Scene Shop help

LilKB24

Member
I have been recently asked to put together a wish list for my high school technical theatre class. Among this list I would like to look into putting together a sort of portable scene shop. Not portable in the sense that I want to move it different places around the school. Portable in the sense that there a pretty nice sized room directly next to the theatre that could be used as a black box/scene shop. There are very large doors that leads directly to the stage. This same room is used a the drama teachers classroom but when I am in the set construction portion of my class I would like to be able to set up shop in that area, and be able to clear the room afterwards. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
 

JBrennan

Member
I'm not sure I have any suggestions, but one of the bigger problems you will have to plan for is dust control. If the space is also used as an acting classroom/theater students are often bare foot or in socks for various exercises. This means any time your students are done cutting/sanding/screwing/nailing/stapling that floor needs to be spotless to avoid injuries.

Also if it is a blackbox space, I assume there are lighting positions and possibly instruments hung in the space. The dust from construction can easily build up in the lighting instruments (and any soft goods) and cause damage.

We all sweep our shops at the end of the day but I still wouldn't let a student walk barefoot through the place.

Would it be possible to get a trailer, metal storage container, or fenced in area out doors to use for storage and construct in an area of the parking lot or loading areas?

I like the idea though, it'd be nice to have a mobile/collapsible scene shop space.
 

shiben

Well-Known Member
Well, you will want a table saw, a sliding arm miter saw, drill drivers, lots of screws, drill bits, a circular saw, jig saw, router, angle grinder, belt sander, other sanders, other hand tools, measuring tape, pencils. Stuff you might want: MIG welder, plasma cutter, band saw, scroll saw, drill press, dust collection system, steel saw, a painting area, a flammable goods cabinet. At any rate, in your situation, you will want a lot of brooms. How portable all this is is really a decision you need to make at the get go, because something like a saw stop (i dont see any reason for a school to buy anything else) generally needs dust collection and a solid base. Drill presses, bench grinders, belt sanders, etc. require solid mountings too. My guess is that if you can help it, you will want a nicer shop and tools, that way you can build more complex sets, and be building while you load in. Also, you will want some place to keep a flammables cabinet for the numerous stuff that can burn in the shop. A paint area is usually nice to have, but can just be as small as a corner with a sink and some shelves for paint and a rack for brushes (thats all ours is). I think the biggest issue might be where to keep all this stuff. We have a sizable room just to store all of our tools, and a lot of them dont really fit in there that well (all bench mounted and free-standing tools are not moved, for obvious reasons).

However, I work at a college, we have a fairly large scene shop, and have put thousands of dollars a year for the past 10 years into the shop tools and whatnot. Your situation might warrant different tools, probably could save on the metal working tools and stick to wood. However, I think its probably a decent idea. I really like the idea of a Conex that you can fold out or something to make an outdoor shop, but in Chicago, you wont want that.
 

LilKB24

Member
Well, you will want a table saw, a sliding arm miter saw, drill drivers, lots of screws, drill bits, a circular saw, jig saw, router, angle grinder, belt sander, other sanders, other hand tools, measuring tape, pencils. Stuff you might want: MIG welder, plasma cutter, band saw, scroll saw, drill press, dust collection system, steel saw, a painting area, a flammable goods cabinet. At any rate, in your situation, you will want a lot of brooms. How portable all this is is really a decision you need to make at the get go, because something like a saw stop (i dont see any reason for a school to buy anything else) generally needs dust collection and a solid base. Drill presses, bench grinders, belt sanders, etc. require solid mountings too. My guess is that if you can help it, you will want a nicer shop and tools, that way you can build more complex sets, and be building while you load in. Also, you will want some place to keep a flammables cabinet for the numerous stuff that can burn in the shop. A paint area is usually nice to have, but can just be as small as a corner with a sink and some shelves for paint and a rack for brushes (thats all ours is). I think the biggest issue might be where to keep all this stuff. We have a sizable room just to store all of our tools, and a lot of them dont really fit in there that well (all bench mounted and free-standing tools are not moved, for obvious reasons).

However, I work at a college, we have a fairly large scene shop, and have put thousands of dollars a year for the past 10 years into the shop tools and whatnot. Your situation might warrant different tools, probably could save on the metal working tools and stick to wood. However, I think its probably a decent idea. I really like the idea of a Conex that you can fold out or something to make an outdoor shop, but in Chicago, you wont want that.

Thanks for the input and thoughts. I know dust collection is huge problem as well as things like sturdy mounts for drill presses and such.

As far as the sweeping of the stage portion, the theatre class will move into the theatre until we are done with construction for the shows and won't move back until we complete restore the room and are done with the construction unit of the class.

We are looking to possibly use the space as a black box but all lighting currently will be done with a combination of smartbars on pipe and base. not the greatest but we just do what we can lol. Please keep the input coming. I know its hard to really advise anything without knowing the space. I will try to post some pictures of both spaces (Theatre and drama/shop/black box)
 

BrianWolfe

Active Member
I think the first thing you need is someone who does not have to ask which tools do I need. Safety being the most important factor in setting up and running a shop you need someone familiar with all the tools and qualified to teach others how to use them. Without that first in place you may be taking someone to the hospital to have their finger sewn back on.
 
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LilKB24

Member
I think the first thing you need is someone who does not have to ask which tools do I need. Safety being the most important factor in setting up and running a shop you need someone familiar with all the tools and qualified to teach others how to use them. Without that first in place you may be taking someone to the hospital to have their finger sewn back on.

For the construction unit I always bring in an outside professional for about 3-4 weeks to teach. He also doubles as our set designer. I not the type of person who acts like I can do everything. If I know I'm not qualified, I hire. I will also be asking him this friday when we have our first production meeting. I just wanted some other ideas and input as well. Thanks for the input.
 

tjrobb

Well-Known Member
As for dust, would the heat from an S4 (or other unit) be enough to ignite or char built-up dust? I wouldn't want to find out the hard way that it DOES get hot enough...
 

venuetech

Well-Known Member
Departed Member
You will want at least 4 cordless drills with at least eight batteries. They do not need to be top of the line but should be solid and serviceable. A large rolling, lockable tool cabinet should be one of your first projects. be sure to buy very good casters. Folding sawhorses, eight or more.
 

DuckJordan

Well-Known Member
Shibben, I hate to argue a point but how often do you have to cut through wood that has any kind of metal or too "wet" of wood? A saw stop is very sensitive. I've worked in situations where both have been used. I wouldn't want a high school kid anywhere near a Saw Stop. Reason 1: the replacement parts for a saw stop do to its job after it activates cost $70 just for the block that the saw drops into, let alone the cost of your blade. Next is with how much wet and metal laden wood goes through a scene shop you would most likely activate it twice in one 6 hour work day.

As far as a S4 getting hot enough to ignite saw dust. Yes, I have seen it done. it was a S4 19* at 575w lamp. They get hot enough and will ignite saw dust.

Since it is a black box space that needs to be performed in as well as taught in, I would suggest not using it as a scene shop. Unfortunately that means finding another space but in every theater I've worked in it doesn't matter if you spend a week cleaning you will always find more screws, staples, and splinters every time you look.


So in short, I wouldn't recomend it. Find another place that can be solely used as a scene shop/ scene shop classroom.
 

65535

Active Member
Lieco's can burn holes through steel gobos, they can and will set dust on fire, the quartz envelope on the lamp gets to 500F at least, that can set things on fire too.

The issue I see here is like others mention, you have a part time hired on set designer/carpenter, but you'll have the tools around full time. There shouldn't be ANY tool usage at a highschool level without the supervision of someone qualified to do so. Exceptions being screwdrivers and nails and hammers.
 

josh88

Remarkably Tired.
Fight Leukemia
way back when, one of the first things our lighting design instructor at school would do on the practical part of the course was to bring students into the theatre, fly in one of the electrics and then proceed to set fire to a piece of paper he was holding. This served to demonstrate just how hot things get and all the students immediately knew to be careful with things. I made a point to always wander up from the shop to watch on those days just to see reactions.
 

shiben

Well-Known Member
Shibben, I hate to argue a point but how often do you have to cut through wood that has any kind of metal or too "wet" of wood? A saw stop is very sensitive. I've worked in situations where both have been used. I wouldn't want a high school kid anywhere near a Saw Stop. Reason 1: the replacement parts for a saw stop do to its job after it activates cost $70 just for the block that the saw drops into, let alone the cost of your blade. Next is with how much wet and metal laden wood goes through a scene shop you would most likely activate it twice in one 6 hour work day.

As far as a S4 getting hot enough to ignite saw dust. Yes, I have seen it done. it was a S4 19* at 575w lamp. They get hot enough and will ignite saw dust.

Since it is a black box space that needs to be performed in as well as taught in, I would suggest not using it as a scene shop. Unfortunately that means finding another space but in every theater I've worked in it doesn't matter if you spend a week cleaning you will always find more screws, staples, and splinters every time you look.


So in short, I wouldn't recomend it. Find another place that can be solely used as a scene shop/ scene shop classroom.

Our school has 5 or 6 Saw Stop saws and has for maybe 2-3 years, our scene shop just popped the brake cherry for the school with a staple in a board. The engineering building machine shop is way less pro than we are, the fact they didnt pop it says its probably allright. Just keep your boards dry and pull your staples, thats just good practice. And another thing with this being for a school, since its the "safest" tablesaw out there, it might be required by insurance. Some places will have that happen, so if you are going to get one, they might just require it. Pretty sure at least one local school had that happen, just got rid of any tablesaw all together.
 

gafftaper

Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
First off you definitely need a Sawstop table saw if you get a table saw. I've been using one here at the college for nearly four years now and none of my students have ever accidentally triggering the break. Remember Duck this is high school. The students will not be allowed to just use a table saw any time they want without a lot of training and supervision... at least they shouldn't be. School districts and states have strict shop rules that clearly state that the teacher can't be out of the immediate area while power tools are being used. All wood should be inspected by the teacher/TD before any kid cuts it.

If you don't have a proper dust collection system then you should not have a table saw. Period. A table saw kicks far too much dust in the air and depending on the saw's design it may get jammed or even damaged by operating without a dust collection system.

If you are serious about this also being a performance space you need to design it so you can remove the lights and curtains from the room before you do any carpentry. You'll be amazed how much dust one cut makes. That's not going to be fun but it's the only way to do it without ruining your lighting and curtains.

Finally a lot of schools just end up building on stage. This sounds like an okay idea at first but it still generates a lot of dust which can get into the lights, curtains, even into the seats in the house. So it should be avoided if at all possible.
 

DuckJordan

Well-Known Member
First off you definitely need a Sawstop table saw if you get a table saw. I've been using one here at the college for nearly four years now and none of my students have ever accidentally triggering the break. Remember Duck this is high school. The students will not be allowed to just use a table saw any time they want without a lot of training and supervision... at least they shouldn't be. School districts and states have strict shop rules that clearly state that the teacher can't be out of the immediate area while power tools are being used. All wood should be inspected by the teacher/TD before any kid cuts it.

If you don't have a proper dust collection system then you should not have a table saw. Period. A table saw kicks far too much dust in the air and depending on the saw's design it may get jammed or even damaged by operating without a dust collection system.

If you are serious about this also being a performance space you need to design it so you can remove the lights and curtains from the room before you do any carpentry. You'll be amazed how much dust one cut makes. That's not going to be fun but it's the only way to do it without ruining your lighting and curtains.

Finally a lot of schools just end up building on stage. This sounds like an okay idea at first but it still generates a lot of dust which can get into the lights, curtains, even into the seats in the house. So it should be avoided if at all possible.


I have to agree to a point but in high school things slip by the teachers much more often than in college. I'm assuming its about the same as what my high school was where there was often 8-10 year old lumber with numerous amounts of broken screws and other things. I also feel that its the instructors job to teach the students how to run the saw, but how often do procedures happen exactly how they are supposed to? I know too many high school tech teachers who happen to forget after a few times and completely miss the topic.

Its two different views over the same subject and both are both argued very well. Ultimately it will come down to a decision between you and your administration.
 

Sony

Active Member
Sawstop is expensive and ruins blades.
It's remaining time as the market leader is short.

I present the future of safe table saw use:
Whirlwind Tool Patents Pending Saw Safety Technology Available for Assignment/License

Sorry but that saw looks annoying and awkward to use, it says it senses when fingers are close to the blade guard, well I know my fingers sometimes come into close proximity to the blade guard but I'm not stupid and I know how to use a table saw and therefore my fingers are never in danger. I feel like I would become frustrated with the saw every time my fingers came just slightly too close to the guard and it stopped the saw. I think I'll stick with the SawStop, I have one and it shouldn't ruin blades unless you're very stupidly sticking your fingers into the saw or not checking the wood you're cutting for metallic objects. You shouldn't be cutting through metallic objects in wood in the first place, THAT is what ruins blades. I'd much rather pay the $60 for the replacement brake and $20 for a new blade then lose a finger, but I would NOT want to have to restart my saw every 30 seconds when I'm cutting wood just because I waved my hand near the blade guard.

If you're smart when cutting wood...it is very difficult to set off the sawstop safety system. If you are using it to cut sheet metal or you know your wood is too wet (it's pretty easy to tell when wood is wet) then you can use the Bypass Key that comes with the saw.

And YES SawStops are a requirement by law in most public schools these days, not just for insurance purposes but for liability purposes as well.
 
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NickVon

Well-Known Member
Can you really put a price on not cutting off accidently a Students or hell your finger. I think 70$, and a new saw-blade is about the best bang for your buck for not cutting off a finger. IMO

If you area professional shop, sure the the added cost of the Sawstop saw, and the chance that you might go through a couple of brakes when your fingers aren't in danger maybe makes it not of value. I think in an educational and ESPECIALLY a high school setting this technology is well worth it.
 

mstaylor

Well-Known Member
Departed Member
way back when, one of the first things our lighting design instructor at school would do on the practical part of the course was to bring students into the theatre, fly in one of the electrics and then proceed to set fire to a piece of paper he was holding. This served to demonstrate just how hot things get and all the students immediately knew to be careful with things. I made a point to always wander up from the shop to watch on those days just to see reactions.
When I was building houses, any new hire got to see fire a nail across the jobsite from the airnailer. Not something to play with. Practical demostration is the best.
 

gafftaper

Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
Sawstop is expensive and ruins blades. It's remaining time as the market leader is short.

Depending on the model Sawstops cost around 20-25% more than a similar Delta saw. Besides being a safe tool they are actually one of the best built precision cutting tools you can get. If you look around you'll find product reviews that rate some models as equal or superior to Delta, Powermatic, and the other top manufacturers WITHOUT considering the safety mechanism. I've got the big 3 phase 5 h.p. model at work it cost about $750 more than a comparable Delta. They are not just a kids safety tool they are really well built professional machines. I've personally seen the Sawstop backstage in the shop at Cirque: Ka. I've been told about them being used in many other of the top scenic shops in the industry. Another thing to consider is that it comes with a really high quality stock fence (unlike some other manufacturers where you have to immediately go spend $350 on a new third party fence).

Second, remember there is a simple safety override procedure so it's easy to shut off the safety if you are cutting suspicious wood. I've used this a few times when the wood I'm working on is a little wet from the lumber yard.

Third, although I have never seen it myself, they say that the break does NOT destroy the blade. It did on the very first models but the ones they've been making for the last 3 or 4 years supposedly do not damage the blade.
 
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DuckJordan

Well-Known Member
Third, although I have never seen it myself, they say that the break does NOT destroy the blade. It did on the very first models but the ones they've been making for the last 3 or 4 years supposedly do not damage the blade.

Its a 50/50 kind of thing, sometimes it demolishes the blade sometimes it doesn't it depends on how the blade hit the brake. I've seen the brake pad which is the 70$ piece of equipment be able to handle up to 3-4 Stops at full speed so i guess its not that costly (its just a time cruncher).
 

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