Scenic Flats

There are various standard sizes and designs of scenic flats but depending on your needs and resources they can be made to almost any shape or size. The diagram below shows a typical flat with an opening for a door.

The frame is constructed from 1inch x 3inch softwood, you could use hardwood, the flats will last longer but it is considerably more expensive. You  must check all the corners are square before gluing and nailing on the corner plates. Use cement coated nails (they give added grip) or clout nails (they curl over when they hit a hard surface) to fix the corner plates. The diagram shows two different ways to reinforce the corners: on the top left is a diagonal piece of wood and on the right a triangular piece of plywood. Either method is acceptable, depending on your woodworking skills.

When the frame is finished the canvas can be fixed. Tack down one edge first (near the inside of the frame) and pull the canvas taught but not tight as you work along. Next work along to the other end keeping the canvas smooth and taught as you go.

When all the edges have been tacked down gently lift up the edges of the canvas and paint a little poly vinyl acetate (PVA) glue on the frame and smooth the canvas on to it. PVA glue is used as it is suitable where at least one of the surfaces is porous (for example wood). It is water-based and does not contain solvents.

Put a few small nails in each corner to strengthen the corners, but take care not to make the canvas too tight. Painting will tend to make the canvas shrink. Lastly trim the canvas to about 1/8th inch from the edge of the frame. This is so that when placed next to another flat the stronger wooden edges will butt together to avoid damaging the canvas.

Typical Scenic Flat

The top of the frame is called the "Top Rail"

This is a "French Brace", it is fixed to a flat with hinges then weighted down.

The horizontal braces are called "Toggle Bars". The sides are called "Stiles".

The bottom of the frame is called the "Bottom Rail". This doorway also has a "Sill Iron" to stop the opening from splaying.

A typical set will require a number of flats usually to represent an interior setting. The flats need to be placed on the stage and supported with weighted braces. Each flat should be secured to the next one using a cord (like a sash cord) fixed to the top of one flat and tightly passed around fixings on the two flats, the cord being securely made off at the bottom.