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  2. Scene Shop, Tools and Equipment

I would like to lay this article out on a few different levels. I would like this to be a reference for the "I need to fill a scene shop with tools, what do I need" type of questions. By laying this article out in levels, I hope to be able to develop a hierarchy in the buying and expansion of shop tools.

Marking and Measuring

  • Tape Measure-Minimum 25' locking tape measure.
  • Pencil-Carpenter pencil suggested, but not required
  • Sharpie-Used to label pieces, not to be used on any surface that will later be painted. Most common color is black, but there are now so many colors that they may even be used for small paint touch-ups
  • Speed Square-Basic square that can also mark angles. Manufactured in sizes 8" and above.
  • Chalk Line-Used to temporary or semi-permanent strait lines. When used, chalk lines must be stretch very tight and snapped no more then two times. Blue chalk is the only temporary color. Yellow and red are permanent. Most chalk lines can also function as a makeshift plumb bob.
  • Trammel Points-Used in conjunction with a scrap piece of lumber or preferable scrap piece of steel to make draw arc. In its basic form, it is a large compass. One trammel can hold a pencil or a marker while the other is a spike to set a stationary point.
  • 100' Tape Measure-A cloth tape measure is preferable for measuring long distances in the theatre. They usually contain a tip that is able to be folded. Some also feature magnets on the tip. Can also be used to measure trims in fly houses as well as leveling truss.
  • Framing Square-A flat piece of steel cut in an L shape. It has measurements on both sides radiating in and out. Its large size makes it more accurate then the speed square. It is also effective at laying out stair stringers.
  • Stair Gauges-Small, usually brass, bolts that can be attached to a framing square to easily mark the rise and run on stringers.
  • Bullet Level-Small level under 1' that can be used to level small objects. Usually contains a magnet strip that can attach to steel pieces. Usually has bubbles for horizontal and vertical leveling.
  • Box or Frame Level- Long level, sometimes up to 4' in length. Uses to level floors, beams, and legs. Usually contains a horizontal bubble, vertical bubble, and 45 degree bubble.
  • Bevel Gauge- Small tool that allows an angle to be set and and easily duplicated.
  • Combination Square-Square that combines a 1' metal ruler with a sliding square. The slide has an edge at 90 degrees and 45 degrees to the ruler. Some also feature a bubble level.
  • Tri Square-Square with a wooden or plastic handle and a wide blade set and 90 degrees.
  • Drywall Square-Very large square with a sliding guide. Usually has a 4' long blade and a 2' long guide. Used to layout large pieces of sheet goods.
  • Post Level-Small device that is built at a 90 degree angle. Contains bubbles on both sides used to level posts and legs. usually it is temporary nailed in place.
Hand Tools Every Shop Should Own

  • Hammer-Also known as a "convincer", tool used for driving nails
  • Vice Grips-Type of pliers that lock in place when closed. Used to hold items tightly. They come in a variety of sizes.
  • Matte knife-Utility knife with interchangeable razor blades that can cut most materials
Cutting Tools
Boring Tools
Power Tools Every Shop Should Own

Circ or Circular Saw- Often referred to as a Skill-Saw < which is a Brand name> a Circ saw is one of your most valuable and versatile power tools.

Router (s) - Norm Abrahams was once observed moving his routers from his old cabinet to his new router table cabinet. He had two wheel-barrows full. If you are to have only one router then something along the lines of a medium to large sized plunge router would be best. A well equipped shop should boast at least one heavy duty plunge router, with interchangeable collets, one or two medium duty "D" handle routers, and at least one Trim or laminate router.

Jigsaw - A scenic carpenters best friend and often a TDs nightmare the jig saw is a much maligned, often miss-used and usually under-rated power tool. While a "scroll-knob" on top is a nice feature, sometimes, it is by no means necessary. The best features a jigsaw can bring to the shop are;
a sturdy heavy duty base, preferably with a replaceable composite cover.
Variable speed control, either through the trigger or via a dial.
A reciprocate/straight control.
A motor fan airduct re-direct, so you don't have to keep blowing chips out of the way.

Hand Drill / Drill Motor- The Hand drill is a different beast from the Screwgun. Although many screwguns boast a "drill" setting on their clutches < if they are so equipped> the reality is their is no substitute for a real "plug in the wall" drill motor. A good hand drill will have a 1/2" chuck, preferably keyed, metal internal gears, and be variable speed.

Belt Sander- Just trimmed that 1"X4" for the third time and its still just a hair too long? Grab your handy dandy 3" x 21" belt sander. Dust collection bag is a must!

Pneumatic Every Shop Should Own

Stationary Tools Every Shop Should Own

Band saw- 14" minimum.
Table saw- Preferably along the lines of a Delta Unisaw, but please no "contractor" table top saw for a main shop saw.
Drill press- Belt drive, 1/2" chuck.
Chop saw- Power Miter Box, whatever you want to call it, 12 - 14", compound angle capable is prefered.

  • Installed Dust Collection System-Easily rid shop of sawdust
  • Portable Dust Collection System(s)-aka Shop Vac(s)
Advanced Power Tools

Advanced Pneumatic Tools

Advanced Stationary Tools

Shop Tool Wish List

  • CNC Router-Computerized Tool for cutting repeatable custom shapes
  • Other-description
Specialized Tool Areas

  • Metal Working
  • Prop/Furniture Building
  • Vacuum Forming
  • Painting/Finishing

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