Saturday, April 01, 2006

Commission Toy Theatre Update

Ann showing the curved orchestra piece...Awhile back, I commissioned Ann Neff to build a traditional wooden toy theatre. I would have loved to have done it myself, but alas, I live in a wee apartment and no access to a shop.

I was thrilled when Ann accepted the job. She's been diligently working on the project as time has allowed, and recently began sharing some highlights of the experience of building a toy theatre, as well as some images of the theatre coming together...

March 28th - All right, progress continues. The orchestra piece is delightfully bowed, though I had to cut another orchestra piece and another floor to get it the way I wanted. (Don't worry, if we ever get the Reddington front, we will have all the pieces, "seconds", but usable.)

This last week has been dedicated to "glue trials". And I mean trials! The concept is that there is a luan plywood front (thin) which folds like the proscenium, to which you will paste the paper proscenium. The plan is to cover it with muslin, which makes the hinges, and gives you a good surface on which to glue. The luan will be sturdy, and easier to attach to the stage floor. I am "practicing", or perfecting the design, with a West paper proscenium that we had.

I was told to use wall paper paste. Didn't hold. The hardware store suggested starch(!) or kitchen and bath wallpaper paste. Yecch, still too easy to peal off. Then I tried wood glue. Too much glue, though it did hold. A fellow puppeteer tried some Grrrip she had on hand, which worked well, but we couldn't find it in stores. So I sent away for it, as well as small hinges. It was frustrating, day after day, waiting for tests to dry, only to find they didn't work! But we persevere.
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March 15th - I was able to work all day on the theatre, and tried out the latest scheme to hold the wooden pieces of the proscenium in the 3D position. Actually, I got the idea for a wooden tongue, on which the top piece sits, from the pictures of the rear of the Urania theatre that was recently offered on eBay. And it all went together! I used hinges on the lower uprights, the ones next to the inside of the opening, that attach to the angled upper piece. I works, but it fights. The next time (for yours) I will use a homemade "hasp" made from a mending plate. So the prototype worked.

While I am waiting for the Grrrip glue to arrive I am rasping out the bevels on the wooden pieces for the final proscenium (yours) that "fold" backwards. George made me a jig with a 1/4" opening at a 60 degree angle in which I insert the luan piece, tighten it up in the vise, and rasp away. It beats free-handing it with the rasp and sand paper.
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March 11th - I am please to report that your toy theatre/stage is well under way. I will send some pictures when the pieces go together. I've got all the parts done. The hardest part was conceptualizing the thing from the instructions I downloaded from your website.