Modern booths

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Modern booths

Postby Nick Jackson » 28 Jun 2014, 00:13

Today I watched our marketing staff erect some rather wonderful 3D advertising materials. And I couldn't help but wonder if there was an equivalent for Punch. I am yet to be convinced that anything can beat timber and canvas but am wondering if anyone has tried anything nouveau. After all, we put a lot of time and effort into transporting and erecting some rather heavy kit.
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Re: Modern booths

Postby lesclarke » 28 Jun 2014, 09:17

This has been debated in the past and I think the consensus was that wood and fabric cover had so many advantages.

Having something very lightweight is probably only an advantage for an indoor booth.
Anything using sophisticated modern materials would be tricky to repair when damaged.
Also the construction techniques would probably not be suitable for the home builder.

As Itinerant Alfresco Glove Puppet Performers, we are such a tiny group, so it would not be worth a manufacturer developing a design and 'tooling up' to produce it for such a small potential market.

...and anyway, carting my bulky kit keeps me fit!

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Re: Modern booths

Postby Nick Jackson » 28 Jun 2014, 11:45

Yes, do agree with you Les. Am just mulling over options for my new pitch.
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Re: Modern booths

Postby Chris » 28 Jun 2014, 19:30

Yes I agree, wood is best. I don't really think it needs to be heavy though. My 40 year old lazy tongs booth in its golf club bag is pretty lightweight. I think that in many cases it is the canvas cover that adds the weight. I am a great believer in not using canvas. I know it is waterproof, but it is heavy and still gets wet.
My tilts are all lightproof but much lighter weight than canvas. Being man made fabrics they will dry overnight if spread out over a clothes horse, or much quicker if shoved in a spin dryer. The only part I make waterproof is the roof piece, which is heavyweight denim sprayed with waterproofing stuff from the camping shop.
Many have been tempted by aluminium but do not be seduced. While being more expensive it is not really that much lighter than wood. And it has one great problem, it can distort when the booth twists in the wind.
If I was building for strength regardless of weight I would experiment with square section aluminium with a centre core of wood. When working on cruise ships I had a problem with aluminium tubing becoming fatigued
by the constant vibration caused by the ship's engines. The solution proved to be dowel rods to fit the internal diameter of the aluminium.
I too have admired some modern tent and gazebo designs - but I have also noticed at several events when they have suffered high winds that my booth has been standing while all around was mayhem.
Plastic tubing is used by a lot of american "gospel" puppet companies, and with a selection of joints it is great fun to build all manner of shaped puppet structures. This is very lightweight and easy to cover - but you finish with a bag of poles, a bag of joints, and bag of covers - and face an MFI style assembly for each gig. Plus it is only practical inside. You can use guy ropes and tent pegs outside but this doesnt stop the joints pulling in the wind. I guess you've seen these easy-erect cheap to buy Gazebos? They are even easier to collapse.
It constantly surprises me just how good a design the lazy tongs booth has proved itself over the years. God Bless George Blake.
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Re: Modern booths

Postby Trevek » 28 Jun 2014, 19:59

The first booths I ever used were actually made of about 19 sections of square metal tubing (and corners). Possibly iron, because they weren't very light.

The structure was solid. I mean practically rock solid. The structure had four sections on the ground, so a solid base. I could pick it up from within and run with it when the rain came (as I had to once or twice... the DJ collapsing in giggles at this puppet booth running around on it's own). Wind never bothered this beast.

The main problem, you'll have guessed, was the weight. Not having a car, I sometimes had to use the bus or the Glasgow underground... The weight of this thing mashed my shoulders a few times when I had to carry it. Pretty sure it contributed to my spinal problems over time.

So, yes, wood is the one for me :D
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Re: Modern booths

Postby Nick Jackson » 28 Jun 2014, 20:10

Below is one of my old shows which served well for quite a few years: The lower half was a hinged pastetable – you can just see the join halfway between the playboard and the floor. The fabric – actually quite a cheap sheeting with a black liner – was permanently stapled on. The upper section was added separately, meaning I could leave the backdrop in place. (By the way, that's a much younger me in the pic – must be 20 years ago. Am now a tad more rotund!)

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The new design will be in two pieces: The overall height is determined by the length of my car with the back seat down. The difference this time is that the back of the upper half will fold forwards so, again, the backdrop and part of the proscenium, can stay in place. Will add the lower canvas using velcro.

The above involved luggage clips which locked the lower half into place – effective but it made folding more difficult. But today have been experimenting with velcro straps – still avoiding wingnuts! – and looks as though it will work. Will add a pic later.
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Re: Modern booths

Postby Tony James » 08 Jul 2014, 20:32

I am a great believer in not using canvas

I am not really certain what Chris is using as a wall cover. I have a bad habit of using the word 'canvas' simply through force of habit. Tents and marquees and sails for dinghys were always canvas and as Chris explains, hellish heavy and when wet, difficult to handle. Canvas could also shrink, and quite a lot with some types.

Apart from the denim on top what do you use for the walls Chris?

For more years than I care to try and calculate I have used what has been sold to me as American acrylic sailcloth. It looks like canvas and it is such a tight, dense weave that it is almost naturally watertight. Even brand new it isn't over stiff to handle but the density of weave does make it necessary to use an industrial sewing machine. When French seaming I think you would find it too much for a domestic machine to handle and you need industrial needles too.

But the result is extremely strong, doesn't shrink or fade and in use an easily handled fabric. Even after a cloudburst acrylic sailcloth doesn't absorb much wet and avoids being dead weight heavy. In fact, the best plan is to concentrate on emptying the frame and leaving the cover in place as long as possible as acrylic sailcloth drains and dries remarkably quickly. Post storm sunshine always helps of course but a stiff breeze will dry it out quite quickly.

Inadvertent stains, especially Cola splashes from punters spilt drinks will washout stain free even when left for a couple of weeks which can happen when you're on the road. Sounds perfect? It may be but it is rather expensive for a good quality fabric. Remember, like all fabrics it comes in a variety of qualities. They are not all the same.

As for the tilt, this fabric benefits from an annual waterproofing treatment such as Granger's Fabsil on sale at camping outlets. Personally, I prefer the large cans rather than the aerosols. You apply with a brush taking care to brush thinly or it will soak in and and fall through. I do the entire cover and for a special reason.

The roof is horizontal and in heavy weather gathers water, often several pints. Those volumes create pressure forcing leaks through the fabric. The waterproofing treatment helps prevent this. But as every Boy Scout and Girl Guide will tell you, don't whatever you do touch that sagging bulge in order to try and throw the water off. Even if you do succeed the water will come through and drip, usually right down the back of your neck! Then ,apart from a cessation of rain and a strong drying out wind, there is nothing you can do about the drips. It's due to a capillary action consequent of touching it.

The sides are vertical and less of a problem as gravity will cause the wet to roll down, especially when waterproofed. BUT, beware the wind forcing the walls onto the frame inside because where they touch you will get the same capillary action. The ingress of water will run down the inside wall. Of course if you have hung things on the side frames, towel, shirt, trousers, sausages or figures they too will get wet very quickly as you won't notice just how much water comes through and runs down. I had one helluva mess two weeks ago in the south east following a torrential thunderstorm which lasted nearly an hour.

There's another thing. Good as Fabsil is, it is no match for children clutching in one hand a small plastic tube and in the other a plastic ring on a stick. Dip the ring in the tube and blow fascinating bubbles into the air. We've all done it but that bubble liquid is death to waterproofing. Remember those battery operated pistols that appeared a few years ago. Same thing except they produced an endless stream of bubbles which went on most of the afternoon. Popping on the walls and roof they could cause more damage than anyone realised. And as for the big scimitars in their scabbards? They weren't blown. The child swished round creating massive bubbles the size of footballs and larger which flopped along lazily on the breeze and exploded on the walls and roof.

Bubble liquid is powerful detergent which destroys the waterproofing but worse leaves persistent residues in the fabric which will not readily wash out - hence persistent. You can try but they remain and when it rains you can see light 'windows' on the roof through which the water pours in. What can you do about it? Very little. Don't waste your time trying to re-waterproof. The persistent residues reject waterproofing treatments. Wash repeatedly in plain water regularly and after several weeks or even months the residues will eventually wash away and you will be able to retreat the fabric.

The next caveat is obvious. Whatever you do never wash your cover in detergent. Back to the camping supplies for Granger's Pure Liquid Soap. Be careful. Not a product for your domestic washing machine. It may foam and overflow the machine. Use the bath instead and when clean, rinse and rinse for England in plain water. Soap residues will easily wash away and when dry, re-waterproof.

For those of you who work outside I'm assuming that you are inside during the winter. So at the end of summer and you're not going out again till say springtime, wash the cover when you come in and keep it clean over winter and then apply the waterproofing before you go out in spring. There's more to the abrading of the cover than wind and rain and dirt. It's handling, the folding and unfolding, the pulling into place, the packing and unpacking that create wear and tear which can also affect the waterproofing treatment.

There are moments when I do envy those sensible people who stick to the dry, warm and welcoming events held indoors!
Tony James

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