Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Grail Tablet

Inspired by Dave Lowe's Sankara Stones, I decided to spend a lazy Tuesday watching the original Indiana Jones Trilogy while doing a movie related prop! I should have stuck to the Sankara Stones, but I wanted to try my hand at the Grail tablet! Three Tuesdays and many hours later, I now have a "loose" interpretation of the Grail tablet as seen in the Last Crusade!

I was originally going to get a screen capture of the Grail tablet and spend probably the duration of all three films making a template on the computer, but I figured someone had already done the legwork, so a quest begun to find a usable template! I ran into Indy Quest and started looking at some of their amazing props! I was in luck because they had a readily available PDF file created by Cipricus! I was ecstatic and I ran out side to cut a chunk of foam! This is where my problems started! The template was designed on A4 paper which of course is the international standard for everyone but us Yankees! So after cutting out the borders meticulously I noticed when piecing the pages back together the letters did not match up! A4 paper is a little taller than letter size, so as I quick fix I ran to Staples and bought some Legal size paper which is bigger than A4 in height and width! This fix still did not work quite right, so I pieced it together the best I could and I drew in some of the remaining characters.

I taped the pieces of paper together and put some carbon paper underneath the template! I used a few small nails to hold the template and carbon paper into place! One I traced over everything, I got out my dremel and started carving into the foam. Tedious is the best and only word that comes to mind when I was doing this step!

After I had carved out everything, I decided to cut the foam to a rough shape! I also added some wood filler to hide the line in the styrofoam! This would have probably be done easier prior to marking the template, but I did try and get the line above all my text.

I used some sandpaper and a knife to gouge the ends of the styrofoam and make it look more rock like. After I was happy with the shape I did my base coat of paint in Drylock ( it is a masonry paint sealer that contains sand inside it so it makes a lovely texture ) I then painted the letters black. Don't worry about being messy! Just fill in all the letters and don't worry about over spray because on the final coat you can use a paint roller and it doesn't get in the recessed black writing if you're careful!

I noted I had a "loose" interpretation of the Grail prop because much to my dismay during the tracing process I was watching the Last Crusade and I noticed the differences compared to the movie prop right away. It had been awhile since I had last seen Indiana Jones and I never studied the Grail closely, so once I found the template I figured it would be slightly closer to the movie! Oh well! I'm sure most people won't notice right away, hehe!


  1. Absolutely fantastic job! Your patience alone etching all the Latin is impressive. And using a dremel... your hands must still be feeling phantom vibrations. Don't knock yourself too hard for not being perfect, as soon as I saw it I knew exactly what it was.

  2. Thanks, Dave.. means a lot coming from someone with your talent!! Yeah the etching was tedious and my hands did start to ache, but I'm glad it was Styrofoam because it is a little easier to work with!

    I've been wanting to learn how to make a mold to duplicate items and since I haven't molded anything yet, I'm gearing my next project to something that will need a duplicate copy. I think I'm going to make a Grail Knight shield (in the Last Crusade in the grail cup room there is a large shield in the corner of the room for about three seconds ) and it has the full grail tablet on two parts.. I think I'm going to try and carve a closer master tablet into some wood and then use that to make the mold.

    After I carve it into wood, I don't think I'd ever want to carve all those letters again!!

  3. There's a great book published in 1994 called From Star Wars to Indiana Jones: The Best of Lucasfilm Archives. It has terrific large and clear pictures of many of the props, including measurements.

    I forgot I had it making my Sankara Stones. There's a great picture of the grail tablet. Try and find a copy, a must have for any prop reference library.

  4. Oh awesome! Thanks for the tip! I'm getting tired looking for screen accurate measurements or guesstimating! I may as well try and do it as close as possible on a movie prop like that because it takes an insane amount of time to do!