Wednesday, April 7, 2010

You can Huff and Puff, but you won't blow down this Brickhouse

Say what you will about counterweight rigging being medieval, it still goes into a lot of stages and is used every day by many people.  So, if you're going to do it, you might as well make it safer.  At USITT 2010 in Kanasas City, Thern Stage Equipment Company introduced the "Brickhouse Front-Loading Counterweight Arbor System".  This takes a whole new approach at how you handle the counterwights as they are loaded and unloaded, and also takes a new look at securing them in the arbor carraige.

The first thing one notices it that the Brickhouse has side walls and three compartments for counterweights.  This allows you to load weights into the most convenient compartment to access, rather than reaching high or low and possibly overextending oneself.

The next convenience is that as you place weights in the Brickhouse, you don't need two hands to do it.  No awkward twisting, tilting, or finagling of the weights to get them in-between the arbor rods.  Why?  Well, there is no back rod, and the front rod conveniently swings out of the way so you can just slide the weight 'bricks' into the compartment, which is sloped a bit to help with the process.

The weights have a handle built right into them, too.  What a concept:  A counterweight that you can grab onto with one hand and hold it securely without fear of dropping it.  This leaves your other hand free to hang-on for dear life (you are wearing a fall prevention / arrest system as you load weights, right?)

Once the weights are nestled into their compartments (and you can fill the compartments all the way to the top, too), you just swing the front arbor rod back into place and let 'er fly.

Drop testing shows that a stage heavy line set will crash throught the lower arbor stop just like a regular arbor (no surprise there), however, the side walls are built to take a lickin'-and-keep-on-tickin', so you shouldn't have a mess of bricks jumping out of the Brickhouse.  No word yet on the potential for bricks jumping out of the Brickhouse in the event of a stage-heavy run-away, but given the design of the compartments, it looks like the weight-lock free design still keeps them under control and not raining-down a hail storm of steel plates on the fly crew should a line set get away from you.  That said, I'm still wearing my hard hat PPE when I'm onstage or in the fly galleries - there are still a lot of other hazards out there to ping your skull.

More info can be had at:

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