Drum Cage Moon Lander

One major obstacle to work around (or with) on the contemporary church stage is a drum cage.  Our VBS design team found this to be tru for the first time this year.  We had to find a way to incorporate the large drum cage with a plaxiglass enclosure into our stage set design.  We decided to cover it and turn it into a moon lander to go with our space-themed VBS.  

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Materials Needed for the Project

Fitting the Panels and Building the Base

The goal of the project was to design a cover for the drum cage that could be assembled and disassembled for easier decorating and storage while we were working on it.  Also, the majority of our work was done off-site, so components had to be transportable.  Another goal was to build something that would rest on top of the drum cage and minimize any attachments to the drum cage itself.  

The first step in the process was to fit panels to the curve of the drum cage.  It turns out that our cage has sharp curves on the sides, but a rather flat front.  So we ended up using two angle panels and one flat panel in the middle.  The overall result looks like a 5-panel design (see the photos below), but it is actually 3 separate and removable panels.  

We’ll start with the two angle panels (Panels 1 and 3).  The dimensions given are what we used to match the curve on our drum cage, but you might find that you have to change the dimensions (especially the triangle brace) to better fit your own drum cage.  The cut diagram that we used can be downloaded using the link below.  

Drum Cage Panel Diagram

Use this measurement and cut diagram to build the angle panels used to cover a drum cage.  

The first step was to draw the guidelines for the cuts and scores.  Using a full size sheet of insulation foam board, draw a line vertically down the middle (24″ from the edge).  Draw a line vertically at 26′ from the top (this will determine the height of the top portion of the lander, so this can be adjusted to your space available and personal preference).  Using a box cutter, score all of the lines, but do not cut all the way through the foil on the back.  Bend the panel on the lines so that there are clean breaks at the lines, but they fold along the back foil.  Use the box cutter to cut through the foil on the short half of the vertical line to separate the top sections only.  Refer to the diagram for guidance.  

On the back side of the foam sheet, draw a horizontal line with a marker.  This will be the guide line that determines where the brace sits on the panels and defines how far down the drum cage the panel covers.  You can adjust the placement of this line, but it has to be below the fold created by the scored horizontal line.  Also, be sure that the line you draw is not too low, creating a top-heavy cover.  Be sure that all of the panels have the same guide line drawn to that the panels hang at the same height.  

Cut out the triangle brace.  This is the part of the design that needs to fit the curve on your drum cage.  The taller the triangle, the sharper the angle.  We used a 9″ height.  

Once you have your triangle brace, you will use spray foam to glue it to the back side of your panel along the guide line you  drew.  You may want to use some strips of duct tape to hold the triangle in place before spraying the foam.  Be sure to keep the spray foam away from the horizontal fold line as best you can.  In the end, you should have a panel that bends in the middle and has free movement in the top sections.   

Once this dries, you should be able to rest the panel on top of the drum cage so that the triangle brace is sitting on the top edge and the lower half is hanging down in front.  Don’t worry about the top sections yet, we’ll shape those later.  

Repeat the process for the other side panel.  

We created a flat panel for the center section to match the shape of the drum cage.  You can create another angled panel if that works better for your drum cage.  

To make the flat panel, we cut a vertical section of foam board equal to the gap between the side panels (for us that was 30″).  We scored a horizontal line at the same distance for the top section and drew a guide line at the same height as the other panels.  Using spray foam, we glued a piece of rectangle foam board on the back side (similar to how the triangle braces were attached).  The size of the rectangle brace does not matter too much, but it should be almost as wide as the panel itself and several inches deep to be sure to fully rest on the top of the drum cage.  

Shaping the Top and Adding the Skirt

To make fitting the top and skirt easier, we taped the panels together with duct tape.  This stablized the whole unit and made it easier to cut angles in the top sections.  We cut triangles out of the top sections to create the domed look.  For the angled panels (panels and 1 and 3) we marked a line 20 deg from the square corner.  This allowed the sections to lay back a bit and give a domed look.  We cut the same triangle out of the far edge to create a consistent look.  You can adjust the angle you use to create a different look.  The more aggressive the angle, the lower the top sections will sit.  Save the triangles.  They will be used to support the skirt..  The angle between the center section and the side panels needs to be a little trial and error as you figure out what fits best.  

For the skirt, draw a guide line 14′ from the bottom of the panels.  Tape the triangles in the center of the panel so that the tip of the triangle is about 1/2′ below the line you drew.  The triangles will provide support to the skirt so that the skirt sits away from the body at an angle.  Cut sections of foam boards that are wider than each panel and tall enough to cover the triangles taped to the panels.  We cut the panels into trapezoids with the top of the trapezoid measuring the same as the width of the panel it will attach to.  We had to play with the angles again, but the narrower the triangle on the sides of the trapezoid, the lower the skirt will sit.  We used a triangle with a 15 deg angle at the top (so a total angle on the top corner of the trapezoid of 105 deg).  Get as close as you can, but keep in mind that small gaps can be covered by tape later.  

Once you are happy with the shape and fit of the skirt, attach the top edge of each trapezoid section to the body at the 14″ line.  Also, duct tape the sections together to add stability.  

Finally, cut windows in the lander.  We chose to have three windows with the central window being larger than the others.  Be sure to keep in mind your drummer if the drum cage will be in place for a Sunday service.  

At this point, the body should be complete and ready to decorate.  If you have to disassemble the lander to decorate it, it is a good idea to make hash marks on the back so that you can easily assemble the lander when it is time to install it.  Before taking the unit off the drum cage, we had a small helper squeeze between the foam boards and the drum cage.  She drew heavy lines across all panel joints at the top, middle, and bottom.  We used a different color for each joint.  This was really helpful when we reassembled the lander during our decorating week.  

Cover the Foam and Decorate

We covered the individual panels with paper to provide an even and consistent background for the decorations.  We started with the top sections by covering them with black kraft paper.  We cut paper large enough to wrap the section around the edges and attach to the back.  To attach the paper, we sprayed the front with spray adhesive and smoothed the paper into place.  Then we tightly wrapped the excess around the edges and secured it in place with packaging tape.  

We followed a similar process with the white paper being sure to line up the top edge with the scored edge of the panel.  We also covered the body and skirt separately so that the transition would remain crisp.  That transition will be covered later with duct tape.  When cutting the windows, be sure to leave enough excess to wrap the interior edges of the window.  

Now it’s time to decorate. We started by framing the windows in black duct tape being sure to wrap the tape around the inner edges of the window. We drew an access door on one of the panels and used gray duct tape to outline the shape.  We added a flag and NASA logo, vinyl lettering, and other textures/shapes that we had on hand that fit the look.  

 We found it easiest to add the tape to the lander after it was re-installed for the set.  That way we could make sure all of our tape lines were straight and level.  We lined up the hash marks created before and then taped the panels together on the back.  When everything was in place, we covered all of the vertical corners with white duct tape to hide any gaps.  We taped the top edge of the body with a couple of lines of black duct tape.  We used red duct tape at the transition from the body to the skirt. The blue duct tape is along the bottom edge of the skirt.  We used these opportunities to cover gaps and uneven edges.  

Finally, we covered with exposed drum cage with balck paper so that it disappears into the background.  

Tip:  You might find it helpful to add extra foam board between the drum cage and the body of the lander.  This will help the lander sit straight.  

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