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Platforming, things to stand on, stage decks, etc.

Platforming Article #6

Up to now we have been dealing with single platforms. This month we will look at ways to use studwall supports for decks, large platform layouts and that thing in the middle, the one-off platform.

For those readers who are fairly new to platform layouts in theatre, a one-off platform is one that might be neither 4’ nor 8’ and may be three sided, four sided, five sided or more, have no angles of 90 degrees and is built specificly for that one show, that one time use. For example, a one-off platform might join two rectangular platform groups to form large, angular formations.

It may seem that I am making such a strong point for stud walls that they are the best way to leg platforms. While stud walls are indeed one of my favorite methods, they are far from the only one I use. There are conditions where stud walls are a poor choice. For example, In the layout shown in the next illustration, bolt on legs or parallel frames would be the most efficient for heights 2″ or less. In general, if your overall platform height is 2″ or less, stud walls are less likely to be time, material or cost efficient. Even at this low height, stud walls are still the best in overall weight bearing and weight transfer capability of all wood, shop built platform support systems. Each and every situation has it’s own solution for “best”. Best is the solution that fits your budget in terms of both materials and labor, fits your crew in terms of skills and time to build and works with your theatre in terms of storage, use and reuse.

One of the advantages of the stud wall system is the way it works in areas that are larger than single platforms. The following illustrations show you a 16″ x 12″ deck made up of 4×8 platforms. The first illustration shows the number and layout of legs for that deck. The rest show possible stud wall layouts for the same deck.

It is easy to see that a small number of stud walls can replace a large number of legs. At first glance, it appears that the stud wall method requires more lumber and more individual boards and thus more time to build. However, stud wall legging greatly reduces the amount of diagonal bracing needed. This translates into more “legs/studs” but less cross bracing and tends to equalize the lumber needed. The simplicity of the construction requires fewer construction steps and results in a very fast construction method. If the deck is to be moved stored or toured, it comes apart in very few pieces and packs flat in a truck or storage area.

Variations on the stud wall can be seen in tiered levels and rakes or ramps. In these platform setups, stud walls can be shaped to fit the stair step shape.

Ramp or rakes are the other half of odd shaped stud walls. Earlier I mentioned that it is rarely efficient in labor or materials to build stud walls for platforms less than two feet high. The exception is when a ramp slopes down to the floor. The ease of making a smooth, even slope is well justified. When you lay out the top and bottom plate on the shop floor, the angle and length of the studs can be marked off directly without measuring, math or trig. If you cut a stud a bit too long or too short, simply move it a fraction of an inch one way or the other until it fits between the top and bottom plate. Elegant? No! Effective, quick, strong and workable? You bet! Two Simple examples of sloped studwall support are shown below.

So far, we have looked a number of ways to use studwalls to support platforms. Next month we will examine some ways that stud walls can be used for more than just to support a deck, such as to bridge openings, support over hangs and other uses. We will also look into how to fasten platforms and decks to the stud walls.

For now, have a happy holiday season, don’t sweat the small stuff, and remember, Its ALL small stuff!

Michael Power