For Narnia! A Stone Table Made from Wood

Whenever my kids start a new activity, I inevitably get sucked into it myself. This time it was a play at my local community theater. My youngest daughter landed the role of Lucy in a stage version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and at first I did my best to step back and let her do her thing. But when the crew had trouble engineering a collapsing stone table for Aslan to be slain on, my wife asked me to help.

The table had been partially built, but if you know the story, then you know that the stone table has to break in half at a very important scene. They were having trouble getting it to collapse and go back together reliably.

Building sets is nothing like my usual approach to woodworking. I love to build things using special wood (often boards I have sawn from logs myself) put together with traditional joinery and crafted to last a lifetime. But for a stage play, everything is built from cheap construction-grade pine, lots of deck screws, and a couple layers of paint. Every object is meant to be used only X number of times and then disassembled or discarded.

So I grabbed my power drills and a circular saw and went to work on the thing. The only hand tool I used was a (very dull) handsaw, with which I cut a couple sharp corners off some plywood.

Opening night wasn’t far off, so speed was essential. (I took no process pictures.) The finished object has a plywood top with three supports. The supports on each end are hinged to a plywood base. That allows the whole thing to be carried on and off stage in a single piece. The central pillar is removable. When pulled out from the back, the two halves of the table drop down into a “broken” position.

For the record, I was responsible only for the engineering and the frame. The painting was done by others. I have no idea what the runic inscription is supposed to say–or whether those are even actual runes. But it looks cool, and that’s enough for the theater.

Here’s how it works: at the end of the scene in which Aslan is killed by the White Witch, the lights go out, and the actor playing Aslan gets up off the table and pulls out the central support. The audience hears a “bang!” as the two halves of the table fall and hit the base. The lights go back on as Lucy and Susan run onstage to find the stone table broken and Aslan’s body gone. It was a pretty effective prop, if I do say so myself.

Halfway through the show, however, the hinges at the bottom of each leg started coming off their plywood base. So I had to put in longer screws that ran all the way through the base. Then I cut off the points flush with an angle grinder.

My woodworking projects don’t usually involve this many sparks flying. But it this is theater, after all, and it makes for a fun picture!

Like I said–not my usual style of woodworking, but I enjoyed it.

Along the way, I managed to get roped into a few other odd jobs too. I had to repair the wardrobe itself once or twice. And I ended up making a shield for Peter to carry. It’s just a sheet of luan plywood screwed to some curved pine battens on the back. I used some scraps of leather for the handles.

My son got to model the shield for us before I handed it off to the crew to be painted. And although the stone table got disassembled after the show ended, I’m pretty sure this shield has made its way into the prop room and will probably show up in another show eventually. I should have signed it.

Best of all, the play was very well received by the audience. Nearly every night was sold out, and my daughter has gotten a real taste for the stage. It was her first acting gig, but it certainly won’t be her last. Which means that this won’t be my last foray into building props and sets, either.

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3 Responses to For Narnia! A Stone Table Made from Wood

  1. Meryl Logue says:

    Would you be so kind as to sign your posts? I have no idea who this is!


  2. Sylvain says:

    Best whishes for 2023.

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