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Help for Set Construction Volunteers
Based on an article in Stage Directions, January 1994. Used by permission.

There is a common denominator found in church and Christian school drama groups: Volunteerism is a must, but along with it comes inexperience and a lot of on-the-job training. The following construction tricks ought to be shared with your crew.

Measuring Matters
To get the most accurate reading, place the edge of a ruler or tape measure against the surface being measured. Mark the surface with a V at the desired point. This mark is more accurate than a single line.

If you want to know whether the corners of a window, door, or frame are square, measure the distance between the diagonal corners. If both measurements are the same, the corners are square.

Hammering Helps
Hold a hammer near the handle end, using a relaxed grip. To drive a nail, start with a few light blows. Then raise your arm to shoulder height for small nails, or higher for larger ones. Start the downward stroke with moderate effort; let gravity do most of the work. To keep nails from bending, the hammer?s face must be parallel to the nail head.

Before driving a nail near the end of a board, blunt the point to prevent splitting the wood. With the nail upside down on the hard surface, strike the point firmly once or twice with a hammer.

If space is tight, with little room for the hammer?s head, or if a wayward blow would mar the surface, use a nail set (a type of punch) to provide distance between the hammer and nail.

Screws Savvy
Screws are almost always the best choice for set construction. They do less damage to the wood and are easily removed and reused.

When installing screws, drill a pilot hole to avoid splitting the wood and to ensure a tight grip. The diameter of the hole should equal the average thickness of the screw. Pilot holes are not necessary when using multipurpose screws with an electric screwdriver.

To start a screw in close quarters, slit a short piece of masking tape and insert the screw though the adhesive side of the slit adhesive side up. Place the screwdriver?s tip in the screw slot, and then fold the tape up to secure it to the screwdriver. Remove the tape after the screw is in place.

For added leverage when installing hooks or screw eyes, thread a long nail or screwdriver horizontally through the fastener; grip its ends when twisting.

Before you remove a screw from any piece of wood, scrape any paint or finish from the slot. Otherwise the screwdriver may slip, damaging the slot and the surrounding surface.

Sawing Suggestions
To mark a board for sawing, draw across its upper surface and the edge that the blade will enter first.

To control a handsaw, extend your index finder holding the saw along the side of the handle.

With all saws, allow for the blade?s thickness when cutting by keeping the blade on the waste side of the cutting line.

Finishing Facts
To pour smoothly from an oblong or rectangular can, hold it with the opening at the top and the handle between the hold and the container into which the liquid is being poured.

To avoid a mess when painting, paint from a partly filled bucket instead of a full can. Dip brushes into the paint only a third of the length of the bristles. Slap gently against the bucket?s insides to remove excess. Keep a rag handy to wipe up spills.

Reprinted from Lillenas Drama Newsletter, Volume 11, No. 1.

For more technical theatre tips, check out the Drama Topics Series Tech Kit from Lillenas Drama Resources.
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