Set Build – Murder on the Orient Express

The latest show for Gallery 7 is now playing. The set was a large one with a few complications. Following are some photos of the build.

Set Design including paint is by Jeff Kiers and Director is Kate Muchmore Woo.

Jeff’s creative design was shared as a model:

He also provided basic dimensions and (most importantly) fly line locations for the 3 flies.

I realized that to build this I would need to draw this out to make sense of it. There are a few moving parts.

Then I divided it up into parts: risers, steps, walls, flies, observation deck, benches.

Here are some pictures of the flies. I made them in 8×12 sections with plenty of cross-bracing to help eliminate sag. (They are 24 feet long) One fly has 3 working doors so had to be structurally sound.

There is a wall that flips down to become a floor for scene changes. It is heavy as it is made of 3 sheets of 3/4″ plywood.

Jeff painted the outside of the train, and my assistant carpenter Karen worked on walls.

Things started to come together but there was still so much to do!

I was treated to a beautiful double rainbow at the workshop one January afternoon…

Load-in day at the venue came and with several volunteers we got the basic set together so that lighting design could commence.

It’s always nice to see things start to come together under the lights!

Set Build – A Christmas Carol

Gallery 7’s latest one-man Christmas show is now playing. This was one of the simplest builds I’ve done for them. It needed to disassemble quickly due to some scheduling conflicts at the venue; the set designer (Lora-Lynne Frewing) did a wonderful job of keeping the set to a minimum.

Here are some photos of the build.

Note – I also have a separate post with some instructions for how to make these wagon wheels here.

These last two photos show a sneak peak of part of the set!

Cutting wagon wheels out of plywood

I’ve had to make a ship wheel and wagon wheels for various plays in the past, and they always turn out okay but are quite time consuming. This time I needed a pair of wheels for a cart, and decided to just cut them out of plywood. They did need to be perfect circles because they actually get used practically.

I used 3/4″ standard fir plywood. Cheap, rough, but strong.

So here is how I did it in case you are curious. You will need various kinds of saws and a router.

Start with your square piece of plywood and measure to find the exact center. Drill a small hole in the center. Use a scrap piece of plywood to draw a circle by putting a screw in the center and then drilling a hole x inches away, where you want the radius. Stick your pencil through the hole and rotate the ‘compass’ piece in a circle.

Screw down a plunge router with a cutting bit so that it will cut the edge of the circle. Push it down into the plywood 1/16″ to 1/8″. You could cut right through the plywood, but that would be hard on the bit…this way you are tracing the circle for your jigsaw. Jigsaw very close to the cut line, then trim perfectly with the router all the way through the plywood. You will now have a perfect circle.

Use your stick to make a new circle inside, then trace and cut. Routing is not too practical for the inside (and it doesn’t have to be perfect here). Cut out the spokes with jigsaw and/or circular saw. Don’t cut off a spoke!

Cut out small circles to build out the middle axle and rout a small round on the cut edges to keep out the splinters.

Attach with 3/8″ lagbolts and washers, or whatever you want to use for an axle.

These proved to be quite strong but we only put about 80-100 pounds of load on them. I wouldn’t want to put much more without doubling them up. In our play we blocked up the front of the wagon so that the wheels were not quite touching the ground. Then the actor could walk on the wagon without it breaking.

Safety Gate

Abbey Medical contracted me to make a safety gate for a client with dementia.

I tried to make it as economically as possible, but it was still several hundred dollars.



The hinges are screwed through a 1/4″ peice of white plywood into a stud. There is a simple barrel bolt latch into the post, which is hidden behind the gate (but visible in the mirror).

Small bathroom cabinet

Carol asked for a custom cabinet for her bathroom.

It has a drawer below, which is a bit different (have to be careful with the plumbing heights). But otherwise nice and simple.

Plywood with MDF doors and spray-painted with cabinet paint.

Installed over existing tile. Countertop and plumbing by others.

Sign work – ATC

Abbotsford Tutoring Center asked me to do some commercial sign work and a few things inside their commercial property as well. The main thing was to change the lightbox sign. I saved them about $400 by removing the plexi, scraping off the old vinyl, and applying the new vinyl myself. However it does not look quite as good as a brand new sign.

Besides the light box, there was also some window frosting that needed to be replaced. I ordered circular cutouts with the new logo and replaced them.

Inside there was a bit of work too – 3 large whiteboards, some lightbulbs, and take off the old sign inside/repair the wall/paint and replace it with a new one:

I ordered all my sign materials from Bourquin Printers, who make excellent product; any mistakes in design or application are mine, not theirs.

Set Build-The Magician’s Nephew

Gallery 7 Theatre’s production of The Magician’s Nephew opens tonight, and tickets are available here.

As per usual, I was the construction manager for this show. Director is Gabriel Kirkley, and Set design is by Jeff Kiers. As this show takes us through different locales including the present day, 19th century London, and the creation of the world of Narnia, the set is not uber-realistic but more symbolic.

I try not to give too much away with my photos, but here are a few of the process. The main set item was crates – lots of them. There are 12 2×2 crates (quite large!), 6 weight-bearing cardboard boxes, and 6 small crates. Then there was a large tree with a screen, and some other bits and pieces. The thing that took the most time was making a lamppost and a tree grow up out of the stage. To do this, I made an elevator and a trap door.

One other thing I made was a pair of articulating wings for the flying horse. I will post that video here later.

Wheelchair ramp

Abbey Medical contracted me to build a ramp for an ICBC client.

Wheelchair ramps need to have a maximum slope of 1:12, and as the deck was 20 inches higher than the ground, that calls for a 20 foot ramp. They also needed a ramp from the front door to the deck, which was another 7 feet.

I pre-cut the plywood at my shop and gave it 3 coats of porch paint with some anti-slip sand thrown on the second coat.

Then I built for a day and a half. It was nice to have a reasonably solid foundation to work with.

Set Design – Miracle Worker

I was asked to design the set for TWU’s fall production of The Miracle Worker.

It was a new experience in that I didn’t have to build the set this time. It was kind of nice! It was a challenging set to work with…but the team made it work well.

The play is running at Trinity Western University until Nov. 5.

I borrowed a pump and refurbished it a little so that it worked.

Fireplace Shiplap and Mantel

Carol wanted to change the look of her fireplace area. It wasn’t built well originally – the wall probably had to be pushed out during fireplace installation for clearance reasons? Anyway she just wanted a cleaner look. So first we got rid of the existing mantel.

There was some discussion as to how to apply ship-lap. I preferred a frame on the angled walls but we ended up going with mitred corners. I used 1/4″ D grade fir plywood, cut in 8-inch strips and painted, and brad-nailed on the studs. It took several hours to install it!

Lastly I built a mantel out of plywood and painted it.