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Stock Deck Platform

Discussion in 'Scenery, Props, and Rigging' started by HomeGrown, Mar 12, 2018.

  1. HomeGrown

    HomeGrown Member

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    My theatre company is moving into a long term agreement with a church space that we are very excited to have. It is shaped very much like a traditional proscenium space (Prosc. arch and over stage catwalks and all) however, in the stage are the ground is on the same level as the house, there is no elevated stage deck. However, we've been priced out of buying a nice portable stage.

    We are looking for a way of building a light weight stage deck that is easy to leg up and set up, but is then easy to store when our productions close and the space has to go back to being a church.

    Our current thought is to use 4x8 or 4x4 platforms, but we're wondering:
    -What is the lightest way to build them so they are sturdy enough to handle being moved and stored so often? The top will probably have to be plywood so we can screw into it and put masonite down.
    -What is the easiest/ quickest way to repeatedly leg them up attach them that doesn't involve screwing them together or screwing legs on? they will be between 2'6" and 3' tall.

    Thank you!
     
  2. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @HomeGrown You might look into a system of pins and wedges used primarily by general contractors assembling forms for pouring concrete. Extremely durable. Reusable. All wedges are identical. You purchase pins with integral flat washers in a variety of lengths to suit your needs. An amateur group in Burlington, Ontario, Canada purchased their stock of pins and wedges in the 1950's and they're still using them, though not as much as they used to before cordless drills, cordless impact drivers and pneumatic tools became commonly available. The pins and wedges assemble VERY SECURELY with hammers, typically from 1 pound to a 2.5 pound baby sledge.
    The only minor annoyance. You need to drill a hole for the pins to pass through but, if you're smart, you learn to standardize where you locate holes in relation to the ends of platforms and flats to maximize reuse of existing holes and minimize the drilling of new holes.
    The same group built their flats with 2" x 2" and / or 2" x 3" frames and assembled them into sets with pins and wedges as well. This resulted in flats you could stand on the tops of while focusing and / or finessing masking.
    I'd show you a photo but I'm retired and existing in a home for the aged and infirm, far from any theaters.
    EDIT: Think akin to Rota-locks but for wood rather than scaffold pipe in the sense that you tighten them by hammering a wedge to secure them.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard.
     
  3. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Foam core stressed skin decks.

    I'm not sure but a system of "parallels" that are over the size of a single deck so it supports all adjacent decks. Say 4x4 decks, with 4'8" x 4'8" supports - either folding like a parallel or 4 knee walls that form a square. Those could even be foam core and slip pin hinges. Whether it's pins or casket locks or something else, it just needs to n held together to be rigid.
     
  4. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    The first pro' theatre I worked in, our first in house shop project was 4' x 8' 3/4" ply tops with folding 4' x 8' parallels with a center gate. All tops locked in place laterally with corner blocks and stored and travelled on double-sided, near-vertical, scenery dollies. We had 4' x 8' folding parallels in 8", 1', 2', 3' and 4' heights eventually adding two 4' x 4' AND two 45 degree corners of each height. All of these stored on rolling dollies in our trap room. They were used at pit level and brought up to stage level on the first pit lift for choral groups from small to large (Approximately 120 voices) and university graduations. Several times per year, the tops received a fresh coat of flat black paint to make them a little more presentable. They were built in 1973 and were in service for at least two decades. Two feet and higher, the parallels were built traditionally using 1" x 3" stock with corner blocks and keystones cut from 1/4" or 3/8" ply, clout-nails and glue, lots of glue. The 8" and 1' parallels were cut from 3/4" ply as it saved IA labor over assembling 1" x 3".
    We had a collection of facings to pretty them up and chair rails to prevent performers from pushing stacking chairs off the rear edges of every level. I have a nagging feeling we eventually built a few 5' parallels as well. I know we often assembled a row of 2' parallels on top of the 4' parallels to get up to 6' for extremely large choirs or graduations. We also built railings to work with the taller configurations.
    EDITED: @HomeGrown To elaborate on construction finesse . . .
    When the parallels were cut from full sheets of 3/4" ply to save IA labor, the sides were windowed out to reduce weight, allow for convenient gripping and to include six feet.
    When the parallels were traditionally built with 1" x 3" with plywood corner blocks, keystones, clout nails and glue, six portions were extended to serve as feet, extremely short legs if you prefer.
    In all cases, no matter how the parallels were fabricated, 2" back-flap hinges were used with their riveted pins ground out, removed and replaced by appropriately sized common steel nails with their heads bent 90 degrees to aid with insertion and removal. Each half hinge was accurately located with two, short, flat-head wood screws and secured with a flat-head machine screw through each 3rd hole. The machine screws were torqued 'til their square nuts were sinking into the wood with excess bolt length snapped off flush with the nut and ground smooth.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
    Van likes this.
  5. rphilip

    rphilip Member

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    How often will you need to remove the portable stage?

    Different construction methods might apply if you'll be moving it weekely be every other month.
     
  6. HomeGrown

    HomeGrown Member

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    It will be brought out for 3 productions per season where it will live there for 2 weeks of build/ tech time and 3 weeks of a run before being struck and stored until the next production.
     
  7. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Overall size?

    Any load-in load-out obstructions or challenges - stairs, small doors, etc.?
     
  8. TimMc

    TimMc Well-Known Member

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    Temporary hollow stages built of combustible materials will need to meet your local/state fire and life-safety codes as it is used in a place of public assembly. You may wish to consult with your Authority Having Jurisdiction before beginning construction or use.

    There's a reason StageRight, Wenger and others don't use wood....
     
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  9. josh88

    josh88 Remarkably Tired. Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    They do use wood, just not for the frame, the deck still is primarily a plywood core clad with various materials. But the point stands that primarily wooden platforms may not be allowed in areas. In Rhode Island at least, we're not allowed to seat audience members on wooden risers.
     
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  10. TimMc

    TimMc Well-Known Member

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    Yepper. That cladding has to be flame-resistant (ratings for flame spread, fuel contribution and smoke density), with different standards for solid surfaces and for carpet/engineered textiles. I should have said "bare wood" to be more specific.

    Thank you for expanding and explaining.

    We put in a temporary stage in a low power TV station production area (a former warehouse that didn't see much in the way of conversion) and had to treat the underside of every deck with fire-retardant paint. The fire marshal gave it practical test involving propane... and we passed. Risers don't have the same requirements as stages... until you build a stage out of risers. Go figure...

    If I understand the OP correctly they are renting a church's space for presentation use; I'd think the church should be consulted along with both parties insurance representatives.
     
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