Sunday, January 11, 2015

Thoughts on making a Crankie Box

Acknowledgment:   Many thanks to Ed Dasse, without whose craftsmanship and workshop, this crankie would not have been nearly so professional in appearance or functionality.

In the Victorian era, before the days of radio and television, families enjoyed home entertainment of one sort or another.  One such diversion was a moving panorama or crankie.  A roll of paper or fabric (the crankie) was illustrated with pictures that told a story, song or poem and was “cranked” or rolled from one spool to another in a miniature theater.

This blog post is intended to give you some idea of how to make your own crankie theatre.  Note that the measurements given are the ones I used; yours can vary depending on how large a presentation you want to give. 

 The 28 inch x 36 inch frame uses 10 x ¾ inch, stain-quality pine boards, screwed together with 2½ inch wood screws.  These were enough to provide adequate rigidity, especially once the front cut-out was installed. Oak and maple boards were considered but were both heavy and expensive.

The spools were made from 1¼ inch dowel with a handle device at the top end, fastened with 6-inch bolts to allow free rotation.  The bottom end of the spool is held with a hole drilled into the base of the frame. Velcro strips were glued to the dowel to secure the crankie fabric.  The spools were kept in place with spool locks that could be rotated open to allow easy removal of the spools. 

 Circular crankie-supports were cut out from a ¾ inch board and glued in place at the end of each spool. Non-rotating tension rods cut from 5/8 inch dowel were installed in the corners as shown to help keep the crankie taut as it is rotated. 


The position of the spools and the tension rods and the diameter of the circular crankie-supports depend on the maximum size of the crankie roll itself. Our prototype crankie used about 30 ft of fabric which was about 6 inches in diameter when tightly rolled on the spool. The tension rods were placed about 1 – 1½ inches from the front inside corners of the frame and the circular crankie-supports are 6½ inches in diameter. These dimensions were adequate to allow smooth operation of the crankie.

The theatre-shaped front cut-out was made from maple 3-ply and screwed to the front. If necessary, a fabric curtain strip can be installed, preferably using Velcro to hold it in place. Lastly, a carrying handle is bolted to the top of the frame.

The job is made considerably easier with the use of power tools if at all possible. The frame boards were cut on a radial arm saw. The dowel holes were cut with Forstner bits and hole saws depending on the best fit (which is very important).  The front cut-out and slots for the spool dowels were cut out with a saber saw and smoothed with drum sander bits on a drill press.  Most of the other holes were accurately drilled with the drill press. The circular crankie-supports, handle bars and spool locks were cut out with a band saw and smoothed on a belt sander. 

1 comment:

Aspiring Crankie Artist said...

Thanks for sharing how you built your crankie box. I have some questions about the hole in the base of the box for the spool dowel. (1) It looks like the hole is lined with plastic or something. Could you share what you used? (2) Why did you drill the hole all the way through the base? What prevents the spool dowel from sliding through the base to the surface underneath the box? (3) How much difference is there between the size of the spool dowel and the inside diameter of the liner of the hole in the base? Thank you!