6 Ways to Tell If Your Rigging Needs Repairs

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Counterweight rigging in good repair should look perfectly uniform

How many times have you heard someone at your theatre say this about your rigging system: “Oh, that noise? It’s been making that noise for years, so it can’t be anything bad.”

Take it from us—that noise is bad. Well-trained operators often can feel or hear when a line set isn’t working properly, but they are operators, not rigging maintenance experts. They may not know that something is seriously wrong.

How can you tell when a counterweight system is in some kind of trouble? The signs are more obvious than you might imagine. Counterweight systems should be uniform—every line set should look, feel, and sound the same. When something is different, it can be very obvious.

  1. All lines should be tight. Look at the vertical row of lines running from the locking rail to the ceiling. If one or more of the lines have slack in them, something is wrong with these lines.
  2. Counterweights should be level. Look at the arbors: the trays that hold the stage weights. All of the weights in each arbor should be level, with no gaps between the weights. If there’s a gap, an operator may have placed something there—a pencil, for example. Uneven weights can fall out of arbors, causing serious accidents.
  3. Check rope locks before performers move onstage. Ropes must be locked to keep battens in place after a scene shift. An open rope lock can result in a runaway batten—which can mean head injuries onstage. If a rope lock won’t lock tightly, it’s time for a repair.
  4. Listen for strange sounds. Not all problems will present themselves visually. If there’s a loud squeak in one of the lines, a rubbing sound where a cable is coming into contact with an object on its way up or down, or a rattle as the arbor rises, then something is not right.
  5. Vibrations signal a problem. An abnormal vibration in the system will transmit right down through the hand line. A cable may be contacting a drop or set piece, or a drop may be hitting a stationary flat on its way down or up.
  6. Change is bad. If one operator could move a hand line easily in yesterday’s rehearsal, but today needs assistance, that’s a strong clue a problem has developed. The batten may be caught on a piece of scenery or an electric pipe, or weight may have been added to the batten without the corresponding counterweights on the arbor.
Rigging - Broken Carriage

A broken arbor must be repaired before the line set can be used

There’s one more issue that can lead to system failure: a lack of proper training. If your operators are unsure of themselves, if they don’t recognize the signs that something’s wrong, or if they have questions that cannot be answered, then training is in order. Training new operators or refreshing the training of more experienced crew members can help them spot issues before they become problems.

When you suspect a problem with the rigging system or when you know it’s time to train or retrain your operations, it’s time to call in a professional. The name of the local dealer or equipment manufacturer should be plainly marked on newer systems. If you have an older system, or if you’re new to the facility and you don’t know where the system was purchased, call J. R. Clancy at (800) 836-1885. We’ll help you find a professional rigger in your area who’s certified by the Entertainment Technician Certification Program (ETCP). He or she has the knowledge and experience to inspect your system, recommend repairs, and train your operators.

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