Building the Hourglass

As I mentioned yesterday, our only real set element for Good Friday and Easter was the pair of hourglasses (we're actually not sure what to call them; that term was coined by one of our A2s and it stuck) we built from EMT and landscaping tape. They did look great however. We spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out the best way to build them, so I thought I’d let you in on that process.

First of all, the original design was borrowed from Chestnut Ridge Church in Morgantown, WV. Actually, if you look at what they did on ChurchStageDesignIdeas, theirs came out way better. But we were pressed for time and what we came up with worked OK for our purposes. 

The guys at Chestnut Ridge used aluminum square stock for the top and bottom rods; I ended up using 3/4” EMT (electrical conduit). I used EMT for 2 reasons; first, I know I can buy it cheap at Home Depot; and second, because I need a bunch of it anyway for a project in our student room. I tried to scale the original design to figure out how big it was, but at the end of the day, it needed to fit our stage. So we went with 15’ long top and bottom bars. 

After looking around for a while, I settled on 2” white taffeta marking tape from Graniger. We spaced ours with 4” between each piece. When we started building them, we would measure each one, but then it occurred to me that if we made marks every 6”, we could just lay it out that way much faster. 

To build them, we first assembled the 15’ lengths of EMT using a standard coupling. The EMT was hung from the truss using safety cables. Given that the total hanging weight was something on the order of 12 pounds (probably not even that), I wasn’t worried about safety. The safeties were about 3’ in from each end, so I knew they wouldn’t slip.

We raised the lift up to a comfortable height with two of us up top and two working on the floor. Up in the air, we had two rolls of the tape. After gaffing our ends to the pipe, we dropped them down to the guys on the floor, who crossed them end for end. We were careful to make sure the tape didn’t twist up on the way down. We worked from the ends toward the center. After they team on the floor cut and taped their ends down, they threw the rolls back up to us.

This became quite a competition between the two teams, as it turned out. Much fun and laughter ensued. 

I should point out that we laid the floor pipe out so that the center point was in the same place vertically, but it was turned about 30° to the top piece. This gave us a bit of twist to the design; something that you couldn’t really tell from the floor, but made it a little easier to light.

Speaking of lighting, we used six ColorBlasts to light each one; three on top and three on the floor. The taffeta tape took lighting really well, and it looked very even across the entire piece. Because it was only about 25% opaque at the top and bottom, we were also able to throw light through it when necessary. 

I think we spent less than $70 on the entire thing and it took us about 2 hours to build. A big shout out to Brandy Gibson at Chestnut Ridge for the inspiration. It was easy, cheap and looked great. What else could you want from a set design?

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