Punch and Judy booth material + Proceniums

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Punch and Judy booth material + Proceniums

Postby Professor » 27 Sep 2006, 16:18

Hello,
Im looking for some striped material for my booth. Can anyone reccomend me a shop that will sell it?
What kind of paint is best to use on proceniums? I was thinking acrylics with a varnish

Thanks,
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Postby Chris » 27 Sep 2006, 21:35

Have a look at the Frequently Asked Questions section of the main website - I think the button is labelled Any Questions and look at Punchman's Tips and you should find information on booth covering material.
There's also something on painting front banners which may be of interest, and a section on proscenium design.

The painting of the proscenium is best done in artist's oils I reckon - but few people have the patience to wait for these to dry.
Acrylics are good providing that the ground (the surface on which they are applied) is good. Use a couple of coats of appropriate undercoat. Top this with a coat of acrylic gesso if you are planning detailed painting. If you are painting on raw wood do seal this first. If painting on an already painted surface sand it well before applying undercoat.

Acrylics are durable, but if on the wrong surface can scuff easily, or peel off. On a good surface they are grand.

Rowney brand have an optional flow formula acrylic which is best for covering large flat surfaces without showing brushmarks. The addition of water tension breaker to the standard formula achieves a similar result.

If you do not plan a pictorial proscenium and do not need a large number of colours you might like to consider using the various supermarket paints designed for use of outdoor timber. Also if your taste runs to shiny paints then there is a good range of colours to be found in those paints which are designed for painting toys.

A varnish will provide extra protection but do ensure that you use an appropriate varnish for the paint you are using. Avoid high gloss varnish which will obscure your work in sunlight. Lastly do make sure that your varnish is thoroughly hard dry before you use it.

It will be interesting to see if Mark Poulton (an experienced sign writer) will offer any tips and explain his method. Also Geoff Felix has painted some wonderful prosceniums. I've a feeling he uses Humbrol paints - although I seem to think I heard that that company were in some difficulty.
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Postby Tony James » 29 Sep 2006, 11:45

Sorry this is a bit long but much depends on how your showfront is built and from what materials.

Base paint and applied decoration come next and maintainance third. Everything has to be practical when you're moving from show to show.


I've always used timber for a showfront because it's a material I know and understand and is very strong and lightweight and it's forgiving - it can take knocks and bumps..

Metal can be lightweight and is a beautiful surface to decorate but shows every knock and plastics can be surprisingly heavy.

My showfront is birch ply - difficult to buy except from specialist timber supplies and the sheets are large and very expensive. The advantage of birch is its high strength coupled with lightweight - very thin and rigid. The surface is very close grained - you can achieve a perfectly flat surface to paint without any grain filler.

Of course it's only a facer and needs a timber frame behind which takes any fittings needed to attach it to the Punch frame and also other fittings for tabs etc.

I have mine spray painted using vehicle paint. On the road any knocks and chips can be touched in on the spot using matching touch-in paint from motoring stores. It dries almost immediately so it's easy to maintain. However.

Whoever spray paints your front needs to know what they're doing. It will take countless fine coats of sealer, primer, undercoat and top coat to achieve a finish that will last and not chip or peel off. Coats need rubbing down and special attention must be made to the edges, which are liable to knocks in transit and it's here where the wet will get in if you don't keep on top of the touch-in.

My current showfront had 16 coats in total. Gives you an idea.

A few spray coats of varnish will complete the base paint. On this goes your decoration. I use a signwriter who specialises in gold leaf work and when he's finished and everything is perfectly dry, several brush coats of varnish are applied to protect.

Keeping it looking good is then a matter of touch in as I've said followed by - in my case - an annual re-varnishing. The top surface will degrade - that's to be expected. Hence the need for several initial coats.

You rub down the top surface using wet and dry paper and a lot of white spirit so it needs doing in a well ventilated area. The result is a dull surface which needs recoating with a high quality varnish diluted 50:50 with white spirit. Use a good quality brush, keep the surface flat and the varnish will flow like water. So keep it flat. Allow each coat to dry throughly, lightly flatten the surface between coats agin using plenty of white spirit and ensure you lay off the coats with the brush tip so as to minimise brush strokes.

I use a gloss varnish for these coats - it's tougher - and finally finish with a top coat of satin finish. I usually apply two or three coats of gloss followed by one or two coats of satin. Much depends on how it looks to my eye at the time and whether the cat has managed to leave a hair on the surface!

these coats are only thin but I know when next I come to renew that there's sufficient top surface to rub at without the danger of getting down to the artwork.

For travel my showfront is packed into a thick quilted bag which sits inside an outer tough canvas carry bag. Even that doesn't prevent all knocks and bangs but it provides a lot of protection.

Hope this is useful.
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Postby Chris » 29 Sep 2006, 12:22

I'm a little puzzled by Tony's advice. I was told by Faust (Granville Taylor), who was a specialist in maintaining illusionist's props, on the road, that one should never use vehicle (cellulose) paint because of its fragility, and the difficulty of touching up, and the fact that it could not be used with other paints.
Just how Tony manages to touch up, apparently on top of layers of varnish, I don't know.
But obviously he has found a system that works for him. Sounds like a lot of work though.
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Postby Tony James » 29 Sep 2006, 12:57

Granville was right - in the old days (1940s/50s) when cellulose was used. But modern motor paints are different and have been for the last forty odd years.

Touching-in couldn't be easier - go to Halfords and they sell matching touch-in colour tubes with built in brush - and they've been selling those for forty odd years too!

The touch-in dries within seconds in warm weather and a couple of minutes in colder climes. I check my paint evry time I build up and any tiny paint loss - usually on the edge - I touch in and it's done. Very occasionally a flake of paint will come off during performance, on the inner edge of the opening and because a figure has caught it in performance.

But mostly paint loss happens in transit.

As for the re-varnishing, much depends on how much you work and the weather conditions encountered. The top surface will degrade which is why you need several coats so that the top is scraficial.

Applied very thinly as I described I can manage two coats in a day in a dry warm atmosphere. The first say at 8 a.m. and the second at 8 p.m. So two days is the usual period for revarnishing. Oh yes - and make sure there's plenty on the edges all round.

Quite straightforward with modern up-to-date materials.
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Postby Chris » 29 Sep 2006, 21:02

Actually Granville said spray paint - I surmised cellulose. I am aware that there are other spray paints on the shelves. But some must be cellulose since Halfords still stock cellulose thinners. But Granville's point was that spraying was in such fine layers, that even many layers did not equal the covering power of a good brushful. Also aren't the best vehicles "coach painted"?
But as I say, if you've found a system to suit you, stick to it.
But as the original question was for someone wanting to paint their own proscenium perhaps they would be better sticking to more straightforward techniques, especially since your method depends on getting a professional to do the spray painting for you.
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Postby Tony James » 29 Sep 2006, 22:22

Absolutely right Chris. Stick to brush painting. It's just very hard for most of us to get a really good finish with a brush..

But the touch-in paints are still the best for fast repairs as you build up and they will work on any normal surface.
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finishing with a brush

Postby CvdC » 30 Sep 2006, 00:58

One trick I learnt from boatbuilding was to use Penetrol to add to the paint. This helps get rid of brush marks.
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Prep & paint

Postby Mark Poulton » 09 Oct 2006, 22:47

Always start off with good prep!

Before you start, get the idea of what you want your arch to look like and sketch it down.
Look at colour wheels to find out what colours compliment one another and which colours clash.
Look at how other people have designed and painted their arches.

For my 'beach booth' arch (or any signs that will be used outside) I cut the shape then coat the ply in a polyfiller and PVA glue mix.
After lots of sanding down (try to get the surface as smooth as possible) you can start to lay the primer on (ALWAYS US A GOOD QUALITY PRODUCT)!!
When dry, sand again (you may have to paint then sand several times).
The final time you prime the wood only lightly key up the surface.

You can now undercoat (again, use a good brand). Two coats will do with a light sand in-between layers.
Then for the topcoat. I would advise at least three layers of good quality gloss (lightly sanding between coats).

The colour and the product you choose is up to you. There are loads of good paints out there - Sandtex, Dulux ECT are all good - use exterior paints if you can, they take knocks better!
For my replica 'Victorian' arch I used 'Farrow & Ball' paint (as do National Heritage when renovating say a Victorian building) to get it spot on.

For the artwork on an arch I have used all the paints Chris has named and they all work well, it's up to personal preference.
For me, I like 'One-Shot' sign writer’s enamel and 'Craftmaster' paints. These are not cheap and not available at your local paint or DIY store, but they work for me.
'Reducers' can be added to slow the drying time if you are painting a big surface or big lettering.

If painting a light colour onto a dark base coat, several layers maybe required.

If you use enamel’s, which are 'gloss', remember to finish with a couple of coats of 'matt' or 'satin' varnish. This takes the glare off (as with puppet heads).
When using an oil-based paint, (say for the top coat) remember to give it at least a day or two to dry (between layers). Even then, although the paint will be dry, it won't have hardened, so be careful not to put any pressure on the painted surface, dents ect WILL show on the finished product!

One last tip, go to your local auto supplies shop and get them to order some 'Tack-Rags'.
These are as the name suggests, tacky rags used in car body repair shops for removing dust from cars after sanding).
Ideal for getting rid of dust after sanding your nice new arch.

I am very lucky as I make puppets and paint signs ect for a living (out of season) I have a purpose built workshop/studio and can therefore create as much dust and mess as I like!
So don't try it inside your home - dust from sanding gets every!!

Hope this helps!
Good luck, go to it and create!!!

Mark (Poulton's Puppets)
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THE REAL GEN

Postby Chris » 09 Oct 2006, 23:05

Thanks Mark. Take note folks, that's the real info. Mark was a pro signwriter in an earlier incarnation.
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