Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

New Tech Booths


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For our kids and students wing renovation, I’m building three new tech booths. Having worked in a few dozen tech booths in the past, I’ve been collecting a list of things I like and don’t like about those other ones. I’ve seen a few major issues with tech booths in students rooms; namely, when built out of studs and drywall, the drywall always gets torn up, and the walls tend to get a bit loose. I’ve also seen more than one countertop start to sag because they’re using standard kitchen countertops that are designed to be supported along their entire length. Also, most of the time, the top ledge becomes a perfect resting place for all manner of detritus—including drinks—that eventually get spilled into the console. Finally, the cable situation tends to become a mess pretty quickly. 

We’re going to try to remedy those issues with our booths. First, while they will be built out of standard lumber, I’m skinning them in 1/2” AC plywood instead of drywall. This will both increase the ruggedness of the surface, and lend considerable strength to the structure. It will also make it easier to attach things inside the booth. For countertops, we’re going to Sweden. Well, sort of. Ikea sells a 1 1/8” thick solid beech countertop for $60 for a 8’ length. It can be stained, painted or just sealed (which is what we’ll do). We’ll support it with heavy-duty shelf supports lag-bolted to the studs. We also hold the counter off the back wall by 1 1/2” giving us a continuous run to bring cables up and down.


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Part of the design that will be tricky to build but will pay huge dividends over time is the sloped top. I call if the “beverage resistant cap.” The tops of all the walls will be sloped outward at 22.5° to keep anyone from putting anything on them. Figuring out the compound miters is tricky but worth it. 

To keep cable management clean, we’ll be using slotted wire duct that we bought from CableOrganizer.com. This duct will run from the wall (where our conduits open to an access panel) to the back wall of the booth for easy access to the gear. By keeping all the cable in the duct, we eliminate those awkward, “I just unplugged a cable with my foot” moments all too common in small tech booths. 

The floor of the booth will be raised; it’s a simple frame of 2×8’s with 3/4” plywood glued and screwed down. The glue part is important—how many booths have you been in where the floor squeaks every time you move? Too many is the answer. For a few dollars in construction adhesive, we will eliminate that. We’re also putting a half-door in each booth. I’m taking some construction details from deck building and anchoring my uprights for the door jamb all the way down to the bottom edge of my joists to be sure that doesn’t move. The door won’t provide any real security, but will keep curious younger kids out of there. 

Finally, to make construction as simple as possible, I’ve sized everything consistently. We will be able to batch-cut all the parts, distribute them to the rooms and screw everything together very quickly. The designs are such that there is only one piece that will be difficult to fabricate (the 1×6 top cap), so it can all be done quickly and with not highly skilled labor. I also spent a lot of time developing a complete set of working drawings for each booth to make it easy to build.


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This image shows a lof of dimensions; I actually hide some of them for various angles to make it easier to read.

In a few weeks, you’ll be seeing pictures of the real thing, and we’ll talk about some of our cable building techniques. 

UPDATE: Since I’ve had several requests for them, here is a Sketchup file of one of these booths. You’ll have to play with it to get full dimensions, but you’ll figure it out. END UPDATE

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9 Comments

  1. Scott

    What about some type of insulation (cheapest kind would do) in at least the floor to prevent the hollow boom sound when one moves around? I've found that even carpet does help!

  2. grasseynoel@gmail.com

    Any thoughts about how to work out dimensions. Of course you need space for the gear, but how much room for operators, assistants and groupies.

  3. grasseynoel@gmail.com

    Any thoughts about how to work out dimensions. Of course you need space for the gear, but how much room for operators, assistants and groupies.

  4. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Scott,
    We're using 3/4 plywood, glued and screwed on 16" centers, and then carpeting it. That should work reasonably well.

    Noel,
    I keep groupies to the minium, and basically figured enough space behind the desk for two chairs (as modeld in Sketchup).
    mike

  5. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Scott,
    We're using 3/4 plywood, glued and screwed on 16" centers, and then carpeting it. That should work reasonably well.

    Noel,
    I keep groupies to the minium, and basically figured enough space behind the desk for two chairs (as modeld in Sketchup).
    mike

  6. rbush@d3s.org

    How funny, just last year we made this EXACT same booth for our youth room, complete with 45 degree angled top so the kids can't rest drinks on it. I should take some pictures and send them to you as it turned out really good. We went with two layers of 3/4" plywood glued together and glued a laminate top on it for the countertop, and then routed the edges against some finished trim. It is INCREDIBLY strong and looks great.

    Two things we did that I don't see on your drawings…

    1) We added a secret door on the outside of the booth that gave us access to the XLR/TRS connectors on the back of the board, and another secret door that gave us access to the back of the rack we have under the countertop. These secret doors made it absolutely invaluable for dealing with cabling. In our case, we had decorative wood molding (like cabinet doors) on the outside of the booth, so the secret doors can hardly be seen since they just look like part of the molding and they have a latch on the inside that must be released before they will open.

    2) We ran our raised floor joists the other direction so that we could create a channel from the back wall to the front of the booth to run all the cables. We then created another secret door that can access this entire channel for future cable runs. This is basically your same conduit solution, on the cheap side…

  7. rbush@d3s.org

    How funny, just last year we made this EXACT same booth for our youth room, complete with 45 degree angled top so the kids can't rest drinks on it. I should take some pictures and send them to you as it turned out really good. We went with two layers of 3/4" plywood glued together and glued a laminate top on it for the countertop, and then routed the edges against some finished trim. It is INCREDIBLY strong and looks great.

    Two things we did that I don't see on your drawings…

    1) We added a secret door on the outside of the booth that gave us access to the XLR/TRS connectors on the back of the board, and another secret door that gave us access to the back of the rack we have under the countertop. These secret doors made it absolutely invaluable for dealing with cabling. In our case, we had decorative wood molding (like cabinet doors) on the outside of the booth, so the secret doors can hardly be seen since they just look like part of the molding and they have a latch on the inside that must be released before they will open.

    2) We ran our raised floor joists the other direction so that we could create a channel from the back wall to the front of the booth to run all the cables. We then created another secret door that can access this entire channel for future cable runs. This is basically your same conduit solution, on the cheap side…

  8. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Those are good ideas, Rob! We've accommodated the access in a slightly different way, and I like the joist direction idea. Just goes to show there is more than one way to do something and still get a great result.

    Thanks for sharing!
    mike

  9. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Those are good ideas, Rob! We've accommodated the access in a slightly different way, and I like the joist direction idea. Just goes to show there is more than one way to do something and still get a great result.

    Thanks for sharing!
    mike

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