Monday, December 8, 2008

Stacking flats with no wall space

I have a large bid going out for a museum exhibit - so my blogs have been more scarce than I would like - couple that with the busy holiday season, and well.... Hopefully I will get back in the swing soon.

However today while I was in the shop floor checking on one of the TV jobs, a site caught my eye - and it made me once again think that sometimes the most simple things are novel.

We have a large amount of space in the shop, and quite a few columns, but not alot of wall space to stack things against. What I saw was a stack of 9 flats on their side with a bar clamp across the top. At first I wasn't sure why the clamp was there - then it hit me that it was to prevent the end flats from tipping over. Its pretty much common sense - but at the same time, something I had not thought of doing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Model Making Mitre Box

Now that I have been blogging for a while, sometime I will remember coming across something a long time ago, noting it (theoretically blogging about it), and then moving on. Then later I need to remember where that particular piece of hardware or tool was, and it seems like I can never remember - and if I blogged about it - I evidently called it by something other than my current search term.
Since I recall seeing a model making model box, and it came to mind as being something that would be handy for a Christmas present I am building I went in search of more information. Since I don't seem to have mentioned it - here it is: Exacto's Mitre box.

Thus nifty item can be found at:

Dick Blick art supplies also has one that seems a little beefier - and is cheaper:

Since I would prefer to get mine sooner - I will probably see what my local craft or hobby store has.

And since we are talking about special little pieces - if you ever get a hankering to make a game that needs token - Cherry Tree Toys ( has a great deal on game pawns. They also have other tools and wood working equipment, and a nice variety of plans (especially wooden toy plans). And, just to keep it on topic, they have a variety of doll house / model building supplies that would be useful for set designers.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Blogs of Note

A blog at asked 10 questions to Gordon P. Firemark:

(It also asked 10 questions to a variety of other people as well)

Gordon has a blog of his own at:

I think the blog entry is interesting for several reasons. First, I think we often need to ask those questions of ourselves. What is going on - what is current, what is important. You can easily get sucked down the path of day to day living that it can be hard to see the forest because of the trees. Secondly, because theatre law is an area that is very gray.

You should also check out Andrew Larimer's answers relating to how Hurricane Katrina affected theatre in New Orleans.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

AutoCAD 2009

I just installed 2009 on my computer, and have started going through the tutorials. Looks liked it will be a good change, and there is a once more a great improvement in the 3-d capacity. Of course that means that your computer has to have the ram and processor to drive it.

They have a tutorial pdf:
that has a good intro on transitioning from paper to CAD. Obvious for current users of cad, but I thought that the language used would also be good for the intro to a CAD course.

I am excited to be back in the land of having a full version of AutoCad again - I went from 2008 full to 2007 lite when I came to my current job and it amazed me how much I relied on the 3-d capacity of the full version of AutoCAD. I see more and more drawings that are fully drawn in 3-D come into our shop, and about 90% of what we draft is probably done in 3-d (other than CNC files). 3-D drafting is quickly becoming a must needed skill. While theatres are still catching up to this, I think it will become more and more important as scene shops and related industries step up their drafting and 3-d slowly becomes and industry standard.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Tutorial Websites

I have been reading the "Dumb Little Man" blog lately, and it has a variety of information. Most is off topic for here, but I thought this particular blog was relevant:

The blog lists a variety of Internet sites that have tutorials. I have mentioned many here including How Stuff Works and Instructables. The blog adds to that list, including some sites that are useful for computer and software help.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

First 100 Days

In the spirit of the election I thought I would talk about the idea of the first 100 days. I started pondering this when I started the position I am at now, about a year and a half ago. The general idea is to have a plan of attack for the first few months of your new position, and that this period will have a significant impact on the rest of your tenure. While this strategy is common for elected officials, it is also common for CEO’s. For these people having a strategic plan in place is often part of the interviewing process.

Theatrically speaking, the 100 days would need to accommodate a reasonable span of time since we often deal in short contracts. A 100 day span in a three month summer stock doesn’t have the same impact. Also, much like in a political framework, the plan is different for returning, than joining the company for the first time.

I think one of the basic things that is interesting regarding the plan is that it signifies what kind of a person you are. Do you come into an organization with an agenda of your own and plow through changes, or do you seek to understand the organization and make small adjustments. If you have a standard operating procedure, and the theatre operates differently, it may be hard to make the two mesh. However, if you change to match every theatre’s environment, how much time is lost in the beginning figuring out the ins and outs. You don’t want to position yourself as an underdog because you are feeling things out and deferring too much. Of course there is a basic question that is unspoken here, and that is whether or not the organization is looking for change. The position that you have will affect the amount of change that is seen. I think it is fairly hard for absolutely no change to occur, unless you have a minor position. The higher up the position the more the individual and theatre must adapt to each other. But some place look to change. I have noticed that there is a trend in theatres that when someone who has been with the theater a very long time leaves, the person filling the position has very large shoes to follow, particularly if they didn’t want that person to leave. On the other hand, if the theater just got rid of someone they didn’t care for, those shoes are easy to fill, and it can be easy to push through your process and look good.

At any rate, I think there are a variety of things to consider when you first start a new job.
The conditions you were hired in – immediate need, or did they wait for the right fit. Are they looking for change? What are current processes? What works and doesn’t work? Who do you have for support, and what is the opposition? Are you in a situation where you can continue the same processes, or are you forced to create your own. Jobs, especially in theater, are full of tasks that just magically get done. Someone has taken over the task, and others may not even realize the necessity to pass the knowledge on since everyone already knows it – except the new person of course.

And here’s a thought for you – when you start a job, all of the info that you gather – will be the same information you need when you pass the torch on. These first few months can let you know the things that should really be in the employee handbook! You won’t have that same perspective ever again – so don’t forget to take a few notes.
Links to a brief article that asks some interesting questions for those first 100 days.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Live Design

Live design is now offering free subscriptions to industry professionals. If yo don't currently subscribe you do so on their website:

If you don't read their magazine already I encourage you to do so!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rigging Information

I am in the process of buying a dozen or so pre-made wire rope cable assemblies made with stainless steel wire rope and have been coming across a few good resources to pass along.

The first link come from the UK. Of interest to me in the first link are turnbuckles that have a swivel in the end (look at page 17). One their site they also say that the breaking strength of the forks are determined by the clevis pin and the threads. Obvious, but I'm not sure that I have seen it stated so succinctly. In the second link they have a round eye with a plate and a threaded stud which looks like it would be a good rigging connection. They also have them with a nut if you need to bolt from the other direction.

The next link is a rigging book from the US Coast Guard:
The end certainly has stuff that isn't very useful, but some of the beginning sections are full of useful references. Includes a glossary, length tolerances and stretch and other resources.
Sapsis Rigging, need I say more!
JR Clancy
Idaho Rigging Standards;multi_item_submit
You can get a clew.
Crosby. The training section is a must visit site. Decorative cables

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Power of Yes

Browsing the net brought me to this blog today:

I thought it was interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it is regarding a book for actors that was found to be very helpful for someone entirely outside the industry. And secondly, it could be helpful for Technical Directors too. What if we said yes to a new material or technique. What if we said yes to a design component? I know that we have limited budgets and limited time, especially in today's economy. But saying no won't get us better options in the future - only by saying yes and taking some calculated risks can we continue to grow and develop.

I challenge you to say YES today!

PLC Resource

PLCS.NET has a tutorial of sorts about what a PLC is. While they are trying to get you to buy their training DVD’s, they do provide some basic information that is worth taking a glance at.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Making floors that are quiet

I found this site while looking for information about homasote or Celotex:
The link has two things going for it – information regarding several different types of underlayment and sound characteristics. While we frequently don’t build stage floors the same way that we build homes, we do run into some of the same problems (sound), and with the prices on some of the flooring alternatives out there, using the real thing for the floor is a very real option.

Halloween Tech

Halloween is my favorite holiday, and one of the reasons why is the amount of technology that decorations can include. Haunted house often use a variety of low tech automation that can be borrowed for theatre use.

Design news has a variety of articles that are fun for Halloween, and even potentially useful!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Keep Them On Your Side - Book Review

I just finished reading “Keep Them on Your Side” by Samuel B. Bacharach. It was an interesting book. It was the second of two – the first being about how to get people on your side in the first place. I thought a variety of things were interesting about this book.
-It was almost like a mini version of half the business classes I took in grad school. It was a good reminder of many of the things I have learned.
-While it was not a called out reference, it utilized a four frames framework similar to Bolman and Deal. These frames; Structural, Human Resource, Political and cultural, are different ways to look at a challenge or situation and will help determine the best approach. This book essentially moves through 4 different areas that you have to navigate through to maintain momentum.
-This book speaks of managerial competence and political competence. A politically competent leader may be able to gather many supporters, but unless they are managerially competent, they won’t be able to implement their plan. A successful leader needs to be both.
-To sustain momentum you must: Maintain (resources and capacity), Monitor (evaluate or develop) and make adjustments, Motivate (direct or facilitate), and Mobilize.
-What you want to accomplish must take all the variables into account. A situation where there are no resources may actually spur great amounts of creativity, and may spur ideas that are very cost effective. Yet a different situation arises when they have ample resources. Either can produce good ideas, and either carries risk. The ideas here are very applicable to theatres. Many theatre operate with very scarce resources, spurring innovation and great technical solutions with low cost (especially low materials cost, since labor in these situations can be a dramatic variable in cost of it is hourly and not salary. Yet on the other hand, in a commercial scene shop, resources are adequate, materials are available, and labor is available. Innovative technical solutions arise out of this situation as well, but aren’t as cost effective.
-Autonomy versus consistent processes. Turbulent times require more autonomy, but the more standardized the process is the faster and easier the task can be. Theatre, by nature, requires a certain about of autonomy. Technicians need to be skilled enough to analyze a situation – paired of course to their skill level, and make a decision on what is required and follow through. A job lead on the job or a TD needs to have good problem solving skills and be able to have the authority to do what needs to be done. Yet, a series of consistent processes will help that individual make a good decision. The more the solution is of the “text-book” variety, the easier and faster it will be to implement. Where I work now has a series of “shop standards”. They don’t apply to every situation, and shouldn’t – but it is a standard of how we typically build a standard flat, platform, and so forth. Why reinvent the wheel on everything – save the innovation for situations that require it.
-Quality versus productivity… and then there is value. Here are three different ways of evaluating. Is it quality that is require or quantity? What is quality? Quantity is easy – I need 30 flats in two weeks. Easy to define, easy to measure, easy to check off when complete. But how do you determine quality? It is very subjective, what is great to one person isn’t good at all to another. Then there is value. Value might be a decent product for little money, or a higher price, but full service. Something low quality to one person might still be valuable to someone else. Value is not always based on economy.
-Criteria for evaluation and expectations is very important to sustaining momentum. Without criteria spelled out there is no way to effectively evaluate progress or process.
-While you need to be able to jump in and make a correction, over correcting can stop momentum, it can lead to an expectation that another change will be coming soon and lead to poor work.
-“A culture of motivation addresses three critical sociopsychological needs: the need to learn and problem solve; the need for affiliation; and the need for reaffirmation.” P 150.
-Another subject the book touches on is single loop versus double loop learning, though not in that terminology. The author refers to it as reflexive versus reflective thinking. A reflexive thinker is more reaction based, and will tend to make small refinements in the process. A reflective person may redo the system and really look at the project globally and rethink what it is all about. There is a place for both. Once a system is in place, minor adjustments should be made. However at a certain point minor adjustments and refinements don’t do the job and a reorientation is needed. They key to know when to use each method.
-Politically you should look out for support, dissent, opposition, resistance. This is a scale to judge where people stand against your idea or project. Once you determine where they stand, you can determine an action plans to work with those members of your team or business.

All in all, I thought it was easy to read, and very informative. It contains lots of information. I think it is a useful read for a TD because within a production everyone is theoretically on your side, and what we really have to worry about is getting the show moved through the shop. Momentum is important. Many books seem to talk about getting started, but I liked that this one focused on keeping the ball rolling.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I was browsing the Sceno:graphy site today. It is a UK based site and has articles and information regarding design and technical theatre, though it isn't very active.

They address the question of what is Scenography and why it seems to be a title / function in most places except for America.

The question is an interesting to me for a variety of reasons, including history and the function of theatre structures and so forth. Since scenography is the historical standard it is interesting that America didn’t continue this tradition. I also, unfortunately, don’t know if it did come to America and then we evolved out of that tradition. One of the reasons that is offered is the difference in funding between the countries, which of course could be probable, but I’m not sure that it is the “right” answer. Intuitively, I would say that America was found on individuality and in a sense that affects our jobs also. Even our unions have evolved individually. These issues have been involved in most of the research I have done for the many theatre history courses I took when I got my MFA. Who was the first TD? When was the TD first recognized as a TD. What did the TD evolve out of? When did design and fabrication separate? How do technical theatre traditions and practices vary currently and historically between cultures or countries? Why is the American system so much different on the surface than some of the European examples? It is harder to unify a vision when you use 4 different designers than when there is one sceneographer. In that vain, did some of the split occur with the growth of a director? At any rate, the site is worth a look.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Speaking of Carpentry Blogs

Evenfall Woodworks is another interesting blog regarding carpentry. The link below will take you to an entry regarding the "foibles of tape measures", which isn't a bad thing to be reminded of!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Blog of the day

Looking for something new and interesting regarding whats current in the world of carpentry I came across this blog:

Given my like of historical building techniques I particularly like the blogs about the roman tools. Also there are tons of photos that illustrate the steps he took when he was building something - like the feather boards that he details.

I hope you check it out!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lessons Learned
The above link will take you to a brief blog entry about lessons learned. It makes a distinction between lessoned learned due to failure versus ones learned when something goes right. Unfortunately I think that we don’t spend enough time thinking about what went right, and analyzing why it worked. Instead we focus on the wrongs. Things don’t go right by accident, and it may not be the obvious reasons that the task went well – I planned it out – it went well – if you look and think, there are many factors that govern each process, and paying heed to both successes and failures, and passing that on to others will make the most of each lesson learned.

Friday, October 24, 2008


A few days back I was talking about cleats. Today I stumbled across a video from "ask the builder" that shows how to make one. Check it out at:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hardware Link

The above link will take you to a variety of catalogs from C R Laurence. This company does windows - doors, shower doors, and other glass related products including hardware. Not necessarily our normal realm, but there are some nice parts that could be useful - like flange covers that will hide the bolts on a flange in their railings catalog.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sandblasting Fun

One of the current projects I am working on involves sandblasting. I had originally planned to job the task out, but for a variety of reasons, we made the decision to do it in house. Below are a few pictures from the project. The first is the set prior to being blasted. Since the set was being teched up prior to leaving the shop (or to go to paints) we decided to blast it in place so that the joints would match and it would fit back together in the same way.

Next we set up out pole and drape poles, and draped heavy plastic over to help contain the dust. We rented a sandblaster, and an air compressor that would run it and bought a ton of sand. Literally. (And bought more the next day). I am sure there is a formula to calculate how much sand to buy somewhere, someplace, but after this experience I would say that you can't buy enough sand! Even with over a ton we still recycled the sand through multiple times. The issue becomes, even in a cleaned environment, that the sawdust you remove with the blasting gets recycled into the dust. We used "Black Beauty" an iron slag to do the blasting. This produced a rougher texture than the sample our vendor provided, but was adequate to do the job we needed it to do.

For more information:

Monday, October 20, 2008

McMaster Picks of the day

The images above are a few useful pieces of hardware from Mcmaster Carr. You can find them all by using the keyword angle bracket. The first I have used quite a bit on my last show. The second I have used for when something needed to be removable - I have also used "picture hangers" from other sources as well. The third, called zee-clips, is an often used piece of hardware here to attach pieces together that are double sided or that attach flush to a wall. They can also be manufactured according to your own specs in the shop. Sometimes we use something more circular that we call pucks - and then route a keystone into the pairing surface. French cleats - where you cut a 45 degree angle on each piece and they mount into each other works nicely as it draws the 2 surfaces together.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

LEDEX Solenoids

Below is a link to a solenoid company. They have a variety of resources on their page, and are worth a look.

Monday, October 13, 2008


While many designers know about Dykes Lumber, I found another source online where they have regional catalogs that can be downloaded that shows profiles of various mouldings.

Check out Moulding & Millwork at:

Nova Paint

While bidding a show I was came across "Nova Color paints". You can take a look at the product here:

While their cost is higher than most home paint products (we typically use alot of Benjamen Moore, and Modern Masters), it isn't completely out of line of theatrical paint. And the binder in the nova paints makes it a higher quality. The colors can be translucent, transparent or opaque, and come in a wide range, work with tints, and include metallic, pearlescent, fluorescent, varnishes, gels and textures.

Their website also includes PDF's about painting murals, and fiberglass.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Automation Videos

Automation Direct has a variety of learning options on its website. You can find it at:

They offer video options for learning about PLC’s, Operator Interfaces, Software, Sensors, Motor Controls, Drive / Motors, and More. The “More” category mostly talks about Automation Direct as a company. They offer a significant amount of content, that is definitely worth checking out!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fantastic Contraption

Fantastic Contraption is my current addiction. You can find it at: The first 20 levels are available online, and I have only 1 or 2 left to solve. I also like that you can share your contraptions with others.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Designing a Ladder Program

Automation Direct’s recent issue of Automation Notebook has an article on designing a Ladder Logic program. It is an interesting article with many good points. It seems as though I have found many basic programs thrown together for one show. This show becomes the basis for the next show, and 10 years later you have the same program that has been altered 40 times, and which has pieces of code no longer valid or integral, because there wasn’t an overall design to the program. While it is often hard to do in the crunch of an individual production, planning for future incarnations of the program when it is first written will make the process easier in the future.

You can take a look at the article at:

Monday, October 6, 2008

System Mania & Amrmadillo Run

Two for today, or I will be doing this all month!
System Mania combines contraption orientated games with the service genre (Dinner Dash inspired) games. While the ideas (pull a cord, rotate hourglass times, push buttons) is contraption like, it is more of a speed game than a problem solving game

Armadillo Run is a great game, and very addicting. If you buy the game there are 50 levels, and you can create your own levels. Its very fun, and a great way to make you think.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Crazy Machines

Crazy Machines is yet another Rube Goldberg-like contraption game where you complete each level by making an invention work. You have a wide array for tools, and the experiements range from moving balls to target locations to illuminating a variety of lights. There are lots of levels ( 200), and a variety of ways to complete each level. Beware it is addicting!

I purchased my copy off the shelf at a local retailer, but a review can be seen at:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tom & Jerry

In the spirit of games here is a link to Tom & Jerry Trap - O - Matic. It follows a Rube Goldberg like play with rollers, shooters cutters and the like.

Speaking of Rube Goldberg, over the weekend I watched the "Goonies" and realized for the first time that they have several great examples of Goldberg like contraptions, even including the use of line animals!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


One of the things I like to do in my spare time is to play games. There is a wide variety out there that rely on problem solving skills (spatially orientated and otherwise) as well as engineering skills, and other TD applicable skills. Clack, found at:, is the first of the games that I will be posting links too.

Have Fun!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Book List for Designers

The above link talks about what books industrial designers should read or have. While not every book on the list is applicable to theatre, I think there are definitely some that would be good reads, and helpful.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Looking for a play?

FINDaPLAY is a website that allows you to search 30 different play publishers including MTI, Samuel French and Dramatists.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Toggle / Hold down clamps

Toggle clamps and hold down clamps have a useful place in the scene shop. One of the coolest welding tables I have seen was made from telespar with hold down clamps, so that you could easily jig and clamp any size or shape of frame. Also, toggle clamps can be useful for clamping scenery together during scene shifts. The link below is one maker of said clamps, though they can be found in a wide variety of places including McMaster Carr and Grainger.

Canopy Article

The September edition of Stage Directions is out and includes an article of mine in the answer box section! You can also check it out on their website at:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


One of the new materials I have come to love over the past year is VHB (Very High Bond) Tape. Made by 3m, it will bond plastics, metals, glass and wood together. Below is a variety of links for more information.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mortise Hinge Profile Cutters

While browsing McMaster Carr today looking for the perfect hinge for an upcoming project I ran across these mortise hinge profile cutters.

You hammer this cutter into the frame, and it cuts the mark, which you can then chisel out. It will also gauge the accurate depth. And the price tag makes it an easy purchase for any shop.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hardware Take 2

Here is another source for hardware:

In this case it is a good source for sex bolts and measuring tools.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008


There is one thing that scenery, museums, display, and even home have in common - they desire to minimize seams. And to that end there are a multitude of ways to handle seams, from dutchman and taping to make them go away, to indenting the seam to give it purpose, and turn it into a decorative accent.

And as important as the seam is, the hardware that goes with fastening the seam can be important as well. Hinges, bolted, screwed, panel locks or french cleats to name a few methods....

The following two links provide and alternate style of the coffin locks we often use in theatre.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Drafting Overlay

I saw the above while searching for a 36" scale ruler, and thought it looked useful. since I often use quick square foot measurements, I think I might create an overlay with a few helpful reference numbers and print my own version.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ka Take 2

After my last brief post, I received word that John Huntington had one his website an article on "Ka" as well.

His article discusses the technical aspects in much more depth that the first message, and has some nice images of the system as well.

He also has an article about "Love" another Cirque production, also well written, and full of technical details and photos.

You can check out both articles (and others of his as well) at:

Ka Automation

The above link for Entertainment Engineering has a bit on Cirque Du Soliel's"Ka" as well as an additional video.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


I found the above hinges in McMaster Carr. It would have been great to have used these instead of loose pin hinges on tour and when doing rep. They look beefy enough to stand up to the wear and tear. Of course, for the price per pair, they should be beefy.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Clever Connection

I have said it before, am saying it now, and will say it again - you can never be exposed to enough of a variety of techniques and you learn something everyday. And sometimes the simplest of things can be a great ah ha.
Today while walking through the shop, I saw a mock up for one of the exhibits we are working on. The corners were held together with hogstroughs on the corners. I have often built the hogstrough into one of the flats and ran that flat past the other. This struck me as an easy, flexible solution. And it would save materials as a shop would have a stock of them, since they are used in a variety of ways.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


Dave Vick, assistant carpenter / rigger for the tour of "A Chorus Line" has posted a photo album online chronicling his adventures. Its a definite must see!


Today I stumbled upon a Grapple:

They are for use with truss, primarily joining truss pieces together at perpendicular angles, though they have a variety of other uses.

However, it seems that they could also be used in some situations with pipe as well.

Take a look!

Friday, July 25, 2008


The relationship between sailing and rigging is very clear, and rooted in history. However, I think that it is sometimes forgotten that sailing and boat rigging have undergone advances in technology that is still very useful in theatre.

The series of links below illustrate a variety of sheaves that can be mounted from a stanchion (or in our case, pipe). While a piece could certainly be made by most shops that would do essentially the same thing, I thought the choices where interesting, and at good prices. I know that there have been pieces I have rigged in the past where being able to directly connect the sheave to the pipe, instead of making a bracket would have been convenient.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lumber Resources

The following are a few resources dealing mostly with lumber:

Wood Handbook: Wood as an Engineering Material

Wood Web, a resource providing general knowledge regarding lumber. Their knowledge base provides information regarding adhesives, millwork, business, and cabinet making, laminating, wood engineering and many other topics.

Southern Pine By Design FAQ

Article about Warping and Drying in Lumber, and few others if you go a little further back in the directory.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

PLC info

Automation Direct has made available on their website a PDF describing what a PLC is and how to choose a PLC. You can download it at:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Technical Direction Question...

There was a question on linkedin that I thought was relevant and interesting. The question was “Can techies be good/ successful Product Managers?” I think that translates well into the carpenter / technical direction debate that often occurs. As is with theatre, Linkedin produced multiple answers.

I think that it is a great question because it makes you think, and there are multiple answers. I think there are a variety of ways to approach the question.

First, the skill sets for the two jobs are not universal. Each location, venue, organization ans so forth may define the jobs differently that will impact the answer. A touring TD or carp has a different skill set than one who produces shows. A road house TD may have another set of skills, and the TD of a grand opera has different skills as well. In addition, the skills sets for each position differ. The TD at a LORT may be more managerial and the carpenter is only a craftsman, or the TD may be in the shop swinging a hammer next to a carpenter. The carpenter may be very skilled and work from designer plates needing little interaction from the TD other than supplies. While there are lots of contradictions I have worked in many varieties of these situations, and the answer to the above question cannot be answered universally.

There is yet another item to mention, and create some base assumptions with. Historically in our industry you had to pay your dues to get into the good positions. A TD had to be a good carpenter. Today, I think it is easier to start very young as a TD in small locations and work your way up too bigger facilities without nearly as much time spent as a carpenter (except as all the times when as TD you were the shop). With advanced technical training becoming the standard for TD’s, more come out of grad school with very different positions than I saw in the industry 15 years ago. Part of this I actually believe has to do with the very question I am discussing.

So to answer the question you must make some assumptions. Let’s say that the TD is more managerial and is not on the floor building scenery, and that the carpenter relies on the TD to provide structure and information. For the fun of it, lets also say that the TD (or perhaps even production manager) manages more than 1 area – whether its props, paints and scenery, or simply manages a carpentry head and a metals head. This puts the TD is the wonderful land of middle management.

Getting to the meat of the question, the TD and the carpenter require different skill sets to succeed. I will not hash out the carpentry skills here, and instead focus on TD skills. I think a good TD has to have a very diverse set of skills: communication, problem solving, team building, time management, fiscal management, collaboration, problem solving, and technical skills. For the technical skills a TD needs to know about drafting, reading drawings, carpentry, metalworking, paints, tool maintenance, engineering, structural design, motor control, pneumatics, plastics, and more. That’s a pretty large list of skills, particularly since most of this skills can be a full job (with advanced degrees) in and of themselves. It makes the position hard to fill.

I think the industry has a culture that expect all of this from the TD’s. I think some are very successful. Yet I think what happens is that the TD sometimes leans towards the shop – their silo, and doesn’t have the same management skill as they have technical skill. Perhaps that can build the fanciest wooden, steel, plastic thingy that spins on cue, but can’t talk to the board of directors efficiently. This, to me, leads to the path of us versus them and creates a separation in the theatre between technical and nontechnical people. I believe that the TD needs to bridge that gap.

I think that the TD needs to know enough about welding to know a good weld from a bad weld. The TD needs to have a good welder on staff. He or she needs to understand the difference in construction that steel and wood need. But they don’t need to be the best carpenter on the floor. If they are, they are wasting their skill by not doing what they are best at.

I think there are very few people that really can excel at every area a TD normally covers. Many will have a few topics in which they excel, and they will work towards increasing the others. And some are jacks of all trades, masters of none. I believe that TD’s today are gearing more towards soft skills, intellectual skills and management skills. They then can fill out their staff with skilled craftsmen. You don’t need to be the best welder in the shop to hire a great welder – you need to know the signs of good welds, and good steel fabrication techniques. From another point of view – I can’t sew very well, and I certainly couldn’t make a costume, but I can tell when one is well constructed.

So to answer the question – sure a carpenter can be a good TD. But, they need to adapt their skill set to the position. The new skills set could include different communication styles, leadership, estimating, maintaining budgets and resources and so forth. If a TD starts in the technical side they are likely to understand what good carpentry and set construction looks like, which gives them a leg up there. The interesting part of the question could be could you take a project manager unfamiliar with theatre into the role of a TD, and would t hey be successful. Then theoretically they had the soft skills, but no knowledge of the technical needs of the shop or scenery. While that is certainly a question for another day, I can easily say that a carpenter has a better chance at succeeding than someone with/out any technical background.

You can check out the question and the answers given at linked in here:

I know this question likely has a variety of answers feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sliding Door Tech

I thought the following article was interesting:

First, because it is a typical tech brief type article that you see in various technical theatre resources. But also because the topic of the challenge was something that is very theatrical. Alright, I know that most sets don't have automated glass sliding doors, but we do sometimes have elevator doors. And we have a variety of other things that need to slide in a small footprint very quietly.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pneumatic / Fluid Power

The Design News Resource Center Special Report this week had a bit about Educational training kits:

"Clippard's Fluid Power Educational Kits are designed to help provide a practical understanding of the basic concepts of fluid power. They consist of many components, the same components used in industry today to provide control and work in thousands of different applications. These kits are designed to work in conjunction with the Fluid Power Education Foundation's standard curriculum which may be downloaded at no charge."

While I am sure that a scene shop could probably build a kit, the prices were not unreasonable. I have to admit that I dream of an automation design / testing playroom in an academic situation where the tools and components are available and focus can be on creating / developing systems and techniques for a variety of automation challenges as opposed to only book learning, or focusing in on one special case (the turntable for x show verses a trap for y show). I feel it is particularly necessary because in the production environment you can't rely on a consistent learning environment.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Live Scribe

I saw this in an add and thought I would take a closer look:

It seems similar to the flypen that I have and use (and love), except that it can also record audio.

They are marketing it towards education - taking notes in class, but mine has been handy in meetings and at conferences. Also it is nice to doodle a sketch for a carpenter (napkin cad if you will) give them the paper and save the image for the job file.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Vacuum Forming & Costumes

While searching for vacuum-formed jewels that we could put LED lights into I ran across this resource today:
Its a site mostly geared towards costumes and some prop building, but they did have some resources for do-it-yourself vacuum forming, including a set-up that allows you to use your own oven! While I'm a bit hesitant to say this is entirely safe, It could be a nice trick for a one-off part for a show.

They also refer the used to a book put out by Tap plastics called Do-It-Yourself Vacuum Forming which you can order here:

Center for Creative Leadership

Cleaning out my inbox I came across July's edition of the Center for Creative Leadership's newsletter. It had a couple of interesting thoughts in it.

The first article is a list of good questions. While it makes sense that most time is spent solving a problem as opposed to defining it, trying to solve something that is not the main problem solves nothing. The list of questions will help direct you to the real issues at hand. FYI there are similar exercises in the book Thinkertoys, that I reviewed here last year.

The second article is about thinking like a designer. It is a topic I haven't really considered, but liked the general ideas.

The Center for Creative Leadership can be found at:
They have a variety of resources and information that is insightful and worth a look.

Fog Machines

Roscoe has an interesting bit on how fog machines work on their page. Their article can be seen at:

Fake TV Light

Every year or so someone posts on stagecraft about how to do the effect of a TV onstage.

Recently an off the shelf answer has surfaced aimed at creating the effect for security reasons; to allude to a house being occupied while it may be empty. The object would be an LED flickering device. Check it out at:

Fake Food

The following site was posted on the stagecraft mailing list:
The site will provide PDFs that you can print and a apply to a substrate to create fake food.
It would leave alot up to the skill of the props person applying the print to a substrate neatly and cleanly, but the coloration is very realistic.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rigging Manual

Texas Scenic Company has a variety of information regarding rigging on their site - one of which is a counterweight rigging manual:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Trends in Project Management

A question on Linkedin came up about current trends in the industry. One of the answers mentioned that training should come earlier, as opposed to being a University / College program.

I thought this was interesting – and true. Perhaps it stems from the root of the development of Project Management in construction and IT capacities, that it seems to be rigidly defined.

But if you look at what a project is - many everyday things that we do is a “project”. Teaching project management can help people manage planning a wedding, plan a vacation, manage the home buying process, to just about anything else. It’s a lot about how you frame the idea. A marriage isn’t a project (though I suppose someone could argue), but planning the wedding is. Why? You have a deadline, you have a concrete start (she said yes) to a concrete end (while you have to plan the cleanup / “strike”) of the wedding, the wedding has a concrete end. You have budgets, there are deadlines within the timeline to order materials, there is a variety of communication. There are even political aspects (the guest list!). At any rate, since the skills of a project manager are useful life skills – it would make sense to teach it in schools.

Friday, July 11, 2008


One of my pet projects is using toys to illustrate and improve technical theatre skills. Who doesn't like to learn and play at the same time. I use Legos when I teach drafting, and am working with Knex for rigging and automation prototyping. And I really like that you can now use them together. One of these days I will bit the bullet and buy some mindstorms...

Soon (hopefully releasing in dec 2008) is RoBlocks.
They are magnetic blocks that include actuators and sensors and such. Seems like a cool idea.

My general idea is to start to get into ways that automation can be taught in a hands-on manner without having to use pre-built unit (thus assembling and not inventing), and without taking load of time and money. I believe that with the way that robotics is advancing, that we should be able to start learning programming in the class-room to the extent that it will be used in a project, but in a scale that can be done as a lab.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Plastics Information

I cam across this today as I was surfing looking for something new to learn:
Tap plastics has quite a few how-to videos on it's site - some of which are fairly useful!

Online collaboration

Nick Keenan wrote a blog on his site about writing a company bible (link provided below). I thought it was very well thought out and quite useful. I’ll admit that this sort of record keeping and process appeals to me in general. Nevertheless, there are a variety of good points in the blog.
-Distribution of information in a company is always a challenge. Each company creates a preferred working arrangement with preferred techniques. Speaking of scenery – some places only use 1x3, some use 1x4. While this is obvious by walking in a shop there are many subtle building techniques that often differ from one site to another. Where I work now “solves” that with a shop standards book, which is out of date, and only referred to when someone didn’t do it the “right” way. So with multiple project managers and multiple job leads, it sometimes feels like 6 or 7 different companies working under the same roof, all reinventing the same wheels.
-Updating information is another challenge. This requires commitment throughout the organization. I like the wiki idea, because behind the idea is that the information is not really final, just the current revision. The shop standards book here has an air that once completed it was “published and released”. Thus, it is a closed affair and will have a “cost” attached to revise. A company hopefully learns and grows through the corse of their work. Updating consistently allows this happen, and helps to further the growth. Allowing older information to stay through a forum can help newer people to the company get a hold on the history. Documenting successes are just as important as failures – you learn something from both results.
-I love the idea of an online community. Today, more than ever before we are an interconnected society, and communication takes on newer and more varied forms. I am also a fan of transparency. An online forum keeps the group as a whole in communication about all of the topics of the group, and thus can contribute on all of the topics, or at least be aware of the broader picture.
-I see a couple of drawbacks with the system. You have to be of an appropriate scale. If a company is too large, too much time will be spent maintaining the wiki and the forum, and not enough time producing, though I suppose the forum is also a metaphorical water cooler. Too little people in the company and the same thing happens – or there isn’t enough to keep the pieces together and it turns too social. Both scenarios are thoughts I have – and could stand to be corrected. I also would think that the larger the group the more the forum and wiki would tend to be run by fewer people – department heads and not carpenters, which starts increasing the gatekeeper issues discussed by Nick. Also, you have to have buy-in. Belonging in a group such as this would require a bit of work and learning. Entering into a group where it was a clearly established norm, would make new entry easier – but creating the system for a preexisting company may have some growing pains with getting participation.
-An additional comment I would have about writing a manual is that in addition to implementing or revising procedures as being the time to write and revise, I would say that someone new can help to revise. Why? Because they are learning everything for the first time and will often see more clearly the differences between the espoused method in the manual, and the working solution in action. They will also be very aware of questions and gaps where the information is limited.

At any rate, it was a good blog to read, and was full of advice that can be useful. Check it out at:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Problem Solving

I thought the following link had an interesting article:
It reminded me of an article I read in grad school about firefighters. That article discussed how younger people tended to rely on balance sheet / algebra equations, and as more skill was gained, the choices shifted to a “gut feeling” decision. Experienced firefighters would come across a challenge, and would think through the first idea, and then the second, and so forth. The first idea they came to that worked out reasonably well through the current scenario was immediately put into action.

Theatre, of course, isn’t an emergency, despite what it occasionally feels like, and we don’t have the pressure of making decisions where lives are at stake. However, I often see different people approach the same challenge differently, and often arrive at a different solution based on the approach they take. I think that sometimes it is useful to fully think through several different options – building stud walls for platform legs work best in some situations, but not in others. Without reevaluating choices you may get into a groove where the choices are the most efficient for your time or budget, or for the good of the show. Yet, completely evaluating every choice would bog down the process to such an extent that nothing could progress. As with much in life – it is a fine line.

It’s also to think of when you have different factors to think of. There are many theatres where labor and the costs associated with labor don’t impact design or construction decisions. But the places where labor is involved with the rest of the budget can mean dynamically different approaches. Suddenly, it is cheaper to buy something than build it, or buy a different, more expensive material, because it saves labor. In the shop where I work now, the CNC machine is a great example. It saves a lot of time, but building set pieces is accomplished in a very different manor, and with different materials than standard construction.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

High School Theatre Production

Check out this link for a variety of resources to help with high school theatre programs. The site includes a link to the Museum of Costume, an interactive theatre manual, and film resources as well.

Stretchy Velcro

Textol Systems ( has a product called Velstretch. It’s basically Velcro that allows up to 55% stretch. For a production at UMKC while I was in grad school, my fellow TD’s discovered the product during their research for use with spandex panels that made up the background of the set they were working on.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


A topic interesting to me is the overlap between project management and technical direction. Technical direction is a very industry specific way to look at the job. And, granted depending on where you work and the specific shop structure of that theatre the job may vary significantly from someone else with the same title. It is for this reason that I think the term makes it more difficult to generalize duties and needs. While I think that there will always be hammer slinging TD’s in small venues, there are a variety of places, where the TD’s job is much more a management position. Furthermore, A great TD isn’t always the best welder or carpenter, and great welders and carpenters don’t always make great TD’s. Thus, I find it useful for framing a TD (particularly the management style) in a project management frame of reference. Why? Every show is a project. A season is a project – and a series of projects. Here is a definition of a project: "A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result" PMI PMBOK 3d edition.

You may have noticed on my blog that there are a lot of resources for project management. It is for two reasons – I am one, (and a TD), and I believe the above. By framing the job differently I have a wealth of resources that helps teach me how to plan, organize, manage, and other wise develop the many different aspects of the job. It also makes it easier to teach, talk, and think about concrete skills that a TD of any level should have, and ways to scale up and down the projects.

I am working on a session that will develop these ideas for USITT in Cincinnati – and I am sure I will sound off more here about it in the upcoming months. If you have insights, or comments please let me know!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Work support for sawing

I saw an interesting product in my new CherryTree catalog. Its called a
porcupine pad. It’s a mat with flexible pins that support your work surface, but which you can use a jog saw to cut through the material. From the picture it looks like you can buy multiple pieces and lock them together.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rivet Nuts

I cam across a new (for me) piece of hardware called a rivet nut. We were working on a light-box and discussing ways to connect the milk white acrylic to the aluminium channel, and the rivet nut was suggested, after I brought up weld nuts.

So I looked up rivet nuts, and they are interesting little pieces of hardware, useful in a variety of situations.

Check out this sight for more information:

At the bottom of their page they have an instruction graphic to show you how they work.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rigid Rigging Point

While working on my last project I became aware of a new rigging component that I have not used before!

You can find it at:

It has a safe vertical working load of 1100 pounds. While it doesn't allow for vertical adjustment in the same manner that a chain would, yet I can think of a variety of situations where it would be very useful.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Humor of the day

Things have been a bit crazy lately, but I hope to get back to posting regularly soon. As for now- a bit of humor for you :

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Last Friday, the Artful Manager delivered another insightful email linking to his recent blogs. Basically he spoke of an issue that I fully agree with – that if you want to have innovation you need to take risks. If you take risks, you will have failure. And that failure is a measure of success.

I do think that it is intriguing about what the definition of failure impacts risk taking. If you take a risk where the failure means extinction, true risks are very difficult to take. Sure you might have much to gain, but losing everything isn’t worth it. This can be seen in many arenas – the stock market comes to mind. In this case, risks, in my opinion, need to be defined and explored. Perhaps a theatre can’t change its programming all at once, but 1 small scale show in a different genre could open a window. One small risk at a time, building on failures and successes. Its important because I think it can be easier to seen what you did wrong, then what went right – or at least easier to plan according to what was wrong in the past.

Fail early, fail often
Philanthropy 2173


I was a bit under the weather last week, and wasn't able to post.

Now that I'm feeling better and back into service, I thought I would pass on the following website / service:

The site allows you to schedule calls, and get confirmations back from those called. You can get a free demo on the site. I could see a use for this in a variety of situation, above and beyond union calls. Check it out!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Toggle Clamps

I visited a metal working company while I was in grad school that had an awesome system for welding – They had these huge table that was a steel grid on about 3” centers. Where the framing members joined there were holes available for hold down clamps. While I haven’t yet created a plan to build a table like this in the shop, I was browsing the latest copy of Machine Design and came across a company that has a wide variety of clamps. As there are a variety of other theatrical uses for these clamps I thought I would pass the link on.

Carr Lane

Their site also has a variety of useful reference material available here

Thursday, May 15, 2008


One of the big catch phases of the day has got to be branding. From major brands, to small businesses and even individuals – everyone must have a brand to succeed, or at least it seams. Brands used to be a static message that the corporation delivered to the masses. While people have always held opinions, and probably aren’t more vocal today than they used to be, the methods of sharing those opinions have vastly changed, mostly due to the internet. There is a plethora of websites that you can voice your opinion on without creating a community. Plus there is another vast amount of places where you can voice your opinions within a community (or multiple communities) that interest you. For something theatre related, for example, I could express an opinion not only on my blog, but also on my facebook theatre groups, appropriate myspace pages, LinkedIn groups, and on the stagecraft mailing list. Additionally I could be asked about a product through all of those methods as well. Thus any individual’s distribution ability is much wider than it may have been previously, and longer lasting – blogs don’t expire, mailing lists can be searched. An off hand comment today may influence a future purchase 3 years down the road.

This availability has though, I think, increased the desire of the consumer to communicate their experience of a product or event. This is a result of the desire to want to have the experience in the first place. There have always been brand identification, and peer pressure with regard to brands, but there seems to be more of a trend towards identifying with the brand. Its almost like a brand needs to create an experience that makes mini ambassadors for the product. The catch to the company is that they are not able to streamline their image the exact way they want to, but the experience is much more authentic.

These ideas have been spurred on by the article “O.P.E.N. for Business: The Future of Branding in a Web-Made World”, published in the April 2008 issue of Event Marketer.

Theatrically speaking, I think these thoughts can go into 2 different directions. The first is to confirm, create, or develop the product (the show) into something where your audience has a meaningful experience. This is inherent in every show, yet something we don’t play up – while the movie theatre industry makes much more of this situation. Secondly, I think we need to help our patrons to form and/or participate in communities that support their experiences and let them talk, discuss, play, create, and in general be active in regards to their participation with our event. While I think it is important to note that much of this may always be independent – I think there is a lot of room for the theatre community to facilitate as well. And, happily, I thin this is starting to happen – for instance it isn’t uncommon for a theatre to have a blog (even if it isn’t updated much), or to have a facebook group. The issue that I see with what they are doing is that it isn’t kept up to date enough, and it isn’t done with the full authority behind it so it looks limited. But at least it is something – and I will continue to anticipate future developments.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Plastics Resource

Designing with Plastics is a newsletter published by IAPD that I thought would be helpful. Several of the old issues are on their website and it covers acrylic and uhmw-pe. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Maker Faire

“This, From That” in today’s New York Times was an interesting read this morning. It was ironic as I was in a bookstore last night and I was looking at a couple of books that discussed the change from a society that made things to a society that bought things. Make, Instructables, and some of the other places discussed in the above article I think is a reaction to this in part. I say in part, because I don’t think the love of tinkering really ever goes away. However there are a few issues in our world today that make it a little harder. Safety concerns are a lot different from even when I was a kid. Kids are more protected. Lawsuits are more of a potential. Risk management is a real concern. Instead, I think the Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden ought to be required reading.

At any rate I think that a successful TD must have ability and desire to tinker, think outside the box, and play around with ideas and odd parts. And the ability to go to an event like that one discussed in the article sounds like great fun!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Stage Flying

I just finished reading Stage Flying 431 B.C. to Modern Times by John A McKinven. It was an interesting read. The text was a little dry at times, but worthwhile. It was particularly good for the history behind flying from the Greek period through the 19th century. I think it is always amazing how many technologically advanced techniques theatre has employed through the ages – especially because some of these effects are only done today with a significant amount of planning and financial capacity.

Besides having a wide variety of historical information, the book includes lots of illustrations, and patent drawings. It’s a worthwhile read.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Social Innovations

I was browsing the Internet and found this site:

While it isn't immediately relevant to technical theatre, i think its still relevant for most people who work in the theatre. Why? Because we typically work in not-for-profit situations, innovation is necessary and important for keeping theatre relevant, and the art form must speak to today's relevant issues to name a few reasons.

The site offers podcasts of discussions and talks with the mission of delivering information to those who wouldn't otherwise be able to listen and learn to current important thought leaders.

Besides being an interesting site, I think its an interesting concept. There is a change occurring in media from a print based to a video and even purely audio based experience. I'll admit that I like to read the news - not listen to a pod cast - or watch videos of it online, but in the last year or so the increased amounts of video news has seemed to increase exponentially. However, I think video and podcast can be very useful, and think that there are very useful applications for these resources that should be further explored.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Prop Drinks

Speaking of prop drinks, here is an article that I wrote for Stage Directions last month. I was pretty excited by it – so I hope you enjoy it.

Don’t forget that you can subscribe to Stage Directions for free if you are a member of the industry by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Prop Shop

If you come across a prop that you are having difficulty finding you should take a look at
Barnard Ltd. They have an array of props (fake food, fake drinks, and d├ęcor. They are located in Chicago, IL.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


In the Jan 2002 issue of Remodeling there is a short article that I thought was interesting:

“Six Tips to Boost Referrals”

- Create a detailed spec sheet. Spell out the scope, define finishes
- Keep the Job Site Safe and Clean
- Project a Professional Image
- Communicate
- Reward
- Follow up

Change Orders

I have been thinking about change orders lately. I think that it is interesting is that change orders are handled different depending on which project manager you deal with and which company you deal with. Some places will (and this is traditional practice) give you a low bid, and then the change orders generate profit. While I understand that this came to be because of fierce competition to get the job in the first place, I prefer to only do change orders only when necessary and due to expanding client needs and desires.

I read an article in an old edition of Remodeling (Jan 2002) called “Be Ready for Change Orders” that discussed these issues a little. He talks a little of the problems: difficulties in getting sign offs and time that it takes to create the change order, and order materials. Also, change orders may not benefit from bulk pricing that the original job may get. I thought two things the author, Walt Stoeppelwerth, mentioned was to not just say as necessary – Include an amount, and don’t just sat match existing – qualify the match, for instance: “match existing as closely as possible from existing local sources of supply”.

I think communication is the biggest part of the process – certain problems and conditions cannot be predicted from the beginning and can be charged via change orders. Also upgrades and options can be offered. Sometimes these can also be allowances – so that an actual amount can be billed at the end, or an adjusted amount can be quantified later in the process once more detailed information is available.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Coped Connectors

When you are working with pipe to create a structure, one of the choices is how pieces are joined. While some large shops may be able to machine the required notches, the machinery is not typical in most shop settings. Doing it by hand is possible – I have done a few myself, but it is tedious and time consuming. Often the choice is made to buy structural fittings (like Kee Klamps) to create the needed structure. The fittings are reusable, and it is easy to build up a stock of pieces, though there is some initial outlay of cost. Today, when I was flipping through the new McNichols flier, I came across another potential alternative – Coped Connectors. You can take a look at these to get an idea of what I am talking about. I think it’s a great idea. The connector fits into the pipe on one end, welds on, and then the opposite end is coped to fit the necessary pipe connection. While the connectors are not reusable, they do eliminate the bulk of the fittings we typically use. The fittings, for steel, range between .74 cents and 2.68 per, with bulk discounts available. This pricing would make these product feasible in many situations, particularly if the required kee klamp fittings would be a purchased item as well.

Technora Rope

One of the jobs I recently bid specified technora rope. Below is a picture of a sample. It has a few interesting characteristics. The strength of the rope is amazing. In the picture you can see that the rope looks angular. Once the rope is under load it becomes more circular in shape. This feature makes me wonder how the rope would react to knots, going over sheaves and other conditions typical in our environment. My concern is that if different loading conditions changed the shape of the rope, would it effect the capacity of the rope. You can go here for more information

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Library Thing

I have playing around with cataloging my books at work on Library Thing. Its pretty easy to enter books, either by title, author, or ISBN. You can also enter books that aren’t located through searches on the site. You can enter 200 books for free, or spend 25 for a lifetime membership. Since most of my collection resides at home, I thought I would only do my work books to take it for a test run. It does seem like you can import and export (handy if I decided to upload my collection in entirety) as well. You can also share your library with others – my library is here. I also like that you can keep a list on your phone – cause I hate being at a used book store and not being able to remember exactly what I have when I see an interesting book. Lastly, I think its fun to look at your tags - they use a weighted word list, so that the more tags you have in one category the larger the font is for that tag. It makes it easy to see at a glance where your strong and weak points are in your collection.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Exhibit Resources

The following site is a useful resource:
Its called the Great Big Exhibit Resource List, but many of the vendors are useful theatrically as well. I suppose that makes sense as you could look at it as theatre scenery is an exhibit of sorts. They are a variety of fake foods listed, some fake grass places, electrical controls, plus these string pots:

I haven't really used anything line this previously, but it seems cool. What jumps into my head would be tracking something like a line set where there isn't a shaft to use a standard encoder with.

Freelance Blog

I came across a blog that might be of use. Its called freelance Switch, and it has a variety of information aimed at helping people who freelance. I will put the main link with the other blog links on my site, but below are several that I thought were of particular interest.

12 Practical ways for freelance designers to increase Leads talks about various techniques including networking, portfolio, blogging, as well as other methods. I think we sometimes feel that the theatre industry is “different” and real world rules aren’t meant for us. While the article isn’t aimed at our industry, I would argue that all of the techniques could be used to some degree of success.
Art of Email Writing discusses ways to make sure that your emails convey a professional image. The ease of email makes it also easy to not fully develop the content. Lack of body language while speaking and reading can mean that messages can be misinterpreted. Add with all of this the addition of text messages and phone bases email / text messaging systems, and email can get very sloppy. This blog entry gives the readers a few things to keep in mind when working with clients.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


For a recent project I was quoting I was looking at a product called Lindapter. You can see their site here. They have some cool products that can be used for attaching structural steel pieces to other pieces without damaging the steel. It also means that there is no welding, and that they can be removable. The downside is that they are fairly expensive (50 or more each), and can have a long lead time.

I would think that this would be worth though for critical applications, and would be useful for installing grids.

They also have a product called a hallo-bolt that is used for structural steel. As you tighten the bolt a nut inside the steel expands trapping the bolt securely. While I can see definite uses for this, it is out of the price range for most situations considering the pricing starts at over 10 dollars for a single bolt.

Nevertheless, the types of products they sell gave me some ideas about how I could make some nonstructural connections easily.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Heads & Tales

I recently read “Heads & Tales” by Bill Sapsis (conveniently available here. If you haven’t read this book and you work in a theatre with rigging (or anything else above your head) then you should immediately drop what you are doing and find a copy. The book quickly earned its keep next to the backstage hand book as a must have. Many of the articles are rewritten from HEADS!, some of which are available online, but despite having collected most of these articles, it is still worth the book.

Need more reasons to drag your wallet out and order the book now?
Speak no more –
- The book is well written, easy to understand, and meaningful to us technicians.
- The book is even funny, be careful with taking a drink prior to reading
- Safety is one of the most important aspects of what we do
- The answers to the ETCP rigging exam are all in the book.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Average Salarys

Yahoo linked to a short article talking about the average salary of actors, directors, and writers.

I couple thought I had about the article:

-While is doesn't distinguish, I have the feeling that it is aimed at film / television as opposed to theatre.

-The numbers are, I presume, very distorted by a couple of factors. Some, a few, make very significant incomes. Others, more than a few, make nothing, or very little.

-While they refer to a costume designers job as being unpredictable, an actor's job can be too. Are the hours that they count only working hours?

-The median writer's salary seems low compared to the salary ranges that were surfacing during the writer's strike.

-Who do they consider the crew (the ones doing it for the glory)? Most of the crew are union, and likely, compared to union wages in Chicago, that they are making alot more than 12 an hour.

At any rate it was an interesting article, I just think that you should always think about what you read, because there are alot more details missing than appear.


"George Clooney may earn $20 million per movie, but he's a rarity. Overall, the median wage for actors in the U.S. is less than $12 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As for the rest of the crew, they're clearly doing it for the glamour, not the money.

The median wage for a movie or television writer is just $5,000 a year.

A costume designer or makeup artist can earn more than $2,000 a week. But since work comes on a project basis, year-round employment is not guaranteed.

Production assistants typically earn just $8 an hour.

TV show directors can earn upward of $35,000 for a single one-hour episode -- if they hit it big."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Capturing thoughts when reading

I was reading this blog entry about a new way of keeping track of the insights gained while reading, and thought it was great because it was so like me. You can read it here: Novel Ideas I have tried every option listed, and even more (I tried voice recordings as well), but there was always some ways it wasn't effective. I think faster than I write, type, speak. You inevitably have insights when you can't write, type, or don't have a voice recorder. And, even if you manage to catch most of your ideas, good luck organizing that mess! Typed documents could be scanned for context sensitive entries. Voice recorded segments can be transcribed, and written pages could be scanned, but that's way too much work....

Glad to see that he came up with a way that works for him. This blog, my answer to some of those same issues, seems to work well for me. As I write more, I have been pleased that when I am looking for something and I do a search of my blog I can often find the link to what I was looking for! Hopefully this resource has been working out well for you as well.

Blogs Posted

I have added a new section on the right listing blogs. As I find new sites, and link to other's blogs when writing my own - I'll try and link to them on the side as well. Figured it would be better than just creating a blog category in the archive section.

If you have a blog that you think should be included, let me know!