How to make a Stable Backdrop from a Fridge Box (doubles for Puppet Stage too!)

aStable backdrop

Stable Backdrop

(can also be used as a puppet stage)

I was putting away the Stable backdrop, I made back in 2008, and thought maybe someone else might be interested in doing something similar for next Christmas, so below are the details.

Directions

Supplies:

  • Cardboard box fridges are shipped in.
    (I retrieved my box from a local appliance store. I inquired if there was any chance I could get my hands on a fridge box, which was still in one piece. They gave me permission to go outside and look through their cardboard recycling area, warning me that they may be all cut apart. I lucked out and found one still intact and dry.)
  • Two Permanent Black Markers, 1 - Wide Tip, 1-Pointed Tip.
  • Utility Knife
  • Paint: black, white, dark grey, light grey, beige, pink and yellow. (Colors used will depend on what animals, etc. you decide to add. I used Acrylic Paint by Rehotech, as it's nice and thick for painting onto cardboard.)
  • Black stretchy fabric (width of your fridge box and deep enough to just cover the windows, see 7 below.)
  • 12 med black binder clips (to clip fabric to rooftop).

Steps:

  1.  Use a Utility Knife to cut through one corner, from top to bottom, to open the box.
  2. Cut off TOP flaps ONLY.  DON'T cut the BOTTOM flaps as they help with stability when it's standing!
  3. Lay flat, inside facing up (no writing is on this side).
  4. In pencil, draw the top portion of your stable scene (You may want to find a coloring picture to use as your basic design):

    Stable Directions Picture

    A
    - left and right outside vertical beams. I suggest you do two vertical, rather than how I did it above, see B below for reason.

    B
    - Mouse Hole, added at a later date is a piece of cardboard (glued on), seen on the left side with horizontal boards. That side, years later, is nice and sturdy, while the opposite side that has only one beam has become flimsy. My intention is to add a piece of cardboard (another beam) to the other side too. So why I suggest you do at least two beams for each (A).

    C
    - Roof beams (Optional: Flat or Slanted Roof - I went slanted.) 

    D
    - "V" beams, both slated up towards the center of the stable roof (adds stability).

    E - Vertical beams at the two box folds (fold should be in the center of each beam).

    F - Hay hanging from roof (also adds sturdiness to top section).

    G - Vertical barn boards - see Step 6 below for directions on drawing these.

    H - Using a Utility Knife cut out the window areas, and if you went with a slanted roof you'll need to cut away the extra cardboard above the roof line. *Important*: lay extra pieces of cardboard underneath, so your Utility Knife doesn't cut through to your floor.

    Backdrop showing cut-away
















  5. Paint your haystack (yellow), donkey and cow (or whatever animals you've put into your scene), then highlight/define any areas needed with black marker.

    Donkey
    dark grey, light grey, pink and white (eyes).
    mceclip1

    Cow
    black, white, beige, pink, light grey.
    mceclip0
  6. Draw the Barn Boards (G). While the paint above is drying, determine what width your barn boards need to be between each (A) & (E) vertical beam sections, and pencil mark them at the top and bottom.
    Wood Grain and Knots
    I used my wide tip black marker and drew freehand the outline of each barn board directly on the cardboard, using the pencil marks for width guidance, note none of my lines were straight to look more natural.

    Creating wood looking Veins & Knots: To make them look like barn barns I used the black marker with the pointy tip and drew rough looking veins and knots, again freehand.



  7. Cloth - you'll need a piece of black stretchy fabric that is the width of your fridge box and deep enough to just cover the windows.  I used black binder clips to attach it to the backdrop, thinking if I ever wanted to wash the fabric or change the fabric color it was easy to remove. 

    Fabric Binder Clipped along Top of Backdrop
  8. Optional: Decorate Back of Stable Backdrop - this year we needed two scenes, a Bethlehem Street and an Outside Wall of Stable, so at our local dollar store (Dollarama) I found rolls of sticky back shelf paper that had a wood panel design.  I used this to cover the side of the box that has all the manufacturer's information printed on it. The rolls weren't very long so I had to piece and patch it. 

    Sticking Shelf Paper to back of Stable Backdrop

    Below is it completed, back view, I ran out of rolls (used 10) so there is a small area on the right side half-way down not done. Also, in regards to your fabric, don't unclip it, simply flip over to the back, which is what I did below. Then when you do a scene change to the stable, simply flip the fabric back again.

    Back view
     

StoringFolded for storage

The four sections fold flat, like an accordion (see photo on right).

Like many old church buildings storage space is lacking. We solved it by storing it, with other large cardboard props, behind our last row of movie theater seats (pictured below).

We drape it with a colorful piece of fabric—that ties in to the color of our seats and the back wall—to keep the dust off and little fingers!
Stable backdrop stored

 

 

 

 

 


Stable Backdrop Uses

We use it almost every year during our Christmas rotation as either:

  1. Drama Backdrop

    The advantage of having a backdrop is you can have a teacher, kids, and props hidden behind it and also your actors can move from one side to the other unseen. Also great for anyone whose church does not have a stage with curtains.

    Michael-Mouse-sheep-giving-their-wool









  2. Puppet stage

    Below Photo - We used the back of the stable backdrop for a scene taking place on a street in Bethlehem. Note how the backdrop is set-up in a W shape, as this adds stability when you have several puppeteers in action, like the nine sheep puppets pictured.)

    Michael-Mouse-sheep arrive








    Stable Door using Kids Puppet Theater
    Additional Stable Door Idea:

    For the above puppet skit, we needed a door for the stable where two cats appeared. 

    I took a small kid's puppet stage I had, unscrewed the top triangle section, flipped, and screwed it back on (this hides the design). Inserted a piece of cardboard in bottom section, made it look like a barn door (using a black marker). Then I switched out its bright orange curtains for a piece of black stretchy fabric which I simply attached with four clothespins along the top.


  3. Decoration

    We've left the stable backdrop on the stage over the Christmas season (adding a manger, large stuffed sheep, etc.) It's very eye-catching for any events, dinners, or other special gatherings.)

 Christmas Stable Scene

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