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Pasting and Mounting Model Theater Sheets

Safety Notes: Please use safe electrical practices, and avoid hot lights near flammable objects. Never leave your theater unattended while the lighting is turned on. Avoid using extension cords, especially across places where people may walk, including yourself - as it is easy to forget!

Printed paper model theater sheets need to be mounted on cardboard to give them the body to use in performing or displaying. We like to use Yes! Paste, which is a low moisture acid free glue. It is available from art and craft stores (also check the scrapbooking departments). [Check the Yes! Paste site for retail suppliers, or Google it for sources online or near you.] We keep two bottles going - one full strength and one with a small bit of water added to spread on large areas - but don't add too much water or it will defeat the purpose! Other pastes may be available - just look for something water soluble, low moisture and non-wrinkling. Get a good, somewhat stiff paste brush (or two), and be sure to clean it as soon as you are done working. Close the jars after working to keep the paste fresh. If it will be awhile between work sessions, you may want to drop a little water over the top of the paste to keep it from drying out.

Please see the Tips and Tricks page Cutting out scenery and figures before pasting the sheets to the cardboard for more suggestions.

Do not use cardboard that is too thick, or it will be difficult to cut out, especially if there is a lot of detail. Large backdrops require thicker cardboard than figures. Detailed scenery can be mounted on lighter cardboard, cut out and then backed with heavier cardboard supports. Middle drops can be mounted on lighter cardboard, cut out and then mounted to a heavier support frame. We like to leave a little extra cardboard on each side of backdrops, middle drops and wings to allow them to be attached to supports without damage to the printed area. Black paper can be used to cover the cardboard extensions.

Prepare a work space on a flat table, covering it with OLD newspapers (fresh ones are likely to transfer ink when rubbed), or a plastic table cloth. Get some pieces of heavy cardboard or flat boards (plywood or hardboard is good) large enough to cover the piece you are mounting, and a few heavy objects for weights. For large sheets, like prosceniums, spread the paste on the cardboard and then put the sheet down onto the cardboard. You might want to make small pencil marks at the corners for placement guides prior to pasting. If you have extra hands around to help, it makes this easier on the very large pieces. Start in the middle and work you way out when smoothing. For regular sheets, wings, set pieces and figures, put the paste on the back of the printed paper sheet or pieces and then place on the cardboard. Smooth them out carefully, to get any bumps of paste or air bubbles out. A printing roller works well to smooth this, or a damp sponge (but be careful not to damage the printing or paper).

Place a sheet of clean paper and a few layers of newspaper (or all OLD newspapers) over the sheet to absorb moisture. Then put the heavy board on top and then weight it down. leave it pressed in this manner until it is thoroughly dry - which can take 24 hours or more. Check it about 8 hours after pressing and if the newspaper is really moist, change the papers.

You may need to also mount paper of similar thickness to the printed sheets on the backside of the cardboard to keep it from bowing. This can be done at the same time, or it can be done in another step. See the notes on laminated cardboard on the Cutting out scenery and figures  There is also grain to cardboard and paper, and if you are having problems with curling, you may want to get deeper into this factor and mount things with the grains crossed.

We avoid using spray glues for several reasons. Kathleen does not like the mess of the overspray (or potential hazards), and we want to use a water soluble paste so that the sheet can be released from the cardboard if we make a mistake or the item is damaged later. Some people don't worry about these things, or take the stuff outdoors to spray it.

Now it is time to cut!

If you have a model theater tip or trick you would like to share here, please email it to us, and let us know that it is alright to share it, and if you want your name, and/or email included.

Disclaimer: We will provide tips and links to supplies for our visitors to explore, but we have no control over their safety, manufacture or use. We are not responsible for your decisions of what is best to use in your situation!