Cheap and easy escape room props
May 21, 2016 9:04 PM   Subscribe

Because my job is a big pile of awesomesauce, I get to help put together an escape room for a one-off event. The theme is ancient Egyptian, and I need some help figuring out to do a couple of the props on the cheap (if possible).

To get as many people through as possible in our one-day timeframe, we are actually building four identical rooms, so we need quite a lot of everything. We aren't charging anything for entrance as it's an outreach event, so we want to keep our spending minimal (like under $100 total). I've already been able to source all the padlocks, combination locks and similar gadgets we need for under $20. A partner organisation is donating everything we need for the room itself, e.g. wall panels, room dividers, various decorations, but not the things below:

THING ONE: 8 hinged boxes that can be locked with a padlock. (And that can fit in with the theme by e.g. being painted or at least not sticking out, e.g. not neon coloured plastic lunchboxes.) We can add hardware that can make the boxes padlockable very easily and cheaply if need be. So does anyone know a source of cheap boxes available in Sydney (or to ship to Sydney by mid-July if online? Or in fact, in Canada (Vancouver), as I will be going there between now and July)? Four of them only need to be large enough to hold 2 dice each and a folded up clue, but four need to be large enough for an A4-sized piece of plastic rolled up. I tried Reverse Garbage and a few other op-shop places yesterday and had no luck with this at all.

THING TWO: Lots of old keys (they do not have to actually work with any locks). I estimate I need approximately 20-50 of these (the more the better, but 20 would do at a pinch). Likewise, I thought Reverse Garbage & similar might have some, but no.

THING THREE: 16 Egyptian figurines. They can be sarcophagi, or Cleopatra figures, or mummies, but need to look pretty cool and be able to stand up on a shelf. I bought 16 of these things yesterday for $5 total (it's a styrofoam drink holder with an empty plastic bottle up-ended into it), and thought I could maybe use them as a base and wrap them with a printed out image of some sort (maybe glue a death mask onto the front of the "head" part rather than wrapping that bit?) So I started looking for online templates I could print to wrap around, but all I can find is very complicated foldable papercraft style things. Does anyone know where I can find a printable template designed for wrapping around e.g. a toilet paper roll to create a Cleopatra/sarcophagus/mummy figure? Or how I could warp a flat image to map onto a cylinder?

I can also scrap that idea and do the figurines completely differently if someone has a better idea. They should be as big as possible so they are noticeable in the room, i.e. little Egyptian action figures would not work as a substitute. They should not rely on huge amounts of artistic talent, as I am lacking in that department. (But willing to put a lot of time into it, and could probably round up 5-10 helpers for something especially time-consuming.)

I have access to free colour laser printing.

I also MAYBE have access to top-of-the-line 3D printers if I pay for the cost of materials, but would prefer not to go this route if possible, as they won't be accessible to me until early July, and I'm scared to leave everything that late.
posted by lollusc to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Dollarama is a Canadian chain store and they have wooden boxes that meet your needs exactly in their arts and crafts section for $3 apiece.

Also, I have 20 or so old keys that I can mail you. I have been saving them for maybe exactly this situation.
posted by 256 at 9:35 PM on May 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ooh, that would be awesome, 256! I will send you the Canadian address via memail (just checking that I can receive mail there, but I'm sure it will be fine.)
posted by lollusc at 9:45 PM on May 21, 2016

In the US you'd be able to find unpainted wooden boxes for cheap at a craft store like Michaels. Do you have something like that in Australia?

Also if you do end up going the 3D printing route, this seems like a good place to start.
posted by MsMolly at 9:56 PM on May 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I can also send you keys if you MeMail me when and where.
posted by bendy at 10:14 PM on May 21, 2016

Response by poster: I tried Eckersleys (craft shop) which had boxes that kind of worked but for $11 each, which is a bit high. I also tried Bunnings (hardware) which had nothing. Did not yet try dollar stores, because I imagined it would just be brightly coloured plastic stuff, but worth a shot, I guess.
posted by lollusc at 11:34 PM on May 21, 2016

Spray down some cheap wooden boxes with coffee for an old,rotten look. 2nding the suggestion for dollarama or equivalent. Art store chains almost always have these,too.

As for figurines, I'd suggest buying some beetle toys,spraypainting gold and hot glueing to the bases you have. Gold scarabs are a very iconic egyptian symbol, and won't be easily missed. "16 gold scarabs" sounds cool too. Snakes would work as well. You're bound to find either plastic snakes or beetles at any toy store, usually in tubes/sets.

Another option is 16 pyramids made from cardboard,spraypainted gold.

If you want to do printouts, I'd suggest looking for pictures of papyrus art like this or this. Then glueing it around the tube, or cutting out the shape of the image then glueing.

Edit: Ebay also has tons of plastic bugs and snakes. Scorpions would be badass too!
posted by InkDrinker at 11:44 PM on May 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you end up with plastic boxes, spray paint designed to work on plastic is fairly common now.

For old keys, junk yards or low-end antique stores will often have huge bowls full of old keys.

Pinterest has a bunch of ideas. Here's a pin for a printable sarcophagus, plus some other stuff. (Scroll down past the "continue" button.)
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:53 AM on May 22, 2016

Best answer: Do your 16 cool items need to also feel realistic, or just looks? You can do a lot with paper mache, even if you're not artistic. This death mask (uses a plain plastic mask as a base). This entire Pinterest.
posted by anaelith at 5:53 AM on May 22, 2016

Best answer: Oh, make canopic jars (the mummy's internal organs would be pulled out and put into 4 jars, and each jar has the head of a different god). The advantage of this is that the bodies are not decorated at all-- just spray paint to look like flat white stone, then put a head on each.
posted by holyrood at 12:32 PM on May 22, 2016

Response by poster: Canopic jars look pretty doable with what I have plus some paper mache or papercraft, great idea! Unfortunately because of the way the puzzles work, the figurines do have to be humanoid, so the beetles/snakes idea wouldn't work, but I might use those to decorate the boxes. I'll try the dollar stores here for boxes, but if they don't have them, it's good to know I can pick some up in Canada.

And it sounds like I'll be set for keys!

Thanks everyone!
posted by lollusc at 5:50 PM on May 22, 2016

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