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How Can I Make an Olio Drop, an Oleo Drop, or a Roll Drop?

A common solution for many small stage rigging issues is a roll drop (oleo drop, olio drop), which works like an old fashioned window shade. The non mechanized solution as detailed below uses gravity to unroll the drop and a human operator to roll the drop back up by pulling on side ropes.

The term ' Olio' is used loosely and has different meanings. In one alternative interpretation an Olio is any flown painted drop. Similarly, you will hear the term applied to a decorative front curtain used in vaudeville. Also some ' Olio' roll drops are set up with the drum on the ground to roll up the drop at the bottom. This particular rigging was common in opera houses.

Will scrim work for a Oleo Drop?

This is not for all types of scrims. You must use a scrim that doesn' t stretch, and doesn' t have heavy side seams. Therefore it' s not a technique for sharks tooth. Use Chameleon™ Scrim for Olio drops.

Will an Oleo Drop work for my setting?

  • You need head space to hide the roll and the mechanism. About 24 foot or more for a larger drop.
  • You need a sturdy attachment points for the pulleys.
  • You need a place for the operator in the wings to run the drop.
  • Oleos work best for smaller spaces, perhaps 15foot - 20 foot

How much scrim material do I need?

If you are using a 4 inch tube in your Oleo Drop, figure that you need the height from the floor to the height that the drop is hung at in feet, and add 4 feet. So if you are going to hang a drop at 15 foot height, buy 19 foot material. The 4 feet allows you to wrap the top around the pipe several times. If you are using a 5-6 inchpipe allow 5-6 feet more than your hanging height.

Don' t attempt this with a stretchy scrim material (don' t use sharks tooth scrim!). Chameleon™ scrim hangs square without side seams and so will work with this assembly.

How should I have a Chameleon™ Scrim finished to use it as an Oleo Drop?

Have the scrim unfinished (un-sewn) at the top. Have a pipe pocket put in at the bottom. Don' t seam the sides. You can have flame retardant applied.

Can an Oleo Drop be used for painted scenery?

Yes. That's where it comes from. It' s a scrim usage that' s relatively new. If you wish for us to paint or print a scrim, please contact us. Chameleon™ is an excellent painting surface. If you choose to paint a scrim yourself, please reference our article on how to paint a scrim.

What type of pipe/roll is best to construct into my Oleo Drop/ Roll Drop?

Use 4 inch thin walled aluminum pipe if possible. The temptation is to use PVC (sewer) pipe, but that can sag over the distance. 5 inch - 6 inch diameter aluminum can be used as well. The tubing comes in 20' widths. You need about 30 inchesmore than the width of the drop itself.

What else do I need to make an Oleo Drop?

Gaffer' s tape; plenty of rope; 1 double sheave pulley and 2 single sheave pulleys. Pulleys must be sized for the rope used.; Two cap disks that fit the end of the pipe and stick up about an inch (prevents rope from sliding off the ends). Some sources suggest that a notch or hole be made in those rings to be used to secure the end of the rope.

You also need a place to tie off the ropes near where the operator stands. The operator (stage hand) must have some strength if this is not a scrim because of potential weight of painted muslin/canvas. Without mechanization raising a painted canvas Oleo Drop is work.

You need a pipe used to weight for the bottom of the scrim.

How much rope do I needto rig an Oleo Drop?

It depends on where you place the operator of the Oleo. If he' s directly at the edge of the drop, you need 3 times the height you' ve hung the drop at plus several feet for the first piece of rope. For the second piece of rope you need the width of the drop plus the size of the first rope.

If the operator of the Oleo will be off to the side, you will need more rope for both pieces. You should draw out the installation to scale and measure the rope from that drawing, adding enough rope to include the rope wasted within the bends around the pulleys.

How to hang and rig an Oleo Drop

(information provided to the best of our knowledge based on information from many sources)
Not shown in illustration. Usually a bearing is used on each end of the Olio. Sometimes the inside of each end of the pipe is fitted with a bearing(--if this method is used, a solid end cap cannot be used.) A pipe or other support is used in the bearing to support the weight of the Olio. Since the method of hanging the Olio is specific to your installation, expect some effort in determining the best method.
  • Hang the single sheave pulleys in place above where the roll drop will hang. They should be slightly in from the ends of the roll, so that the space between them is less than the length of the roll. Hang the 3rd pulley on the operator side (this is the double sheave) above the operator.
  • Use tabs of tape to attach scrim material to the roll. Make sure attachment is in one direct line. Then use a solid stretch of gaffe tape to hold the scrim securely in place.
  • Roll the scrim onto the tube for 3-4 full turns.
  • First rope runs from operator' s position to double sheave pulley, then near side single pulley. Attach this end to the near side of the roll on outside edge of the near cap disk.
  • Second rope goes from operator position to the double sheave pulley on the near side of the place where the roll drop will hang to the single pulley on the far side of the roll drop. Attach this end to the far side of the roll on outside edge of far cap disk.
  • Notice that two ropes run parallel to each other directly up from the operator to the two pulleys on the near side.
  • Calculate 3.14 times height in feet that you wish the drop to rise add a few feet. Use a marker to mark this distance on each side of the rope from the attached ends (ends fastened to caps). Now neatly roll up this amount on each side to the marker line. Make sure that your wraps are neat and start from the cap disks and proceed inward. Important: Make sure you are wrapping in the correct direction on the pipe- the rope must run up to the sheave of the pulley on the side opposite of the drop. In use, when the drop unrolls, the rope rolls onto the pipe, and visa versa.
  • Test and run the Olio to stretch the rope and make adjustments as needed.

Problems/ Issues of Oleo Drops

  • If you notice that the drop won' t unroll or unrolls without stretching tight, try using a heavier pipe weight or thinner more pliable rope (if rigging a lightweight scrim).
  • If the oleo snags or unrolls unevenly, try re-rigging.
  • If the oleo rolls up crookedly, or has diagonal wrinkles/fold lines. Try re rolling the drop on the pipe, you may have not had it straight.
  • Operation is not smooth. Consider running the rig a few times and readjusting. Also check the placement of the pulleys' it should allow for clear operation without snagging on any surface.

Information is provided as a courtesy to our customers and other interested readers. Please write us to add to the information. We are always looking to improve the information we provide.

Diagram of rigging on Oleo Drop

This is not to scale. The diagram indicates some positions of major elements. But does not show the suspension of the pipe.

A Roll Drop example.

Want to know about the history of Oleo/Olio and the names?

These terms have an odd and interesting history. To follow it click on: I want to know why an Olio is called an 'Olio', or called an 'Oleo'

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