A girl can dream, right? A movie screen in the comfort of my own house? Nearly nine feet of cinematic goodness at my disposal? It could be available all times day or night, no loud humans, no chomping, no cell phones, no whining kids, no stink of sweat and stale popcorn, no $9 ticket, no snotty teenager droning as they tear your stub (with about as much enthusiasm as one can muster for a mammogram or prostrate exam) “Down the hall…… to your left…… theater 9…… enjoy the show.”
“How could I ever make this dream come true?” You ask. Well, my plan was to live about 40 years, fix my bad credit choices, keep a good job, buy a house, marry a cool guy who loves movies as much as I do, let that husband buy a projector, and build my own screen.
That’s about it. Easy peazy. As for advice on the credit, job, real estate, or marriage, to be honest I just kind of winged it, so good luck with all that. The screen however, THAT is something I can offer a step by step guide that will send you into movie watching bliss for sure. At least that’s how it happened in our house. I’m living the dream!
I’ll get right too it, no fiddling around here, it’s time to build this thing.
- Work with your projector to determine where you’re going to put it
- Find where on the wall vertically (up and down) the center of the image will be
- Determine the measurements of your available wall space, height and length
- Determine the measurements of the size of the projected image, height and length
- Keep in mind you will need to add the width of your frame (x2) in inches on the height and length to allow for the full size
Screen sizing calculator at Projector Central.
- 2 – 4x1x8 pieces of Fir or other semi-hard unfinished wood (supposed to be 4″, but ours turned out to be about 3.75″ each)
- 2 – 4x1x6 pieces of Fir or other semi-hard unfinished wood (supposed to be 4″, but ours turned out to be about 3.75″ each)
- 3 yards of White on White blackout fabric 54″ wide
- 3 yards of Flat Black felt at least 36″ wide
- 4 – 4” L-Brackets w/ ¾” screw
- 6 – ¾” screws – #10
- 3 – 1” screws – #10 at least.
- 3 – 14” pieces of 20 gauge wire
Tools and Hardware:
- Powerful Staple Gun – electric recommended with 3/16 inch staples
- Glue stick
- Needle nose Pliers
- Miter Box and Saw – Unless you have someone to cut it for you to your exact specs.
Building the Frame:
Once we figured out what size we needed, it was time to cut the mitered ends of the boards. For a starting point I used the measurement of the image we would be projecting, 88″ x 55″. That is not the outside measurements of the frame. To allow for the 3.75″ wide frame we found the size of image we could manage on our wall and added 7.5″ to each measurement. Our finished frame should turn out to be 94″x 57″.
We made the first 45º cut a few inches from the end of one of the 8′ boards. Cut off as little as you possibly can so you don’t end up with a board that’s too short.
From the “inside” of the cut, where the angle 135º (not the pointy side), we measured 88” for the long sides, 50″ on the short sides, marked it, and flipped the board around to make the next cut. Remember to keep the short side short, long side long. Don’t cut your angle the wrong direction, that would send you back out to the wood selling store or you would have to resort to having a shorter screen to correct your mistake.
Remember, this is just a big picture frame. The idea is just that basic. Cut the corners to fit together, carefully and precisely, and all will be harmonious in your home theater. If you don’t take the time to measure correctly, cut accurately, and assembly it well, you will notice every imperfection each time you watch a movie. “Measure twice, cut once” or in our case, “Measure four times, and again, and then cut it, and then measure it again.”
So, on with the cutting. We did this 8 times until all 4 pieces were the correct length and the angles were all going the right direction. No fingers were lost in the sawing of the wood. Always a bonus.
I was so thrilled to see it lying on the floor, just a groovy big picture frame like I said. It was so cool. I loved it just like that. Alas, there was more to be done.
I will return to this crazy new idea of making frames with pieces of wood some other day and put artwork in them…oh how original! Time to get the black felt slapped on this baby.
I Felt It:
Wrapping the boards, no problem. The trick was to start by going to the center of the wood, pull both sides of the felt up around the board and staple one side, and then tug to make it just tight enough, not stretched or putting any pressure on the first staple, but enough to make sure it stayed taught with no slack on the front. I shot in my second staple and thus, the felting had begun.
From there I just picked a direction and started tugging at about a 1.5 to 2 inch intervals between staples. I did one on a side and the one directly opposite and back and forth and so on and so on until I got to the end. DO NOT go all along one side and then attempt to do the other side hoping it will come out straight. It won’t. I had to work with the fabric bit by bit to keep the tension across the board until I get the end without any gaps or puckers.
I kept in mind that the brackets would go on next, so on the ends I placed the staples closer to the edge of the board to make room for the screws. I didn’t want to pull out any staples and risk ripping the felt.
Those Damn Corners!:
A theme for this frame build was “stare at it a lot”. This was the method used when it was time to do the bloody corners on the ends.
If someone has a full proof way to get cloth wrapped around, and stapled down, without leaving a large bulk on the end, please let me know. This is how I finally got it to work for me. It’s hard to explain, but if you focus real hard you will understand my cryptic instructions.
My staring and many attempts at manipulating the fabric around the corner lead me to one conclusion, “No matter how I get this done, a smooth tidy front side is what counts.” There are a lot of ways to do this part of the project, but they don’t all end up with a nicely covered mitered corner to fit together with the other frame pieces.
I wanted to come up with a way to get the felt around the end of each board and keep a relatively smooth finished on the front and with as little bulk of fabric on the cut end as possible.
Check out my attempt at showing you how I cut the end of the felt. The template, if you will, shows the cuts I made when the felt was stapled up to about 2 inches from the end of the board. I would not recommend cutting the felt before you do the stapling. You don’t know how much it will stretch or get out of whack by the time you get to the end and then your cuts won’t really work out.
The two “glue it” tabs folded down onto the cut side of the mitered edge. I used the glue stick to secure them and then wrapped the end piece up and around, tucking in any tiny bulging edges and making sure no board could be seen from the front side. The sides were last and I pulled them as taught as I could without making the fabric crooked or making any puckers on the front. I used several staples to hold the ends in place, but again, made sure I left some room for the screws that I needed for the brackets.
Assemble the Frame:
The 4 flat corner brackets came in pretty handy just about now. Have your helper push each corner together with some brute force, making sure the tips of each board are even to make a nice tidy finished corner. Screw the bracket in place with the ¾” screws that come with them. Use all of the screws if possible, remember, those staples can’t be in the way.
Look at it! It’s all coming together. My stapling arm needed a break so I gazed at the size of it for a while, dreaming a little bit more about what it was going to look like in the very near future.
I made some lunch. I had a cup of tea. I plotted and planned my next move, and then I got back to work. Precious time’s a wasting. I was past the point of no return…I had get this thing DONE.
The Big Screen:
Ahhh, time for something relaxing, calming, like staple, walk around a big frame, staple, walk around a big frame, staple, walk around a big frame, etc. etc. etc. for about an hour or so. It’s not that bad really. I’m just saying, this is not the sexiest part of making your new movie screen. I like the process because it’s like making an art canvas, almost.
The blackout fabric lays on the back of the frame. In contrast, an art canvas goes on the front of the frame and wraps around. For my dream movie screen I had to make sure I put the right side of the cloth facing the right way, right? This blackout cloth is white on white. One side is more textured and that became the back of the screen. The front is the smooth almost rubbery side of the material.
To recap, the frame is a total of 94″ x 57″. I cut the fabric to 92″ long and left it at it’s original 54″ width. That overlaps the back of the frame enough to secure it. It’s better to have too much. You can always trim it, but you can’t put it back on once you start cutting. I didn’t want gaps to show from the front so I kept the staples away from the inside edge of each board so if the fabric had been too small that wouldn’t be good planning.
An image is worth a thousand words, thank goodness. The best I can do to describe the process goes something like this: In the middle of a long side, about an inch from from the edge of the fabric I put in the first staple. I did this alone so that’s how I’m going to explain it. I actually put three staples close together here. I figured that when I went to the opposite side and started tugging to do the first serious stretch I didn’t want all that stress on one lone staple. My plan worked. It worked well enough to stress out Mr. Ascully. He had to go re-read a guide on canvas stretching to make sure I knew what I was doing. You see, the first stretch across the frame leaves an intimidating crease. Never fear.
I did the next two staples, one on each of the other sides with the same amount of tension, taught but not strained. It ended up making a big diamond shape of puckers. It can be scary at first but if you follow a specific pattern it will keep the screen perfectly stretched.
I had the first 4 stapled spots. I then work my way around one staple per side, opposite and diagonal from the one before. The concept is simple, just hard to describe. The image on the left makes perfect sense to me. That’s not saying much. All I can say is that I made my way around and around and around the frame until I got about a foot from each corners. Then I just focused on each corner, still staggering the staples. I didn’t do one whole side and then the other because that wouldn’t work the slack out of the screen area. That is the goal, all tension, no puckers, no slack, no wobblers.
How did the front look after all that stretching and pulling and stapling? Excellent! I love it.
I didn’t put anything on the back to brace it so it had to be lifted by two people. Thanks to my lovely assistant we got it up against the wall for a quick peek before the final phase of the project.
If you want to brace yours for more stability, if your screen isn’t going to be mounted on flat surface, or if your screen is any bigger than this one, you have options. You can either put a fitted 1/16″ thick piece of wood across the back, or make your own stable backing. Be creative, just remember it has to be function over form. The purpose is to make your screen stronger, not more bulky or so heavy you can’t mount it without serious strain on you and your wall.
Now, how do we hang it on the wall? That was the question that kept us staring at it for about an hour and a half. I didn’t want to screw through the nice felt covered board. We wanted it as close to the ceiling as possible and we agreed we didn’t want the hanging mechanism to show. Finally we came to a decision. With my husband thinking we should put a wire across the back like hanging a piece of art, and me thinking the middle needed more support, we compromised.
I cut three 14″ pieces of fairly heavy wire, 20 gauge, and used needle nose pliers to coil the ends 3 times with the center of the coil just big enough for a screw to fit through. The heavy wire is better in my opinion than say picture wire just because of the weight of the screen. It won’t stretch or sag over time.
My husband put 3 screws in the wall, 2 inches from the ceiling and spaced evenly apart to support the weight of the screen on the ends and in the middle. I fixed the wires to the back of the frame, 2 inches from the top edge. I bent the wires just enough to get them hooked over the screws, and pulled out enough so we didn’t have to wiggle and wobble the screen too much to get it to hang correctly. I only had to slightly tug the right side of the screen down, pull the wire a tiny bit to get the whole thing perfectly straight. The wire is flexible enough to make it easy to adjust, but strong enough to hold it in place for a very long time.
Well, that’s about it. I am thrilled, excited, satisfied, pleased, and feeling a bit woozy from the whole experience.
The first images on our screen weren’t of a favorite film or even a big action high definition video game….oh no. It was Rachael Ray. That’s right, the princess of FoodTV. She just happened to be on at that time and she was our first test of the new set up. She didn’t last long, the Xbox 360 quickly followed with the blades flashing by in all their giant glory. Next came the PS3, and then through the evening other samples of media goodness. Here is a Flickr album of more photos of the theater room and screen.
I didn’t take the time to sit and look at the darn thing, That’s one dream fulfilled, not time to move on to another. I had a pie to bake, my first apple pie with homemade crust and everything…..and here’s my pie making guide…haha just kidding.