Stage Props, SketchUp and "Quick 'n' Dirty" construction.

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Pretend you have a small, poorly equipped shop and half the skill you have. Someone asks you to help build some props for a community theatre production of Fiddler on the Roof. They need 4-6 cheap, basic "farmhouse" tables; folding plastic tables won't cut it.
I decided to try my hand at learning the rudiments of SketchUp last night, using their description of the prop tables as an exercise. I have a little less hair than I did when I started, but this is what I whipped up:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/gdguarino/8630714216/lightbox/
The tables would be built of 1x6 pine and some sort of square stock for the legs. Two of them would be roughly 2' x 4', the others maybe 2' x 2'. The legs should be removable for storage.
Quick and dirty is the order of the day. As they explained, these will never be seen at a distance closer than 30' and hey, Tevye was a poor man. I have a few questions.
Can I simply pocket-screw the slats together to make the top panel? I know that's not the traditional way, the best way or the right way, but would it be adequate?
While the tables need only look good at a distance, I have suggested to them that the end grain on the table edge will get beaten up over time. They would probably keep the tables for future (stage) use. I'd like to put on some sort of edge, maybe 1x2 maple, oriented horizontally (meaning, as an extension of the 3/4" thick pine edge). But I don't have a biscuit joiner. I do have a router, and yes, I suppose I could rout biscuit slots, but each little thing like that adds time; time I don't really have. I'm wondering if pocket screws would be a good solution, or might they split the wood edging? Or is this yet another situation in which wood movement would rear it's ugly head and lead to problems later on?
How do I fasten the table tops to the frames? I've read about the little clips that go in grooves in the apron, but is there some method that would accommodate movement without making grooves? Should I just tell them to use plywood instead? We'd have to edge all around then, but I know how to do that.
Finishing: For all I know, they are expecting to paint these; they paint and repaint more or less everything for each show. But I'm thinking that one of those MinWax all-in-one stain/poly things would be just the ticket for speed and 30' viewing distance. :)
These are friends of mine, by the way, and my wife and daughter will be in the production.
As always, be gentle. :)
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On 4/8/2013 11:51 AM, Greg Guarino wrote:

Good Job!

Absolutely. Keep in mind thet the top will expand and contract across the width of the panel so attachment to the aprons will be more of an issue.

For quick and dirty I suggest leaving the end grain exposed for reason you and I have mentioned, the expansion and contraction will pose a real problem. Typically bread board ends allwo form movement but that is a design and assembly process that is more complicated than simply attaching a board on the end.

Figure 8's would work well.
http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/figure8tabletopfastenerspk12.aspx

I would find out what they really want. Stain on pine typically requires a sanding sealer and a varnish. You may just want to use a milk paint, decent coverage and easy to apply.
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On 4/8/2013 1:48 PM, Leon wrote:

That looks easy enough. Screws short enough not to poke through 3/4" material are strong enough to hold the top on securely? Again I'm concerned that these tables will be carried around a lot by their edges.
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wrote:

Yeah, but they cause cancer...
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Greg Guarino wrote:

Prop tables, right? Knockdown legs, right?
I would attach the top boards to the aprons with one screw centered in each slat at each end. Leave 1/8 or so space between the slats, handy for sweeping crumbs off for the dog. You now need to get legs on it.
I would rip up whitewood 2x4s for the legs (look for the heavy ones, they are fir). I would attach the legs with 1/4" carriage bolts, one bolt per side of each leg; use two per side if you just gotta.. Put fender washers and wingnuts on the inside ends of the bolts. You now have a knockdown table.
Will it be sturdy enough? Well, as I write this I am sitting at a "temporary" table, 24" x 72", that I made at least 12 years ago. I use it daily. It essentially the same except that the legs are full 2x4s, the top is mel board and the aprons are attached to the legs with two screws through each side instead of bolts. One of these days I am going to get started on my mahogany desk...:)
I also have a return. It too is "temporary", same age. It has 1x4 legs instead of 2x4. There is a 1x4 stretcher across each end near the floor and another across them, end to end.
I would totally forget about edging the end grain. It isn't going to get beat up.
I would also forget about finishing it (unless they specify something). In a few months the bare wood (like my temporary stuff) will age very nicely to tobacco brown..
If you are worried about the heads of the carriage bolts showing, make them a design feature with matte black paint. Alternatively, bury and plug them.
If you are still worried about the carriage bolts holding stuff up/together, you could skinny down the top edges of the legs where the aprons will be by 1/4" or so.
FWIW, if you have access to it, Douglas fir would be better than (white?) pine.
--

dadiOH
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On 4/8/2013 2:32 PM, dadiOH wrote:

Yes.

I assume this method is to allow the wood to expand into the gaps with the weather. That's clever, but the table tops won't only need to be strong enough to hold stuff up, they will carried on and off stage by the lip, hurriedly, repeatedly, in the dark and without much careful handling.

That's pretty much what I was thinking.

OK.

I don't know what color they want, but I suspect it won't be "brand-new pine". Dark and old-looking is more likely. It won't be very old (naturally, anyway) by the performance dates.

Shiny nickel would be bad, but we could paint them.

I'm not worried about it. I like overbuilding things, but they "specified" 1x6 aprons. I'll be able to put two bolts in 4" apart. That should keep them pretty stable.

Thanks.
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Greg Guarino wrote:

So use two screws at the end of each. Not to worry about them expanding/contracting themselves off the aprons, they won't; the shank holes might enlarge slightly but that's about it. One caveat: put them on the aprons with the concave side down.
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On 4/8/2013 3:59 PM, dadiOH wrote:

I think I might have done that by instinct, but thanks for the tip.
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On 4/8/2013 1:32 PM, dadiOH wrote: ...

IMO too expensive for a amateur theater group and no need, anyway...unless they are to actually have to hold up somebody dancing on one or the like. And even there, the pine itself is plenty strong-enough.
Oh, just came to me---I think will find the 1x6 aprons too wide--will look awfully klunky methinks altho I haven't scale-drawn it.
I'd try a mockup first; particularly the smaller...
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dpb wrote:

That rather depends upon where they are, no? DF isn't all that expensive in the west.

I wasn't thinking of strength, I was thinking of fastener holding ability; particularly, carriage bolts.
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On 4/8/2013 8:53 PM, dpb wrote:

I thought that at first, but the sketch doesn't look too clumsy for a rustic piece. Now could they save a few bucks by using 1x4 instead? I may suggest it.
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dadiOH wrote:

Second thoughts...
Bolts from each side would make it nice and solid. It also means you couldn't take off the leg without removinng the bolt(s) from one side.
I think bolting from one side would still be enough. If not, make the bolt holes in the leg sloppy side to side and put a plywood cam on the bolt apron to force the leg tight to the non-bolt apron. ________________
Carriage bolts work well in hard wood, less well in something like pine becuse the wood around the square part of the bolt shank gets deformed. Two ways to mitigate that:
1. Insert bolt, take out and harden the wood where the square shank was/will be with super glue.
2. Use a washer and nut on the bolt on the inside of the apron, drill a shallow hole in the leg to fit over them.
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On 4/9/2013 7:24 AM, dadiOH wrote:

Interesting tip. I'll keep that in mind. I really need to find out if they intend to make frequent and long-term use of these tables. If so I may consider Tee-Nuts.
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On Monday, April 8, 2013 9:51:02 AM UTC-7, Greg Guarino wrote:


great project and nice work on sketch-up. Some of my most fulfilling projec ts were making quick and dirty props from my daughters' theater productions .
1. The top, just use battens on the underside. Leave a good 1/4 gap in the boards and glue nail a 1 x 3 across the bottom in two or three places.
2. Build the apron as a frame and have pocket holes on the inside face of t he long edges in a few places and just screw the top on like that.
3. For removable legs, I would build the legs as a bent. So two legs with a horizontal piece of the same material running across between them. Assumin g 1 1/2" material, then on the underside of the table add another apron boa rd 1 1/2" inside the end apron. Slip the two leg assembly into slot and hav e a single carriage bolt with a wing nut on the inside.
Make all the leg assemblies the same size. Make the carriage bolt hole at e xactly the center. Make the hole in the leg assembly a little oversize, the n any leg assembly fits any table.
4. Regarding color, I have found stage directors to be very particular. The y probably want some faux finish or paint. I would show them samples or ask them if they want to do it themselves. They will have painters for sure.
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On 4/8/2013 11:51 AM, Greg Guarino wrote:

... I'd do basically exactly what you've drawn and build it by nothing more than nailing it together and then nailing on the top--I'd not even bother to join the boards; only joint the edges so they do fit flush together. You might put a cross piece under the top on the 2x4 one for a little more rigidity.
For the size you're talking about there's not enough movement that it's going to matter. As for the legs, to have them removable, the quick 'n dirty is to simply bore for a carriage bolt from side/end on the assumption it'll be painted. Failing that, the one piece of actual work would be to use apron brackets...
<http://www.wwhardware.com/jacob-holtz-apron-brackets-jhtablefasteners
I've forgotten whether there's a scene where somebody is going to be climbing up and dancing on one of these or not; I'm assuming not and that they're just scenery to sit around and at most slap a beer stein down onto. If need that kind of abuse then build the frame for it from tubafor stock instead and actually join the corners w/ a stub tenon or somesuch.
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On 4/8/2013 6:10 PM, dpb wrote:

Meant to add, slop some glue on the apron ends before nailing the box together and add a screw or two later on to help on the end grain. Check for square and place on flat surface before proceeding to remove any twist.
Then add glue to the top of the apron frame and set the first top board in place and nail it down. Put glue on edge of next one in turn and angle your nails slightly towards the previous to bring edges into contact. Repeat 'til done. Swab down the deck to remove the squeeze out. Let glue dry--done. Shouldn't take but 30 min/each to get to this point.
If you're really, really, concerned over the movement, don't glue the two end aprons; just leave the nails--they'll have plenty of give in soft pine over only a couple feet. I'd probably glue it down solid just to make it rigid for the purpose--if it moves some, so what; it's rustic anyway as somebody else said.
To finish up I'd take a 45 chamfer router bit and go 'round the edges and leave about an 3/16" chamfer--that'll stop most of the dings you mentioned worry about by not have the square corner. You might consider cutting a 45 off the four corners to leave them about 2-3" so there's not a sharp corner for somebody to bump/run into on stage. Can do that on the two outside boards before assemble, of course, at the miter saw. Doing the angle chop is faster than fairing a curve and accomplishes the same purpose.
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On 4/8/2013 12:51 PM, Greg Guarino wrote:

Good sketchup. Forget the ends. Do it simple. Avoid the stain/poly in one. Awful to work with. Painting for each show is over kill for sure. you might want some cross bracing at the corners to stiffen things up. Don't sweat it.The brace in the center does not and should not be the same size as the skirt.
--
Jeff

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On 4/8/2013 8:50 PM, woodchucker wrote:

I did a test piece or two a while back and decided it didn't seem well suited to nice furniture; too difficult to keep the coverage even, mostly. But it went on easily enough. I thought it might be efficient and adequate for this sort of use. In any case, one of the reasons I'm even able to consider helping with this project is that the finishing will be someone else's task.

Not for each performance, for each new production. Austrian villa in June, cruise ship in November, shtetl a few months later.

I didn't think it did, but it's likely what will be around.
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"Greg Guarino" wrote:

------------------------------------------------------------- Utility grade 1 x 4 and 1 x 6 lumber, a box of 8d finish nails and your done.
Rip 1x6 to 1 x 4-1/2 for apron.
If you don't want to frame the legs, use 2x4 ripped to 2x3.
(I've done it both ways)
Bolt legs to apron using 1/4 x 20, hex head bolts with fender washers and hex nuts.
Carriage bolts are a total loser when the joint has to be broken down and re-assembled.
Let the theatre finish the color of their choice.
Have fun
Lew
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"Mike Marlow" wrote:

------------------------------- "Opps paint" comes to mind.
Lew
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