Old Fashioned Cash Till Prop for 1950's Drug Store




Introduction: Old Fashioned Cash Till Prop for 1950's Drug Store

I made this old fashioned till for a production of West Side Story. It is designed as a static dress prop to sit on the end of Doc's Drug Store bar counter during the scenes in the drug store. I looked at hiring one, but we didn't have the budget, so I decided to make one and managed to do it for the price of a few tins of enamel finish paint (£6 each) and the recycled boxes and bits I had lying around.

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Step 1: You Will Need

In this build, I have tried to use as many recycled materials as possible. The tape, glue and some of the paints I had laying around. Be a bit creative - find an array of boxes and chocolate trays and lids to decide what details you want on your till. My till doesn't open because I don't need it to be an active prop. You could use different shaped boxes - shoe boxes for example; may make a nice opening draw.

This prop till is re-creating an old heavy, mechanical and simple manual draw cash box till.

  • Selection of square boxes.
  • Parcel tape, strong tape.
  • Hot glue gun/glue sticks.
  • Scissors/Knife for scoring.
  • Chocolate box inserts.
  • Buttons or round things to make till buttons - I used sweets.
  • Screws for decoration.
  • Decorators Caulk.
  • Acrylic paint or spray paint. Brown, black, gold/yellow. (I had some enamel paint kicking about so I used that too, to give a metallic finish)

Step 2: Making the Body of the Till

Create a solid rectangular box shape from one or two of the larger boxes you have found. Use parcel tape or sellotape at this stage. Make sure your corners and lining up is neat, as this is the body of the till.

Tape the boxes together tightly, so that you create a sealed solid shape. Then sketch the profile of the till on the sides of the box construction you have just made, and cut away the piece of box you don't need. To get a nice rounded shape, you might want to use a bowl to trace around. This is the first step to shaping the till front. Check both sides of the box roughly match each other, so that when you place the front section onto them, they will line up.

Step 3: Adding the Front Curved Section

If you don't have a piece of corrugated cardboard (which I thought I had!) then take a flat piece of cardboard. Mark the width of the till body onto it.

Make sure the length runs from top to bottom of the front till body section, allowing for the bend and with some over the edges for a seam allowance (sticking down tabs). Cut out the shape you have marked out, marking on it where the till body bends and stops at right angles. You have to be a bit rough at this point and it doesn't matter because any creases or tears can be covered up. See Fig 1.

I scored the curved section, so that it would follow the rounded contour of the till easily. (But if you have corrugated card, you won't need to score anything) See Fig 2.

Now we are ready to get it into place. Push your measured/scored piece of card onto the front body section to create the front of the till. Push the tabs to bend around and meet the sides, bend the edges and press in corners to get it to fit. It's fiddly, but once in place, will look good. See Figs 3 & 4

Once in place, tape it down. Use plenty of tape to fix it down, making nice neat lines on edges and corners so that it looks like a really solid heavy thing. The more attention to take in this part, the better the finished look will be.

Step 4: Finish the Front Panel

Tape down the front ledge of the till (the part of the till that would hold the drawer of money)

Again, its really useful to create the feeling of solid metal, to use lots of nice flat, tape, taping off corners neatly and making sure the cardboard is really flat, with no bumps or bulges that might make it look soft and squidgy.

You are now ready to add the detail. You could use old brass screws or map pins on all the corners, just gently push them through the cardboard. I added a spot of hot glue to keep them secure. You can add piped decorators caulk to give the till an ornate embossed feel. I ran a few lines of caulk down the sides, following the curved edge of the till and continued it along the bottom, to break any build lines and fool the viewer into thinking it was one solid unit.

You can stick on scrabble tiles or love heart sweets! Add anything that gives the till texture when it's painted.

Step 5: Buttons

On my design, I was going for big buttons, so used the inner carton of a chocolate box. I cut down strips and marked out on the curved front of my till, exactly where I wanted to have the buttons. How far apart and central should they be. I used a few references and then designed my own version.

I decided on three rows, evenly spaced. They sat nicely on the curved sections. Out came the hot glue gun and they were secured in seconds. ready for paint.

Step 6: Adding Piping Details

Use the decorators caulk to pipe a design and embossing onto the cardboard. I didn't really follow a design for the till embossing feature, (can you tell?!!) but I am sure if you looked up an era specific cashiers till you could copy the designs to make your till more authentic. Allow it to dry off, before painting.

Step 7: Painting

As you can see from the pictures, I wanted a dark old fashioned look. I chose black acrylic paint. Painted in all over neat (no water). Where the tape was fixed to the cardboard, the paint didn't hold, so I picked up those bits with black spray paint. I also made sure the paint covered any printed words on the cardboard box I had used.

Around the detail, buttons, sweets etc, gently apply the paint. I wanted the metallic finish of the choc inner to show through, so went lightly over with black. On the sections of caulk I had piped, I was gentle with the black as I wanted this embossing to be bright yellow later. Try to paint all parts, even the bottom, in-case the till gets knocked on stage and it's base is seen!

Step 8: Paint Details

Once the first layer of black acrylic paint is dry, apply the black spray paint gently and lightly over the parts you need to fill in. It won't take much to hide the tape and any lettering, just be really gently, so you don;t flood the cardboard with paint and make it bend and crinkle in drying.

Now you can bring out the paints you want to finish with. I used a yellow acrylic and with a dry brush just applied it to the embossing (piping). I created lines which follow the contour of the till, they little flourishes where the piping was. Splodge a bit on the buttons and give the who thing a feel of old gold or vintage metalwork.

At the same time as doing this I added the grey enamel spray paint. This gave the whole piece a heavy metallic feel. I dust sprayed it all over the till. Making sure not to cover over the details I was painting in yellow gold.

Leave to dry and see how it looks dry. Add more detail or paint if it needs. Layer it up carefully, making sure each time you let one layer dry, so it doesn't crinkle like cardboard can when heavily loaded with paint.

The finished version should catch the light nicely and look like an old metal till. I'll post a picture of it on set, once It's used.

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    4 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Nice work! Cheap and cheerful, quick and easy to do, and all made with stuff on hand. And if it looks that good close-up, it must look fantastic on-stage. You are a real asset to your company!

    Props Maker
    Props Maker

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you for your kind words. Most of the creative thinking comes along when you have no budget and are required to think out of the box a little bit! I tend to collect bits of packaging and unusual shaped objects as I go along .


    3 years ago

    Nice work!