P1020895You need small, ad hoc, weld-on bearings?  Check this out.  Use a plastic bushing, a shaft collar and a cone-point socket set screw.  Weld the shaft collar over a hole, and keep the plastic bushing in place with the set screw (the cone point is key).  Feel free to add a little threadlocker if you’re paranoid.  Works like a charm.


Secondhand Monopod

I like to take detailed pictures of the scene designer’s model for each set we build.  Inevitably the director and stage managers want the model in rehearsal, and it becomes difficult to share.  Things get really hairy when the scenic charge wants a piece of the action.


showerpod_adaptorObviously, the stiller the camera, the clearer the picture.  I set out to find a secondhand something I could use as a monopod.  Let this be a lesson: ask a prop person for a monopod, and you’ll get a showerhead.  Thanks Billy!  Its the best free showerhead I’ve ever received, I’m glad I didn’t waste money on a monopod.  After making a quick & dirty adapter to fit the camera, this baby can perform more wacky positioning and tilting maneuvers than the “actors” on those scrambled channels. (You know the ones I’m talkin’ about.)  For those curious folks, the adaptor is a 1/4″ flat head bolt epoxied into a pipe-to-hose adaptor.  Since the items were in stock, it was mighty cheap.

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.

Roll Bender Wheels

Danger Will Robinson! The cast iron wheels pictured below are the ones that were spec’ed in Keith Cornelius’s 1997 Tech Expo articleAn Inexpensive, Human-Powered Roll-Former. (Grainer part numbers are #3G262 and #3G263.) 

Obviously they’ve changed a little bit since 1997; the new “feature” is a crown to the surface of the wheel. Unless you’re looking to mangle your steel whilst bending, I suggest you find flatter wheels.

I suggest finding flatter iron wheels through Mcmaster-Carr. Their 4” wheels are comparable in price, though Mcmaster’s 5” wheels are around $30 while Grainger’s 5” are around $13.caster

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.

Pivot Puck

We need to pivot a few masking walls for our upcoming production of Hughie. So this little UHMW bugger was born; I like to call it a pivot puck. Screw the puck to a surface and place a shaft in it (our shaft is welded to plate steel that bears on the top surface of the puck) and you’ve got an instant pivot point! (Just make sure the screw heads are countersunk below the surface.) It’s so sexy that it may become a regular stock item in our inventory. I will post an update after we use them for the show.