Littlest Track Dog – The Real Thing

These are the finished pictures from the tiny track dog project. (Man, that was a long time ago.)  And the results were: success!  They worked like a charm.  There was no cable slip, no binding in the track, and the travel noise was minimal.  We noticed that the UHMW bowed (approx 1/32″) at the bottom when the cable was tightened down, which was expected from such small bits of hardware.  Nick simply pre-tightened the cable, and carefully shaved the dogs on the tablesaw — done.

The track was shaped from composite lumber (Home Despot decking).  It ended up cheaper than the equivalent amount of UHMW, slicker (& quieter) than lumber and was less fiddly than strips of maso or arboron.  It was also much gentler on our blades & cut mucho quicker than UHMW would have.

Dykes Moulding – CAD Blocks

Looking for a collection of the Dykes Lumber moulding profiles in CAD format? Here you go.

Download the Dykes Moulding file here. (381 kb)

The profiles have been compiled into a single file, each profile a separate block. (Design Center users rejoice!) This file is in v2000 format. Much thanks goes to Adam Godbout for providing the file.

Happy CADDing.

Edit: The following download contains the collection of Dykes profiles in individual dxf files. These profiles aren’t saved as blocks, just as raw geometry. Dykes Moulding – Individual Profiles Download (664kb)


For those of you who are interested in new materials, check out Transmaterial. I can’t describe it better than this quote from the site:

…Transmaterial online is intended to be a clear, concise, accessible, and carefully edited resource that provides information about the latest and most intriguing materials commercially available.

A little more…

As the speed of technological progress continues to accelerate, innovation threatens to outpace architects’ and designers’ working knowledge of materials thereby limiting their applicability. In order to stay at the cutting edge of design, a knowledge of the uses, properties, and sources of new materials is essential. A companion to the Transmaterial books written by Blaine Brownell and published by Princeton Architectural Press…

While most of us in theatre probably couldn’t afford any of these new materials, they do provide inspiration for solving some of our… err… unique challenges. Added bonus — some of them are just super cool.
All in all, this here is some top notch geek porn.

Dykes Moulding – CAD Files

If you’ve downloaded the Dykes Moulding CAD files from their website you may have noticed that the profiles are not to scale. From what I could see, the scale factor seems to be the same for all the files, approximately 0.056568174 (find the humor in that.)

Slick Edging

Here’s another choice for edging a deck and other scenic elements: paper. We recently did a production of Bad Dates and the designer wanted a smooth black finish for the “cut” edges of the walls and deck. Since the audience was sitting only four feet from the set, we experimented with wallpapering with a 50# black kraft paper. The advantages were as follows.

  • the paper is thin enough to make the edges very clean
  • the texture was very flat, smooth and consistent – much like bristol board.
  • there was no nap to deal with
  • one roll of 12” x 750’ paper clocked in at 14 bucks. (without shipping)
  • the paper allowed us to effectively disappear the seams of the planking and luan skins


All in all I was very pleased with the result. I think it was a better, more consistent finish than if we’d puttied, sanded and painted. If you go this route, be sure to do samples first! I found the paper at Quality Paper.

Load Wheels

File this under great hardware finds. – I needed low-profile, high capacity wheels for an effect and stumbled onto these. They are load wheels for a pallet jack (the wheels pictured are Crown part number 44506 / McMaster 2670T58. The yellow caster mounts are shop built.)


44506 Load wheel specs:

  • 2500 lbs load rating!
  • 3” diameter x 3 7/8” wide
  • Roller ball bearings
  • Shore 90A polyurethane tread
  • Slightly oversized 3/4” shaft (about 25/32”)
  • $30 each from Mcmaster
  • $45 each from a Crown distributor (price will undoubtably vary)

What makes these attractive? Comparably rated caster wheels tend to be much larger in diameter, cost more, and don’t usually feature roller ball bearings. (Mcmaster’s “High Capacity Nylon Wheels” come close, but they are a Shore 80D. That’s as hard as a hard hat!) Crown lists these wheels as “load wheels”, McMaster lists them as “Polyurethane-Tread Pallet and Lift Truck Wheels”.

Here’s a link to Crown’s wheel and tire catalogue (PDF.)

If you want to do your own research, a quick list of some pallet truck manufacturers: BT, Crown, Hyster, Lift-Rite, Multiton, Prime Mover, Raymond, Rol-Lift, and Yale.

Dirt on Stage

Dirt on stage. Poo poo. Dusty, dirty, a real pain in the ass. Jen tells me that she’s got a way to tame the dust. The secret is glycerol (aka glycerine or glycerin). Don’t worry, glycerol may sound threatening, but rest assured, it is not. It is a sugar alcohol that is found in everything from food to pharmaceuticals. Obligatory wiki link to glycerol. You can buy glycerol in 5 gallon buckets, which should last most folks for an entire run.

Before each show spray the dirt with a mixture of glycerol and water. The mixture will wet the dirt enough to prevent dust without getting muddy. The mixture will also keep the dirt damp for longer than just plain water. Sweet. Jen pointed out a few things:

  • She didn’t remember the exact mixture of glycerol to water that she used, but her results will assuredly vary from yours; experimentation is the key.  If memory is correct, she started with a half cup of glycerol to a P-50 sprayer of hot water.
  • Jen emphasized that hot water is key to mixing the two properly.
  • The dirt will darken (you know, like it does when wet) after application. Experiment with the amount of mixture applied until you find the correct hue (failure to do this may lead to cranky designers)
  • The mixture will slowly evaporate out of the dirt during the show. Experiment with mixture ratios, and time of application (before curtain.) If it just doesn’t last long enough, you may have to increase the amount you are using.
  • Put on your scientific caps; remember that things like stage lighting, air handling and temperature will affect the whole shebang. Be rigorous & meticulous whilst experimenting.
  • And above all else, after you find that perfect mix – be consistent!

Thanks be to Jen, who is a Stage Supervisor goddess.