Make a 100" Screen for under $100

Evan Powell, May 26, 2006

How to build it.....

To collect the materials needed for this screen, you'll need to make one visit to a camera supply store, one trip to your home improvement store (Home Depot, Lowe's, or any other lumber and hardware store) and one stop at your local fabric store. Here is what you'll need:

One roll of 53" white seamless paper. This is the heavy roll paper that photographers use as backdrops for product photography, and it is available in camera supply stores. It comes in two widths-53" and 107". As luck would have it, the 53" size is perfect to accommodate a 100" diagonal 16:9 screen. (You can also order seamless paper online through several Internet suppliers.)

Q: Can I use a light gray seamless paper instead of white in order to get better blacks with ambient light?
A: Absolutely not. Light gray seamless paper will give you a ridiculously DULL image. Use white only.

At your home improvement store, go to the lumber section and find the rack of 1x4 Poplar board. Poplar is preferred because it is hard, straight, smooth in texture and relatively light in weight. Note that the 1x4 size is actually 3.5" in width. This will give you a 3.5" border around your picture, which for a 100" diagonal screen is just about ideal. Select four perfectly straight pieces. Have the folks there cut two boards to 55.25", and the other two to 93.5". You can cut them at home yourself of course, but they sell Poplar board by the foot, so buying only what you need saves a few bucks. However, once you get home, you will need to cut the ends to 45 degrees, so make sure you have a woodsaw and a 45 degree triangle on hand (a mitre box helps if its 45 degree angle is exactly 45 degrees. We discovered the hard way that some of them aren't quite exact.)

After you select the wood for your frame, stop by the hardware section and pick up four flat "L" brackets that are six inches on each side. Also get twenty-four Philips flathead woodscrews, ¾ inch length.

Your final stop is the fabric store. Call ahead to make sure they have Velveteen in black. Velveteen is the same stuff used to surface casino-gaming tables, and it is a good choice for fabric-wrapping your frame. You will need three yards of it. (Alternatively, you can order Velveteen from Internet suppliers online if you wish.)

Q: Why can't I just paint the frame black?
A:You can, but it won't look as elegant, and you will be amazed at how much light is reflected from a wood surface painted black. Look at the six test shots in the Contrast section above. The first two were made with a fabric wrapped frame separating the two screens. The final four were made with a frame that was painted with two coats of flat black paint instead of the fabric. As you can see, wood painted black is a highly reflective surface.

Total Cost of Materials:

Super-white seamless paper--$26.00
Wood for frame--$34.00
L brackets and screws--$8.50
Velveteen fabric (3 yrds)--$27.00
Elmer's Glue--$2.00

TOTAL: $98.50

You'll also need a woodsaw, a staple gun, fabric scissors, and a drill (or a Philips head screwdriver).

Assembly:

Step 1: Cut two of the poplar boards to 55.25" and the other two to 93.5", if you did not have it done at the store.

Step 2: Cut the ends of each board to a 45 degree angle.

Step 3: Cut the Velveteen fabric into four 6.5" wide strips, with two strips for the side of the frame being about 58" in length, and two strips for the bottom and top edges of the frame being about 96" in length.

Step 4: Lay each fabric strip on a clean, firm surface like a tile or linoleum floor, and center the corresponding section of the frame on top of it. Wrap and stretch the fabric around the board and staple it into place, so that the fabric is positioned with about a two-inch gap of bare wood showing down the center of each section of the frame (the fabric will lay over the back side of the frame sections with about ¾ inch on each edge.)

Step 5: Carefully trim the fabric at the ends to match the 45 degree angle of the boards. If necessary, use the glue to tack the fabric to the board at each end so that it is held flush with the 45-degree cut.

Step 6: Lay out the fabric-wrapped frame sections face down in a rectangle so you can join them together. Holding the frame sections firmly together, use one L-bracket at each corner and affix them to the exposed wood with six screws using the holes that are (hopefully) preexisting in the L-brackets.

Step 7: Roll out the seamless paper, and lay it over the frame. Starting at one of the 55" sides, staple the end of the paper into place along the exposed wood area. Maintaining even tension on the paper, continue to staple it up the long edges of the frame. One staple every 9" is adequate to hold it in place. Once you reach the opposite end of the frame, trim the paper from the roll, and staple the final edge into place.

There it is. You now have a lightweight 100" diagonal 16:9 projector screen that you can hang on a wall with picture hanging hardware attached along the top edge of the frame. Power on your projector, turns the lights off, and enjoy!

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Contents: Introduction and Objectives Color Accuracy Contrast How to Build it