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How Can I Make a Tumbler Style 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.

A traditional Oleo is tough to set up, because you have to figure out how to let the top roller roll while being firmly anchored in the ceiling (usually a bearing). It can also be expensive, because of the Aluminum 4" OD roll. But a variation called a tumbler is relatively easy to do.

Will scrim work for a Tumbler 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 a Tumbler Drop work for my setting?

  • You need head space to hide the roll and the mechanism. About 24 inches 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.
  • Tumblers work best for smaller spaces, perhaps 15 foot-20 foot

How much scrim material do I need?

If you are using a 4 inch tube in your Tumbler 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 inch pipe 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 Tumbler Drop?

Have the scrim unfinished (un-sewn) at the bottom. Have grommets and ties at the top. Don' t seam the sides. You can have flame retardant applied.

Can a Tumbler 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 OD pipe or roll. Makes sure the roll is not currently warped or bent. 5 inch to 6 inch diameter aluminum can be used as well. The roll needs to be about 2 to 3 feet wider than the drop.

What else do I need to make a Tumbler 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 a Tumbler 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 Tumbler 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.

  • Hang the single and double 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.
  • 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 2 or more 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 Tumbler to stretch the rope and make adjustments as needed.

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 a Tumbler Drop

This is not to scale. The diagram indicates some positions of major elements.

A Roll Drop example.

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