110" Diagonal Wilson Art Designer White DIY Projection Screen
EDIT March 30th, 2009: Since this page seems to get many views, I thought I would add a link to my post updating what I've learned about this screen over the past couple of year. See the following post for details.
This article will detail what I went through to create my front projection screen. It's mostly pictures with a few bits of text explaining any of the real details I feel the pictures do not show. I'm building a 96"x54" 16:9 screen with a 2 - 3 inch masking around the edges.
5' x 10' Designer White Laminate from Wilson Art.
2 5' 1x4 poplar boards
2 6' 1x4 poplar boards
2 8' 1x4 poplar boards
Box of 1 1/4" coarse threaded drywall screws
Box of 1 5/8" coarse threaded drywall screws
8 3 1/2" coarse threaded drywall screws
8 "L" brackets (The should come with the screws)
3 yards of black velvet
3 10' plastic drywall corner beads
Lots of 5/16" staples
Leftover piece of 3/4" thick plywood/mdf board or a couple of 5 - 6 foot 1x4 boards of any type.
8 30lb Drywall Anchors
Finish Hammer or other small hammer
1/2" Drill Bit
1/8" or 3/16" Drill Bit
At least 9' Long straight edge from something. I used a piece of straight trim.
Cutting the Laminate
The laminate cost me just a shade over $100 dollars. I asked the person at the supply company to unroll it so that I could inspect it and he looked at me like I was joking only to find out I wasn't. He didn't seem surprised when I told him it was for a home theater screen so I didn't understand his reaction. That said, the laminate looked great and I hauled it home. Cutting the laminate was pretty easy but there's no guarantee that the laminate itself is square on all sides. It should be but I found out later that it was not. All it took to cut it was to mark with a pencil at the top and bottom of the sheet 98" from one side. Use the straight edge and score the sheet once with a utility knife. Remove the straight edge and score the laminate 2 - 4 more times until there is a good deep cut down one side. If your blade pokes through once or twice you know you're deep enough. All that you have to do is fold and break the smaller piece off. Score the front side of the laminate so that the process of breaking it doesn't chip the screen surface. Measure 56" the other way and repeat.
Building the Frame
First step to building the frame is to trim the edges of the 8' and 5' 1x4s so that they are square to one another. I used a miter saw to do this to ensure the boards were straight. If you picked up your wood from Lowes or Home Depot, don't expect the boards to be perfect. As long as they are not twisted or cupped you should be fine with a slight curve. Obviously, the straighter the better but I couldn't find the perfect wood so I chose the best I could find. It's not noticeable after we're done.
If you have access to a wood shop, drilling the holes through the sides of the 1x4s is a lot easier. I managed to do it but it took lots of care and I screwed up one of them to the point where I couldn't put the screw through it. Drill with your 3/16" drill bit all the way through the 5' poplar board and into the end of the 8' poplar board it will connect to. When pre drilling make sure that everything stays square and that the 5' 1x4 attaches to the end of the 8' 1x4 to form an "L". Drill all the holes then screw them together using the 3 1/2" screws. Once the frame is assembled, add two sets of "L" brackets to each corner for added rigidity.
Next take the 6' 1x4s and cut them to a decent length where you can space them at the 1/3rd points on the back of the frame. Eventually these will be what your screen rests against the wall with. Make sure to leave enough room above and below the boards so that you can staple the black velvet to the back of the frame. I left just over an inch. Flip the frame over and add a piece of anything that is rigid and 3/4" thick to the middle of your newly installed cross members. This piece of wood supports the middle of the laminate which will tend to sag without something holding it up. To mount the cross members I predrilled the holes and used the 1/2" bit to slightly countersink the screws. I then used the 1 1/4" drywall screws to attach the cross members. You may need to do the same with the midscreen support though they naturally countersink with the MDF board I used that was leftover from building the shelves in my basement.
Adding the Laminate
Place the laminate face up on top of the frame. It is a good idea to draw with pencil the 96"x54" screen area so that you can tell what parts of the laminate are ok to screw into. Using the 1 1/4" drywall screws attach the laminate to the frame. I found it was best to square the bottom of the laminate to the frame as best as possible. There should be 1" of laminate that overlaps the wood frame on all sides. Working from one side to the other screw down the laminate. If you screw down the corners first the laminate will bow as you work your way to the center so you're going to have to trust your alignment and keep the laminate flat as you work your way across. Now, flip the screen so that the top is on the bottom and lean the entire frame against a wall at a near vertical slope. This will help keep the laminate from bowing in the middle because gravity will work in your favor keeping everything tight. Work down one side, then the bottom and finally up the other side. If no bowing occurred then the laminate is screwed down flat. If not try to adjust by backing out some screws and rescrewing them down in a new hole. Don't worry about too many holes inthe laminate. All that will be covered up by the velvet and only you will know where you screwed up.
Adding the Masking
I borrowed this technique from the AVS Forums. You can find it there under the Wilson Art Laminate section of the DIY Screen forums. Using a utility knife, score the inside of the "U" shaped area of all the drywall corner bead. Bend and break of the solid part leaving the largest part with the holes for use on your masking. Cut two pieces to 96" and cut the last 10' piece to two pieces 54" long. You'll repeat the following technique 4 times to do all four edges. I did the top and bottom of the screen first and then I did the sides so that my corners came out looking the same.
Unroll the black velvet fabric and measure about 6" - 8" off the edge and cut into the end the length of a scissor blade. The woman at the fabric store told me the best way to cut velvet was to rip it. Its the only way to ensure you get a straight "cut". She was very right. Just rip the fabric from one end to the other and it will rip a nice straight line. Line up the fabric with an edge of the frame. Staple it down velvet side down on the frame itself but not through the laminate.
With the backside of the velvet facing up, place a strip of the drywall corner bead on the fabric. The flat edge where you did not cut should be facing into the screen area. Work your way down the drywall corner bead by lining up the edge with the pencil line you drew to mark the edge of your screen. When lining the edge up, hold the edge with one hand and pull back the fabric as if you were going to staple it to the back. The fabric should just cover the pencil line all the way down when its pulled tightly over the edge of the drywall bead. Now if you have a staple gun strong enough to push a staple through the laminate use a staple to hold down the drywall corner bead. If not, carefully use a screw making sure not to snag the velvet by driving the screw to fast through the fabric. Work your way from one end to the other keeping the corner bead aligned with your pencil line and as flat as possible.
With the corner bead secured, stand up the frame and wrap the velvet around the back. Securely staple the velvet to the back of hte frame. Fold any excess velvet under itself and staple through two layers if you need to in order to keep it neat and secure. Rinse and repeat this for all sides until your masking is done.
Details about the sides and the 45 degree corners.
Adding the Mounts
I read the forums over at AVS Forums and determined that I wanted to use the cleat method to hang my screen. It seemed fairly easy to do and I had a couple of extra pieces of wood from the 6' 1x4 poplar that I could use to build a couple cleats. Build the cleats by cutting two pieces of wood to the exact same length. Then cut a 45 degree angle through each board so that the 4 pieces are mirror images of one another. Leave 2" - 4" of flat board on each side of the cleats as this is where you will attach them to the frame and to the wall. Attach the cleats to the top 8' 1x4 board. I used three screws here in each cleat and made sure the screws went deep enough into each piece of wood to hold. Predrill all holes so the wood does not split. Measure where you want to hang your screen and put the other cleats on the wall in the right place. I found the middle of the wall and the middle of the frame and then measured each cleat on the frame and placed the corresponding cleat on the wall using that distance. It doesn't have to be perfect but it should be close. The only other thing you have to be sure of is that each cleat is level and even height with each other. Worst case is that you need to add a sliver of wood to one of the cleats to lift up one side or the other. (See above picture for location of cleats.)
With the mounts on the frame and the wall, all you should have to do is put the screen on the wall by lining up the cleats. You'll feel the screen drop into place when you're properly aligned with the cleats which leaves me one last recommendation. Make sure you have at least 2 inches of headroom above your screen to the soffit or ceiling. You'll need it to position the screen cleats over one another before the cleats drop into place.
That's it. Enjoy your new screen.