Portable stage - sturdy, but low cost - looking for ideas

I've been tapped by my Home-School Association to build the runway for a spring fashion show. They want a 6' x 28' platform, 40" high, freestanding. It will be appended to the stage in the gym/cafeteria/activity center, but it will have to stand on its own. Since it's a church-run school and a fundraiser, the materials budget is nearly nonexistent (translation: I'll end up buying most of the materials out of my own pocket). This is intended to be a modular, reusable product, with individual parts that are small enough for two people to set up, take down & move, but sturdy enough to walk on. My initial thinking is to use 7 sheets of 3/4 plywood trimmed to 4' x 6' size for deck. I'm considering making the legs from 16" x 40" boards cut from 1/2" plywood - two at each corner, fastened together, should be sturdy enough to prevent wobble.
Things I haven't quite figured yet: - how to hold all this together- Ideally, each section is self-contained and requires no tools for assembly. Hinges with removable pins are an option, but I'd need 84 pair, (the way I'm thinnking of doing it.) - how to brace the decking - 3/4 plywood is strong, but it _will_ flex under an adult's weight when spanning 40 inches (the distance between legs)
Any suggestions?
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rowe_remove snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.remove.net says...

Look at the underside of a folding table. See the frame? similar for your platform- only frame it with 2x4 and maybe some 1x2 firring for extra stiffening. With a budget- Use 2x4 for legs- round over the top, bolt thru the frame. Each leg pair should be an "H" for lateral support. No need to get fancy- butt joint will work or if you're dying for the new dado setup make 1/2-laps. Without budget- use your offcuts from the 3/4" doubled to make the legs and brace. Legs at each end, and maybe center if the segment is longer than 4 feet or so. Have a full- length strip if the 3/4 ply cut about 1-1/2" wide, drop this across all three legs and drill for a drop-pin to hold the legs open (fancier would be to have this leg-brace go cross-table to join the tables together in a long line, but will add extra bracing to keep track of later.
I've done platforms this way, easy to vary the height also- just change legs sets for different heights, or have a couple with off-set heights to make a ramp (no need to bevel the legs- the bolt will adjust for angle). BTW- if you're making a ramp- make sure you have some non-skid surface to walk on. Either non-skid tape or mix some sand in the paint.
Feel free to email me if this isn't too clear or is confusing.
/vic snipped-for-privacy@ameritech.net
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(snip)
With all due respect to your skill levels and open wallet, this is not something to build yourself, for practical and liability (your and the schools) reasons. Building something modular that is durable and actually light enough to ever move will cost more than going out and buying the correct items from a company that sells the stuff. In most cities, you can also rent the stuff as-needed. I won't belabor the liability situation, but if (heaven forbid) a kid falls off the platform, or it collapses, it is amazing how quick even 'good friends' start reaching for the lawyers. You, as the (non-pro)builder, and the school, because they used a non-pro builder, would be targets one and two.
Have you tried calling around to various companies that do setups for musicians and trade shows and such? Once they understand you are a low-budget school, thay may have suggestions to offer, or know of a cheap source of used stuff.
aem sends...
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freestanding.
intended
walk
6'
sturdy
and
under
Sturdy dinning room tables end to end, plywood cut to size with the edges screw together from the sides underneath. So you have one big sheet when the girls are walking on it. Maybe some 1/2 by 2 for the seams on top, finished nailed, you will have to bevel this with a sander,
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I've done community theatre teching for 25 years.
If it's a one time use, go to the local rental place and rent scaffolding. Advantages: sturdy, light, less time consuming to assemble, modular and you won't need to store it afterwards (a big plus!). Also probably costs the same or less than wooden platforms. Putting it together is simple enough that you could recruit some of the kids to help with the set up and teardown.
And before you do anything, check on the insurance and liability angles!
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Frankie wrote:

Each 4x6 platform must be framed. For light traffic and school kids, 1x4 will do, for opera or bigger shows 1x6 or 5/4x6 are not uncommon. 2x4 will also serve. Frame the perimeter and a center toggle with framing on edge for a total thickness of 4.25". Nail and glue, or screw the frame to the plywood. You will need legs at each corner and in the middle. Legs for 40" can be 2x4's but should be diagonally braced with 1x2 or something similar. Screw the legs through the framing and make sure they rest securely against the top of the platform. Each platform except the last can have just three legs if a ledge is provided to carry the weight of the next platform...I.E. each 6' seam has a set of three legs. Fast assembly is to bolt each seam with 3 or 4 3/8" x 2.5" bolts. Consider covering the whole thing with Lauan or muslin (www.rosebrand.com) for a smoother and more finished surface. You should find a way to tie the new deck to the existing structure. If possible, use a sheet of Lauan to overlap the stage, nail it to your runway and either nail or tape it securely to the stage, you do not want the runway to walk in the middle of the show.
Stuart--- Professional theatre carpenter and welder.
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