Stage Designs

Branched Cross

John Michael Weaver from Hamilton Assembly of God in Hamilton, MT brings us this gigantic pallet wall, glowing sign, and pallet cross.

Each year, they put on “Vision Banquet” as a fundraiser for their youth ministry.

Their theme for Vision Banquet this year was “Illuminate” and they wanted to capture the warmth of tungsten light, especially on raw wood material. They designed this with some inspirations from posts like “Long Way Home”, “Projection and Candles”, “Burning Boards”, “Bravery”, “Stringtrest” and lots of other Pinterest ideas.

Their primary stage element was a marquee or “channel letter” sign of the word ILLUMINATE. They used Coolvetica font and set it up in Photoshop so the entire sign would be 3′ tall and be able to be cut out of 2 pieces of 3/8 plywood. They used a projector to project the letters and outlined in pencil, then cut out the letters using a reciprocating/jig saw. Then they measured out holes centered on each letter about 6″ apart from each other. On some letters, they had to recalculate the average space based on how many bulbs they wanted in the length, while keeping it as uniform as possible. They wanted the top and bottom bulbs to line up on all the letters going across. They drilled the holes using a step drill from the back just big enough to fit the g40 string lights they purchased from Target for $13 each. It took 7 strands of 25 to cover all of the letters. They used three rolls of 6″x50′ aluminum flashing and starting from the bottom of each letter, they measured about 6 inches to their first bend. They drew a straight line with a ruler and then used a 3″ paint scraper blade, and with the flashing flat on the carpet, hit it with a hammer to cause the flashing to bend. With a few good wacks, the aluminum could be easily bent to 90 degrees. Then we would put the flashing on the letter and mark where the next bend would be. When the flashing was bent to size, they used a heavy duty hand stapler with 1/2″ staples (smaller don’t hold and larger don’t go all the way) to staple the letters into place in the direct center of the flashing so there was ~3″ on either side of the letter, making sure to staple every 6-12″ to keep from gaps showing around the letter. Letters like M & N were tough, so they ended up cutting the metal at the sharp acute angles and using hot glue on the back to hold the flashing in place. Stringing the lights was fairly simple and some could be combined to fit one strand, sometimes skipping a socket in between (IL, LU, M,IN,A,T,E). You can also only string 60 bulbs together, so they had to be cautious of overloading any strings. NOTE: These strings do not work if there is no bulb in the first socket, so it is a good idea to start at the male end & make use of the first socket.

Their backdrop consisted of 30 pallets framed using donated form lumber from a contractor in their church. They built two 16’x4′, two 12’x8′, two 4’x12′ & two 8’x4′ pallet walls for on and in front of the stage. Although John would have just slapped a couple of sticks on and made braces, he luckily had 4 builders donate time to do it right. They built “stiff-backs” by joining 2×4 pieces in L shapes which made for much greater safety and sturdiness, especially in the 16″ walls. They also covered the backs of some of the pallet walls with 4’x200′ black craft paper they purchased to blackout windows and glass doors.

Around the room, they used scaffolding and lots of white power cables to hang single mason jar lights over each of the dinner tables. They used old regular-mouth mason jars, Ikea “Hemma” 15′ pendant light cords, pipe washers, and A15 clear 40w bulbs. They had purchased about 90 old/antique mason jars from someone cleaning out their barn for $35 and cleaned them up. The Ikea “Hemma” light cords were ~$8.50 on eBay. They purchased 12 white ones for over their tables so they would blend better with their white-ish sheetrocked ceiling and 24 black ones to hang over pallets and from the ceiling above the stage. They ended up running out of time and power cables to hang more bulbs above the stage and were easily able to drape them over the pallets. They originally purchased two boxes of 24 regular-mouth “bands & lids” from Walmart for just $2.20 each, intending to drill holes in each of the lids in order to fit the pendant lights. They ended up finding these pipe washers for about $.10 each and used one on the inside of the light and one on the outside to hold it together. The Hemma cords come with a ring on the inside to tighten them in place.

They originally planned on using antique or clear normal (A19) bulbs, but realized last minute they would not fit regular-mouth mason jars. John recommends getting wide-mouth jars if possible as the A19 bulbs feel more normal inside the mason jar than do the a15 (appliance) bulbs.

Lobby Design

They had 8 pallets that were different for the others with tighter spacing, so they built four 8×4 pallet walls to go in our lobby as people came in. After setting it up the font spacing in Photoshop, projecting it onto the pallet walls, and tracing around the letters, they burnt the letters on with a propane torch. They used leftover aluminum flashing from their Illuminate sign project to keep the burn inside the lines.

We also used 20 more pallets in a zig-zag fashion to create walls for a walkway as people entered. With a few candle-filled mason jars and a few pendant lights, this made a really welcoming atmosphere.

On each of the tables, they had 3 mason jars, one decorated with amber glass water gems, one wrapped in gold-threaded burlap and raffia string, and one coated inside with gold glitter. These were John’s wife’s creations. She glued the water gems to the jars with hot glue and coated the inside of the glitter jars with a water/glue solution and then rolled glitter around inside them. A local post company had “cut-ends” that they gave them and they made 6″, 3″, & 1″ pedestals for the jars on each table. Each table had 4 mini mason jar votives that were purchased from Michaels and hand-crafted with a thank you and more raffia. These were taken home by attendees as gifts at the end of the night. Under the centerpiece, they had criss-crossed burlap runners bunched and tied at each end with raffia.


Illuminate Sign
– 2 4×8 sheets plywood (local hardware store) – $24
– 7 25′ g40 string lights by Room Essentials (Target) – $91
– 3 6″x50′ aluminum flashing rolls (local) – $60

Pallet Walls
– 100 Pallets – donated
– 1000+ board feet of lumber – donated (returned after)

Mason Jar Lights
– Mason Jars – $35
– 36 A15 Clear 40w bulbs ( sale) – $22
– 2 24ct Lids & bands (Walmart) – $4.50
– 32 Ikea “Hemma” Pendant cords – $256
– 48 pipe washers – $5

Table Decor
– Burlap with gold thread (Michael’s)- $6
– 2x Amber/Champagne water gems/vase filler – $15
– 2x 60″ 10 yard burlap rolls – $66 (Amazon – refunded because of misinformation)

Total Cost – $600










Chalked Flat Panel Sails

2 responses to “Branched Cross”

  1. This is amazing! You did a great job of pulling through your theme.

  2. Dominic says:

    Thanks for the insight!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Solve : *
14 + 16 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.