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My platform system

Discussion in 'Scenery, Props, and Rigging' started by gafftaper, May 17, 2007.

  1. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I've had several people ask me how to build a good quiet platform in the past. I just finished putting one together and built some new pieces. As long as I was doing it I thought I would take a bunch of pictures and post them. So what follows is a step by step guide through the system I use. I'm sure there are lots of other great options out there, but currently this is my favorite. I admit the platforms are very heavy... but they are very strong, very quiet, and very stable. I see no reason you couldn't use this system to build a platform 10 feet tall if you wanted.

    For the platform itself I use a 2X4 frame with a brace every 24 inches. The platform pictured is only a 48 inch square but you will see examples of an 8 footer below. [​IMG]

    I place a layer of 1/2 inch sound proofing board underneath a layer of 3/4 inch plywood. This is the same fibrous stuff used in walls to keep the noise down between you and your neighbor. It's really nasty stuff to work with so use a respirator if you have to cut it. And be careful how you breathe when you are loading it at the lumber yard.
    [​IMG]

    Think of your platform as a giant drum head. Keeping the platform quiet is all about minimizing vibration. So we use a thick plywood stock, we put a layer of sound deadener in the middle to absorb vibration, and by placing braces every 24 inches which are screwed into from the top we shrink down the area that is free to vibrate.
    [​IMG]

    Now for the legs. Build legs of 1X4 and 2X4 as pictured below. The 2X4's are 24 inches apart... this lines up perfectly with the bracing on the platform to transfer the weight perfectly.
    [​IMG]

    Now cut a cover for every second section. This is to create cross bracing to prevent rocking the long way on the platform down the road. I use 1/4 inch luan. You could also use 1/8 inch luan, or even Masonite. It doesn't have to be thick at all. It's simply fixing the distance on the surrounding 2X4's so they can't rock.
    [​IMG]

    Now bolt together however many platforms you need.
    [​IMG]

    And attach the leg units, 2 per platform. I just use either a 2 or 2 1/2 inch screw through the 1x4 of the leg unit and into the main long 2X4 of the platform. One screw per "square" is enough.
    [​IMG]

    Now attach cross bracing to the legs. Each end gets a straight piece of 1X3 that matches the distance between the legs where they attach to the platform... make sure you've got everything square and plum in this step. Then add diagonal cross bracing every 4 feet. This doesn't have to be particularly strong... I use 1X2 or 1X3. Be sure that your diagonal cross bracing alternates for added strength... always pre-drill your holes when using 1X2 and 1X3, it WILL split.
    [​IMG]

    If you are putting several platforms together be sure all your cross bracing is always high to low, low to high, in every direction there is never two of the same side by side... [​IMG]

    That's it, now get an army and roll that bad boy over.
    The only problem I have with this system is the occasional squeak of two platforms flexing when an actor walks. Often this can be solved by adding another bolt between platforms or tightening existing bolts. I'm thinking about adding some sort of thin rubber strip between platforms to prevent squeaks. To finish it off I just enclose it with luan facing.
    Like I said, it's a serious pain in the butt to move around but it's quiet and strong. I've seen people stuffing platforms with pillows, blankets, even stapling fiberglass insulation underneath. You won't have to do that with this system. If you have the storage space, you can keep all the parts and re-assembly is very rapid. At my old high school over a period of several years I developed a nice stock of several standard heights. I could grab some 16, 24, or 32 inch legs and slap together the perfect platform in no time.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2007
    Jay Ashworth likes this.
  2. cutlunch

    cutlunch Active Member

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    Thanks Gafftaper that is a very good presentation. These platforms are definitely built solid. How do you store them stacked flat or verticaly? How much does the timber cost in each platform?

    Just out of interest what is the tallest one you have made?

    Thanks again for posting this info.
     
  3. Chaos is Born

    Chaos is Born Active Member

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    How thick are these platforms when completed? and whats the weight ratio for leg support (how much of the platform can be hung out over something with little to no deflection and no support)?

    Our theatre at the school here is working with "Triscuits" Basically a 4'x4' square that you build stud walls to support. They weigh in at about 75-80 lbs a piece but they are solid as a rock and are quiet as well. These are only 2 1/4" thick. You can also hang 2/3rds of them off an edge with no support under those 2/3rds and it will have less than 1/2" deflection. The amount of support per square foot that these can hold is aproximately 200lbs.

    If you would like a drawing i can post one up for you guys.
     
  4. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Sorry... looks like Yahoo doesn't want that many people to look at my pictures. Here they are below.

    I've only built them to 6' high... but clearly it's just a matter of how well you build the "stud wall" supports. I store the platforms in a flat stack and the legs are light enough that they can be stashed in whatever interesting hiding places you can find in your theater.

    EDIT... I've attached the pictures to this message redirected the links to control booth so they should work now. (Anyone know why the function isn't working? I was hoping to make the pictures appear in the post not as links.)

    Chaos: I have to admit I've never done the math and I should. The platform is the design my college T.D. always used in his 40 years of theater. I added the sound board and change the way he did the some of the bracing. I'll tell you this I've seen a lot of dancers on these things and they never budge. I've never put them into a situation where I was worried that they might be over loaded so I've never taken the time to do the math. Our show opens tonight... once I get done with that I'll curl up with my backstage handbook and calculator and figure it out. I bet the platforms weigh around 100 pounds for a 4X8 (we are talking 4 1/2 2X4's, a sheet of 3/4 ply and a sheet of 1/2 inch sound board in each platform)... I can sort of move them on my own but always try to have at least one other person help me. Platforms total 4 3/4 inches thick but that layer of sound board compresses a little when you screw this thing together so it looses 1/16-1/8 of an inch depending on how much you squeeze them.

    And please post a sketch or picture of your triscuits. I was hoping to both help those who need a system and to generate some debate at the same time with this thread. We all are looking for a better platform right? I've been very interested in trying some triscuits but haven't done it yet.
     

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  5. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    If I ever have the occasion to make platforms again, I hope I remember this thread. I like the leg "system". Looks a lot easier to build (and disassemble for storage and re-use) that the system I've used.


    Joe
     
  6. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Cost? Well around here a 4X8 platform is currently running about $55 for wood. A 24" high leg unit is currently running about $10.
     
  7. Chaos is Born

    Chaos is Born Active Member

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    Ok, here is a quick rough drawing.

    The grain of the plywood runs top to bottom on this drawing (so that the long pieces of 1x are holding the full weight of the grain from the plywood)

    You would make studwalls for the legging units, the vertical legs only have to be every 2' though. (can fudge it to 3' for ease if needed)

    For strength and multiple useage you would want to use AB ply, and grade A 1x (yes expensive but these are some resiliant platforms)

    Sandwich the 1x strips between the 4x8 sheets of plywood using glue (and staples only to hold them in place). The glue is what makes this so extremely structural.

    As said before, these weigh about 75-80 lbs and you can easily have half of them with no support overhanging nothingness and up to 3/4 of them if secured correctly.

    And these are about as strong as your stage floor and are quiet as well.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2007
  8. SweetBennyFenton

    SweetBennyFenton Active Member

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    Van and I started using a modified triscuit design this year and everyone here seems to like them. My favorite part of owning triscuits is that they are so easy to store.

    We have a very small storage space, and I have one 4' x 4' area where I store the platforms. I've got one stack, 30 high.

    I like your design a lot Gafftaper. I'll have to remember it.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2007
  9. Traitor800

    Traitor800 Active Member

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    So heres an intresting solution that my TD came up with for elimanting the noise of actors walking around on platforms.
    We take the standard 4'x8' platforms that we use(2x4 sides and 3/4 ply top) arrange them however we need to and then we place foam carpet padding on the platform, followed by a Masonite top. The carpet padding that we use is the stuff that is like a particle foam with a plastic mesh in it, and its like .5" thick. We get the padding free from a local carpet installer, they give us their castoffs and scraps, and we just piece it together to fit our platforms. It eliminates a lot of noise and it makes the platforms really nice to walk on.
     
  10. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Am I understanding the "Triscuit" correctly in that it is basically a stressed skin platform? Just wondering.

    Also, on gafftaper's original idea. We use a modified version of that technique at my theatre depending on need. Sometimes we will build the deck for a show with standard platform construction and then surface the entire deck with Celotex (the sound proofing material). Then depending on the needs of the show we would do one of two things. For some shows we lay Masonite or other decking over the Celotex. For other shows we just dutchman with muslin over the Celotex. That eats a lot of paint, and means that we can't roll the Genie or Ladder on the deck, but it makes the deck very quiet.
     
  11. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Yes we use a modified version of the Yale-ly Stressed skins often reffered to as "Triscuits". They see to hold up quite well, tend to be quiet. I really want to try making some out of extruded polyethylene foam and plywood. I've seen them used in new housing construction for roofs and they seem to be light and structural at the same time. The trick as I see it, is getting a high quality contact cement, that won't eat the foam. 30 Neutral is what i've used in the past, just need to find more......
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 11, 2012
  12. Chaos is Born

    Chaos is Born Active Member

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    Yeah, the design is what we switched over to when our TD came in (yes he graduated Yale). We also built carts to hold 10 of them... nothing quite like having a half ton cart of wood rolling around waiting to crush someone.

    You can also make other stock sizes like 2x4 and 1x4 Triscuits. Not much changes really, the 1x4s don't have bracing in the center. the 2x4's have one or two center cross pieces instead of the three in the 4x4.

    I would not sugjest making anything larger than a 4x4 triscuit... you could make up to a 4x8 but it would weigh a hell of a lot...
     
  13. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    One of the other ways that I have seen stressed skin platforms made is with honeycomb as the center material. Light and very sturdy. I believe you can get it in 4x8 sheets which make it very convenient for platforming. Not cheap stuff, but it works well.
     
  14. leistico

    leistico Member

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    I've been wondering about triscuits. We're about to build an apron for our stage, as right now we're using audience risers (Stageright) supporting 2" thick 4x8 decking as a stage surface/apron. We want to reclaim our audience risers, so we're looking at building a "permanent" apron, and I'd love to try triscuits on studwalls.

    To those who use 'em now--the Yale-ish variety--how well do they hold up to screws and such, i.e. flats and scenery being attached to 'em? Would screw holes, through the ply or through the ply and the stringers, weaken them considerably? Also, as far as mounting, carriage bolts? Regular bolts with flat heads ratcheted down flush? We do a lot of musicals, so there'd be dancing up there.

    Also, do you use the triscuits bare-topped, or do you lay something like masonite or lauan over top of the triscuits once they're in place? Would that even be advisable? I'm just trying to gather all the pertinent info before I commit to a course of action. Thanks

    sean
     
  15. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Good Questions! personally I usually use 3" drywall screws to anchor the triscuits to the pony walls. I suppose, if you built a lot of stock size ponie and triscuits you could develope a bolt hole pattern that would work out properly for a wide variety of layouts. As for bolting you'd definately need to use a carriage, as you are not going to want to put too big a countersink hole in the top or bottom "waffers" or you'll create a structural instability.
    I cover most all of my platforms with either 1/4" tempered Hardboard < masonite> OR 1/4 MDF the advantage of MDF is it size, 49"x97" so you can completely cover a 4x8 area including seams.
    I've found the triscuits have held up well to being repeatedly screwed to < :oops:> A trick SweetbennyFenton < a member here and my former MC> used when laying out the triscuits is to actually build them 1/4" short all the way around so a 48x48 is actually 47 3/4" x47 3/4" this alows you o layout the platforms on the stud walls and leave an 1/8" gap all the way around each unit. This process really cut down on squeaks. Baby powder is another good trick if your platforms start squeaking, and it makes strike smell "Oh So Fresh"
     
  16. Chaos is Born

    Chaos is Born Active Member

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    The way we keep our triscuts "fresh" and free of so many screw holes is we put 2x2 inch 1/8" thick strap steel that has a space routered out on the corners with 3 screws to hold the plate down and the fourth one is a hole all the way through that has the metal countersunk to already make the screw flush with the triscuit when its all the way in. This way, everyone knows where the screws are supposed to go and they don't make the triscuits into swiss cheese.

    however cutting 8 2x2 inch squares per triscuit is tedious... but just think of drilling the 24 holes per triscuit to mount them...
     
  17. msawyer52

    msawyer52 Member

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    We use this same platform to build a complete stage every year in our gymatorium. We've used the same platforms for over 10 years with minor repairs. We use 4'x8' platforms to make a 16'x32' stage. They hold up well and are "relativly" quiet. Nice explanation.
     
  18. emac

    emac Active Member

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    Ok so i really like this system and i was wondering how i could make this work for my application. I am a high school student that runs the technical part of our drama department and events planning committee(we are a completely student run school(with out a drama teacher)) and I want to build a catwalk for the fashion show. It needs to be portable so that we can take it to the venue and I want it to be about 1-2 feet high. I already have 3 platforms with out legs that are 4x8 but if possible i would like to build a complete system..... Also it needs to be pretty cheap we have no budget for the fashion show....

    thanks


    emac
     
  19. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Not inexpensive, [user]emac[/user], but 100% reusable and should last forever:
    [​IMG]
    http://www.theatricalhardware.com/Leg-a-Matic.html
     
  20. emac

    emac Active Member

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    I had seen this and i am considering it BUT I was wondering how i should brace the bottoms of the feet and still make it reusable i was thinking using bolts at the legs and having boards circle the platform???
     

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