# Tips for box set using muslin flats?

#### morganmac

##### Member
We are looking at the double whammy of elevated lumber prices AND institutional budget cuts at our university theatre. I'm trying to save on lumber costs where I can, and had the idea of doing our first set the season (Crimes of the Heart, in September) using soft cover flats. I've built muslin flats for masking/more abstract set use before, but I've never done a box set with them. Any tips besides dutching seams? I am free to screw into our black box deck to secure things.

This is probably a silly question, but every theatre I've ever worked with mostly did Hollywoods skinned with lauan, or built walls to suit. Thanks!

#### microstar

##### Well-Known Member
Don't underestimate the cost of muslin these days. Check on the prices at whatever your sources are.

#### RickR

##### Well-Known Member
Beware of doors. One dramatic slam can set the whole box to wiggling. Get the harmonics right and it'll rip itself apart.

So, brace each side of a door with a leaf. Corners make inherent braces. Attach to the braces all along the height. Built up trim can be strengthening.

#### rsmentele

##### Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
I would also reiterate checking muslin vs 1/4" Luan costs. Depending on the width fabric you order, Im seeing $6/yd on average. 8' tall flat would require$14 or $15 in fabric. I found 1/4" for$15 at a big box store. So I think cost savings may be non existent. and not be worth the extra effort in labor to build the soft flats

#### MarshallPope

##### Well-Known Member
Echoing what RickR said, trim can be your friend. Both to strengthen/align joints and to cover up ugly seams. If there are any larger furniture pieces, those can also be used to solidify the flats - For instance, if there happens to be a large cabinet or bookcase, hide a seam behind it and attach it to the floor and to the flat at the top.

#### JonCarter

##### Well-Known Member
OK, I'll expose my ignorance - why 5'9"?
Well, Tradition. (Isn't there a lot of tradition in this biz?) Back in the day 5'-9" was the widest that would fit in the railroad baggage cars that were used to haul shows when on the road. I suppose you could build 6'ers instead nowadays.

#### derekleffew

##### Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
Back in the day 5'-9" was the widest that would fit in the railroad baggage cars that were used to haul shows when on the road.
I've read and repeated this too, even though it never fully made sense to me. But there it was in Parker and Smith, and Burris-Meyer-Cole, et cetera.

1. The 5'-9" dimension was the width of a baggage car door. Okay, but who "tables" a flat? Wouldn't it make more sense to carry them on edge, in which case the door height would be the issue? The doors had to be taller than 5'-9", right?

2. Worse comes to worst, there's always the diagonal.

3. I'm guessing the theatrical industry stopped traveling by rail in the 1940s. That's a long time to perpetuate "tradition."

Semi-related: this reminds me of the tale of how the space shuttle traveled from the VAB (vehicle assembly building) to the launch pad on rails the spacing of which was determined by the width of ax ox's rear end. Train rails were originally spaced the same as an ox cart's wheels, two oxen wide. I don't know what that is in metric.

EDIT: I somewhat misremembered...

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#### Scarrgo

##### Well-Known Member
Semi-related: this reminds me of the tale of how the space shuttle traveled from the VAB (vehicle assembly building) to the launch pad on rails the spacing of which was determined by the width of ax ox's rear end. Train rails were originally spaced the same as an ox cart's wheels, two oxen wide. I don't know what that is in metric.
That must have been two beefy oxen to drag the shuttle out to the launch pad....

On a serious note...
Its great that we learn something new every day....

Sean...

Van