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How to Build a Portable Stage

By Anne Hirsh ; Updated September 15, 2017
Put on a show using portable staging.

Portable staging can be used for a variety of purposes, such as holiday celebrations, graduations, music performances and plays. Commercial portable staging can be prohibitively expensive to purchase for smaller performance groups, but by using standard theater construction techniques you can build your own portable staging that will hold up for many performances. It will likely be heavier than commercial portable staging, but you can build it with items all easily found at your local home improvement store. The amount of each item will vary by the number of platforms you need, but basic construction consists of 4-by-8-foot platforms.

Cut five 2-by-4s to 3 feet 9 inches long. Lay out two full-length (8 feet) 2-by-4s on the ground on their 2-inch edges, then place the cut pieces of 2-by-4 between these two pieces, also on their 2-inch edges, with one at each end, one in the center, and one 2 feet in from each end. This should give you a 4-by-8-foot rectangle (the actual thickness of the 2-inch side is really only 1½ inches) with three supports spaced at about 2-foot intervals.

Drill pilot holes slightly smaller than the non-threaded portions of your 3-inch screws through the side of one of the 8-foot pieces and about ½ inch into the end of the cut piece, then insert a screw to fasten them together. Pilot holes keep the wood from splitting when you insert the screws. Drill two holes and insert two screws to attach each cut piece to both of the 8-foot boards. This is your platform's frame.

Align your plywood on top of the frame and screw it to the frame using a 1¼-inch screw every 12 to 15 inches. Fasten the corners first, then fill in the rest. Make sure the screw heads sink in all the way until they are flush with the wood.

Determine how tall you want the platform to be, then subtract the actual thickness of your plywood, which may be slightly under ¾ inches, from that height. Cut 10 pieces of plywood at that length for your platform legs. Take two legs and align the 2-inch side of one along the edge of the 4-inch side of the other so it forms an L shape when you look at it from the short ends. Screw them together in this shape, then do the same for three more pairs.

Turn your platform upside down and place your L-shaped legs inside each corner of the platform and clamp them in place with C-clamps. Drill holes the width of your bolts all the way through both the platform edge and the leg, with one bolt on each face of the L, resulting in two bolts per leg. Clamp your remaining two legs near the middle of the platform's edge and drill two bolt holes in each.

Drill holes with a 1-inch spade bit about ¼ inch into the platform's frame using each of the bolt holes as a center. These are called countersink holes and will make it so your bold heads are flush with the surface of the wood and not sticking out, which wouldn't allow you to attach multiple platforms together. Make sure the holes are deep enough for the bolt head and a washer.

Bolt the legs to your platform using a washer on either side of the wood to keep the bolt head and nut from sinking too deeply into the wood. Turn the platform upright again and paint, if desired.

Fasten multiple platforms together by crawling underneath and bolting them together with two bolts per platform side in the same way you bolted on the legs. Countersink holes are not necessary. Bolt together as many platforms as you need to create an adequate stage size.

Remove all the bolts to disassemble the stage and store the platforms and legs separately.

Tip

If your platform height is too low to be crawled under, you may need to install an item called a rotolock or coffin lock in each platform during construction. These locks and their installation instructions can be found at theatrical supply houses.

Warning

Platforms more than 20 inches high should be cross-braced by attaching an additional 2-by-4 inside the legs on the long side of the platform, at a diagonal. This stabilizes the legs.

About the Author

Anne Hirsh has been writing and editing for over 10 years. She has hands-on experience in cooking, visual arts and theater as well as writing experience covering wellness and animal-related topics. She also has extensive research experience in marketing, small business, Web development and SEO. Hirsh has a bachelor's degree in technical theater and English and post-baccalaureate training in writing and computer software.