For our kids and students wing renovation, I’m building three new tech booths.
Having worked in a few dozen tech booths in the past, I’ve been collecting a list of things I like and don’t like about those other ones.
I’ve seen a few major issues with tech booths in students rooms; namely, when built out of studs and drywall, the drywall always gets torn up, and the walls tend to get a bit loose.
I’ve also seen more than one countertop start to sag because they’re using standard kitchen countertops that are designed to be supported along their entire length.
Also, most of the time, the top ledge becomes a perfect resting place for all manner of detritus—including drinks—that eventually get spilled into the console.
Finally, the cable situation tends to become a mess pretty quickly.
We’re going to try to remedy those issues with our booths. First, while they will be built out of standard lumber, I’m skinning them in 1/2-inch AC plywood instead of drywall. This will both increase the ruggedness of the surface, and lend considerable strength to the structure. It will also make it easier to attach things inside the booth.
A line drawing showing some of the detail of one of the new booths. (click to enlarge)
For countertops, we’re going to Sweden. Well, sort of. Ikea sells a 1 1/8-inch thick solid beech countertop for $60 for an 8-foot length. It can be stained, painted or just sealed (which is what we’ll do). We’ll support it with heavy-duty shelf supports lag-bolted to the studs. We also hold the counter off the back wall by 1 1/2-inch, giving us a continuous run to bring cables up and down.
Part of the design that will be tricky to build but will pay huge dividends over time is the sloped top. I call if the “beverage resistant cap.” The tops of all the walls will be sloped outward at 22.5 degrees to keep anyone from putting anything on them. Figuring out the compound miters is tricky but worth it.
To keep cable management clean, we’ll be using slotted wire duct that we bought from CableOrganizer.com. This duct will run from the wall (where our conduits open to an access panel) to the back wall of the booth for easy access to the gear.
By keeping all the cable in the duct, we eliminate those awkward, “I just unplugged a cable with my foot” moments all too common in small tech booths.
This image shows a lof of dimensions; I actually hide some of them for various angles to make it easier to read. (click to enlarge)
The floor of the booth will be raised; it’s a simple frame of 2x8’s with 3/4-inch plywood glued and screwed down.
The glue part is important—how many booths have you been in where the floor squeaks every time you move? Too many is the answer. For a few dollars in construction adhesive, we will eliminate that.
We’re also putting a half-door in each booth. I’m taking some construction details from deck building and anchoring my uprights for the door jamb all the way down to the bottom edge of my joists to be sure that doesn’t move. The door won’t provide any real security, but will keep curious younger kids out of there.
Finally, to make construction as simple as possible, I’ve sized everything consistently. We will be able to batch-cut all the parts, distribute them to the rooms and screw everything together very quickly.
The designs are such that there is only one piece that will be difficult to fabricate (the 1x6 top cap), so it can all be done quickly and with not highly skilled labor. I also spent a lot of time developing a complete set of working drawings for each booth to make it easy to build.
In a few weeks, you’ll be seeing pictures of the real thing, and we’ll talk about some of our cable building techniques.
Mike Sessler is the Technical Director at Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, CA. He has been involved in live production for over 20 years and is the author of the blog, Church Tech Arts . He also hosts a weekly podcast called Church Tech Weekly on the TechArtsNetwork.