The Cube Project

A finished cube.

The student acts as the TD for a single project, an open-frame cube, while demonstrating basic woodworking skills learned throughout the course. This project is assigned toward the end of the course in beginning stagecraft. This was inspired by a graduate assignment from 1981, which I adapted to a first-year undergrad project to introduce the process a technical director enacts to analyze, order materials, and build a piece of scenery.

Activity Objectives

Through the use of tools typically found in a scene shop, the student will be able to analyze a 1⁄2”=1’-0” scale model of an open-frame cube, to order materials, build, and finish a full-size open-frame cube that meets the following criteria:

  •   Overall outside dimensions are 18”x18”x18”
  •   Structural members are 11⁄2” x 11⁄2” true and square
  •   All corner angles are square
  •   Three different types of joints are used and all are tight
  •   Fastening methods – 2 types are employed and all joining is solid
  •   The finish is smooth and even

Activity Goals

In addition to a project introducing technical direction, the construction of this cube provides the students the opportunity to review and use most of the woodworking tools in the scene shop they have been introduced to earlier and throughout the course.


Introduction: As a class, the students are shown the 1⁄2”= 1’-0” scale model of the cube and encouraged to ask the kinds of questions a technical director might ask of the designer/instructor. Discussion follows to determine if most/all key questions have been asked. Note: the students at this level are not required to incorporate all three legs of a corner joint into the required joint. Vertical pieces are expected to be butt joined to the other piece.

Preparation: Each student determines the materials needed to complete the cube and a very modest budget they must follow. Note: 2x4s are the only wood materials available for this project to increase the tool use, particularly the table saw, in shaping the pieces.
The student then drafts/lays out the construction plan with cut list.

Construction: The student determines which tools and techniques to best complete the cube then constructs the cube. Note: at this level, the student may confer with the instructor to receive feedback about the chosen approach.

Refer to the file: Cube-Project-Grading-Criteria

Time Required

Students typically take three to four weeks to complete this project: up to 10 contact hours in class in conjunction with equal time through outside-of-class access to supervised scene shop time. The students are not allowed to take the project away from the scene shop to complete on their own.

Required Materials

All supplies and materials are provided in the scene shop, however students are welcome to bring in lumber or finishing material of their own if they would like.

  • Typically equipped scene shop
  • Supplies (determined by the student)
    • Stock 2×4 of adequate length
    • Fasteners
    • Sandpaper
    • Finish: stain or glaze, for example


The overall size of the cube and its members can be varied year to year by fractions of an inch to guarantee original work each course.


Only completely constructed cubes are graded.

Refer to the file: Cube Grade Rubric

M.C. Friedrich, Michigan Technological University