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2-Story Set

Printed From: Community Theater Green Room
Category: Producing Theater
Forum Name: Set Design and Construction
Forum Discription: Post your questions or suggestions about designing or building a set here.
Printed Date: 7/18/24 at 12:41pm
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 8.05 -

Topic: 2-Story Set
Posted By: sackpa
Subject: 2-Story Set
Date Posted: 1/16/09 at 9:20am
I need to build a 2-story set and this makes me a little nervous.  Basically a box 12' wide x 8' deep on castors (stairs will be behind to access top of box)  According to a construction guy I asked, I need to put a sheet of ply, 4', on the front of the box to avoid racking. Therefore, blocking 4' of my 12' opening.  Is this correct?  Of course, I'd rather overbuild and be safe.

Posted By: dboris
Date Posted: 1/16/09 at 12:26pm
No, you don't need to fully cover the front, but you will need to put in some amount of cross bracing to prevent racking. Normally when I would build a platform like that I would have a leg in each corner and a leg every 4 feet along each side. If you frame the top of the platform with something larger then a 2x4, for example a 2x6 or 2x8, you can get away with fewer legs on the sides. I would then run 2x4s angling from the top frame of the platform down to each leg. The further down on the leg you place the brace, the more stable it will be, but obviously the more you will block the opening.

Posted By: startingout
Date Posted: 2/24/09 at 1:39pm

You need to ask a few Questions

how much room floor to upper curtin ?16 foot
How many actors on this item (height & weight)
I had built one and remove 8 inches because the actor head was in the curtin

Posted By: Mr. Lowell
Date Posted: 2/24/09 at 4:13pm
A note about building 2-story platforms and wagons: 
for structural safety I always use two 4" Carriage Bolts when attaching each leg to every platform and staircase.  Because, contrary to popular belief, common 3" drywall screws are not "shear rated" for holding people.  Even many large nails are not safe enough...(that's why you see reports on the local news about poorly constructed party decks full of people collapsing off the back of houses). 
Then I always attach X-Braces of scrap 2"x4", 1"x4", or 2"x2" in both directions between the legs under every platform and staircase for lateral support.  In some cases, sheets of 1/4" Lauan panelling will also help firm up a tall platform, (in addition to using X-Bracing).
In constructing really heavy-duty platforms and step units, you might want to use 4"x4" legs that are notched out so that they interlock with cross members.   This way you don't have to rely on hardware to carry any weight-bearing loads.
Here is a recent example of an 8' tall staircase that supports the flying bridge from Les Mis. -    Look at the landing to the right and you will notice that there are Cross Lap Joints used everywhere the 4"x4" legs intersect the 4"x4" beams and the 2"x4" railings.   The pieces go together like "Lincoln Logs"!   Notice that the upper step unit rests firmly on a vertical 2"x12" post.  My X-Braces underneath this structure are hidden by random flats.  The heavy staircase is mounted on top of a 6'x8' stock wagon made of 2"x6" lumber with a 3/4" plywood deck.  Then there are sexy 6" industrial casters for moving this monster with one hand!
Good luck and have fun!  -Dana

Mr. Lowell,
Lighting/Set Designer & Tech Director,
for the Linda Sloan Theatre,
in the Davison Center for the Arts,
at Greensboro Day School

Posted By: colugino
Date Posted: 6/30/09 at 1:16am
I am sure this is too late, but I just finished doing a show where we built a 2 story portable stage which we plan on using in future productions. Much of our set was open so just as Mr Lowell said, CROSS BRACING, CROSS BRACING, CROSS BRACING!! We actually did use drywall screws Ermm to put the platforms and posts together because we ran out of money to use bolts, however, next year our entire stage will have the addition of bolts. To ensure the platforms were ok, I checked them before every rehearsal and show to make sure nothing went out of whack.

Posted By: colugino
Date Posted: 6/30/09 at 1:39am
Also, to add, we usually build our posts out of two or three 2x4s which the one (or center in the event of 3) is cut to the width of the platform edge so the platform sits on top of a 2x4 instead of resting directly on your bolts or screws. So for example, our platforms were made from 2x6s so one 2x4 went the full height (which in our case was 8 feet) and the second 2x4 we cut off 6 inches, screwed the 2x4s together all the way up so they didn't come apart and the frame rested on the 7foot 6 inch piece of wood while the 8 foot piece would get attached to the inside of the frame all the way up the side.

Posted By: David McCall
Date Posted: 6/30/09 at 11:35am
When designing any structure you should think about gravity. A well designed structure would theoretically stand up on it's own without any fasteners. The fasteners shouldn't have to carry any weight. All the fasteners should have to do is keep the structure from falling apart when you put lateral stress on it.

David M

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