How to build a lighting truss

Written by brian connolly
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When it comes to building a performance space, one thing is certain: You'll need lights. Whether you are creating the light plot for a dance club, a small black-box theatre or a large-scale music venue, the most effective method for lighting your stage involves installing a lighting truss--a structure that you can hang lights from.

Skill level:
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Things you need

  • 4 well-anchored ceiling hanging-units
  • Sandbags
  • 2 A-frame ladders or lifting units
  • 100 feet of high-strength chain, 5 to 7mm of at least G80 durability, cut to truss height
  • 1 1/2-inch corrugated steel pipe in a 16-foot cut
  • 8 industrial-strength carabiners
  • Level
  • Screw gun (optional)
  • Grinder (optional)
  • Stud finder (optional)

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Decide on the area of the stage that the lights on the truss will illuminate. Select an optimal angle that will bathe the target area in light, ensuring at least a 6-foot distance out from the stage.

  2. 2

    Check the durability of the ceiling hang points. Your most secure option will be built-in I-beams or eyehooks. Test your hang point with sandbags to guarantee a load capacity of 1,000 to 1,500 pounds. To install eyehooks, use a stud finder to find ceiling joists. Drill four holes in a straight line at 4-foot intervals; screw in the eyehooks by hand.

  3. 3

    Attach high-grade chain to the corrugated steel pipe tightly at each end by wrapping the chain at least twice along the pipe. Begin with the end-link of the chain in your hand as you wrap, clipping the final link securely with a carabiner to the part of the chain that will be suspended. Lift each end of the pipe by the chain to ensure that the fastening is secure.

  4. 4

    Repeat with two additional chains, wrapping each at 4-foot intervals along the pipe and fastening with two more carabiners.

  5. 5

    Raise each end of the pipe simultaneously with the aid of two ladders or lift devices and suspend the end chains from the ceiling supports.

  6. 6

    Experiment here with different heights to decide on the best hanging angle (45 degrees is generally best). If using eyehooks, connect carabiners directly to the desired link of chain. With an exposed I-beam, use the "wrap-and-connect" method that you used to fasten the chain to the pipe. Trim remaining slack with a grinding tool.

  7. 7

    Repeat with the two inner chains until the truss is entirely level.

  8. 8

    Hang lights to the truss by manually tightening the C-clamp attached to each lighting fixture.

Tips and warnings

  • Always hang your lights at a safe distance above the heads and hands of your audience. Six feet from ground level is the preferable height.
  • Always distribute the weight of your lights evenly to prevent stress on your chains.
  • Attach the safety cables that come with each instrument, double-wrapping to ensure security and tightness.
  • If using a dimmer box for the lights, hang it in the centre of the truss. You also could use extension cords to connect the lights to the power source.
  • Your truss is only as durable as the ceiling you mount it from, and the safety of your audience always comes first. While you may save money making this truss on your own, construction comes with the extra responsibility of maintaining safety. Follow all safety practices while hanging and changing lights and perform routine stability checks to your truss.

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