Laying a Masonite Deck

This article is by G. Patrick McCreary. He was my TD at Bennington over 30 years ago. Patrick wrote this while TD at Indiana University of PA in 2013.

It has been my experience over the past 25 years or so that "DURON", a product of The Masonite Corporation, makes an excellent surface for working stage floors. Here at Indiana University of PA, we use a Duron surface for our main venue, and use the same material on most of our stage decks, usually on top of a layer of ½" Homasote . Duron, however, is no longer available as a product name – the best you can do is ask for 1/4” double-tempered hardboard. I would want to see a sample before I placed my order.DURON3

Our Mainspace floor, roughly 50' X 75', is heavily built on, often re-configured, and abused at least four times a year - we replaced the entire top layer three years ago, after 11 years.

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How to use a Tape Measure

What do all those little lines mean anyway. A closeup look at the markings of a standard U.S. tape measure. Inch lines, 1/2" 1/4" 1/8" and 1/16" lines are explained.

Click on the picture to start the movie.

Also an answer to that burning question: "why is the hook on the end of my tape measure loose?"

Shop Math

Asking a student to cut a piece of wood exactly in half will require a fraction. At least one. Remember? It's the kerf from the saw. Kerf defined is the part of the wood that turns into saw dust. Depending on the saw, it could be anywhere from a 16th of an inch up to 3/16ths of an inch.

First we need to teach the basic use of the tape measure. Since writing this entry, years ago, I've created the video shown here. Amazing the YouTube didn't exist when I wrote this entry. In the video I cover some simple fractions using the lines within the inches. In the classroom
 I draw an enlarged view on the board. A huge inch. It includes each little line within the inch. Some small, some big. Take a close look at your tape measure. The biggest lines are for the full inch. The next longest line is for the 1/2", then 1/4", the 1/8th and finally 1/16". having this on the board will assist the students. They should also have this written down. Letting the student employ the smallest set of lines, and simply counting how many 16ths are involved in the measurement, will simplify their project.

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Flats come in various forms and sizes. A flat is a fake wall. If you look around you, you will see walls that are solid, usually made out of wood or plaster, and go from floor to ceiling. Some walls have holes in them. A door is a hole in the wall. So is a window.

How to build a flat. Let me start at the beginning.

What is a flat? It's a fake wall. It can be any size you wish. Look at a wall in the room you are in now. What size is it? Most likely it's between 8 and 10 feet tall and maybe 8 to 16 feet wide. Well, your flat could be this size or bigger. Here's the catch. Once you've built this huge flat, will it fit through the door?
Most flats are built in one of two different styles. Hard and Soft. Hard flats are covered with a thin plywood and soft flats are covered with cloth. We'll talk about the actual materials later. The cloth flats are much lighter and easier to handle, however, they appear a bit less like hard walls then plywood covered flats. The hard flats tend to act like real walls. If you have a small theater and the audience sits close to the set, hard is the way to go.

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We have two trees being built. The 4x4 centers are legs for platforms. The legs will poke through the lid of the platform and the tree framing will hold chicken wire and paper mache. Each plywood half circle is cut to random sizes and placed at irregular distances from each other. tree2.jpg

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Curved Flats

The Tower Tops for Once Upon A Mattress.

Well, these aren't really flats per-se'. But the method is the same. You will need to make a curved inner structure and then cover that with strips of wood forming ribs. This all will get covered with whatever covering you wish to use.


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Flat Jig

This group of students are building several 6'x12' flats. We've moved 3 4x8 foot tables together to allow us to create a huge jig to make sure the flats are true and square. As you can see, the corners are clamped down. The various pieces are measured and marked before gluing.

We will be covering this flat with white scrim. Yup, we want the audience to see through it.
 Here's the finished project. Click on the photo for a larger image; see the page Mame for more photos.  xx6.jpg