|A Question about Canvas and Rolling- page one|
I belong to the Shawbury Village Players, near Shrewsbury in Shropshire and for many years we have put on pantos in our village which did not have a stage. So it had to be built and dismantled again at the end of the run.
Now thanks to the lottery we have a fixed stage. not a lot of room above it, but we now have a rear 'cyclorama' measuring 22ft wide by 8'8" tall. Up until the new stage we used to have our rear 'cloth' painted on 4'4" by 8'8" pieces of tri-wall cardboard. Scene changes involved either turning them round to form another 'jigsaw' or removing them completely. ...we are now going for a proper backcloth.
Your website has some marvelous information on it but I do have a few of questions. Firstly, what material do you use for backcloths? Secondly, is it possible to roll a painted backcloth on to say a long scaffolding tube or would that be too narrow? My idea is to have two or three cloths so we can do scene changes by rolling one up and another down. If you have rolled yours how long did they take to unroll or does the paint crack so they won't roll. Finally, do you have any details of backcloth suppliers (the raw material)?
How nice to have a new stage to work on. What a pity it is so low. But read on as this is to your advantage!
I paint on canvas. (I think it is in fact a man-made version but it is just as good as the original natural canvas.) Co-incidentally you are the third person in the UK to ask this week about where I get my canvas. Here is what I wrote to the others…
|Hope the above is of use Chris.
Next question. Rolling up.
If you use canvas and NOT CALICO then your paint will not crack. I am rather lavish when applying my paint so my canvases only last about six different shows before the paint starts to crack and even then we use the cracked canvas for cave interiors etc then when they are even past that, we cut holes in them for doorways etc. I use ordinary Dulux Vinyl Matt Emulsion for my painting. Much much cheaper than Rosco or acrylics. I guess it is the vinyl in the paint which gives it that elasticity enabling it not to crack when being rolled.
|Rolling on a scaffold pole? Some companies
do this (As you probably gather from my web site I work for several companies.)
and they have a rather clever system of ropes wound around the ends so that
they can haul them up. The rope is wound around the ends so that as they
roll them up the rope unwinds from around the pole !! (I told you it was
However, a scaffold pole has a small diameter which means the canvas at the start of the roll is curved a great deal which can lead to paint cracking. Try to have any spare canvas at the start (i.e. nearest the roller) to alleviate this.
The problem with long scaffold poles is that they sag in the middle as they can only be supported at either end and not in the middle for this rolling-up-with-ropes idea. However with your stage being so low I suggest you don’t bother with ropes but have a pair of step ladders (even better with three pairs) and roll them up by hand. Another problem is tying them up, once rolled up, as you will find you will need to tie them up in the middle as well as the ends. Especially with a scaffold pole this will put a large weight on the canvas where it is tied in the middle resulting in a pleat all the way down the centre the next time you unroll it. A company I know found an even heavier weight and stiffer metal pole than normal scaffolding, which meant they did not have to tie off in the middle, as there was no sag. Trouble was with such a heavy pole all were dicing with death when rolling or manoeuvring this pole as if it fell down on someone’s head it would have killed them. I am delighted to say they have now had professional rollers installed (By Bob Foster mentioned above) This is a special alloy tube which can be up to 36 feet long yet will not sag in the middle and at the same time is very light weight. However the tube is about 6 inches in diameter, which, together with the pulleys etc, would take up a lot of your “real estate” in terms of stage height.
Returning to your scaffolding pole problem. Everyone finds it difficult to attach the canvas to the pole firmly so it won’t slip when rolling. One solution is to use very strong gaffer tape or duct tape. However one company I know ended up cutting little traps in the canvas and applying glue so that flaps of the canvas was stuck down.
Talk to your local theatrical supplier though, as they might have a solution
re what to use. . Another company I am involved with uses an ordinary
square length of 2“x 2” timber but that leaves a Venetian
Blind row of creases on the cloth after it has been rolled up.
Another trick is to pack the wooden batten around with spare canvas to
try and smooth out the hard edges of the timber. One idea I have used
is to buy a length of round plastic drainpipe, Slice it lengthways down
the middle with a power jigsaw. (Actually a farmer in one group used his
chainsaw. – a bit of a sledgehammer to crack the proverbial but
at least it gave a wider cut). Mark your cutting line with masking tape
first, otherwise you will veer off the “straight and narrow”
Then thread this tube over the batten with the cloth going up the slit.
The snag you will meet is the plastic - once released from being a circle-
tries to close up and even overlap on itself, so you have to force the
slit open with a screwdriver blade. The task of this threading on business
takes about four strong men with much hammering and cajoling - but it
Have you any member of the cast in the central heating business? I believe
there are large diameter foam lengths available for insulating big pipes.
(The small domestic version is not big enough diam.) Slipping that around
your batten should work.
Now here’s a trick for you. (And I am indebted to Sean Magee who showed me this idea) One company I used to paint for, paints on both sides of their backcloths, and both sides are used in the same show. Once a scene is finished they change the backcloth as follows…
A weighted rope is lowered down the front of the cloth in the middle and tied onto to the bottom of it. (Red rope in diag.)
All three ropes are then pulled, from the back, until the bottom is at the top. The ropes are then tied off on cleats to keep them taught.
The other set of three ropes (Green in diag) are then undone from their cleats and the cloth lowered so that the back is now displayed to the audience. The (weighted) middle rope is then undone and hauled up out of the way. and all three of these ropes are then tied off.
The advantage of this system is that not only do you use both sides of the canvas but there is no need to roll it.
Hope some of the above helps.
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