Scenery: Platform and Steps


J. Michael Gillette. Theatrical Design and Production, 4th edition. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company. 1999. Chapter 9: Scenic Production Techniques

1. What are the standard sizes of stock theatrical platform/wagons?

4x8, 4x4, 2x8, 2x4, 2x2, and the right triangles which can be created by cutting any of these stock platforms along the diagonal.

2. How many feet of 2x4 will be needed to frame a 4x8 platform/wagon?

36 feet.
2-- 8' stiles, 2-- 4' rails, and 3-- 4' toggles. The spacing between toggles is normally two feet.

3. What is a caster plate?

A 4' long piece of 2x6. The caster plate is sandwiched between the stiles and is placed parallel to the stage floor and platform deck.

    Why is it needed?

The casters used to turn the platform into a wagon are lag bolted to the caster plate. The 2x6 provides support and drops the caster so the bottom of the wheel clears the edge of the platform by 1/2 to 3/4 inches.

4. With 2x4 priced at $.44 per foot, and 3/4" plywood priced at $36.10 a sheet, what will be the approximate cost of a stock 4x8 platform?

$ 57.98 ($ 1.81 per square foot)
36' of 2x4 @ $.46 / ft = $ 16.56; 1 sheet of plywood @ $41.42.

The weight of a 4x8 platform is approximately 95 pounds.
36' of 2x4 @ 1.3 pounds/ft + 1 sheet of plywood @ 48 pounds = 95 pounds.

5. How many legs does a 4x8 platform need?

Six. Spacing between legs should not be more than 4 feet.

6. How should the legs be attached to the platform frame?

Legs are traditionally bolted to the platform stile with 3/8" carriage bolts.

7. Describe a technique which can be used to brace the legs of a platform.

Legs are normally braced by running 1x3 (or 1x4) diagonals from the bottom of each leg to the platform rail and stile. Each leg requires two diagonal braces. The separation between the braces should be 90 degrees.

8. How many standard 4x8 platforms will be needed to assemble a 16x24 deck? Sketch a diagram of how these platforms could be assembled.

12 platforms.
Three across (3 * 8' = 24') by four deep (4 * 4' = 16')
These 12 platforms will weight over 1140 pounds and cost about $ 696 (in material) to build.

9. How can you deaden the "echo" sound of a platform?

The usual technique is to cover the deck with a rug or sheets of fiberboard such as Homasote® or Celotex®. In order to control the amount of dust in the air it may be necessary to sheath the fiberboard with 1/4" plywood or hardboard (such as Masonite's Duron®),

10. What is the difference between the rise, tread and carriage of a step unit?

Rise: The vertical face (or step height) of a stair unit...
Tread: The horizontal surface of a stair unit -- the part you walk on...
Carriage: The 2x12 (or 3/4" plywood) which supports the tread and riser. Normally the spacing between carriages is no more than 2 feet.

11. What is the standard tread width?

12 inches. Stair treads are normally cut from either 3/4" plywood or a 1x12.

    Riser height?

6 or 8 inches. The riser, which normally supports little or no weight, is often cut from 1/4 ply.

12. What are escape steps?

The off stage step unit which lead up to (or down from) a platform.

13. Sketch how a 3-step unit can suggest a flight of stairs to the second floor.

Below is a front elevation illustrating how 2- 3-step stepunits, a 4x8 flat (representing a wall) and a 4 foot wide platform can be assembled to suggest a stairs to the second floor.

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Last updated: October 13, 2006
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