Build a Fireplace Prop for the Stage

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We need to build a fireplace for our local dance studio. They have been using a fireplace created from cardboard covered in fabric for a decade now. The hope is that this one lasts for another decade of Twas the Night Before Xmas.

Step 1: Design

I created the design in Visio, but you can use any design program. I recommend:

I had a couple of requirements:

  • 6 foot tall in order to hide dancers standing behind the fireplace.
  • Door opening wide and tall enough for Santa to comfortably back through.
  • Stable enough that it won't knock over with adults and kids moving through it.
  • Comes apart to make it easy to transport and move on/off stage.

I chose to build with 2" EPS styrofoam. It is sturdy, easy to cut and glue, and very light. The resulting dimensions ended up:

  • 6' tall
  • 7' wide
  • 18" deep

Designing in Visio is a great way to check dimensions and perspective. I found it was also really good for laying out the cuts on my styrofoam. This allowed me to make more efficient cuts and quickly knew which piece to cut next.

Step 2: Tools and Supplies

Tools
  • Jig Saw - great for cutting styrofoam
  • Heat Gun
  • Oscillating multi-tool
  • Soldering Iron - carving wood grain into styrofoam
  • Utility Knife
  • Drywall T-Square
  • Sharpie

Supplies

Step 3: Cut and Glue

Cut

Using the diagram I made, it was fairly easy to use the T-Square to measure and mark the lines. A black sharpie works great on the styrofoam.

Glue

When working for Gorilla Glue there are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Clamp
  2. Clamp
  3. Clamp

It really likes to expand as it dries. That is what makes it such an awesome glue for this project and as equally frustrating. Spread it as thin as you possibly can. The small paint brushes were great for this. I bought a big box of them from Harbor Freight and went through a handful of them while I glued together each section. The glue is not very thin but take your time and really spread it out to all of the edges.

Clamp

I used a combination of clamps as well as a couple of boxes of laminate flooring (nice and heavy) to keep things in place while each section dried. There will be bleeding of the glue, but it is easy to cut and shape along with the styrofoam in the next step.

Step 4: Create Grout and Wood Grain

Once the pieces have been assembled you can clean up the edges and cut your grout lines.

Grout

I used the oscillating multi-tool to clean off glue that had bled through the seam and any imperfections. The utility knife would work well for this as well.

I created a brick pattern out of scrap styrofoam. I modeled after my actual fireplace and drew on the grout lines with my sharpie, alternating the vertical lines as I went.

Using the utility knife it is pretty quick and easy to cut the lines in a V pattern. I cut one side, then the other and it looks great!

Wood Grain

I carved in the wood grain with my soldering iron. This was just too much fun to play with. I started by carving in two straight lines to make it look like the mantle was made from three large boards. Then I just started carving. This video is what inspired me to tackle this:

Wood Grain Foam Carving Tutorial by Nikki!

Step 5: Texture

Once your grout and wood grain are cut, it is time to hit this with the heat gun. I recommend practicing on a scrap piece of styrofoam with grout lines cut into it. Keep your heat gun on low and have fun.

We started by focusing on the grout and smoothing out the V that we cut out. It will smooth out nicely and melt away any imperfections in your cuts.

Next focus on the face of the bricks. This is a good time to give them some good texture and melt out little chunks here and there.

Step 6: Paint

Paint the Grout.

This is easy and you can be a bit sloppy. I also painted the base this same color grey.

Roll the Red

I rolled on the red. Since the grout lines are cut out you can roll right over top. It doesn't give a perfect edge, which is exactly what you want. There was a little white showing through the brick, a little gray from the grout and when done it looked much better than I expected.

Dab the Brown

With the somewhat deep wood grain, it took a lot of dabbing in the brown paint. I started with the top flipped over as I was trying to avoid dripping onto the brick.

Touch-ups

We went back through with all of the colors, including black, and touched up edges. We also added some more color to the bricks to give a bit of realism.

Step 7: Final Touches

Keystone

We created a keystone out of some 1" styrofoam, painted it run and attached with hot glue

Curtain

We also created a curtain in the back with a lycra material in black. We wanted to ensure it wasn't a material that would stick to costumes. It is split up the center and flows nicely. We attached this to 1/2" plywood cut into a 1" strip. We drilled 8 holes and attached to the back with 6" screws. We put a dab of Gorilla Glue at the end of each screw to ensure they wouldn't pop out.

Conclusion

This looks great on stage. The kids had a blast and now onto the next project...

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