Vertically connecting flats

I’ve been roped into building sets, and I’ve been tasked with figuring out why we can’t take this approach:

Take 2 stock rectangular flats, let’s say 4x8, gang them together, then add a (roughly) 8x4 horizontal profile flat on top, such that the resulting wall area is 8’ wide and 12’ at its tallest point. None of this moves; the flats would be jacked appropriately for their total height (and possibly additionally stabilized from above from dead hung battens).

I assume that the reason I can’t find a description of how to do this is because there’s a fatal flaw to this plan that I’m just not seeing. The cover art of Henning Nelms’ “Scene Design: A Guide to the Stage” appears to show an approach similar to what I’ve described, although that design has a separate “extension” for each base flat and no obvious mechanism for connecting any of them. (I don’t have a copy, so I don’t know if this is explained in the text, or if it’s just illustrator’s license.)

Why is this not a common practice? Is it safety? Is it effort? Is it the quality of the end result?


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Lay your flats on the floor, face-down, in the shape you want (in your example) 8x12. Batten them together with 1x3s, vertically on both sides of the 2 vertical flats with the battens extending "up" 4' to cover the top flat. Use keystones (1/4" ply plates) to space them out on the horizontal flat in areas they don't sit on the corner blocks of the top flat. Nail/screw the battens (we used to use 6d double heads.) Attach your jacks to the battens w/hinges . Turn the assembly over & stand it up; open up the jacks. Dutchman the joints. Give to the paint crew. 1/2 hr., 2-man job.
What kind of flats? Hollywood or Broadway? What are they framed with and how are they finished?

99% of the time I’m working with Hollywood flats skinned in Luan or Masonite, and framed in 3/4” plywood ripped to 3-1/2” wide. For straight walls I usually just screw them together. For your assembly I’d bold them with 1/4-20 bolts and fender washers. They may need a hogs trough or two to stiffer/straighten them out, but the jacks should do most of this work if they bridge the seams.
Sorry for any confusion. My experience has been with "Broadway" flats--1x3 framing, 1/4" plywood corner blocks & keystones, muslin covered. "Hollywood" flats will be heavier and will probably require stiffer battens (5/4x4, maybe?), longer nails/screws, etc.

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