How to succeed at stage construction (while really trying)

Pam and Karl finish framing the stage

Pam and Karl finish framing the stage

As it turns out, building a stage is difficult.

But it’s awfully nice to play music on one.  Pam and Karl took this challenge head-on, spending a good chunk of last weekend framing out a generously proportioned stage for the studio.  The frame is a large, basically trapezoidal shape made from screwed-together 2×6′s, all of which rest directly on the floor.  The joists are on 16 inch centers, an echo of typical floor construction techniques despite the fact that the structure will simply rest on the existing floor.

See the holes in the joists?  The stage will sit directly atop the room’s main heating vent, and the holes help allow air to flow under the stage and out the 5 rectangular openings on the stage’s front edge.  Clever, huh?

I returned from a weekend out of town to find the frame in a basically complete state.  I have some amazing friends :)

The great flooring debate

While the framing design was fairly straightforward, I had a few more headaches about what to put on top of the frame!  Initially, I had intended to just use plain plywood sheeting on top, probably painted black.  But as time went on, this sounded less appealing as I considered the possibility of using hardwood flooring instead.  I love the look and feel underfoot of hardwood floors, and I love playing music in a room with one – so why not treat the stage as if it were a room under construction and floor it with real hardwood?

I thought this might mean being able to skip having a plywood layer altogether, but my coworkers quickly disavowed me of that idea – the plywood subfloor makes it much easier to nail down hardwood, as well as providing a stiffer, more robust floor surface.

So the current plan is:

  • Install plywood subfloor
  • Install ‘stairnose’ trim around the edge of the stage to give a reasonable looking transition
  • Install tongue-and-groove hardwood!

Now, I’ve done some instrument building projects and know my way around hand tools, but actual carpentry and construction is something I’ve never really done.  How thick should the plywood subfloor be?   Should I use nails or screws to attach it to the frame?  What’s the best way to choose flooring and trim?  Guess what?  I still don’t know the best answers to these questions – but one by one, I’m taking a reasonable guess :)

The Subfloor Show with Karl and Michael

Rest on his laurels?  Not Karl.  Not content with having spent his entire weekend framing with Pam, Karl clocked in for Round 2 to help me install the subfloor on top of the frame.

This actually went surprisingly quickly – in stark contrast to the large amounts of geometry and paper calculations that went into framing the stage, sheeting it with plywood was mostly a matter of directly marking cut lines and circular-sawing a few sheets of plywood into submission. 


Karl marks another piece to cut

There’s a bit of puzzle-piece action in figuring out how to most efficiently use the 4′x8′ sheets of plywood to cover this odd shape.  But basically this was a matter of drill, screw in a screw, saw off the overhang (after carefully marking a saw line and setting up a 2′x4′ as a guide) and repeat until exhausted.


Plywood subfloor complete, stage lighting for dramatic effect.  Ready for the hardwood layer!

Plywood subfloor complete, stage lighting for dramatic effect. Ready for the hardwood layer!


It took about 4 hours to buy all the material and complete the project.  Not exactly blazingly fast, but not too bad either.  Now the stage is ready ti be covered in hardwood!  

Stay tuned for more exciting updates.  A lot has got to happen in the next 9 days :)

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