Author Topic: How to get a phone to ring as a stage prop?  (Read 9971 times)

Offline Brinybay

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How to get a phone to ring as a stage prop?
« on: April 16, 2009, 02:51:20 AM »
I'm posting this for a fellow I'm loaning one of my working-but-won't-be-missed-if-I-don't-get-it-back phones too.

He's using it for a prop in a stage play.  I'll just copy/paste his question.  Apparently they don't have a land line to plug it into so that someone off-stage could call it:

Quote
Greg,  I have a question for you: I looked it up; a rotary dial telephone most likely needs 70 volts at 20 cycles to make the ringer ring - but do you have any idea how I might accomplish that on stage?  Yes, I could run house current to it, but that's 60 cycles and 112 volts.  OR I could use batteries, if I could figure out the right combination...but I'd like the thing to ring on cue....
 
How would you do it?
 
Thanks,
Dan
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Offline Bill

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Re: How to get a phone to ring as a stage prop?
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2009, 10:01:25 AM »
One way, if it works for you, is to get a magneto out of an old wooden phone, and have a stage-hand crank it at the appropriate moment.

Another way - get an old-fashioned doorbell, with transformer and button, from the hardware store. Put the bell in/near the phone. Have a stagehand push the button at the appropriate moment. It won't sound quite authentic, but it might do the job.

Is ther any reason that the bell, whatever it is, has to be in/near the phone? In many stage plays I've seen, it has been considered acceptable to have the "ring" come from off-stage. Usually the audience can't tell. Depends on your degree of stage professionalism, I suppose.

Bill

Offline Dan

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Re: How to get a phone to ring as a stage prop?
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2009, 10:30:15 AM »
Good ole cassette tape recorder of a WE500 worked for my child's play last year
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Offline BDM

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Re: How to get a phone to ring as a stage prop?
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2009, 11:20:51 AM »
The other thing would be to purchase a cheap PBX off Ebay. Panasonic and several other manufactures made or make them. Then you could control the ringing to several phones the way you want. Some of the earlier ones can be had for very cheap. The other option would be to build your own 90v 20/hz generator. The PBX would be the easier option.

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Offline bingster

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Re: How to get a phone to ring as a stage prop?
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2009, 11:50:32 AM »
I don't know that I'd recommend it for a treasured phone, but 120V wall current will ring a phone.  When I was a kid, I took a 500 and attached an extension cord to the ringer, so that when I plugged it in the phone would ring.  I'm sure that's against some sort of electrical code, but it worked, and the ringer still functions properly to this day.
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Offline BDM

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Re: How to get a phone to ring as a stage prop?
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2009, 11:58:56 AM »
My issue with that is the lack of fusing, and the electrical shock/fire hazard that could cause. Especially if used for prop purposes. It needs to be isolated and protected.

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Offline bingster

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Re: How to get a phone to ring as a stage prop?
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2009, 12:07:06 PM »
Hmmm.... As I recall, I did shock myself with it a couple times. 
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Offline Brinybay

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Re: How to get a phone to ring as a stage prop?
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2009, 02:44:40 PM »
I went back and read his e-mail again, apparently they are trying to achieve a higher degree of "realism" than off-stage recordings, but it's still a volunteer group with out a lot of funds for equipment. 

One way, if it works for you, is to get a magneto out of an old wooden phone, and have a stage-hand crank it at the appropriate moment.

Bill

I have the WE box that came with the WE D-type I was asking about in another thread.  I would be very hesitant to loan it out though.  I would slap a condition on it that me, and only me, would be physically in charge of it, which isn't likely since I'm not involved with his production.  But just for kicks, how would you rig that up w/o taking the magneto out of the box?  Is there some other equivalent available other than loaning out precious antiques?
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Offline bingster

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Re: How to get a phone to ring as a stage prop?
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2009, 03:21:26 PM »
But just for kicks, how would you rig that up w/o taking the magneto out of the box? 
I imagine you could hook up a phone's red and green conductors to the two ringer connections at the magneto and cause the phone to ring by cranking the handle.  One of the mag subset experts would have to verify that, since I'm not sure.  Of course the easiest way is to not hook the subset up to anything and just crank the box and have the bells ring offstage.  They're so loud I doubt anybody would realize the sound wasn't coming from onstage.

If you don't wish to loan out your box (which I can understand, given it's fine condition), you can direct them to a similar box on ebay that's not in such nice condition.  Having such a thing would come in handy for them in the future, and if they got a junky one, they wouldn't have to worry about it getting knocked about.  Magneto subsets are quite plentiful and usually very inexpensive.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2009, 03:24:17 PM by bingster »
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Offline benhutcherson

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Re: How to get a phone to ring as a stage prop?
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2009, 08:04:40 PM »
Yes, you can just hook the red and green wires of a 500 up to a magneto and crank away, and it will ring. I do it all the time.

In my experience, though, the magneto needs to be cranked pretty quickly in order to get both gongs to ring. Crank it too slowly, and you'll only get ringing from one gong.