The Old Schoolhouse Theater

This page is dedicated to my home theater, a hobby I picked up a few years ago when I lived in a different house.  Most of this has been copied and pasted from  which is a forum where people can document the chronology of their theater builds.

I'll try and edit this article so it makes sense but the formatting is different than the forum.

This is a picture of the theater when the first build was completed enough to make it usable.  It has gone through many revisions and upgrades since then.  The progress you will see here has been spread out over almost four years.

I should mention here that the thing I am most proud of is that this theater is made completely from recycled, garage-saled, or repaired items and equipment.
1. The screen is 84" diag. and was built just as I would build a stretcher for a painting. My first screen was canvas with an experimental paint job including pearlescent components. I eventually settled on plain ol' black-out cloth.
2. My projector is an Infocus Screenplay 4805 which I bought on ebay with the collapsing light tube. This was easily fixed and the bulb only had 300 hours on it. I would like to mention here that I think it best to let this particular projector fan-cool after use. I read a FAQ a couple years ago that claimed that it would increase your bulbs longevity if you just powered down without fan-cooling, it was more natural. It is my belief that this hot-soak is why so many light tubes fail.
3. My surround amp is a JVC Pro Logic II which I got at a yard sale for $10! I told the gal that it was worth much more and she told me it belonged to her X-husband and to get it out of her sight. Ummm....okay I brought it home and there wasn't a darn thing wrong with it.
4. The large speakers are Kenwood stereo speakers I also got at a yard sale for $2. The cones needed a little tender loving care but sound great now.
5. The center and surround speakers are also Kenwood that I got from a pawn shop. I fixed a few DVD players for him and he gave them to me.
6. The Sony subs were acquired in the same manner. One is powered and the other is driven by the large amp on the right of the cabinet.
7. Sony DVD player (bought new actually).
8. The cabinet was cobbled together from an old laundry room, hanging-type cabinet and hand built components. I may eventually replace this with an equipment closet and build one of those cool stages everyone seems to like.
9. The surround speaker mounts were hand made. I will include photos later.
10. PS2 purchased at yet another yard sale for $10. I'm not a gamer (although I'd like to be) so I don't know if this was a good deal.
11. The chairs are from Barnes & Noble and are really quite comfortable but will soon be replaced with a couple of faux leather rocker recliners. I want to build a small riser for them as well.

I will post more detail pics with my next post.
All comments and suggestions welcome.
Thanks for looking,

Aha, I found a before picture. It's lousy but does show how I added to the partial wall (the seem) and was taken before I painted the ductwork flat black.

Here's a picture of the cabinet. Again, it was fabricated from an old laundry room hanging type unit and some left over MDF.

I think I might lean towards an art deco look when adding all the details so I designed and carved this mount for the right surround. I ran out of vacation time so for the left surround I knocked together something simple.

The left surround mount

This is the winow I would lose if I added the extra soffit for symetry. The curtain is a heavy, black corduroy. The window is something like 12" deep so we're always expecting the curtains to open with Punch and Judy poppiing out, lol.

That's about it for now. I anxiously await your thoughts on the two soffits and any ideas for making the back of the room lighter for non-screening activities.

Screenshot. Looks like I need to paint those track lights flat black.

I had a 20% off coupon for BigLots so I picked up a couple new additions for the theater. They're big and maybe a little ugly but man-oh-man they do sit nice. These are rocker recliners which I prefer over a simple recliner.

We call them "Joey" and "Chandler".

So it looks like it's time to build the riser
But before I do that I'm going to remove that main supply duct (right hand duct) and shunt the vent ducts to the other supply duct on the other side of the left-hand wall. There are only two vent supplies that have to be relocated so I don't think it will change the dynamics of the airflow much. It may even it out a little anyway.
Once that main supply duct is removed I can build a soffit over the return duct and build a matching soffit on the right-hand wall of the theater for symetry. That soffit can then be used for storage. I'll have to cap the window first though. When all that is complete I can start thinking about the ceiling.
It looks as though we're going to have an early winter here in the midwest. I'll just use the time I spend doing yardwork playing in the theater :-)
Have a good day, all.

Hello everyone,
It's been a while but I have some updates to the theater I would like to share. First update was replacing the old cabinet with a DIY equipment rack. It opens in the back which is located in the utility room.

Here's a neat little trick. I used MDF for the cabinet but also for the shelves. You know how hard it is to paint MDF end grain? I sealed the end grain with wood glue, just smeared on a good layer and wiped off the excess with a rag, let it dry, and sanded. That way I didn't get that fuzzy edge I've seen so many times. Works like a charm.

With the new equipment rack up and running I decided to build a couple subs. My father had given me a couple of stereo spekers before he passed on but they were a bit 70s looking so I pulled the 10" woofers and built these. Man oh man, they can sure rattle the teeth. They're powered by a 120 watt per channel amplifier I had lying around.

Next I needed to move the rectangular supply duct to the other side of room so I needed to loose the window.

With the window drywalled over I was able to reroute the ductwork. I was leary of the effects on airflow but it didn't change it at all. The space seems so much larger without both rectangular ducts hanging on the left.

Finally came the time to build the long awaited soffits. I was a little short on wood so I decided to to simply hang supports directly from the rafters. Big mistake! Lol, the rafters aren't very even and it took forever to even out the supports.

I used 1/2" MDF so I needed a way to hold the panels in place while I screwed them in. Notice the cleats I screwed to the wall under the 2x2 to create a kind of cradle to hold the panel.

One soffit down, one to go.

Well that's it for now. This weekend I may tackle the other soffit. This time I'll build a full frame and srew to the lowest rafters.
An interesting note; One of the division secretaries at school found our house (at the time, a one room schoolhouse) on a map dated 1847! No wonder the rafters aren't even, lol. They're not even pine. It seems that oak was common in this area at that time....but I would swear it drills and smells more like mahogany.
Next on the list:
1. A ceiling
2. A couple of short risers (my ceilings aren't very high)
3. New carpeting
4. Better lighting

Happy building, everyone.

For the right-hand soffit I decided to work smarter rather than harder. The solid frame made all the difference, although at 16 ft. long it was still a little too flexible.

The soffits are finished! I actually have a few small ones to build in the back of the theater but they can wait.

Look at that paint. I haven't been happy with that flat stuff. Too difficult to touch up, you can tell the difference between brushwork and roller, and even slightly bumping it, with say your shoulder, changes the sheen. It's just awful.
Anyway, time to start thinking about the ceiling


Finally, I can give something back to the forum and people that have given me so much inspiration and so many solutions.

So, my problem ceiling. It's short, like 7.5 feet. So dropping a ceiling wasn't an option. I have junction boxes everywhere, something like eleven in just the theater area alone. The pleasures of having a 177 year old house Code says that junction boxes must have access so drywall wasn't an option. Plus, I have committment issues and want to have access to my wiring and plumbing Also, I wanted something light enough that I could hang by myself.

I did some research and found that extruded polystrene, in other words that pink foam insulation board, is code as long as your house is not a rental. So I started cutting up my own tiles, beveling them on the sides for aesthetics. They take roll-on paint well, are light, and better acoustically than drywall or wood. Better, but not great.

I screwed the tiles directly to the floor joists using drywall screws, sinking them into the foam about a quarter of an inch. Then I simply covered the screw holes with 3/8" wood buttons. I painted the buttons before pressing them into the holes.
The tiles looked pretty good but it was a little too utilitarian for my tastes so I thought I'd spruce them up with those little wood accents. But I couldn't find anything I liked, especially sice I wanted a muted art deco look. So here's what I did:

Since I'm a sculptor, I had some oil clay sitting around. This is clay that doesn't harden so that it can be reused after the mold is made. I drew up my design and transfered it to the clay slab (rolled with rolling pin).

I cut out the form with a kitchen knife and began forming the fins into what I wanted.

Once the form was sculpted, I used art silicone from a supplier I use (let me know if you would like the website) to cover the clay. I didn't have enough silicone to just pour it over the form so I used thickener. Note the clay wall surrounding the form. This will contain the plaster.

After the silicone is set, about 12 hours in this case, I used plaster to make a mother mold to hold the silicone mold in the correct shape.

Be sure to use a release agent on the silicone or you'll have a heck of a time separating the silicone and plaster.

Here's the mold in it's mother mold ready for casting.

I used a liquid casting plastic because I'm familiar with it and I had some sitting around. It's a two part resin that can be demolded in 20 minutes, another plus. It goes in clear and turns white after it cures.

The finished cast. Now I just needed to make 39 more.

Next I used gorilla glue to glue the accents in place on the tiles. Some of you that know my small theater may notice that I've changed my color scheme. I was inspired by YW84U's Tanner Ridge Cinema.

And the painted tile

The plastic accents made the tiles quite a bit heavier. I thought about using a two part expanding foam but have had little experience with it. I did try spray foam with disastrous results.

I'm very pleased with the look of the ceiling so far. I have four more tiles with accents to make and many without the accents to hang. but, between school and making art, I'm slowly getting there.



***Great job on the ceiling. The art deco accents really add to the look.
If you are having trouble with matte finish paint try the Benjamin Moore Aura line in Matte finish. It is scrubbable and doesn't show marks like others I have seen.

***Thanks dcg58, That original mocha color was Dutch Boy. Really not good at all. When I repainted I used eggshell on the walls but used Behr paint and primer in one. Much much better. And I used Behr flat on the ceiling and that's been much better as well.
I'm really enjoying the new color scheme.
Now, if I could only stay awake through an entire movie! Lol.

***aw man I kinda liked the industrial-ness of the exposed ductwork and joists. Oh well, it's coming along.

***Saw the note in your OP with your theory of the 4805 light tubes failing because people just turned them straight off. I actually have been doing that myself for several years with my 4805, probably because we both read the same thing in the 4805 owner's thread. Well now mine is 6 years old (still on original bulb!) and the light tube is sure enough failing. Oh well, got a new Panny AR100U 1080p arriving tomorrow, so the 4805 will be retired, might try to get a few bucks for it.

***The industrial look has it's place, but not in my theater And those supply ducts were an acoustical nightmare.
It seems I may have been wrong about the light tube getting heat soaked, if you went for six years without a problem.
I bought my 4805 about five years ago myself, I think for around $200 with the light tube in pieces. It's not a difficult fix but does take an afternoon. I was looking at upgrading recently and was watching eBay prices. Of course a 4805 with a new-ish bulb goes for much more than a spent one, which went for something like $125-$150 is memory serves. And with a new bulb, more around $300.
I decided to spend the $100 on a new bulb and save the other four or five hundred (I wanted to spend on an HD) for risers, a stage, and carpeting.

I thought I'd show you folks how I managed to reproduce the hand-carved speaker bracket I had made early in the build. Using the same silicone mold and plastic resin process, I cast the original and now have an exact match. The picture is washed out but it illustrates the idea.

Just need to make the steel speaker holder, paint and hang it.


more comments


Originally Posted by petew View Post

OK I'm impressed. That is cool!

All I'd suggest is a darker color.


Originally Posted by cybrsage View Post

VERY nice!!! WOW!


Originally Posted by White fish View Post

nice, glade to see someone trying something different on thier ceilng

I want to do something similar with fabric


Originally Posted by JasonMiller1975 View Post

Beauty! Great hand-on job. +1 on the darker color.


Originally Posted by macadoo View Post

Thanks guys. It is a labor-o-love.
Two reasons for the ceiling color:
1. I've had a dark dark theater for years and it just seems to render the room useless for anything but watching movies, etc. The lighter color illuminates the room better for non-theater type activities. And it doesn't seems to interfere with the picture at all. I should note here that the color is actually just above a medium grey. Not near as white as the picture looks. I flooded it with light and used the flash to get a good picture.
2. If it was a darker color, nobody could see how freaking cool it is! Lol. Which brings me to the only real drawback; I find myself looking at the ceiling more than the screen, lol.


Originally Posted by dRwOOD73 View Post

Very nice work - elegant look to an otherwise bland tile ceiling.


Originally Posted by tony123 View Post

After more than a decade on the forum, I'm still amazed everyday at the talent of motivated individuals. Great work!


Originally Posted by NickTheGreat View Post


I'm a pretty handy fellow, but I sure couldn't do that. Well done!


Originally Posted by mtbdudex View Post

+1, I subscribe to this thread for the DIY know how shown here, just in case I want it for some future reason.

Great job macadoo


Originally Posted by dwightp View Post

I would like to know where you get your supplies.

I think this is really interesting. You certainly got a terrific themed look!


Originally Posted by macadoo View Post

A couple of things; White Fish, fabric? Sounds very cool. I'd like to see what you come up with.
And NickTheGreat (and all), everyone seems to think that art is some magical thing ,well...okay it kind of is, but nothing the average person can't try. I'm actually new to clay. I work mostly in wood and metals. The purpose of this write-up was to show how easy (not cheap) it can be. One of the pictures shows a bunch of fancy clay forming tools. The truth is, I did 95 % of the work with kitchen utensils and my fingers. No fancy tools required. Heck, you could probably use home made salt-dough for the clay and off the shelf 100% silicone for the mold (although the fumes would be dense, and I speak from experience).
I'm actually playing with something called "sculpt-a-mold" which is basically powdered cellulose (like paper-mache). It would be chepaer than the resin and a lot lighter. BUT (and this is one big but) it takes at least 24 hours to cure.
Thanks everyone for the kind words. I did this over my spring break. Talk about not wanting to go back to work. And I love my job! Lol.


Well folks, I've been putting in some long weekends but I wanted to get the ceiling finished before my summer break. Summer is when I make sculpture
I decided to end the sunbursts at the back of the soffits as I feel this nicely highlights the viewing area.
For anyone following the ceiling build; the last row of sunbursts (closest to the camera) are the Sculptamold casts.
Picture taken with flash...

I wanted recessed lighting above the Barnes & Noble table so I went with a piece of MDF. The molding around it helps to contain the light so it doesn't spill onto the viewing screen in the front of the theater.
Picture taken without flash...

It was a long road but one that I highly recomend for anyone wanting a custom ceiling. The most challenging part of this, and one that most of you wouldn't have to deal with, is that this house is about 175 years old and my floor joists weren't exactly on "centers". Each one more than an inch different than the last so each row of tiles has to be measured and cut to specs.
I'll leave you with some before (the remodel) and after pics.





Now all I need to do is replace those blue cutains with black. And a stage.....and risers...and...and....