Spinning Bookcase a la Young Frankenstein

JHWelch

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Joined
Oct 7, 2009
Location
Westford, MA
We're doing a production of young Frankenstein and I'm stumped when it comes to the spinning bookcase.

The scene in the musical greatly resembles This scene from the movie.

As you see it is imperative that the door be able to spin 360 Degrees from a center pivot point. Another point that makes this harder for me is that the bookcase will only be on stage for one scene which means that the whole unit needs to be on wheels, so there it has to be able to spin independent of the movement of the unit and can't be fixed to the ground.

Last wrinkle is that the floor underneath the actor should move at the same time so that they travel along with the door.

Any tips? I'd rather keep it less complicated, but obviously it won't be too easy. Thanks!
 

bobgaggle

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Joined
Nov 19, 2007
Location
Philadelphia, PA
Wagon with a flat on it. Depending on how much money you want to pour into this, I'd skip the effect of the floor moving and have him walk along with it. It saves money and time and the headache of how you want to drive the thing to spin. If he can walk he can push it himself. I'd put a few casters in the shelf to carry the weight of it rather than cantilever off the pivot and have a shaft/pillow block for the pivot. If you really want the "floor to move" I'd build a little floating platform that is attached to the bookshelf that he can stand on while it spins.

If you really really want a turntable, I'd go with a steel tube frame for the wagon and make sure you put a caster right under the pivot point. Build in recessed framing for the turntables casters and deck as normal, then build up the walls. I've never done a turntable in a wagon but some problems I can foresee are the rigidity of the wagon effecting the rotation of the revolve due to variations in your floor, general stability issues typical of any tall thing on wheels.
 

Robert

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Joined
Apr 1, 2004
Location
The South
Custom platform with a circle cut out in it. Frame the opening in the base platform and use inverted fixed casters to support two pieces of laminated 3/4 ply that has the bookshelf mounted on it. Place a center pivot on the top through the surround and to the base platform as well.
 
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themuzicman

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Joined
Apr 27, 2007
Location
On Tour
The Broadway wagon was pretty simple -- The entire Bookcase/Mantle unit was a single tracked wagon on wheels. The bookcase and floor were on a turntable, the underside of the turntable was connected to a large gear, this gear was connected to a crank, and it was cranked by a guy just offstage behind the mantle. The entire turntable floated on a ring of large ball bearings that were recessed into the floor of the wagon. I know zero carpentry, I just put this dumb set on a truck a whole lot.

Also, because it was on ball bearings and didn't naturally want to stop on a dime, a second carpenter would physically kick a piece of wood into the path of the bookcase to make it suddenly stop while the carp on the crank would hold on to the crank real hard so it didn't spin the other way. Loose pins between the book shelf and the mantle would hold the bookshelf in place as it tracked on/off stage so it looked solid.
 

Brandofhawk

Active Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2009
Location
Los Angeles, California
The Broadway wagon was pretty simple -- The entire Bookcase/Mantle unit was a single tracked wagon on wheels. The bookcase and floor were on a turntable, the underside of the turntable was connected to a large gear, this gear was connected to a crank, and it was cranked by a guy just offstage behind the mantle. The entire turntable floated on a ring of large ball bearings that were recessed into the floor of the wagon. I know zero carpentry, I just put this dumb set on a truck a whole lot.

Also, because it was on ball bearings and didn't naturally want to stop on a dime, a second carpenter would physically kick a piece of wood into the path of the bookcase to make it suddenly stop while the carp on the crank would hold on to the crank real hard so it didn't spin the other way. Loose pins between the book shelf and the mantle would hold the bookshelf in place as it tracked on/off stage so it looked solid.
I worked with the set semi recently actually. Despite the awkward way to make it all work (what with the kicking and holding hard), it as a decent trick! We had a tough time convincing the venue to let us use the tesla coil. :(
 

bobgaggle

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Joined
Nov 19, 2007
Location
Philadelphia, PA
The bookcase and floor were on a turntable, the underside of the turntable was connected to a large gear, this gear was connected to a crank, and it was cranked by a guy just offstage behind the mantle.
That's pretty cool, was it a wood gear? I worked a Britney Spears show that had was motor driven revolve (maybe 4' dia) but the entire gear train was plywood. Thought it was the coolest thing, and probably a lot cheaper to build than steel.
 

themuzicman

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Joined
Apr 27, 2007
Location
On Tour
I worked with the set semi recently actually. Despite the awkward way to make it all work (what with the kicking and holding hard), it as a decent trick! We had a tough time convincing the venue to let us use the tesla coil. :(
Funny enough, local fire marshalls never had issues with the Tesla - their issue was always with the stupid flaming thumb and the cigars.

That's pretty cool, was it a wood gear? I worked a Britney Spears show that had was motor driven revolve (maybe 4' dia) but the entire gear train was plywood. Thought it was the coolest thing, and probably a lot cheaper to build than steel.
Nahh, it was a big steel crank and gear, or maybe aluminum? The cranking bit looked like this -- a rod ran down under the deck to a gear that would rotate 1:1 for every time you turned the handle, which was nothced into a gear under the turntable, which was like a 10:1 crank to turn the turntable.

https://static1.artfire.com/uploads...lpture_bookend_welded_repurposed_78d33451.jpg

Either way, it was metal. Hudson Scenic built it, I just put speakers near it.
 

garyvp

Active Member
Joined
Oct 15, 2008
Location
Brooklyn NY
I worked with the set semi recently actually. Despite the awkward way to make it all work (what with the kicking and holding hard), it as a decent trick! We had a tough time convincing the venue to let us use the tesla coil. :(
We used ball rollers on the bookcase and not a round wagon - just spun on the floor - - the gag worked fine. We used a medium Tesla and several Jacobs ladders..the lab was everything.
 

len

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Joined
Oct 23, 2004
Location
Chicagoland
Blucher!
 

garyvp

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Joined
Oct 15, 2008
Location
Brooklyn NY
I built the Tesla coil and two Jacobs ladders - the former far more difficult than the latter. If you are an electrical geek it can be done if you have the time and materials.
 
Joined
Nov 19, 2015
Location
Ashland, Oregon
In the last production I stage managed, The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, our revolving bookcase consisted of a bookcase unit, 4'x6'x1' mounted top and bottom to some simple lazy Susan hardware. this sat on top of a 18" high platform with a 2" steel pipe going through the platform and into the bookcase. then on that pipe was a small wooden wheel that a technician turned while laying on their back under the platform. I simply told them where to be ready to turn the wheel and they actuated it on my signal over headset. a few hours into our first tech her spikes on the wheel became misaligned to the bookcase above. After we realized the pipe was slipping, some threadlock glue and 24hrs solved that issue. When turning, the corner brushed through thin black fabric to keep light from spilling through.

Attached is a picture of the set, 3rd bookcase from the left is the 360 revolve. (The first from the left is a sliding bookcase that slides upstage, and the first from the right is a hatch that opens upstage like a door.) one of the funnest sets we've had so far!
20170119_225306.jpg