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Feb 22 / Scott

Letterpress on the stage

One of the many other “hats” I wear when I’m not cutting wood type is Technical Theater. I helped to start  one of the most successful High School theater programs in Ohio about 35 years ago. For 20 years I designed and built the sets and props for plays and musicals. I have been told that very few Industrial Arts programs will work with their schools drama program. I always saw it as a practical application of the student’s metal and woodworking skills.

For the past 15 years I have still been involved with the theater program.

32" wood front wheel for prop bike

I build specialized props and set pieces that the current technical director does not have time to complete. Building the interesting and creative props allow me to keep involved with high school theater students after I gave up being the Technical Director.

I am currently building “Maurice’s Wood Chopping Invention”. Think of it as a six foot  long mix of a “Big Wheel” bike with a wood chipper. The script calls for parts to fall off on cue, make noise when it moves and chop five fake basswood logs in half while the student who is playing Maurice pedals like crazy to power the machine.

The over size front wheel has to move the machine, steer it around the stage, and power the chopper. I decided the flywheel from an Old Style 10 x 15” Chandler & Price printing press was the perfect solution. However, it could only weigh 30 pounds, not 250.

Using poplar wood, epoxy, screws and wood glue I completed the new front wheel in only 3 days.  A 24” steel replacement garden wheel provided a lightweight, solid core. It will eventually get a bicycle gears, bike drive chains and two recycled bicycle pedals. 

The outer ring will be painted to look like old wood, and the flywheel center painted and detailed to look like the C&P press at the Printer’s Hall in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

See…letterpress does have a place on the big stage!


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