Radial Arm Saw

Parts of Saw:

  • a 1/8″ circular blade
  • a blade guard
  • a fence (not the one you use to keep out burglars)
  • some measuring tape to attach onto your fence

Steps Taken when Cutting:

  1. Measure out wanted length of wood and “X” the side of wood that you do not want. This is because you have to take into a account the kerf, the amount of wood lost by the blade cutting the wood. Usually the size of the kerf is the width of the blade, which in our case is 1/8″ of an inch.
  2. Then place the wood against the fence with the attached tape measure and bring the blade, without it on, to the piece of wood to make sure that the blade and the line are lined up properly.
  3. Make sure you have your goggles and ear plugs on and then turn the saw on.
  4. Slowly bring the spinning blade up onto the wood, making sure that the blade doesn’t get stuck in the wood.
  5. When the blade is brought back, when it’s off, measure the length of the wood to make sure you didn’t mess up somewhere.
  6. Then count your fingers and if you have eight left, that ain’t bad! Congratulations!!!

Common Problems found After Cutting:

  • You may of just counted wrong. When measuring, you may of subtracted the wrong measurement of the kerf. Also, you may have just screwed up when measuring the wood with the tape measurer.
  • You may have placed the wood wrong, which then makes the blade cut through the wrong part of the wood. If you look at the wood and the line that you had drawn is still there, then it means that the blade hadn’t cut in the correct place.

*There may be other encountered problems, but these are the most common*


Drill Press

This photo show that various drill press table accessories we have set up. The clamp to the bottom right is holding a piece of plywood to the metal table. This wood acts as a buffer to keep the drill bits from hitting the metal.
The vice in the foreground clamps in several different positions.
Behind the vice you can see a jig clamped down. This jig is for our 4×4 legs. Clamp the jig in the correct position and you can drill the bolt hole in the correct place for days.

We see the pull down handle and the motor in this picture. This drill press has a selection of speeds which are adjusted via lifting up the top cover and shifting a drive belt. Slow speeds for metal and faster for wood. Your speeds may vary.

This is the bit storage are. You can see the spade bits (so called because they look like gardening spades) are hanging in order of size.

Drill bits. 3 kinds are pictured. The single one on the left side of the top photo is a masonry bit. It will drill into brick, cement and drywall. The rest in the top photo are twist bits. They will drill both wood and metal.

The bottom photo is of spade bits. Wood Only Please.


SlidingCompound Power Miter Saw

This saw is to never to be used with out proper supervision and proper safety practices.

Remember to always wear safety goggles. This is a standard chop saw. I say standard as opposed to a sliding saw.


Table Saw 2

This is a Delta 12″ Table saw outfitted with a Beismeyer rip fence and blade guard. .In this photo, it is the up position to show the blade. This is one of the best blade guards that I’ve ever worked with. When the guard is down, the wood lifts it as it passes underneath.


Remember to always wear safety goggles and hearing protection!

Move the fence over until the line is on the measurement you need.

Push down on the locking handle to hold the fence in place.

Here you can see all the controls of the table saw. From left to right:

  1. Main power switch. Turn off when changing the blade.
  2. The Bevel Adjustment Wheel.
  3. The Cutting Height Wheel.
  4. Power Switch.

Band Saw

Here our student is using a circle jig. She has to cut 6 circles at 18″ each. We’ve clamped a piece of wood to the saw’s table. Then, a nail in the center of the circle to be will guide the wood as Samantha turns the square. The most important thing to remember is that the nail must be in line with the blade. If it isn’t, the wood will try to guide the wood in the wrong direction.

Here we have the entire machine. The two wheels hold, support and guide the blade. The blade runs clockwise. The bottom wheel is the “drive” wheel: it has the motor attached. The top wheel simply spins. Notice that the doors are open. Never run the saw with the doors open. Always have the doors closed.


Hand Tools

A large assortment of hand saws. From the left: Long rip saws, a key hole saw, mid sized cross cut saws, short tool box saws, coping saws (bottom right).
You can also see framing squares, carpenter squares, combination squares and a level.

Several different types of pliers: needle nose, wire cutting, standard, linesmen, locking…

The large, odd looking drill is called a BRACE. The twist bit goes into the chuck on the left side and your hand, shoulder or thigh press against the round knob on the right. A hand goes on the handle and turns.
To the right of the photo are two small hand drills.

This is a chalk line. It looks and works line a fishing reel. Inside this thing is kite string and powdered chalk. We use this to create long straight lines for cutting or laying out patterns.

This is snapping the line. When you pull the line out and line it up to points at either end of the line you wish to create, you then pull the line up and let it snap down onto your work; creating your straight line.
How many times have you had to draw the center line on the stage? With this tool, it’s a snap:-)

The chalk line also allows you to make quick work of creating a layout grid.

What is a layout grid? I’m glad you asked. Let’s say the designer has given you a drawing of Bugs Bunny. You are asked to make a large plywood cutout of the designer’s Bugs Bunny. It has to be seven feet tall and it must look exactly like to drawing.

First, make a copy of the drawing. We know the drawing is in 1/2″ scale. Now draw a grid of lines, each line to be 1/4″ apart, over the copy of that darn rabbit. The lines will cross each other making boxes. Each box is 6″ in scale.
Now, on your piece of cardboard or plywood, use a chalk line to make a grid of boxes. Each box is to be 6″ square, full size. After you have done this, you will be able to transfer the work easily. You may wish to number each line on both the small and the big grids.

This is sort of like playing battle ship.


Escape Stairs

All escape stairs are to have railings. These stairs were built using 2×6 stringers and two layers of 3/4″ ply for the treads. The cast was advised to use these stairs as ladders and climb down backwards. This is because of the angle.


Spiral Stairs

Holes were drilled in 2×8 lumber and placed on the boom. Wood spacers are separating each step support. The boom is the center of the circle.

You can see additional spacers holding the steps apart; further away from the center. Once we are done building, you’ll see that the steps protrude out of the castle tower. These were latter changed to a 2×10 stringer.

We stacked the treads and inserted the pipe through a hole in both the top and bottom platforms. After the pipe was guided down to the floor, we placed spacers near the pipe in between each tread.

We’ve installed a stringer to support the treads near the middle of the treads

Curved Plywood! Yup, curved… We made this ourselves. Several 9″ wide strips of 1/8″ plywood are glued & screwed together in the shape needed. Once the glue dries, the curve is very strong.

Jeff & Christina test our stairs. You can see the clamps that held the plywood together while the glue dried.


Stairs 2

Two huge sets of stairs.

The base for the one of the main stair units. Notice the 2×4 block under the right side. It’s there simply to keep the frame from rolling around while we work.

Each 2×8 tread is supported by a 2×3 block. The 2×3 is glued & nailed into place.

Take a good look at the railing leg. The dark 2×4 doesn’t actually hole the weight of the steps. Just behind this 2×4 is another 2×4. This one is supporting the weight down to the frame.

A student is bolting the railing support using 3/8″ bolts. the orange thing above is a 3 way level.

The bottom three steps wanted to have a rounded look. They were built as mini platforms with curved lids and mounted atop each other as shown.

From this angle you can see that we’ve added diagonal bracing to the unit.

We’ve also started to add the wiring for the chaser lights.

The 2×4 poking out towards us is acting as a lever to allow us to swing the stairs from back stage. The 2×4 nailed to the floor acts as a stop to keep the stairs from swinging to far.

Framing for the curved front. Three ribs were cut from 1/2″ plywood and mounted as shown.

Did you notice the lack of diag. bracing? The curved plywood adds very strong diag. bracing.

Building stairs for the stage is just like building them for a house.
Some basic terms you need to know.

  • Tread. That’s the step itself. I remember tread by looking at the bottom of my shoe. The treads of my shoes land on the treads of the steps.
  • Rise. This is the height of each step. Or, how much you rise each time you take a step.
  • Stringers. These are the boards that hold up all the steps on either side. They string all the steps together.
  •  Railing. Need I say more?
  • Spindles. These are the vertical poles under the railings that keep you from falling through.
  • Newel Posts. The vertical posts at either end of the railings.
  • Landing. You usually have two landings. One at the top and one at the bottom of the stairs. You land on these when you’re done walking up or down the steps.

When building stairs, you need to figure out what angle the stringers are going to be. What is the angle you need to walk up or down. If it’s too steep, you might have to go down backwards. Just like a ladder. Look at the escape stair above; these are really ladders with big treads.
If the angle is too shallow, you could have two problems. One, the treads would have to be very deep or you would have to have a lot of them. The rise would be very small. An example of steps with very shallow rises; steps that require you to take two steps per tread.
 45 degrees is about as steep as you would wish to go. 30 degrees is about as shallow. A good way to determine which is most comfortable is to go to a stairway. Walk up and down. Find other staircases and try them. If all the staircases are the same in your building, you may have to go elsewhere to really give it a try.
 Why all the fuss about proper tread heights and depths? Think about the actors that have to walk up and down while being blinded by stage lights.

Measurement terms. The depth of the tread is called the RUN. You already know what the Rise is. Yup, the measurement term for the Rise is RISE. The terms put together is the Rise over Run. How high by how long. If you add together all the rises together, you’ll have the hight of the staircase. Add all the Runs together and you have the horizontal distance from the bottom step to the top. (Going up!) 
 So, let’s say the staircase is to take you to a platform that is six feet high and the bottom step is six feet away from the platform. Well, then you rise is six feet total and your run is also six feet total. Now, how many steps do you have? Let’s say five. The platform is the landing and not a step. The floor is also a landing.  So, you have five steps. How many spaces do you have between landings? Six. So you have six rises. Six feet divided by six rises; each rise is one foot. This same method applies to the run. Six feet, five treads. Each tread’s run is one foot.
 Have you ever tried to step up a full foot? It’s a big step. Too big for most. I think you’ll need more treads. With more treads, you would have more individual rises, each being smaller. Let’s say twelve treads. (including the floor.) Well that gives us 6″ rises. Too small.
Standard rise is between 7″ and 9″. The most popular tread run is around 11 1/2″. Can you say 2×12?


Stairs 1

The railing is coming along. Each spindle has been cut to it’s own size. We’re using a forced perspective technique to increase the apparent depth and size of the stairs.

Mid way in our building of Mame’s main stair case. We’ve placed the facings under each tread. The facings are made from 1/4″ plywood and serve a second purpose. Each gives a lot of support to each step.

The stringer is made from a 2×12 with the rise and run cut out. This set of steps has a rise of 7 1/2″ and the run is 9 1/2″.

This unit is on wheels and the framing below will allow a technician to push the unit from inside. Magic!