a couple of original communicators.|
|The Mego Star Trek Communicator Walkie-Talkies.
To a kid growing up in the 70's, this was about as cool as it gets.
Sure they were huge, and of course there's that whole blue thing,
but hey, they were REAL WORKING COMMUNICATORS!
| Here is the Communicator from the "Exploration Set".
Dispite it's inaccuracies this was still a really fun little model.
The AMT "Exploration Set".
Had your Mom even driven out of Gem Co.'s parking lot before you had this opened
in the back of the stationwagon? To a little Treknerd in the 70's, this was a dream
come true. Unfortunately, when you opened the box the Earth's atmosphere caused
these guys to instantly shrink to something considerably smaller than what we saw
Kirk & crew wielding in our favorite episodes.
|The Classic Communicator|
|The crowbar hurt my fingers when it
for the Communicators to go back home.
| Presto! A wooden Communicator!
When I give the word,start sucking.... Vacuum Forming, that is.
|Once a mold is created from the wooden form,
bucks are created in something better suited for vacuum forming.
| Three stages of grid:
-Flat perf brass -Shaped (un-trimmed) -Shaped, Trimmed, and soldered
|The Communicator has alway's been my favorite prop.|
|The replicas shown on this page were created for an article I did in issue #152 of the "Star Trek Communicator" Magazine.|
The Communicator has alway's been my favorite prop. I love the Phaser and the Tricorder too, but something
about the Communicator just grabbed me when I was a kid, and never let go. With a Communicator you could
stay in contact with the rest of the landing party while "exploring strange new worlds". You could use a couple of
them in unison to create a rockslide ala "Friday's Child". Or even call apon the Enterprise to stun an entire city-
block of hostile gangsters via "A Piece Of The Action". Just don't forget it in Bella's office when you leave! LOL
The Communicator was your "lifeline to the enterprise", and with it you could rest assured that no matter how dangerous
the mission, Scotty could lock-on to your Communicator and return you safely home aboard the Starship Enterprise.
As a kid growing up in the 70's, there were a few toy versions of the prop available at your local toy store. We had the AMT "Exploration Set"-a miniature version of the Phaser, Tricorder, and Communicator, in the form of a relatively easy to assemble model kit. There was a "Utility-Belt" with the same items in a ready-to-play-with toy type version of the trio (I seem to remember thinking that some of the components looked like they may have been made from the same molds as the model kit.) Then there was the coolest thing going-the Mego "Communicator" walkie talkies. Clunky and blue, but hey, the grid flipped open, and they really worked! Now despite how fun all of these items were, I needed something more. Something...accurate. A communicator that actually looked like the ones we saw in the hands of our star-traveling heros.
From the time I was about eight, to the time I was twelve or so, I made Communicators out of everything from cardboard to balsa wood. I even learned about shaping metal, and using wrinkle-finish paint and fun stuff like that in my pursuit for a Communicator that looked like what we saw on the show. Unfortunately, and despite the inevitable honing of my skills as a Jr. Propman, there was one thing that was a major stumbling block. Reference, or more precisely, lack of reference. With basically nothing more than those all-too-rare, and way-too-fleeting moments when you actually got a half-way decent look at the things on screen, we really didn't have anything in the way of reference materials back then.
If only I could talk to the Artist who made the props for the show. Or if I could just get my hands on a real one so I could get a good look at the thing. Years later I did both.
In truth I owe a debt of gratitude to the classic Communicator, and more specifically to it's creator Mr. Wah Ming Chang. It was my fascination with his Communicator that led to my earliest attempts at Prop Making, and subsequently to a career in the film industry.
| A shot of the assembled Comm
with the grid in the closed position.
|This page is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Wah Ming Chang.|
|Vintage details of the Communicator Prop.|
So, why do we love the Classic Communicator so much?
The world may never know. But one thing's for sure, this prop's appeal has not
only endured among old Treknerds, and new ones alike, but has actually
flourished. Even when the cell phone in your pocket is dwarfed by the dimensions
of the TOS Comm, there's just something about the classic styling of Mr. Changs'
wonderful creation that speaks to the adventurer in all of us.
|Another detail that was created using a "found item" was
the mic grille. This detail was made from a piece of
speaker cover from
a period transistor radio. The material could actually be found on many different radios in the 60's. Here is my little collection of
various radios which utilized this style of speaker grille.
For more information on the Communicator props, and the
creation of the replicas seen on this page, please see back-
issue #152 of the Star Trek Communicator magazine
|Most aspects of the original Communicators had to
be created from scratch. However, there were a couple
of details that were "found items". Among these are the
indicator light bezels (rhinestone mounts,) and the
two little knobs on the control panel. These were simply
1960's slot-car hubs. For the rhinestone mounts, the
hubs were used "up-side-down" (stuck through holes
drilled in the plastic shells,) with the rhinestones glued
to the back-side of the hub. For the control knobs, the
same hubs were used-just in the opposite orientation..
|The Hero Communicator replica, with working moire pattern.|
|A peek inside the Hero Communicator replica.Yes, that's a stopwatch used to animate the moire.
Super high-tech huh? Well it was 1966 television after all.
|Close-up of the static Wavy-Line Communicator
|Here's a shot of the top shell of the disassembled unit.|
Notice that not all communicators had Velcro.
|Here's the back shell of the
This one did have Velcro
|The assembled unit in profile.|
|Even after three years of filming, what looks like several
repairs, and about forty years of patina, the
original brass antenna grid is still a thing of beauty.
|Here's a 3/4 view of the hinge area of the assembled Comm.|
|Or CLICK HERE to read the article online!|
|The Communicator replica, with
static spider moire pattern.