Greetings Folks,
I have been asked to take on the task of redesigning our temporary/mobile wall system for our galleries. Outsourcing contractors for custom wall configurations is not an option nor is the prefab "mila-wall" system. The homemade system we have now is constructed of 1/2" MDO and 2x4's to make 4' x 10' panels that are bolted together while lying flat on the floor then lifted and tied into an outer gallery wall then repeated for each segment to form the gallery "maze". My main problem areas for a new system are connecting hardware and what to do with the seams. Any suggestion or information from those that have been through this before and are willing to help out would be greatly appreciated.

Erik Hansen
Lead Preparator
John Michael Kohler Art Center




One solution for the seams, and I don’t know how often you paint these walls, but use 3” masking tape over the seams and paint the entire wall.
Another option is to just use a 1” x 4” over the seam, then paint a contrasting color or same color.

Brian T. York
Strategic Air & Space Museum


Hi Erik,

We have developed a system I’d be happy to email you details and pics about if you like. The “short” story is: we have an inventory of 10’ high walls in 4’, 8’, 10’ lengths, as well as 4’ “T”s, 8’ and 12’ “L”s; 3/4” ACX framing about 12 – 14” o.c. with horizontal 3/4” ACX let-ins for stability, 1/2” MDF skins, we rout a 1” wide shallow gutter on each end of MDF skin to accommodate drywall tape/mud; walls are sitting on 1/4” thick 4” square metal tube outfitted with big adjustable nonskid feet (3 ton cap each) for leveling; walls attach to each other or to perimeter walls using modular MDF connectors outfitted with Norse latches and receivers; we have custom dollies which attach in pairs to the walls to lift and move them... It starts to get fussy on details after that, as if it already isn’t fussy enough

Anyway the idea for the seams is there’s a removable MDF strip onto which a typical drywall tape and mud treatment is given. When we take walls apart and reconfigure, the strip is pried out, taking most of the mud with it; then some scraping of what’s left to start over. It’s been 2-1/2 years with this system with several changeouts per year and we are happy. It’s definitely an investment in time to fab these walls (a lot of custom routing of “studs”, let-ins, and MDF connectors), but they are simple to reskin, we’ve left access channels on the ends to run electrical/signal cables, the adjustable feet make for easy leveling compared to using piles of shims, they’re safe to move (with the movers of course). Except for the wall movers and routing templates, all other parts are available off-the-shelf.

Paul Brewin
Exhibition Manager
San Diego Museum of Art



We have a system that was built in house about 30 years ago. Like yours, there is a lot of hand work involved in setting up and dismantling these walls. We use to reconfigure the wall about 4 times a year, but have limited our reconfigurations as it is so time consuming. The issues of seams, especially every 4 feet (our panels are wider: 88 in X 109 in) will be a significant visual problem. I would stay away from mudding the wall unless they are being installed for the long haul. There is simply too much prep work to bring them back. I’ve done this kind of work over and over again and unless you have a large staff to assist you it is simple too much to do unless this is a permanent install. We use caulk for our seams - which won’t solve all your problems but if you level the walls carefully it will work and is easily reversible.

Our panels have a ¾ inch groove that runs along the top and sides of each panel, the advantage here is that we can lock in the tops using a wooden dowel that is squared up on our table saw. It locks the tops together using friction, (¾ x ¾ x 6 in) we simple tap the block in place with a hammer. We had a local welder make heavy steel brackets that we use to lock the side panels together when we need to turn a corner and they can be used as a flat back brace on long straight runs as well. The down side of our system is that there is a lot of shimming to be done, but if you are redesigning your system you can probably find a hardware alternative that makes sense.

I would be glad to send out a drawing of the steel brackets we use, they have been a god send.

There are probably lot of idea out there is the PACIN universe, we needed to be very budget wise with our system, so it works for us but it’s not a perfect solution.

Jeffrey Wright-Sedam


We have some temporary show walls from a fabricator. They used CNC parts of course but the concept doesn't require it. They made horiz. ribs and frame out of 3/4" shop ply attached 1/4" ply to both faces. (I have made copies using 1/2" ply on one side only) They also used plastic laminate as the finish surface but most people won't want that. They are light weight and inexpensive. For storage we have the carts they came on; large flat carts with removable sides.

To lock them together roto-locks, aka coffin locks cinched each panel together. ( They made corner connections and even curved walls in this way. They have held up well and we've used them mostly for hiding back of house storage in a gallery. The CNC aspect means all the locks line up perfectly, so doing them by hand will yield more 'individual' results. Assembly tables need to be really flat and square. Since the locks are set the tops always line up but we also have to shim a lot to compensate for saggy cement floors.

As for seams, I think the paintable caulk is the best solution or a very thin tape that's painted out. Getting out of the 4 x 8 rhythm could help too. But really, if the seams are clean and unadorned they are ignorable. I tell my people to never paint hardware as it will always look tacky after a few bad paint jobs. Honest joints and hardware are preferable to me.

Steve Briscoe
Preparator, History Department
Oakland Museum of California


We make temporary walls in much the same way. It's very important to build on a perfectly flat surface. Ours are lightweight, 2-1/2" thick and the size is 5' x 7' - mainly to break up that "4 x 8" rhythm.

Mike Otto

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