Production Carpentry

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Hinge techniques

The decision as to whether to use a backfl-ap hinge or a butt hinge to hang a door/window is made by looking at the way the door opens: on stage, off stage, both ways and the size of the door surround.

If the door opens on stage (the audience will see the back of the door and hinges) you will use a butt hinge which sits neatly into the door and looks nice and tidy.

If the door opens off stage the audience won't see the hinges so it is unlikely that you will spend time putting in butt hinges that need chiselled out and take time to get right, you will use back flap hinges which are quick and easy.

If you are setting a hinge into the stage for a cellar trap or tying to hinge something 'invisibly' then counter hinges might be used, they require being sunk into the material and possibly even being covered over so that even the screw heads disappear,this however would depend on the thickness of the material covering the hinge and if twice this thickness is less than the knuckle of the counter flap hinge . The material on either side of the hinge has to be cut straight or the door will not open easily or might get stuck.

Sheeting rostra

Ideally when covering a rostra in ply/mdf, prior to sheeting the surface and applying the facia of the rostra or steel deck, the surfaces will have been cleared of screws,nails,staples etc which may be standing proud of the surface (denailed). If a large area of rostra is being covered try to stagger the joints between the rostra and the covering wherever possable, as this will help to produce a more even surface, especially if the rostra has been well used and the top edges are worn. If the ply or mdf that you are sheeting with is bigger than the size of the rostra and therefore over-hangs the edge, this can be routered off after fixing the sheeting down. Any sides (facia)that are being added should be installed before sheeting the top as this ensures the top surface overlaps the facia, most importantly,this will reduce the chances of the facia being kicked off and secondly provides a clean surface to run the router along, when cleaning of any overhangs.

Fixing flats to the stage

This is the most common job you will do in a fit up. There are many ways to do it depending on what the flats are doing throughout the show.

Some things to think about when deciding on a method:

1) How does the flat get on stage, is it preset, part of a scene change, fly in, trucked on?

2) Is it permanent or does it leave the stage at any point?

3) If it is involved in a scene change how fast does it have to be set in place/removed?

4) What access have you got to the flat for placing or removing it – is the space tight or fairly open?

5) How sturdy does it have to be? Do actors lean bash against it?

6) What is the structural integrity of the flat like – is it hollow, does it have weak points? Therefore where is the best play to fit hardware?

You will find these questions fairly easy to answer, and will have a lot of this information without knowing it. But it is worth keeping in mind when planning and fitting hard wear as there is nothing worse than doing a job twice and nothing that makes you look more like a prat than having to take off and move the point you just put on.

There are 3 main ways of fixing flats together:

1) Hinged – Back flap / pin hinge Quick and easy, pin hinges are good for quick changes or flying pieces that need secured (NB they need removed before the piece can go back out). Back flaps are commonly used on the bottom of scenery in conjunction with another method to stop the scenery wandering or to hold the base in line and to join flats end to end which are then braced.

2) Cleat Line A line that zig zags between two flats pulling them together; without practice they can be difficult to throw and sometimes fairly noisy, so although good for quick scene changes, not so good for silent scene changes.

3) Plated Same idea as a back flap hinge, using 18mm ply so more solid and better for extra support.

There are other ways too depending on what the show calls for and what kind of scenery you have but you will find one of these or an adaption or one of these will usually fit the job.

There are many many different ways of supporting a flat the most commonly used are:

1) Braced – French / adjustable held by Stage Weights / Set Screw / Stage Screw and Boss Plate The most common way of supporting flats usually held by stage weights unless they are going to be permanent for the whole show in which case they would be Set or Stage screwed.

NB On a raked stage , if a brace isn’t set right it will wander (walk) out of position and the flat will become unstable

2) Pick Up Line The scenery is put in place and then a steel is grommeted up the back of it and the slack taken up till the line is taught so the flat stays upright. This is a good method if you need as much space as possible back stage.

3) Flown The scenery is flown and then if required hinged to the ground and tension taken up by flying the bar out and/or tightening turn buckle.

Flying Scenery

The position in which the flying hardware is placed on a piece of scenery depends on a number of things such as it's size, shape and structural integrity. with some pieces it may be possible to affix flying irons, grummetts etc. to the piece so that they sit flush with the back of the item. However there may be times when it is necessary to adjust the item to accommodate the hardware. For example if a door frame or window is being flown it may be possible to drill through the inner supports of the piece in order to create a clear pathway through which the steel can pass. This means that all of the hardware can be kept within the original structure. Another possibility is to place additional plates around the frame to provide a suitable surface to which hardware can be attached. This method should be better suited to keeping the integrity of the structure especially if a larger steel is being used.