Contour Curtain Pulley system

James D

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Joined
Sep 6, 2017
Location
Colorado
We are investigating the possibility of creating a small contour curtain for an upcoming show. We are a high school, and have a relatively small budget. Has anybody ever sewn the curtain themselves, installed the rings, and set up a pulley system that is hand-operated?

We're thinking there would be 5 points, 22' tall and 20' wide, but this is all in the theoretical stage right now depending on the feasibility of creating our own pulley system.
 

RonHebbard

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Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
We are investigating the possibility of creating a small contour curtain for an upcoming show. We are a high school, and have a relatively small budget. Has anybody ever sewn the curtain themselves, installed the rings, and set up a pulley system that is hand-operated?

We're thinking there would be 5 points, 22' tall and 20' wide, but this is all in the theoretical stage right now depending on the feasibility of creating our own pulley system.
@James D From personal experience, rigging the pulleys was the easy part. The difficult / time consuming part was attaching the rings to the rear of the curtain. I've done this on a temporary basis twice, once with a comparatively light-weight black mid-curtain and once with a much heavier lined velour main curtain. Both times, the rings were the difficult part. The first time around with the lighter curtain the costumers / seamstresses were confident safety pins would work and they sort of did but a; made a mess of the curtain and b; the bottom pins couldn't stand the strain of picking up the weight, they did the first few times but soon bent and unhooked themselves under the strain. The pulleys were the easy part and came from my stock of climbing and rescue gear, basically slings, locking 'biners and Rock Exotica light-weight ball bearing rescue pulleys. When you attach rings on the rear you need to be careful you're not tearing / ripping threads from the fabric becoming a visible blight on the patron's side. I don't know but I very much suspect the rings are normally attached with sewn tabs of rugged, flexible, light-weight canvas-like material capable of withstanding the strain of the welded D-rings yet spreading out the load across several vertical inches of fabric. You'd never confuse me with a seamstress or cloth expert thus I'll button up and quit typing. Optimistically someone with serious chops will be along shortly. Alternately, you may learn from checking the sites of folks like Rose Brand or similar.
Edit: Mis-spelled a word.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 
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Van

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Location
Portland, Or.
When you say 'Contour Curtain"....

Do you mean a Flat curtain that is rigged to a track that is contoured or curved? Do you mean a 'flat/straight' curtain that has sewn in Fullness? What type of fabric? What are you rigging the track to?

<don't you hate it when people answer questions with more questions?>

Simple curtains can be , relatively, easy to sew. Complex Stage Curtains, with Fullness, Webbing, Bottom hems, chain pockets, etc, etc, are a PITA <our Sewing room is incredible and I am in AWE of those ladies every day> and require a very good working knowledge of drapery construction.
Curving standard I-beam tracks is pretty simple, rigging them with the proper idlers, carriers and operation cords is not too difficult, but they are expensive.
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
We are investigating the possibility of creating a small contour curtain for an upcoming show. We are a high school, and have a relatively small budget. Has anybody ever sewn the curtain themselves, installed the rings, and set up a pulley system that is hand-operated?

We're thinking there would be 5 points, 22' tall and 20' wide, but this is all in the theoretical stage right now depending on the feasibility of creating our own pulley system.
@James D I'll write a few more chapters for you.
First; My assumptions: I'm assuming you've already got a curtain, either a split traveller, or a one piece which would fly straight up if you had the grid height.
Second; When you say contour I'm assuming you're envisioning a curtain where the center lifts first followed by either side of center, followed by both sides further out from center.
If my assumptions are incorrect, quit reading.
When I did this in an amateur space at a purely amateur level, one of the times I ran my clew across the width of the stage flat below the ceiling level, turned each of my five lines 180 degrees back on themselves from the opposite concrete block wall where I could hammer-drill into the blocks and gain solid anchor points. From here I came back my five distances and turned each line 90 degrees down stage until I was above my curtain line and then turned each of the five lines down to their attachment points where they picked the curtain.
Repeatability of out-trim is VERY IMPORTANT to the lighting folks who are shuttering to the lower edges of your curtain when it is out and don't want to find they're periodically looking sloppy on yourcurtain if your out trims aren't consistent. To this end, I used a 5/8" line from the clew and ran it down the SL concrete block wall where I had another solid point from which our curtain operators could lean down with all their weight. On the 5/8" line, I attached a welded steel ring which simply hooked onto a steel hook welded onto a steel plate firmly lag-screwed into the SL concrete block wall. This simplified REPEATABLE operation by allowing the operators to haul down on the 5/8" line until they could simply hook the welded steel ring onto its hook and release their line which now was ACCURATELY and REPEATEDLY on its hook precisely the same way each and every time. We NEVER had to apologize to our lighting people and we never had any debates about the accuracy of our out trim.
O.K. @James D It's your turn. Tell us more or ask us more or tell us to phuque off.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 

BillConnerFASTC

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Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
Fro purposes of explaining what you are after, http://www.rosebrand.com/subcategory621/stage-curtains.aspx is a good resource. By these terms, I assume you want a Venetian Contour Curtain? Usually "D" rings are sewn to webbing and then webbing to curtain at a curtain seam. When I design these I usually use 54" velour on 36" center lift lines. The rings are usually spaced further apart as you go up - so maybe first few at 12" and then add an inch each row up. And Usually needs balls between - like a 1" wooden ball with a hole in it threaded on the lift line between each "D" ring so they don't jamb. Little weights on each line behind bottom hem. Use to use a bag of lead shot but those days are gone.

Bigger problem is how are you lifting it? You might get away with manual power if not too big, but these really should be motorized because of t eh changing load - like none when closed and all when open. A manual winch can work.
 

Van

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Location
Portland, Or.
Oh, a Venetian!
 

Van

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Location
Portland, Or.
The Old Backstage Handbook to the rescue!
 

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James D

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Sep 6, 2017
Location
Colorado
@Van I wonder if @James D will ever come back?
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.

Yes! Sorry everybody. Had to go teach classes for a bit. I was in fact referring to a Venetian style contour curtain. @RonHebbard what you described makes a lot of sense. I definitely would want/need to be able to lock the position because the lighting designer I'd be annoying would be myself. We do have plenty of our own curtains but I wasn't planning on using our house soft goods. Too heavy. I was planning to order fabric/curtain. Possibly make my own by sewing it all together. I was going to pick up some lightweight, fabrics (http://www.rosebrand.com/product517/118-Lurex-Sheer-IFR.aspx?tid=2&info=lurex) (something like that). Does anybody have more details on the hardware specifically used? I loved the tip about a little wooden block to stop everything from jamming up! You all are wonderful. Thank you!
 
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RonHebbard

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Waterdown, ON, CA
Yes! Sorry everybody. Had to go teach classes for a bit. I was in fact referring to a Venetian style contour curtain. @RonHebbard what you described makes a lot of sense. I definitely would want/need to be able to lock the position because the lighting designer I'd be annoying would be myself. We do have plenty of our own curtains but I wasn't planning on using our house soft goods. Too heavy. I was planning to order fabric/curtain. Possibly make my own by sewing it all together. I was going to pick up some lightweight, fabrics (http://www.rosebrand.com/product517/118-Lurex-Sheer-IFR.aspx?tid=2&info=lurex) (something like that). Does anybody have more details on the hardware specifically used? I loved the tip about a little wooden block to stop everything from jamming up! You all are wonderful. Thank you!
@James D Since you've come back, let's chat some more. No particular order here, just meandering in general.
When it comes to pulleys / sheaves, they can rarely be too good. At the bottom end are screw-eyes and then you work your way up in quality, ease of rotation and price from there. Low friction is good. Less friction is better. One screw-eye forcing a 90 degree bend is rarely a good thing. Two or three screw-eyes forcing a 90 degree bend has less friction. Ball-bearing mountain climbing pulleys are better yet. "Rescue pulleys" may be even better since you can add them on lines already in place without having access to the ends of the lines. If you have a rock climbing store in your area you MAY find useful pulleys at reasonable prices.
In all cases, plated hardware is better than non-plated; resists rusting, leaves less oil and residue on your cloth, doesn't cost appreciably more than non-plated.
Washers can make effective weights. They can be easily and securely attached by threading lines through them without any need to sew them in place. They're available in a wide range of sizes, thicknesses and weights plus are somewhat useful after when used on temporary projects. If you're shopping big-box stores, look for quantity discounts. The last time I needed between 500 and 600 plated 1/2" flat washers, it was ACTUALLY CHEAPER to buy a pack of 1,000 than it was to buy six packs of 100.
You'll need weights on the bottom of your lightweight curtain or it won't come all the way in. The weights will be necessary to overcome the friction of your lines running around pulleys regardless of the quality of your pulleys.
Be aware with your thin, light weight, fabric all of your lines and hardware may be visible through your fabric, even more so if lit from behind.
Don't worry too much about how to pick up the various points in sequence. Think of it this way: When you decide upon the lengths of your lines, keep little slack in the center line, or lines, that you want to lift first. If you can arrange to leave progressively more slack in your remaining lines without having them foul and tangle, you can actually be pulling them all up together and have the bottom hem rise in sequence as the slack in the various lines is taken up and they begin to take strain. It's always a question of how fancy you want to make it and your resources at hand. Resources may include time, materials and ingenuity.
Have at it @James D and please keep us in your loop.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 
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Van

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I don't know how everyone else makes Venetians but I've always found that building an 'Austrian' or 'Waterfall' then using a but of pulleys and sheaves to mule the rig lines is the easiest way to accomplish it.
In a Waterfall or Austrian all the lines are picked at once. The places between the picks swag and it's pretty. In a Venetian the lines have to be 'tripped'. So you pull the cord, the cord pulls the two center lines, they go up x inches then the next pair of lines starts up, x inches then the next set goes up and so on. The biggest issue is rigging the operation lines to each other. Let's see if I can relay this properly in writing. I'm going to give you the cheap and easy, down and dirty Venetian 101 version. If you are using a lightweight fabric I would rig the whole curtain with Tie-line, anything heavier will ruin the lines of the curtain and be a pain to deal with in the rigging The whole curtain is rigged to a batten, which will act like a compression tube. Curtain can be tied on, screwed on, or if the batten is wood, stapled to it.
Crap, I got side-tracked with work....

Ok, I'm not going to finish this today. Sorry. I will craft a response and post it in a bit.

Suffice to say each line has a pulley. the center two lines are 'Home runs' that go all the way to the ground. all the other lines ar tied to the center lines with various levels of slack so that as you pull the main line the others go taut in sequence. You can accomplish all this with snatch block type setups but for a one off, short use it's easier, cheaper to simply use this method. I've always just sewn the lines to each other then whipped them with thread after getting them all the right length. Hope this helps some. I'll try to write more this evening.
 
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