Making a booth

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Making a booth

Postby CvdC » 05 Mar 2013, 08:05

I am currently making a hands-in-front-of-face booth so I thought I would document the process step by step.

The first step is to make the upright supports. As I want this booth to be as light weight as possible I am using pine. Hard wood is more robust and for my own booth I used Red Cedar, which is extremely light. The former can be a bit heavy and the latter does not hold screws well and they need reinforcing with dowel or glue. However pine should be somewhere in the middle if you select straight grained wood without knots.

I cut the pine 24 x 24 mm square and as I did selected the best lengths for the job. I cut 4 at 1200 mm for the lower section and 2 upper front pieces at 900mm and rear pieces at 850 mm. So the overall height is 2100mm with a slope at the top for the rain.
I then measured and marked with a centre punch the holes for the lazy tongs.
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These were measured at 500mm apart. This distance ought to give a structurally sound diagonal of the lazy tongs. Accurate measurement is very important for the lazy tongs to operate effectively.

Next I cut 4 25mm square aluminium tubing at 100mm long and fitted these to the end of the 1200mm uprights so that there was a space for the upper uprights to fit into. This space is 40mm.
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In the image above you will see the holes for the screws that hold the aluminium tubing in place. There are two screws for each.
I sanded the wood so that there are no sharp edges and chamfered the ends.

I then dashed off to the Aluminium shop and bought 5 4 metre lengths of 3x20 aluminium bar.
From this I made two tongs. I measured for two holes 258mm apart. One hole is 10mm from the end and is 6.5mm diameter and the other 5mm to fit a 4.8mm pop rivet. I cut the piece off 20mm longer. It is this end you see in the photo below.
The longer tong is 758 between holes. Another 5mm hole is drilled exactly in the centre, or 508mm from the 6.5mm hole in the longer piece. This is where two tongs will be joined by a pop rivet to form the scissors.
The ends are then rounded over using a grinder.
What I do is make one and check that it is correct and then use it as a template for the other 13 that will be made.

Image

At this point I took a break.
Last edited by CvdC on 07 Mar 2013, 21:23, edited 4 times in total.
It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, and am often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know that we are both right from our respective points of view. - Gandhi (Having a bob each way.)
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Re: Making a booth

Postby CvdC » 05 Mar 2013, 10:16

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I think it is important to carefully make a template tong. Then make two more using the template.
I drill a 6mm on one end of the cut to length bar. In the above photo you will see how I use one of the bolts to hold the template in place while I drill the two 5mm holes.

I then pop rivet the short lengths to the longer ones and the two tongs together.

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In the above photo you will see how the two tongs are fitted together so they lay flat when folded up. The short length is above on one section and behind on the other.
You will see a piece of tin I have used as a spacer so that the rivet does not hold the tongs together too tightly.
I am using pop rivets with the largest flange I could find.
While I am assembling the lazy tongs I file the edges smooth so there are no sharp burrs.

Then I temporarily set up the first assembled set of tongs to the uprights to see if all is well and I have the correct width and squareness. This booth will be 910mm (1 yard) square.

Then it is a matter of repeating this process 5 more times. The last set will be the pieces from the template and so I will end up with 7, two for each side, two for the back and one at the front below the stage.

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When the lazy tongs are complete and before I bolt them in place I will wax, oil or varnish the uprights so they have a nice feel when setting up.
It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, and am often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know that we are both right from our respective points of view. - Gandhi (Having a bob each way.)
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Re: Making a booth

Postby Richard Coombs » 05 Mar 2013, 21:41

Ooh ..brilliant CvdC ...I love step by step pictures.

Looking forward to the next instalment.

Having to do a few days of household projects here ( building a cieling frame with an extractor fan for the bathroom tonight - electrician coming to install it tomorrow ....so I am itching to be back in the workshop myself )...so watching with 'workshop-envy' LOL

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Re: Making a booth

Postby CvdC » 06 Mar 2013, 07:54

I made a mistake in the above.
Do not try to grind the aluminium. The wheel heats up the metal and it clogs the wheel. Just found out the wheel can then explode because the molten metal can impede the dispersion of heat from the stone (!?!). So I have put an end to that and will file the pieces after cutting them with an aluminium disk in the angle grinder.

Here is a shot of the jig used to hold the template over the piece being drilled. The idea here is to hold it so that the hole ends up in the centre of the bar. You will notice I label the template pieces so that I do not accidentally assemble them until the end.
Working with aluminium is nasty, dirty and also you can smell the stuff. Doing this is a long way from performing with puppets.


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As I do it I think about how important it is to have a booth that is portable, easy to set up, stable during the show and hopefully when it is all finished will look good. All of which is part of the show.
So carefully made lazy tongs are important. I'll keep that in mind as I work my way through this repetitive and messy task.
It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, and am often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know that we are both right from our respective points of view. - Gandhi (Having a bob each way.)
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Re: Making a booth

Postby CvdC » 07 Mar 2013, 07:30

Well I finished all the metal work and next comes the mechano.
In the photo below you will notice the artfully placed angle grinder. On it you may notice the flap disc I bought. This uses sand paper to sand the aluminium. This and the special aluminium cutter disk did the job quite well.

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Having just spent a few hours thinking about this I can now emphasise that the most important thing to get accurate is the distance between the holes. The length of the tong is not of such importance. I keep the end close to the hole at the end where it bolts to the wooden upright and have the ends overlap a bit between the long and short sections.
You want the action of the tongs to be smooth and not too tight. When it comes to setting up, the booth should just spring open with ease. One minute there is a bag and the next a puppet booth in all its glory.
It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, and am often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know that we are both right from our respective points of view. - Gandhi (Having a bob each way.)
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Re: Making a booth

Postby lesclarke » 07 Mar 2013, 16:07

Very interesting to see the progress Chris, hope the guide gives a bit of confidence to anyone considering having a go. ..and yes, accurate drilling of the holes is so important, the thing is that a millimetre here and a millimetre there do add up and compromise the beauty of the fold.

Before drilling of course, the measuring must be accurate, the mark made with your sharp pencil must be accurate, the guide hole you make with your bradawl must be accurate and your drill must not be allowed to wander.

I'm at present working on my first hands-in-front booth, I'm 'redeveloping' a frame I bought a couple of years back, it was hands-above, and the main attraction was that it was cheap, local and made from hardwood.
It hadn't been too accurately measured, so didn't fold well. Well it did, but only if the centre bolts of the lazy tongs were removed and placed in a different hole! Also other parts had been made the wrong length.

Unlike your design it won't be light or easily erected, but gives me the chance to give HIFF a proper try.
Have just re-read Chris S's comprehensive HANDS IN FRONT OF FACE TECHNIQUE information,

http://punchandjudy.com/handsinfront.html ...very helpful,
especially the GUNGE FILTER and realised that my baseball cap, which carries my radio mic headset will have to have its peak removed!
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As if I haven't got enough to do today, with all I've got to do today.
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Re: Making a booth

Postby CvdC » 07 Mar 2013, 21:56

I know it's an extremely detailed account of this process but I want to put it on the record. I have only made half a dozen booths but most people will only ever make the one and so have only one chance to get it right. Although it seems a booth can "evolve" over time. I also hope that those who may read this have a clear understanding of the work that is involved. The range of skills one needs to apply are many and varied.

It is morning here, the summer seems to have out stayed its welcome and the weather is bloody hot. But this afternoon I will sand and drill the upper parts. Then I will wax them. I am of the belief that anything that needs to be held in the hand should feel nice. It adds to the pleasure of use. I find you can avoid touching the aluminium if you can sort of jerk the booth into its open position. It is important to avoid sharp burrs and the possibility of splinters when setting up. It is a bit like the puppet, it ought to feel good for the performer so that the performance is easier and this sort of filters out to the audience - one would expect.

In accordance with that principle, the booth's eventual overall weight and portability is also something worth considering. If you have wheeled your gear across a car park or made the journey across London on the tube or onto a bus you will appreciate the advantage of arriving at the venue in a good mood and relaxed. It seems the golf carry bag was invented for the use of Punch and Judy performers. So I am pleased to have been able to design a booth that fits entirely into one (just one Richard) of these. It seems that this sort of bag has become essential to the ambulant Punch and Judy performer.
It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, and am often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know that we are both right from our respective points of view. - Gandhi (Having a bob each way.)
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Re: Making a booth

Postby CvdC » 08 Mar 2013, 10:43

You cannot under estimate the satisfaction of taking several flat objects and making from them something that stands up.
Until ...

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Yes I made a mistake. Forgetting that the front is higher than the rear of this booth I measured for my holes from the top of each upright.
So I was able to prove that the best person to fix something is often the person who broke it in the first place. I very quickly put dowels in the holes and drilled them again in their proper place.
This was a problem with the plans that I drew and have now been able to amend them.
Image


As I have been making this I am beginning to have my doubt about using pine. I am beginning to think hardwood is worth the extra weight for its added strength. Or perhaps I should have taken things more seriously and used spruce. So my advice to the prospective puppet booth maker is think about it. The right choice may save you a lot of repairs later.

At this stage there are a few cross members that need to be fitted that will pull it all square. In the meantime I tighten the bolts tight so that it stays square while I fit the puppet rails, the stage and so forth. Which will be my next task.
It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, and am often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know that we are both right from our respective points of view. - Gandhi (Having a bob each way.)
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Re: Making a booth

Postby Richard Coombs » 08 Mar 2013, 12:03

Joyous CvdC ..... Pure Pleasure.
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Re: Making a booth

Postby martin@no10 » 08 Mar 2013, 22:28

Really enjoying these steps and photos of the progress on the booth - look forward to more.
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Re: Making a booth

Postby CvdC » 09 Mar 2013, 10:20

Well Martin your wish is my command.
I spent the entire day working on this booth. This is hard work. And now I will relive every moment of it for your edification.
The first thing I did was lay the booth down and square it. In the photo you will see how I did this by measuring the diagonals.
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The reason I did this was because I was about to make the horizontal components of the booth. These are all structurally important to keep the booth square. The width of the booth must be carefully measured so that they can be cut to fit.
To make puppet rails, which are attached to the lower section at 1100mm up from the floor, there are a number of different fittings that can be deployed.
In the photo below I have three different fittings. The brass one is a mirror fitting, the exact name of which I forget. There is an angle bracket that fits into a 50mm length of the aluminium tube with one of the sides removed. This is what I will use for the stage.

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There is also a fitting that I recently found at the hardware shop and thought I would use for the side rails.
Here it is in action.
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I had to rout out a gap to fit the screw head but it all slots together rather nicely. The puppet rail can rotate with this fitting but I will stabilise it with the shelf.

The shelf is a piece of 3mm ply across the front of the booth. With this booth the puppets will hang in the front and so I have a 42mm (1x2" dressed) piece of pine that is glued to the shelf. The shelf has a slot to hold it fast and so becomes a stabilising component for the booth. I had two beautiful dome head screws just for this purpose. I hope you notice them in the photo.

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This shelf will have a bag attached to it and is used to hold props.In some books this is made of canvas but I think it is more useful as a solid piece of ply.

The photo below shows the angle bracket in use. Above this will be glued the ply for the stage.
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I then moved upwards and cut the heads off some 5/16" bolts and glued them into the top of the uprights. The thread of the bolts should help hold them into the wood. Over these will be hung all the horizontal members including the proscenium. I use these to attach the guy ropes to as well. So they should be well embedded.
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Finally I glued a piece of wood to the cut out ply wood of the proscenium. This, like all the horizontal pieces, is designed to keep the uprights the correct distance apart and so keep the booth square.
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The top of the booth is held square by the proscenium, the two side pieces from which the backdrop will hang and the rear piece.
With this design I have a slope towards the back in case the booth ever finds itself in the rain. Which of course would be certainty in the UK. So my theory is the booth should drop 100mm. It is 50mm here but looking at it I think 100 would be better for inclement climes.
So the wood pieces are cut an angle and I am using aluminium brackets to attach them to the pins.
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There is one extra bracing I make. Two diagonal bars are attached to the front below the stage.
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These swing up and fit over a 5/8th bolt under the stage. I use this size bolt because the wing nut that tightens it is larger and more finger friendly than a 1/4" one.
Here is how these slot onto the bolt.

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And here is the one wing nut that tightens them as seen from behind.
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The wing nut is never removed. In fact I will damage the thread so that it cannot come off. When the two braces are swung up and the nut tightened the whole booth becomes quite solid. You could almost climb on it. And as I have said before, you can carry it about to reposition it if required.

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Tomorrow I will make the side panels for the proscenium and trim around the stage.
It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, and am often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know that we are both right from our respective points of view. - Gandhi (Having a bob each way.)
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Re: Making a booth

Postby Richard Coombs » 09 Mar 2013, 14:15

Wonderful Stuff .
The Combination of these photos with your account of building each part , coupled with the exploded plans in the other strand , are surely the most comprehensive step by step guide to building a booth ever made available.

"The frame file " is also an excellent resource , as it contains so many different variants on building a booth ( and combining several of these could lead anyone to build their own hybrid should they wish to experiment )
But with so many different versions covered in that book ..it is hard to devote really full coverage to any given type.

This record of yours CvdC must certainly now stand as the definitive construction tool for this particular type of lazy tongs booth.

A picture is always worth a thousand words...and I think the whole set really shows just how much space , tools and time you need to make a booth. Even experienced makers of puppets , need different skill-sets to attempt a booth ...and with risk of over -emphasising .... Space to work.

Puppets can be made on a Kitchen Table - ( thats my abiding childhood memory )..many folk still do it that way ..and why not . Making puppets is one of the things that I spend a lot of leisure time , as well as work time , doing. So I have built a workshop in which to do it . I am lucky in this. But the puppet making room alone is not big enough to build a booth in . When I do that it takes a big woodwork shed with large tools , and either the Kitchen or the Dining room or large Hall floorspace to assemble the thing as it is built.

Your step by step guide has shown how large an undertaking it is to Make a Booth ( not to put folk off I am sure ...but rather to encourage ) Bravo !

Thank you for Sharing it all so generously.

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Enjoy but don't be put off

Postby Chris » 09 Mar 2013, 16:26

While I agree totally with Richard that in a perfect world we would all have well equipped workshops with a good space to layout materials, in real life this often isn't the case. When I built my first lazy tongs booth, and the one I still use, 30 years later, the most for general outdoor work was built in my bedroom. The only workshop I had was a box room with just room for a bench and me. Any wood I in the vice which was longer than a metre had to protrude through an open door. I had hammer, tenon saw, hack saw, screw driver, gimlet, a brace and bit and a couple of hand drills. I certainly had no power tools. The only instructions I had were those in Edwin's “Hello Mr Punch” which had clear drawings but the vital dimensions for the folding stays were incorrect. There had to be a lot of trial and error rather than careful measuring.

All the assembly had to be done in the bedroom, mostly across the bed. There was floorspace enough for the booth to stand upright, but the ceiling was too low for me to put the proscenium and top on. Consequently I had to work on top and lower sections separately.

I certainly didn't have the money to buy all the neat fixings and hardware that CvdC is using, nor did I have the luxury of selecting and mulling over the virtues of different kinds of wood. It was a case of getting what was available and affordable from the local hardware shop. Deal usually, maybe Parana pine if you were making puppets.

But my point is that despite the limitations I managed to make a perfectly serviceable fit-up and one which has served me well. No, I didn't and still don't enjoy the luxury of waxed and polished uprights, and no by booth doesn't fold away with smooth engineering. Folded mine looks distinctly nobbly but it still fits in the golf bag and has lasted far longer than the zip on that bag.

My point is not to decry CvdC's or Richard's craftsman-like approach, that is indeed something to be aimed for. Indeed for some their personal joy comes from the making more than from performing. There is certainly satisfaction in adding that extra touch. Jan Bussell once wrote, in the context of making a model theatre curtain rise, “Twiddling the end of the stick will work perfectly well but the addition of a little wire handle will add an extra touch of glamour.”

No, my point is not to decry, but to offer comfort to those who are not natural craftsmen, and who don't have the finances to buy an armoury of tools and who have to make do with whatever materials can be salvaged from whatever source available and who don't have any workshop at all, never mind a spacious one. Very many puppeteers of my generation, and those before, had to manage with kitchen table workshops, limited tool kits and re-used materials. Richard too recalls his childhood kitchen table experiments. The point is that they still produced good puppetry. And as far as Punch and Judy puppeteers are concerned I would imagine that such circumstances could be said to be traditional?

So by all means enjoy and marvel at these workshop kings but don't be put off. Your efforts may not be as pretty but can be equally practical. And anyway its what you do with it that matters I believe.
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Re: Making a booth

Postby Richard Coombs » 09 Mar 2013, 17:50

I thoroughly agree with my learned friend Mr Sommerville .

It can all be done on a kitchen table / small bedroom ...and I really do adore all that ( and when I am working away from home , puppets get made in cramped studio dressing rooms , travel lodge bedside tables , and anywhere I can find to do it )
Truth be told I thoroughly enjoy a bit of Ad-Hoc work.
And when I go back to Kent for visits , my Mums Table once again is where I make things ...much to her amusement and mine .

On Monday I am taking My Queen of Hearts along to the Haberdashery shop in Lichfield where I buy some braids and bits and bobs every now and then .
I am going to sit there and do all the boring hand -sewing still to finish on her , at their table in the back half of the shop ...where other crafts folk come and knit or crotchet or make dolls clothes.

The ladies that run the place provide Tea ..and are very happy when folks bring biscuits or cake.

Ive not done this before ..although have seen others working away and passing the time of day ..and the folk that run the shop always like to see puppets when they are finished ..and invited me to come and do some making actually in the Shop.

So yes ...it CAN all be done anywhere you find space.

The Workshop I have at home is very much a Luxury item.

But then I do not smoke ..drink but little ...so decided many years back to put money into having a nice space to work in . ( Surmising rightly that I spend more time in there than any other room of the house bar my bed )

Whoops ..that all got a bit off topic :-0

Anyhow CvdC ...Like many others , Im looking forward to the next Instalment.

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Re: Making a booth

Postby Chris » 09 Mar 2013, 19:01

But then I do not smoke ..drink but little ...so decided many years back to put money into having a nice space to work in.

Yes Richard, bully for you. But you are now established and you are in circumstances that allow you to please yourself and spend your millions how you choose. You are not going to be put off anyway. I'm thinking of those who are building their first fit-up, making their first puppet etc. They may be still living at home with parents, or in their own home with spouse and children. They cannot devote a room solely to their hobby or would be profession. Their finances are limited. Their self confidence in their skills limited. They possibly even have a job which pays the rent but doesn't allow them to spend hours at a time on construction - they have to grab an hour here and there in between career, family and domestic demands. They can be outfaced if we give the impression that success is so difficult to achieve.

I remember when I first started I devoured all the puppet books - especially those of Whanslaw. I also had a wonderful book from America, The Puppet Theatre Handbook. These books were beautifully illustrated - line drawings of course, since photographs were too expensive to reproduce in quantity. Now I loved these books, and they fired my imagination but they never inspired me to actually make anything, only to dream. These beautiful line drawings where like "pin ups" - exciting but out of reach.

It was only when I came upon a book by C.S. Forester (yes, the Hornblower chappie) called "Marionettes At Home" that I was really inspired to action. Puppetry at the time had been newly discovered and was a fashionable hobby. He had built a family puppet theatre and with his wife and kids put on shows from friends. He described in great detail, and even greater enthusiasm, the creation of the puppets, the acts they did and the shows performed. They must have been truly awful. Puppets were made from clothes pegs and bits of firewood and heads cut of old celluloid dolls and bits of card and wire. Fabrics weren't purchased but salvaged from the rag bag. And it was all tremendous fun. As I say, the show must have been pretty awful but what fun! And it even had the luxury of photographs, taken on a Box Brownie I suspect.
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This book I still reckon is the most inspiring for the aspiring puppeteer. It makes it all seem achievable, and you are inspired to have a go yourself, and you know that you can do better!

And that's all most people need, something to give them the confidence to have a go, to make a start. Then, if they have any real talent they will of course improve and make a much better job of it than dear Mr Forester. But then he was quite good at writing books.

If they are really talented they may well improve so much they make a career of it, and make some money, and eventually be in a position to equip their dream workshops - and wish they had had them when they really needed them.
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