2013 VBS Sets Brainstorm

Hey guys! We’re getting ready to plan sets for 2013. Nope. Can’t share the theme but I’d like to invite you to BRAINSTORM a bit.

What’s your favorite VBS set or VBS build?

What’s your favorite set building material?

What worked?

What didn’t work?

Any tricks of the set building trade you wouldn’t mind sharing?

We use a lot of foam insulation board (our non-technical term). It takes latex house paint and craft paint very well, cuts easily, and is lightweight to carry. You can also glue it to wooden frames or to itself using Loctite All Purpose Construction Adhesive. The sheets are 4′ X 8′ and come in either .5″ or 2″ thicknesses. Check out your local home improvement store for both.

We like to use a carpenter’s knives (box cutters) with retractable blades, jig saw’s and hack saw blades to cut or form our foam insulation boards. We also use hot knives and hot wire knives. Here’s a link for the hot knife: http://woodlandscenics.woodlandscenics.com/show/Item/ST1438/page/1

Here’s a link for the hot wire: http://woodlandscenics.woodlandscenics.com/show/Item/ST1435/page/1

You may find them cheaper elsewhere. Just Google “hot knife” or “hot wire knife.” We ordered our knives from the above links a few years ago and I must admit – the prices have gone up!

Also, you can hit the foam board, especially the Styrofoam, with a hot gun. It melts the Styrofoam slightly creating great effects while also making it easier to paint. Here’s the link to one – and it has hot knives too. http://www.harborfreight.com/professional-heat-gun-with-digital-temperature-settings-97114.html

PEEL THE THIN PLASTIC OFF THE FOAM BOARD BEFORE YOU PAINT.

For free set building material, you might also want to check out local furniture stores and carpet stores. Many of them will let you dumpster dive for cardboard, big chunks of styrofoam or used carpet rolls.

Thanks and let us know you thoughts!

Gordon

Comments

  1. Sharon says

    Foam insulation board is one of my favorites for building the big stage(in church). Only thing is it can be a little pricey for smaller churches on tight budgets. I recommend getting with other churches and swaping set ups, decorations, etc…You can meet early and decide what church is going to do each scene, etc… and then work accordlingly. I’ll admit this takes a little more patience than just being able to go out and buy everything yourself. But, we are suppose to be good stewards of what God has blessed us with. :)

  2. says

    Materials for set building is harder to find with more stores recycling their cardboard or re-using their boxes until they are not servicable. Foam core board gets expensive when you are decorating numerous rooms. I tend to use Cardboard when I can find it, and butcher paper. Colored butcher paper or bulletin board paper is great for taping on the walls and I just roll it up after VBS so that it can be re-used. Rolls of colored paper can be expensive as well, but it is enough to decorate numerous rooms and still have some for later in the year. Usually it is only painted or decorated on one side,so the other side is still clean for another use.

    There are great painting techniques and scrunch, fold, and bend the paper techniques that make plain sheets of paper look like a 3-D set. Sharing ideas on some of these easy techniques that just use stencils, spray paint and large sheets of paper would be a great resource and save us time from “googling” different theater set painting techniques online.

    The theater sets you show and teach are great for ideas and inspiration, but when I taught at our association clinic this past weekend, I have not found anyone who has said they will be making the Victoria Falls set that you created. Most said it is due to space in the classroom and expense. For churches that maybe have one Bible Study area that all the children rotate through, it might work, but for the teachers I spoke to, their church set up multiple Bible Study classes for the individual grade level groups.

    Sets that focus primarily on items that teachers may already have around the house would, in my opinion, be wonderfully received by VBS teachers. There are ideas in the Leader Guides on how to decorate. The Decorating Made Easy book has easy decorations and decorating ideas on a budget and these are good resources for us and I do appreciate them. There are a lot of teachers and workers in the church who can and have the time to build the foam core sets, but I am not able to. How to take a King Size sheet I bought from the thrift shop and paint it to look like the Matterhorn step by step would be something that I could do.

    This is just my opinion and what I have found and used doing VBS over the years. There are probably plenty of churches who storm the Home building stores for foam board and other supplies, but in my experience, I don’t know many churches in my area who do build the more elaborate sets for the individual classes. The teachers do decorate their rooms and some of them are absolutely fabulous, but just not with the foam core boards. The Worship Rally stage is a different story and those are usually larger builds like you have instructions for.

  3. Debra says

    The foam board is too expensive. We use cardboard instead. I always have everything figures out, long before the decorating book is available.

  4. PAM GODWIN says

    I AGREE WITH SO MANY – I LOVE WORKING WITH THE FOAM INSULATIION BOARD, IT IS EASY TO DRAW ON , CUT AND PAINT BUT I SPENT HALF MY BUDGET PURCHASING IT AND HAVING IT DELIVERED. MY ALL TIME FAVORITE THEME WAS GAME DAY CENTRAL – I MADE EVERYTHING ! PVC WAS CHEAP AND I HAVE RE-USED IT OVER THE YEARS , WELL WORTH THE MONEY SPENT ( PLUS I COULD FIT IN MY SUV ). I’D LOVE TO SEE THE SAME SUPER AWESOME SETS BUT MORE COST EFFECTIVE. GEE , MAYBE IF YA GAVE US THE 2013 THEME WE BE OF BETTER HELP ???LOL

  5. Susen Pruitt says

    Gordon, there are some bacgrounds which only lend themselves to foam boards, and I have learned so much from you, Melita and the others about how to peel off the plastic, and all the different tools to use for cutting, painting, connecting with dowels, etc. But you have also inspired me and coached me one-on-one on how to paint some of the same background props on canvas (or sheets for easy transport. I had to do that when transporting within our assotiation in a POV to train others how to reproduce Grand Central Stration last year and Northern Lights this year. Then I had to be ready to turn around and fold Grand Central Stration up last year to transport it to other churches to share after our VBS. Thanks for all the awefome training and ideas you keep sharing with us on the blogs!

  6. KdRR says

    While we appreciate the interesting set designs, we feel that too much emphasis is put on the decoration. We enjoy transforming rooms to inspire. However, we feel that perhaps the Lifeway VBS creators should travel the country and speak to the people who are running the VBS in their churches. A VBS program should be adaptable to all sizes of churches. The decorating in the Lifeway VBS always appears to suite large churches but yet the curriculum does not. We appreciate the excellent artist working for you.

  7. Melita Thomas says

    Thanks for all the great responses, guys! Just wanted to let you know that the Decorating Made Easy book is being completely redesigned for VBS 2013 to feature EASY (i.e. realistic) decoration ideas. I think you will definitely be pleased with the changes you’ll see. Keep on giving us feedback so that we can know how to better serve you!

  8. Gordon Brown says

    You guys are great and so are your comments and suggestions. If I could, I’d fly each and everyone of you to Nashville for a “VBS Set Building Conference”!

    Pam Godwin – nice one. That’s the best and most convincing “tell me the new VBS theme” I’ve ever heard!

    …and thanks Mo! (that’s what I call Melita most of the time) We’re pretty excited about the decorating ideas you’ll find in the Decorating Made Easy book for 2013.

    You know this already but the coolest thing about VBS are the people who volunteer their time and talent to make VBS happen. Churches with huge impressive sets with volcanos that actually erupt to beautifully simple sets with volcanos painted on bed sheets, both churches share the same passion – they love kids and want nothing more than to tell them about Jesus.

    I would encourage and affirm each of you, regardless of what your set looks like, keep on lovin’ those kids. YOU are the most valuable asset to any VBS. It is an honor to serve along side you. Keep the suggestions coming. You guys really are the best!!!

  9. says

    I would love to see the Music room included in your decorating guides. There are always videos for decorating everywhere but music, I assume because a lot of people use the same place for music and Worship Rally, but I know several churches where we are do not. It is always a fun struggle to see what we can find from previous years and come up with how to decorate for music. This year we are gonna put up Christmas trees, have a hot chocolate stand, put out some ski equipment and lots of batting for snow with a sheet painted like the Matterhorn.

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