Filling holes in scenery


Active Member
Here are a couple of suggestions for filling holes or seams in scenery.
Dutchman. You can pretty much get away with white glue and strips of muslin. Just thoroughly soak the muslin in a white glue /water mixture 75% glue to 25%water and smooth the strip over the seam.
Joint Compound or spackle. Works great on smaller holes and tight seams. Don't go too thick on your first coat it will take forever to dry.
Bondo. Make sure you have a well ventilated work area for this stuff. But it is amazing for filling in the missing pieces.
Spackle works well in patching holes less than 1/4"
Joint compound works well in larger holes and divots smaller in size than a quarter. There are various grades of joint compound available from Durabond (to cite one manufacturer's trade name for it) 45 to 90 to topping compound. For the most part, the number designations are for how long it takes to dry fully and thus how much working time you have with it. The other types are for how fine a mix of powder you have. Joint compund used for the scratch coat will be a bit more gritty than topping compound. Joint compount "Lite" for instance is a light weight composition but it needs more reinforcement when used in larger areas.

I recommend using powder joint compound as opposed to ready mixed. This way you can add glue or as much water as you need for your specific project and are ensured of always getting a fresh batch. The ready mix has a limited shelf life and gets especially bad the longer the can is open. If you use it, grab some out of the can and put it into a seperate container or tray. That way, you can close up the main container as soon as possible and any contaminants you have on the wall won't get into your main tub. Once your ready mix gets dry or contaminated, it is about useless to use and won't adhere to the wall well. You can add a bit of glue to it but that will only help a bit. It won't spread well once chunky either.

To sand it, you might want to protect what ever is in the area and have someone around with a sparay bottle to spritz the air with water in preventing the air from filling up with dust that will get everywhere. Also use of a shop vacuum is helpful. Make sure you wear a mask and safety goggles when sanding it also.

You can help the amount of stick of either spackle or joint compound by adding a bit of glue to them as said. White glue works in general, so does wood glue for attachment to wood. Sobo or other flexible glues possibly work best in adding strength to your filler because it stays slightly flexable and will to some extent transfer that flexability to the joint compound. Where possible, you might also want to apply some glue directly to the surface you are filling to help it stick better yet. Problem with using glue is that it does not take paint as well as straight spackle or joint compound so you might have to prime your work or determine if the extra strength is necessary as opposed to just joint compound alone. Paint can also be used pre-mixed with the joint compound.

With this method, you can use fiberglass joint tape to reinforce your hole and expand how much area you can cover.

Epoxy also works well to fill holes. I like using it with fiberglass joint tape or even friction tape. This will make what you are doing much similar to making a fiberglass joint or coating because it's reinforced. With all these methods, it just depends what it is and how much of it you are filling.

In Bondo there are two types, the normal stuff that is commonly used in scene shops when not using spackle or joint compound for applications that require a bit of a strong bond or a bond to synthetic materials, and there is the fiberglass reinforced stuff. The fiberglass reinforced Bondo can be used for re-building or building up damaged areas. For instance for some of the hard flat style walls used for events, the corners were getting damaged if not chewed up and going away. Fiberglass reinforced Bondo can be applied in layers and later sanded to make up a whole new corner on scenery and props that is just as strong as the original given some support. In this case a 4" chunk was taken out of a corner. We installed some drywall screws into the corner to support and anchor the Bondo, than built up sufficiently enough layers of it that when sanded, and painted, you could not tell there was a broken and missing corner.
You must always use a mask with Bondo or it will make you sick when you apply and sand it.

Some other ther types of materials that work well are water putty and plaster of paris. Both have their advantages depending upon what you are working with.
I would just like to add to Ship's list of materials, that if you use any of the chemical type agents *MAKE SURE YOU HAVE PROPER VENTILATION*. This is very important. There are lots of chemicals that are more dangerous than one would think. Always read instructions, wear eye and ear protection, and think things through. Be careful and have fun.
I am a personal fan of the muslin and glue theory of filling joints and here is why. I have found that set vibrations can loosen joint compound and create cracks or other problems. (This shouldnt happen if you have a well built set, but for quick sets I have seen it happen) Another problem with compounds is that if you are making a set with alot of standard stock wood you generaly have inperfections in it and small divits the joint compound has a tendency to look to perfect somtimes and without texture the paint makes it almost more noticable then a joint would have been. I think in most high school situations a strip of wide masking tape will usually do the trick and not be to noticable.
I forget, been a while and it's given my last set designs were kind of close proximity to the audience, but how do you mask the seam from the fabric, or are you using a more lightweight form of muslin with a feathered edge.

I can remember the days of using wheat paste on such soft flat seams way back when. It was great fun mixing it up and spreading it around on the scenery and your friends.

Guess it lost in practice for me when my scenery took the form of more hard flats in speed of construction and need for a more realistic wall given the closeness to the audience. Think I tried a dutchman seam once on the hard flats, it didn't work well. Than I went to taping and joint compounding. Different styles of scenery.

Interesting that you are using glue. I thought duchman seams were supposted to be removable thus the wheat paste.

Another thing along the masking tape line might be to use 3" Gaffers tape or "Tunnel Tape" which is a kind of gaffers tape with the center section not having adhesive on it. It's available in sizes up to 6" wide.
You know I'm having a heck of a time trying to remember. I do remember that most of the time I've used a dutchman, it was on corners that were going to get abused. I don't think I've ever used it on "flat"
flat seams. Lessen of course it was a jungle or highly textured wall.
to fill in holes we use various methods, but for seams between flats old reliable masking tape does the trick. it takes some time and patience. 2 or 3 wide strips of masking tape down the seam between 2 flats usually does the trick for us. and it does have the advantage of giving a little during a show so that no cracks appear.
spray foam,sand and paint as per can directions
It's expensive, but for those last-minute dutchmanning jobs gaff tape can be a lifesaver.
its called dutching. cover the muslin in paint then put it over the hole.

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