The Inner Workings of Stock Soft Flats


The students will demonstrate their knowledge on the various pieces and parts of both hard and soft stock flats and the steps in building one by participating in a flat Olympics.


Materials Needed

Model of a flat Four full sized flats Cards with flat parts labeled on them: 2 Stiles, 2 Rails, 2 Toggles, 2 Corner Braces, 4 Corner Blocks, 4 Straps, 4 Half-Straps, Various Nail Configuration Choices (need 4 sets; one for each group) Four rolls of tape


Related Documents

Lesson One Document with lesson details


Lesson Directions


Anticipatory Set/Hook

Write the words: rail, toggle, stile, strap, corner block, and corner brace on the black board. Have the students write the definitions of the words on a piece of paper. (definitions can be anything such as: strap-object, such as a tree branch or piece of leather, used to punish children; binding on a snowboard; bracing piece on a scenic flat)



Step 1: Ask for volunteers to give their definitions to the words. After all the words have been given a verbal definition by the students tell them that these are actually all pieces of a scenic flat (definition in flat terms will be given throughout lesson).


Step 2: Rails and Stiles

-Draw two rails on the board and two stiles. -Describe to the students that the rail always overlaps the ends of the stile to prevent the wood from snagging on the floor when the flat is dragged. -Tell the students that 1×3’ and 1×4’ are the standard sizes of lumber used -Show the students the rails and stiles on the model.


Step 3: Toggles

-Add two toggles to the drawing.
-Ask the students why they think toggles are necessary (they add support and strength to the flat and maintain the distance between the stiles).
-Teach the students that toggles should be every 3-6 feet.
-Tell the students that 1×3 and 1×4 are the standard sizes of lumber used
-Show the students the rails and stiles on the model.


Step 4: Corner Braces

-Draw in the corner braces.
-Corner braces can be placed in a variety of distances from the corner. Typically a 3 foot board with 45 degree angles at each end will force the corner brace into an adequate position.
-Each flat needs two corner braces. They should be against the same stile.
-Before putting in corner braces make sure the flat is square (measure from diagonal corners and they should be the same length.)
-The standard size of lumber used for corner braces is 1×3’
-Show the students the corner braces on the model.


Step 5: Corner Blocks

-Draw in the corner blocks.
-They should be inset by 3/4” so that other flats can easily be butted into them.
-The grain of corner blocks should run against the 90 degree angle of the block.
-1/4” ply-wood is the standard for corner blocks
-Show the students the corner blocks on the model.


Step 6: Straps and Half-Straps

-Draw in the straps and half straps.
-Straps should be as wide as the toggle minus 1/4”
-Straps are 8” long
-Straps should be placed ¾” in from the edge of the stile
-Half-straps are as wide as the corner brace minus 1/4”
-Half-straps are 8” on the long side with a 45 degree angle on each end
-Half-straps should be placed ¾” in from the edge of the stile and rail
-The grain for both Straps and Half-straps should run parallel to the long side of the strap
-1/4” ply-wood is the standard for Straps and Half-straps
-Show the students the straps and half-straps on the model


Step 7: Securing the Parts:

Tell the students that all pieces should be glued and nailed (stiles only glued to rails, no nails)
-Add to the drawing the placement of nails for the corner Block, Straps, and Half-Straps


Step 8: Putting on the Muslin

-Tell the students that they will need a piece of muslin the size of the flat with an additional inch around each side.
-Place regular Elmer’s glue along the front side of the rails and stiles (not the toggles).
-Put the muslin across the frame stretching it tight.
-Either let the glue dry or place in small staple before proceeding to the next step
-Make a mixture of ½ Elmer’s glue and ½ water. With a paintbrush, cover the muslin with the glue/water mixture. Let dry (this stretches the muslin tight and makes it more durable and workable).
-With a utility knife trim off any extra muslin sticking over the edge of the stiles and rails.


Step 9: Hard Flats

Tell the students that hard flats are essentially the same. They do not need any of the bracing pieces (corner blocks and braces) however, because the ¼” ply-wood acts as a bracing piece. The ¼” ply-wood should be screwed in on the rails, stiles, and toggles


Step 10: Cut List

Explain to the students how to make a cut list for a flat.
-Most common wood used is 1×3’ and 1×4’. Both of these are in actuality ¾”x 2 ½” and ¾” x 3 ½”
-When making a cut list these differences have to be taken into account
Example Cut Lists 4×8’ Flat using 1×4’2 Rails @ 4’-0”2 Stiles @ 7’-5”1 Toggles @ 3’-5”2 Corner Braces 4 Corner Blocks4 Straps4 Half-Straps 3×9 Flat using 1×3’2 Rails @ 3’-0”2 Stiles @ 8’-7”1 Toggles @ 2’-7”2 Corner Braces 4 Corner Blocks4 Straps4 Half-Straps


Step 11: Take the students to…

the theater where 4 soft wood flats will be set up with the back side showing. Divide them into 4 groups and have them stand in a straight line in front of one flat. Hand the group pieces of paper with the name of each part of the flat written on it and a roll of tape. On the signal the first person in each group has to run to their flat and put their label in the correct spot. They then run back and hit the next person’s hand. The group who labels the entire flat correctly first wins. (while checking each group’s flat make sure to correct all mistakes so the students know what the correct pieces are.)





Author’s Notes

The nail points could not be marked electronically, so be sure to mark them for your students.