Theater students saw
a solution for set construction
makes up an integral part of theater. To build sets, students
spend many hours behind the scenes learning carpentry, the basic
construction and how to use tools properly.
issues are a major concern in any scenery construction shop, but
especially when unskilled undergraduates are using hand-held saws.
Nate Otto and Tom Hackman, theater technology majors in the drama
departments unique M.F.A. program, invention and ingenuity
were at the heart of a research partnership to improve safety
and quality of life for drama students at U.Va.
two called on their experience in the construction industry and
building sets to develop the Huskey Saw, a frame-mounted tool
that takes hand-held circular saws out of the hands of unskilled
saws are not easy for students to use or safe even in the hands
of professional carpenters, said Otto.
hand-held circular saw often bucks and kicks as it rips through
plywood, Hackman said.
had an idea about what they wanted the saw to do, but could not
find anything on the market that had the safety and adaptable
features they envisioned. So they built their own.
uniqueness of their design is in a pivoting cutting arm. They
mounted a panel saw on a frame they made from steel tubing with
a guide rail to hold the saw and incorporated guides for materials
and the pivoting arm. For the brake, they chose bike brakes that
they altered to fit the curve of the guide rail. They also added
a digital level they found on the Web and a foot switch to activate
structure stands 10 feet tall and 12 feet long, allowing the user
to cut a variety of materials available in large sheets, like
plywood, a staple in set design.
In addition to safety, they designed their invention to be able
to make a variety of straight cuts ranging from 30-degree to 90-degree
angles. Conventional panel saws are designed to cut large sheets
of plywood, but only at a 90-degree angle. There is nothing
like it on the market, said Otto.
Huskey Saw was well-received at the national convention of the
United States Institute for Theater Technology in 2001, where
Otto and Hackman were winners of a Tech Expo Award.
there said, as soon as you start selling them, give me a
call, Otto said.
industry, the project would have been a couple of years in research
and development, said Hackman. They did it in less than a year,
designing it for almost four months and constructing it in 120
hours for a cost of $2,000. The drama department provided some
funding, but both Hackman and Otto credit the generous support
from the Dean of Students office with making their vision
become a reality. They worked with then-assistant dean in the
Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Robert Huskey, and began
to affectionately call it the Huskey Saw. The name stuck and they
have incorporated a plaque with the name in the design.
no other angle-cutting panel saw like it available, Hackman and
Otto have begun to investigate patenting the design, to which
the U.Va. Patent Foundation holds the rights. They feel it will
have applications beyond the educational, community and professional
theater scene shop.