01 Stock Scenery.pdf - PART 1 0 THE BASICS AT HOME AND A...

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Unformatted text preview: PART 1 0 THE BASICS AT HOME AND A BOARD It is really beyond the intent of this handbook to go into great detail on setting up a shop and stocking it with the proper tools and materials. Each theatre situation will create a different set of demands, and available space will adapt differently to those demands. Perhaps it is beyond anybody’s scope to describe an adequate scene shop or construc— tion place. In truth, scenery can be built anywhere. It is also true that any shop space, no matter how large, is never spacious enough to do the job adequately. Many theatre groups must build on the stage itself and clear away the shop for re- hearsals and performances. Others are fortunate to have separate areas. However, both situations, as well as others, will benefit from careful planning. It is efficient to handle materials as little as possible. Therefore, if the supplies can load in one end and the fin- ished work load out the other, a chain or path for the materials can be created. Each time a board or sheet of plywood must be picked up, turned 90 degrees or 180 degrees, not only is energy lost, but the spinning stock has the potential of interfering with other workers at other tools and jobs. Hollywood long ago exhausted the humor inherent in the situation. Unfortunately most work spaces must compromise this ideal, regardless of the sense of keeping the materials moving through the construction process in a smooth, direct, and efficient procedure. It may also be necessary, if space allows, to provide separate work spaces for differ- ent methods of construction. The woodshop doesn’t always mesh cleanly with the metal shop. If you have metal-working needs for your theatre, those usually require a different work area as well as the tools that can cut and shape steel. Worktables for wood construc- tion aren’t always compatible with worktables for steel, but in a pinch, and with clever planning and construction, the two worlds can peacefully co-exist. Not unlike sheep ranchers and cattlemen. If scenery can be built anywhere, it can also be built with a wide assortment of tools, from the simplest saws and hammers to the most sophisticated pneumatic fastening tools and saws that automatically feed themselves. Fortunately, there are tools for almost any shop’s budget in every area. Tools can be divided into the following groups: measuring and marking tools, cut- PART ’I 0 THE BASICS ting and shaping tools, and fastening tools. Ifyou are unfamiliar with a tool, or tools in general, many excellent books are available which cover in detail how each should be safely and correctly used. A call to a high school shop teacher will possibly shake loose an old textbook or the use of one. Paul Carter’sBackstage Handbook (Broadway Press) is a good reference for identifying tools and materials used in scene shops. Online tu- torials are extremely beneficial, as well as the thousands of home improvement shows taking over television. Just be careful; yet another truism from the shops is that a little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing. Learn tools well enough to be comfortable and safe with them. Some tool dealers will give seminars, especially on products you buy from them, and especially if you specify the demonstration as a condition of the sale. Of course, power tools all come with booklets which explain their use. Hang onto these and have them readily accessible in your shop. The high turnover of workers in educational shops makes it imperative that tool information be easy to find. (Tool manuals are also tremendously helpful when that little part gets lost or broken and you are trying to de- scribe what you need to a sales rep in Topeka, Kansas.) Every tool is potentially dangerous, especially if handled improperly, too hurriedly, or in less than ideal conditions. Always have tools clean, sharp, and working properly. This, combined with the proper safety equipment and proper training, will help elimi- nate accidents. For some it is still necessary to count fingers before and after the day’s work. It cannot be stressed enough: Always use the correct tool for the job and use the tool correctly. It is also beneficial to be aware of situations that have a greater potential for accidents. Experience in the shops has informed us that the most dangerous moments occur when 1) a worker is a novice in the operation of a tool, 2) a worker is tired or distracted and, 3) an experienced worker drifts off into what we refer to as autopilot. This occurs when a cutisrepeate'd—so-manyfimesthe carpenter-stops-paying attention. Managing a-shep means much more than getting the scenery built and completed under budget. It also means being tuned into the workers and their habits and needs. MEASURING AND MARKING TOOLS As long as we are living in the last country on earth (except Myanmar and Liberia) to use the English method (versus the metric method) of measuring distances, we can drive the necessary miles to work and drag out our feet and inches in the shop. Available in many sizes, a flexible steel tape is the most common measuring tool for the shop. It should easily measure the longest scenery you normally plan to build. A 50’ or 100' tape is most useful for measuring the stage. A combination square or all-in-one square will greatly aid in many construction situations, in addition to doubling as a marking gauge. The all-faithful of the shop, the steel square or carpenter’s square, with its 16" tongue and 24"body, is essential for most frame construction. Some of these squares come with a booklet explaining how to build STOCK SCENERY CONSTRUCTION HANDBOOK a house, lay out stairs, and chart rocket launches to the moon. Dividers and trammels are useful. A good set of carpenter’s trammel points will be most helpful if you plan to do much work with circles. However, these can be made, as shown in the Shop—Made Tools section in Part 7. Alevel is useful. Be certain when purchasing to get one that is long enough to span a surface sufficient to get a correct measurement; usually a 4’ level will do. Unfortunately, experience and use are the best guides. Also, a snapline is needed. This can be made by applying chalk—available by the cake in different colors—to a good quality mason’s line. Stick charcoal can also be used. A chalk reel or chalk line, a self-contained snap line that can be filled with powered chalk, is also a popular choice. Lastly, an architect’s scale is a must—have for any shop building its scenery from scale drawings. While designers will include measurements on a drafting, it is the rare draftsperson who had enough foresight to include every measurement the shop would ever need. CUTTING AND SHAPING TOOLS SAWS Handsaws are over 100,000 years old, and you can often believe it after using a dull one. Like all saws, handsaws must be kept sharp. A dull saw is a dangerous saw. It will slip, skip, and stick, and throw material at you, or the materials will throw you into the blade. Neither is a pretty sight. All saws work because the teeth on the blade are set, each al- ternating in an opposite direction so the kerf or actual cut in the wood is wider than the blade holding the teeth. Ripsaws, designed to cut along the length of a board, have flat teeth which are usu- ally spaced farther apart than those on a crosscut blade. This allows the saw to chisel away the wood. Crosscut saws, as the name implies, cut across the grain and have beveled teeth to shear through the wood. Both saws are becoming extinct, because the portable circular saw has become less expensive and can do the job both quickly and efliciently. It will also cut plywood and other panel boards. Circular saws are usually electric and can come with a cord or be battery operated and cordless. Awide choice of blades is available for circular saws. A saber saw or portable jigsaw is another electric saw which has replaced the coping saw, keyhole saw, and even the metal hacksaw, depending on the style of blade used. Even in large, nonportable or stationary saws, there is a wide variety of choices. The table saw (or bench saw or contractors saw) is ideal for ripping lumber and panel materials, although it also cuts accurate dadoes, rabbets, and grooves. It is available in a number of sizes, depending upon the diameter of the circular blade. For a tool that is up to the challenge of cutting large sheets of plywood perpendicu- lar to the length, a panel saw can be a helpful tool. This tool uses a counterweighted PART ’I 0 THE BASICS circular saw on guide rails to cut across sheets of plywood placed on a frame. The wood is stationary and the tool moves up and down, saving the operator from attempting to muscle a large sheet of MDF through a table saw. The panel saw, however, is difficult to line up accurately and, depending on the operator and quality and condition of the tool, doesn’t always make perfectly square cuts. You have been warned. The radial arm saw also uses a circular blade and is used primarily for crosscutting, but it is almost universally being replaced with motorized miter box saws, also called miter saws and chop saws. (Current vernacular usually associates chop saws with metal work and miter saws with wood, but you are free to establish whatever terminology your shop prefers.) While some shops may still have radial arm saws, they are rather restricted to cutting just right angle cuts because changing the angle is a tedious process and wreaks havoc on the fence. Carpenters everywhere cried out for ease in multiple-angle cuts, and the many generations of new and improved miter saws have answered that cry. Whether it is a miter saw or radial arm saw, the size of the tool is based upon the diameter of the blade. The advantages of the chop saw is that it can easily slide, tilt, and be set to cut both simple and compound angles, and almost all are portable. Aband saw has a continuous blade in an endless loop and has the greatest depth of cut of any stationary power saw. The band saw is the first choice of tool for many home shops because it can, in theory, provide almost any cut you need on most materials. However, while you can technically rip lumber on a band saw, it won’t give the same quality result as a tool designed specifically for ripping, such as the table saw. And While the jigsaw can cut virtually any shape, the band saw should be the tool of choice for curvilinear shapes because the quality of the cut is vastly superior to the chewing action of the jigsaw. To some, the band saw may seem like a luxury as other tools can also accomplish similar results, but once your students begin using this tool, the jigsaws will grow lonely and dfity'irrth'eir' storage‘locker: Most theatre work is done on a much less massive scale than the construction industry. Huge versions of power tools, common to some construction sites, are not only unnecessary from a use and cost standpoint, but also can dwarf those using them. Comparing the cost of the different diameters of blades will also be an eye-opener. KN IVE 5 Most of the other cutting and shaping tools are hand tools, although a few have been motorized. Perhaps the most useful for scenery work is the utility knife. They are made with both fixed and retractable blades; it is advisable to get one with a textured handle to prevent wet or gluey hands from slipping on the grip. Blades are available in packages of five to one hundred. Never use a dull knife. CHISELS Chisels are for fine woodworking, are expensive, and difficult to keep sharp or properly honed. They also are excellent tools for opening paint cans, cutting through nails or STOCK SCENERY CONSTRUCTION HANDBOOK staples, and even chopping steel cable—all of which will instantly ruin them. Perhaps a cold chisel designed to cut metal is all a shop needs; it’s an ideal tool to pry up misap- plied fasteners and the like. Purchasing a tool sharpening system, also called a honing station, to sharpen chisels correctly, and then actually using the station will help keep chisels effective for their real job. That and a well-placed sign that screams “Wood Only!” may slightly improve your chances of finding a sharp chisel when you need one. PLANES Handheld planes are perhaps more temperamental than chisels and certainly more costly. For most theatre work, the Surform rasp has replaced the plane and indeed will take the curse off a sharp corner, chamfer the edge of a plywood fastener, or remove a rough surface about as well as a fine plane, but without the excessive replacement cost. The small, handheld Surform plane and Surform shaver (which is pulled toward you and not pushed) are both very useful and have fairly inexpensive replacement blades. Scenic carpenters, properties artisans, and furniture builders who need lumber at nonstandard dimensional sizes can find great value in wood planers. These electric tools can plane down the thickness of wood quickly and easily, and they come in sizes and price ranges that work in small shops and scenic studios. For those moments when the standard 3%" will not satisfy your needs, surface planers can be so very helpful. JOINTERS Similar to surface planers but designed for truing up the edge of a board, jointers are avail- able in handheld models or in heavier duty stationary form. This is also a tool that is used by more discerning carpenters, who need a professional finish or edge to their lumber. SHEARS Scissors, shears, and snips should be purchased as needed. It is practicallyhopeless to say that scissors are precision tools and should not be cutting anything but cloth. Shears are big scissors. Snips are designed to cut tin and other thin metal, which is normally done with the once usable pair of scissors. FEES Files and rasps are useful shaping tools, available in many lengths and shapes. The choice is multiplied by the desired coarseness and kinds of teeth desired. Generally speaking, files are finer and rasps are rougher; files are used on metal (and finger nails) and rasps on wood. ROUTERS To most people today, a router is the power tool which has replaced both the hand tool of the same name and the stationary shaper. It is used to form decorative edges and com- plicated joints. It can carve, incise, pierce, and even cut circles. It is an extremely useful PART ’I 0 THE BASICS portable power tool. The bits can become expensive for theatre work because, like the shaper, jointer, and planer, one nick from an overlooked metal fastener or stray nail can ruin it. Also, the more expensive carbide-tipped bits are really necessary for shaping plywood and other panel boards. The popularity and widespread use of the router has had the manufacturers looking to improve the quality and range of profiles and shapes of the router bits. They now build routers with larger collets (the locking mechanism) to allow for larger bits. Most routers now come with the capability to use 1/1 " and 1/2" bits. Larger bits last longer and can have much more complex profile shapes, which also means you will feel the urge to buy lots and lots of profiles. LATH E S The last cutting and shaping tool in this discussion is the lathe. This is a luxury tool for most shops and requires some special skills to operate properly. The turning tools it uses are also fairly expensive and must be kept sharp. You might say a shop has arrived when it has a lathe to make its own turnings. FASTENING TOOLS HAMMERS Probably the most common fastening tool is the hammer. It is certainly the most ne- glected in quality when purchased. Cheap hammers will produce cheap work. Whether the handle is wood (easily replaceable), fiberglass (non-rusting and shock absorbing), or metal (nonbreakable), make sure the head is solidly attached to the handle. When you hold the hammer in your hand it should have good balance. Large, heavy hammers are not made for theatre work. Scenery should be strong but light=so should-thehammer-Remember-t-hat-t-he-foreedriving—the—nail-is—also exerted into the scenery and can knock apart what you’re building. A 16—ounce ham- mer is plenty for any job. Some professional shops won’t allow any hammer heavier than 13 ounces. It is not the weight of the hammer but the skill of the user which drives the nail. The claw hammer has a curved clawbehind the head for pulling nails easily. A straight claw is designed to pry apart previously nailed pieces. Both are useful. Ball—peen hammers with their specially tempered heads are designed for pounding metal, something which should never be done with a claw hammer, unless you want to ruin the hammer. Tack hammers, with their magnetic beads, are ideal for light fastening with not only tacks, but also brads and other small nails. Sledgehammers are often used to strike scenery which is going to feed the dumpster. They are rarely used to build it, not being known for inspiring craftsmanship. Mallets are hammers with nonmetal heads. They should be used when striking an— other tool, like a chisel or even another hammer, or adjusting (through some friendly persuasion) a finished or polished surface without chipping or damaging it. STUCK SCENERY CONSTRUCTION HANDBOOK An exciting new addition to the hammer family is the dead blow hammer. This tool was designed to solve the annoying tendencies of hammers to bounce around once they strike a surface, as well as preventing the testosterone driven force that occurs when the hammer is being used to fine—tune a stubborn scenic element. The dead blow hammer is actually a mallet that has lead shot or sand inside a hollow section in the head of the tool. This transfers more energy to the object being struck and has the magical ability to not rebound back at the soon to be surprised operator. While we’re on the subject of hammers, the handiest little tool any shop can have is a nail set. It is designed to set the head of a nail below the surface of the board, but it is especially useful because of its cupped tip. Place the tip on a protruding end of a nail or staple, and you can drive out the offending fastener enough to reach the head or crown and remove it. STA P L E R 8 Many shops have abandoned the hammer for electric or pneumatic staplers and nailers. The fasteners for these speedy and powerful tools, with their coated shafts, have much greater holding power than an ordinary nail and eliminate beating the scenery with a hammer. Certainly if labor and time are considerations, these powered fastening tools will quickly repay their investment. They do not, unfortunately, guarantee better work. There are many hand staplers on the market which are also worth investigating. SCREWDRIVERS Screwdrivers are available in many sizes and shapes, but they almost all have a handle, shank, and tip. The two most common tips in this country are the flat (or slotted) and the Phillips tip with its cross shape, although many other types of screw heads have been appearing in hardware stores, each with the idea of making a better mousetrap. Be sure to buy the size which fits the screw or bolt head you are using. It is not cheating to take along one of each when shopping for the drivers. Ratchet screwdrivers will speed up work, but be wary of spiral ratchet screwdrivers (also called Yankees). Not only are they expensive, but they can be ruined quickly if not properly stored at all times, can easily slip and plunge through soft scenery, and have been known to eat the user’s palm, removing a most painful pattern of flesh. It is embar— rassing, but sounds like the Yankees my mama warned me about. While there will always be a need for an assortment of hand screwdrivers, scene shops can no longer function without taking full advantage of one or more of the bat- tery operated (cordless) screw guns. It appears everyone is making one nowadays, and they have become quite specialized. Hammer drill capabilities, multiple speed, work lights, and other features can make the choice very difficult. If budget is the biggest de— termining factor, try and think l...
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  • Spring '18
  • Jane Smith
  • Engineered wood, Circular saw, Plywood, Power tool

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