Farnsworth Video Communicator Prop (given to Claudia)

(as seen in the Warehouse 13 TV series season 2 first episode)

Well I think the prop makers at Warehouse 13 are haunting the Replica Prop Forum and are trying to have a go at us. Since many people did such nice work on their "Farnsworth" props, the prop guys probably thought "OK guys try copying this one". Maybe it's just me being paranoid or it could just be the work of a completely different prop guy.

This version of the "Farnsworth" is given to Claudia at the end of the first episode of season 2. It is supposed to have been Philo Farnsworth's own personal version of the communicator. It has some extra functions maybe but it does however seem way too gaudy with gold flourishes. Although Philo Farnsworth lived until 1971, the plastic box seems out of place to me but some other RPF members don't agree.


Anyway it's how they've made the prop and so that is what must be duplicated. Yes it's true. It's there and must be copied.

As usual the search for "found parts" begins. The RPF guys created a spin-off thread for this version. I of course went back to the Richard Wheatley website looking for the plastic fly fishing box used. I found several, that looked right with the correct numbers of rivets on the sides, though they all had inserts for attaching the flies. I contacted them and apparently they will sell them minus the foam inserts or fly clips, so yay on that one, though the aluminium rim will have to be painted gold. I tried to push my luck and asked for a couple with gold coloured rims and they were happy to oblige if I bought 500 of them. So paint it is unless I could try some home anodising.

Of course almost nothing of the first "Farnsworth" prop was used in the making of this one. The exception is the domed screen of which I don't have enough so am looking for alternatives. Some people used the "domes" from the push/tap type lights designed for cupboards and closets. Finding these in a suitable size has been a chore. I will more likely use a 1936 Ford radio glass which looks like a great option. Another is an 80mm watch glass used in labs for dessicating stuff over a flame.


Unlike the previous Farnsworth, a great deal of this prop will have to be fabricated.

Parts list and links (note that links might be to overseas websites if I've not found appropriate local alternatives):

The case is one of the Richard Wheatley Malvern series fly fishing boxes. The example here is the 8210 which has foam inserts for attaching the flies. As mentioned earlier they will sell them minus the inserts. Sadly the company has gone into liquidation though the products are available from a couple of other sources.

The small grill on the right looks like it might be part of a grill/screen from a microphone.

The calibrated dial might be a bought item but because of the way the numbers read on the dial plate and the word "Farnsworth" printed on it, it is very possibly a fabricated item too. The knob is probably a found or bought item and looks like a knob from an old military radio set.

All of the gold flourishes appear to be made from fine copper wire and created by hand using a "wire jig", though the gold lettering that spells "Farnsworth" on the inside of the lid is still a bit of a mystery.

The things that look like gold jacks on the side of the case seem to be nothing more than brass eyelets. The "antennas" at the top of the box might be Presta valve inserts inside a tube and more of the brass eyelets.

The "wavy" wires in the lid have been made by hand with thicker copper wire. The other parts of this assembly might just be a suction cup, some latex tubing and a couple of eyelets or grommets.

The four small brass escutheon pins that hold the screen in place are painted black on this version to match the faceplate, as have the four pairs of rivets on the sides of the case.

There are two other items on the faceplate; the gold rimmed "lens" below the screen and the gold rimmed "button" at the bottom. These two things are also still a mystery though they look very much like brass door peep-holes.

We also now know what Claudia's Farnsworth looks like inside. It is my intention to try to recreate this "circuitry" if possible. I have managed to find some very small vacuum tubes like the ones used in some military radios.

An add-on has been created by "Claudia" for this and the original Farnsworth that turns them into direction finders. It is basically a dish antenna assembly which can be plugged in the side of the Farnsworth. On this unit it plugs into the brass eyelet "sockets" in the side of the case. Also the screen is black and has a red arrow on it. Due to my limited number of screens I am more inclined to go with my original stencil idea for the screen images unless I use radio glasses.
scanner dish

Here is the link to the project page for this add-on build. I thought it best to make a separate project file for this as it is used on both Farnsworths.

More when I can back to writing this.

The original Farnsworth prop is here.

Thanks go to the members of the Replica Prop Forum (RPF) who are so willing to share their time, skills and experience with others.

As mentioned the parts links might be to sites overseas. Dealing with these companies can be very expensive especially with regard to the cost of shipping even small items to Australia.

Last modified: 26th March 2013