Banner
Welding

More than a sharpshooter

By Nick Wright

With a torch in one hand and crossbow in the other, Ben Blaque puts his self-built props in the crosshairs

October 2014 - On the NBC reality show “America’s Got Talent,” there’s no shortage of dog trainers, singers and magicians to prove who is purportedly the most adroit or pitch-perfect performer. But what’s not always apparent is the performer’s abilities beyond the broadcast.

Take Ben Blaque. He appeared on the show in 2012 with an act that demands meticulous practice, extreme confidence and zen-like mastery—sharpshooting a crossbow, sometimes blind-folded, and sometimes at objects held by or perched atop a young female assistant.

Originally from Springfield, Missouri, Blaque has a background in theater and prop design. He fabricates and builds his own props, including the target holding fixtures used on “America’s Got Talent.” Blaque, 34, started building his props because he simply couldn’t afford to buy them at the beginning of his performing career. 

FFJ-0930-webex-blaque-image1

“I loved engineering and figuring out how to make something that seems impossible to happen,” he says. Blaque learned his welding chops at Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield under Jim Bridwell, a welding instructor there. He learned MIG and TIG welding with both aluminum and steel, which inspired Blaque to duplicate and modify his favorite special effects props, which let him sell, fix, improve and experiment with them. Eventually, with his knowledge of tools, machinery and fabricating, he started buying materials and diving into projects from scratch. 

“I mostly use the shops available at the theaters or venues I work at,” he says, noting that he eschewed investing in his own shop space since he has traveled regularly to perform for the last five years. 

“When I build and design something that has never been built before, there are no drawings or plans to go off of,” he says. “But once you find the method or formula for the element you are trying to create, then you can possibly have a masterpiece and it can pay off in the end,” meaning a theater or performer could take notice and purchase the prop.

FFJ-0930-webex-blaque-image2

Blaque developed his crossbow performance while working as a crew member at the Kirby VanBurch show in Branson, Missouri, beginning in 2004, according to Branson Tri-Lakes News. His crossbow act became popular, leading him to his appearance on “AGT.” He attended OTC to hone his prop building skills. Since, he says he’s had offers from people to build a cool effect or prop that they imagined. “This, if you have the proper time, can also be a very profitable and rewarding element for knowing how to do something like this.”

He alone built all of the props he uses today, except for one: the wheel of death trick, in which he shoots targets placed around a woman attached to a spinning wheel. The reason? He was short on time due to a full show schedule. Starting in December Blaque will be in a show called The Illusionists 2.0, where he’ll perform two weeks of shows in Singapore, followed by four weeks in Australia.

With the skills, knowledge and experience of drafting, engineering and welding, Blaque has successfully incorporated his visions into his vocation. “Anyone can create anything they have in their imagination,” he says. FFJ

Banner

Company Profiles

AIR FILTRATION

IRONWORKERS

NESTING SOFTWARE

SERVICE CENTERS

Camfil APC - Equipment Trilogy Machinery Inc. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters

LASER TECHNOLOGY

PLASMA TECHNOLOGY

Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC. Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

SOFTWARE

BENDING/FOLDING

Mazak Optonics Corp.

PLATE

Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. MC Machinery Systems Inc. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC Murata Machinery, USA, Inc.

PLATE & ANGLE ROLLS

SigmaTEK Systems LLC

BEVELING

TRUMPF Inc. Davi Inc. Striker Systems
Steelmax Tools LLC

LINEAR POSITION SENSORS

Trilogy Machinery Inc.

STAMPING/PRESSES

COIL PROCESSING

MTS Sensors

PRESS BRAKE TOOLING

AIDA-America Corp.
Bradbury Group

MATERIAL HANDLING

Mate Precision Tooling

STEEL

Burghardt + Schmidt Group Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc. Rolleri USA Alliance Steel
Butech Bliss UFP Industrial

PRESS BRAKES

TUBE & PIPE

Red Bud Industries

MEASUREMENT & QUALITY CONTROL

AMADA AMERICA, INC. BLM Group
Tishken Advanced Gauging Technologies Automec Inc. Prudential Stainless & Alloys

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

MC Machinery Systems Inc.

WATERJET

Mayfran International Cincinnati Inc. SafanDarley Barton International

DEBURRING/FINISHING

LVD Strippit

PUNCHING

Flow International Corporation
ATI Industrial Automation Scotchman Industries Inc. Hougen Manufacturing Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
Lissmac Corp. Trilogy Machinery Inc.

SAWING

WELDING

Osborn

METAL FORMING

Behringer Saws Inc. American Weldquip
SuperMax Tools FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. Cosen Saws Strong Hand Tools
Timesavers MetalForming Inc. DoALL Sawing T. J. Snow Company

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

MICROFINISHING TOOLS

HE&M Saw

 

Beckwood Press Co. Titan Tool Supply Inc. Savage Saws

 

Triform

 

 

 


BPA_WW_MASTER.jpg