Whenever I ref a game, I have two requirements for a referee's screen: I like it to be landscape rather than portrait, so that I can actually see and reach over it; and I need lots of room for notes and maps (I like to use big maps).
So I generally wind up using two four-panel landscape screens (the sort that were published for 4th and 5th edition AD&D), or one of those four-panel screens in combination with a customizable three-panel screen with pockets on the inside for tables and the outside for artwork (published ostensibly for Savage Worlds, but useful for pretty much anything). Still, it gets kind of annoying always having to schlep two screens around, and I don't have any particular use for 4th or 5th edition rules tables.
So I finally took the plunge and made my own screen.
Some DIY instructions online suggested getting thin pieces of canvas-covered art-board and then gluing sheet protectors to those; but art-board is damned expensive, and anyway I already have a screen you can customize with inserts. (Doubtless from now on my 3-panel savage-worlds screen is just going to be dedicated to Risus.) No, this one was going to be purely designed for my new edition of Engines & Empires. I just needed to come up with a less expensive substrate.
As it turned out, I had a couple of pads of bristol board in the closet:
I have had these pads for years and years, intending to use them for calligraphy projects which I simply haven't gotten around to. But it turned out to be the perfect material. Bristol board is thicker and stiffer than paper, but not quite so stiff as cardstock; so, since these pads were 14" × 17" in size, I figured that folding a sheet in half to make it 14" × 8.5" (legal size) and then arranging four panels in landscape format would make for the ideal screen size.
One sheet folded in half was still too flimsy; even two sheets folded over wasn't quite stiff enough. So I took three sheets and arranged them as "Λ V Λ", but interlocking, pasted together with plain old Elmer's glue and left under some stacks of heavy books overnight to cure. In the end, I had four perfectly stiff legal-size panels of my own construction, each of them six sheets of bristol board thick.
The next step was to actually assemble the screen. Fairly straightforward, I purchased some white duct tape and ran a piece along the edge of each panel to cover up any irregularities or imperfections; then I made a hinge by setting two panels on top of each other (with a few sheets of paper in between as spacers) and folding two pieces of tape over the outside of one edge; then, opening up the panels, there would be a gap with some exposed tape between them. Two more pieces of duct tape, run down through the gap with a finger, and the hinge between each panel is basically done.
Next, I had to print out tables for the inside and artwork for the outside. For the latter, I just searched around until I found a "three monitor" desktop background, suitably fantastical and steampunkish, and I embellished the extra space with some logos:
Printed out on eight legal-sized sheets of photo-paper, these were easily pasted onto the assembled screen with spray adhesive (the sort used for making posters, so that the paper doesn't wrinkle or warp).
Finally, the nearly-finished screen got several coats of glossy acrylic to laminate it. This was the most time-consuming part of the process, as each coat has to be thin and left to dry properly for several hours between applications; but the end result is worth it:
Pretty groovy, eh? And with 14" wide panels, it blocks out roughly 400 square inches of table space behind the screen for notes and maps and dice. Flippin' perfect, if I do say so myself.