During a show I worked on, the scenic designer designed a sign that would fly in and be able to “fall down.” I was tasked with building these signs. Pictured above are the scenic designer's renderings.
Starting with the ground plans, I made a cut list. Both of the letters have two frames with spacers connecting them. I starting by making one of the frames, I placed everything together on the floor, and when I liked how it looked, I tacked it into place. Once it was tacked, I went through and welded three of the four sides.
Next, I made a second version of the original frame. A good way to do this is to place it directly over the old one using metal clamps to keep them in place. However, I did not do this - I made a second frame without referencing the first. When I lined them up, they did not match. I then did it the correct way by lining them up and fixing my mistakes. This was a long and tedious process. There were no pictures taken during this mishap.
After both frames were welded together, I cut out the spacers for the frames. Much like before, I tacked the spacers into place and then welded them after I was happy with the mock up.
The backing on the letters are made of ¾” plywood. I laid the frame on the plywood and marked it with a Sharpie. I waited to cut the plywood until after the J was done.
Creating the J was a similar process. The tricky part here was creating the curved part. I did a version of a kerf – this is done by taking the outer circumference of the curved, and subtracting the inner circumference, and dividing by 1/8” (the width of the blade). That gives the number of cuts I had to make evenly across the total length. When cutting the metal I went about 80 percent of the way down. After scoring the metal, I bent it where the cuts were.
Once all that was done, I tacked it together and then welded it together, following the same steps as I used for the A.
I then cut the letters out of the plywood using a circular saw and a jigsaw.
After cutting out the shapes, I attached them to the metal frame with self-tapping screws (I had to drill a pilot hole, then screw into the wood). Because this would be hanging above people heads, I also added bolts at the corners for added safety. Before attaching the plywood to the frames, I cut the holes for the lights with a hole saw, according to the ground plan. Looking back, it would have been better to do this beforehand.
Next it was sent to the scenic and lighting departments for rigging and lights.