All the Workshop’s a Stage

Stage building. I don’t have that much experience and I don’t like doing much of it. But, once or twice a year my skills are put to the test. This year was a bit different, because there wasn’t too much of a scene…um, scene for me to build, but structure. My wife would do everything with painting to make the play come alive, but I would need to make the (literal) building blocks to make it happen.

First up were some 18″ cubes that would serve as props and bases. There were a few already made with the stage company for me to take advantage of, so I measured and duplicated their measurements and construction. They were made of 7/16″ OSB, with 2×2″ pine as corner supports. The trick was, at the outset, how to quickly and easily make all the pieces the same size.

Enter the DIY Festool Parallel Guides. I was thinking of buying, but decided to make my own. This was an excellent idea, and I achieved good results on my test pieces. Indeed, this project was the genesis of that tool construction. With the testing a success, I went and bought seven sheets of OSB, plus four sheets of 3/8″ hardboard for the other aspect. A handful of 2×2″ boards were bought a few days later, they not needing a trailer to bring home.

For each of the OSB sheets, I did the following: I crosscut a fresh square edge off one end, then used the parallel guides, marked at 18″ on the first sheet, to crosscut at exactly 18″. There might have been some variance between the boards, but if there was it was very slight. Millimeter or so. They all felt the same.

So I had 35 18″x48″ sections which I then took to the MFT. I again trimmed one edge perpendicular, flipped it over, then cut twice at 18″. It took awhile, but that created 70 18″ square pieces of MDF. Now, only 14 of these would stay a true 18″ square. These were the tops. All of the rest of the pieces were then cut along one side 7/16″ short. This would allow the top to sit on the sides and keep the 18″ height. Then, half of those (28) were cut 7/8″ on the adjacent side. What this allowed is for two of the sides to tuck into two of the others, again keeping the cube 18″ in all dimensions.

With the OSB all cut, it was time to cut the 2×2 into 17-9/16″ sections. I needed 56 of those. Those 2×2 pieces were air nailed to the face edges of the shortest dimension boards. Then the longer side pieces were nailed to the attached 2x2s, and then the tops went on. For anything that didn’t turn out absolutely square with the top piece, I used my handheld router to trim it flush.

All in all, the cubes turned out fine. Not perfect, but perfectly usable. They were painted by my wife for use in the play in nice bright colors. I got plenty of splinters, and they held my weight just fine.

The other aspect of the stage play I had to construct was a big ‘X’ that some panels would hang between. The company had some 8’x4′ flats, made out of more 2×2 and hardboard. I doubled these together, made a top and bottom plate for them to attach to, and thus the ‘X’ can stand up and be wheeled around. I then used the parallel guides again to rip cut 18″ sections in the hardboard we bought to span the negative space. I made up some saddles to attach the panels by sitting on top of the connected flats. Hard to explain, but it worked. Again, the parallel guides worked brilliantly, since I don’t have a long enough rail to rip cut all at once.

The only thing I have left to do is to make a fake fridge that opens, and I’ll use some hardboard and 2×2 that are left over.


SO…I wrote this a week ago and just now got around to posting this with the pictures. The fake fridge worked well, as did everything else. The play was a success, and the entire thing only took about 30 minutes to take down. For my first set construction, I think it went pretty well, and I look forward to what will come next.

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