Thursday, October 23, 2008

Custom Fit Tyvek Tarps for my Friggin' Rad Dome

Well, this post goes under the FAILURE category, at least most of the way. It would also gain the title of BIGGEST WASTE OF TIME, and maybe earn an award from some Big Loser Academy.

Keep reading if you are interested in building a dome and some sort of cover. This is good info for what not to do.

For a more successful story, see a post (if I ever get to writing it) about a dome cover made out of shade cloth. I rocked that thing for 4 years so far.

So, here's the deal. The dome is only worthwhile if it acts as the support for some protective material. Many people fit tarps loosely about the dome and then cinch them down with webbing. Given the wind speeds on the Playa (up t0 70 mph?!), I figured the loose bits created by trying to fit a square on a round structure wouldn't be too awesome in high winds and flap about creating a ruckus impossible for sleeping and thinking.

So I found this website called Geodesic Dome Covering Patterns. It shows one how to use a giant compass (i.e. a string tied to a pencil) to make good triangles and then sew them together. The standard 2 frequency dome will need 10 tarps, five of each type described on the page.

But what do I make them out of? This took a lot of research and I ended up trying Dupont Tyvek Home Wrap due to its UV resistance, waterproofness, price, dust filtering capability, and apparent softening of the material upon washing or bundling. 

So what I did is I made a pattern for each tarp and then extended the edges 6 inches so that I could create a double rolled hem of 2'' using polyurethane glue. The idea was that the rolled hem would provide the fabric strength for the placement of a standard grommet. The grommets would be fitted with parachute chord and the chord then tied to the dome.

Note mistake #1 that I can think of: I think I should have added 4'' to the pattern that way after folding over twice for the hem my tarp would have exactly matched the poles and the stretching involved would have provided just the little bit of overlap that I wanted instead of the bunching I observed on trial runs.

I made one tarp to ensure my pattern was correct. This tarp can be seen on the picture of the completed dome on the previous post.

I made the rest and grommeted the shit out of them. It may not seem like it should have, but this project took upwards of 80 hours of my time and some hours of Pete Cav's and one or two of Sam Freeman's. This was a bitch of a project and I had very little space t work with and therefore could only make on dome per day as I let the glue sit overnight.

Plus it was super expensive. I spent around $100 on the Tyvek, and probably another $100 on glue, grommets, Tyvek Tape and paracord. Shit.

So, the trial run of the concept involved tightening the testing tarp that had been on the dome for a month or so and upon pulling the cord taught, the F'n grommet ripped out of the Tyvek. No, the grommet didn't rip out, the fibers of the tarp came apart, not a clean rip. It was so weird. And I thought, oh man, I'm screwed.

But it was all done and almost time for the burn. By this time I had gotten in on a big group and my dome was a for fun thing instead of an essential shelter. So I gave it a try.

Right when we got there, we set up the dome in the rising sun on the nearly empty playa to provide shade for the camp while we set up the big stuff. But then we ended up moving camp and the dome had to be moved later and a wind storm came and the tarp we were using was so big it might have flapped so hard as to take off someone's head.

So the dome sat lonely and naked behind our camp until one night I was drunk and emotionally in a very very bad place and needed a distraction. So I tried putting up my tarps. Not a good idea in high winds! Or if you are depressed drunk! 

One, I almost fell off the ladder several times.

Two, as soon as I got the top of the first tarp tied it started flapping like a flag, I got one corner puled down and loosely tied. While tying the second corner a gust came and my tarp billowed rapidly and started whipping about until snap! the corner grommet ripped out. So I said fuck it, I hate these fucking tarps. And I may have cussed out a whole list of things and people too. Anger can get displaced. you know how it is.

I have full confidence that the remaining tarps would be just fine for a Eugene Summer day, but they are so F'n ugly I wold never want to put them up. Why did DuPont feel the need to put giant branding stamps in red and blue over the product?! Bastards!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Conduit Dome Extravaganza

So, my most fun and ambitious project to date has been a 16 ft diameter 2 frequency geodesic dome using 3/4 inch steel conduit. This project was inspired by a need for shelter and shade during burning man. Research into the ideal structure led to a host of pages on building your own dome. There are tons out there, even groups to discuss them. Here are some that I consulted..
Desert Domes
A rainproof dome for burning man
Earl's geodesic domes

To skip to the chase, this is how I went about it:

First I bought a bunch of conduit, I think around 40x10ft sections. The Desert Domes Calculator will give you the proper lengths to cut them. I made a jig out of a 2x4 in which to lay the pipes and mark the correct length.

Next I clamped the pipes in a vise and used a reciprocating saw to cut every pipe into two different length pieces. The measurements I used were designed to not waste any conduit,
 therefore it is like the standard dome model. 

Next I had to flatten the ends of the conduit so that when pieces overlapped the would be in plane with each other and a single bolt could hold up to 6 pieces together. Sites recommend a drill press for this task, but I used a hand sledge and an anvil. It was a c
hallenge to to keep the ends flattened in the same plane, especially on the bumpy ground, but I attempted to do it by laying the first flattened end on a brick so the the other end would match. It didn't work all that awesome. This method requires flat ground at the very least.

Next, I went through 3-4 titanium or cobalt tipped drill bits to drill holes in each end of all 80 pipes. This was turning into a very tedious project. But by this time, my raw materials for the dome were complete.

Now it was time to assemble the dome. One of the websites had pretty detailed instructions for top down assembly so I went for it. Simple as matching up the ends of the right pieces and sticking a bolt with some washers and a nut on it. Get it all together and do several rounds of tightening and you gotta dome.

I think that I spent about $150 on the conduit and probably $50 or more on nuts, bolts, washer, drill bits, saw blades and PBR. I hear you can buy these types of domes for much more than that, plus it was fun.

You see that piece of tarp there? That was a model for the custom fit tarps I went on to make for the dome. This is to be explained later, but those were disappointing to say the least.

The dome was brought to Burning Man 08 and assembled to provide shade whilst we built the huge camp structures. Then we moved the camp and the dome just kinda hung out on the playa until drunkenly I tried to put the tarps on it. That didn't work out, but instead I pulled the dome up close to the rest of our camp and pulled a gigantic tarp over it. Dennis then finally had a place to set up his tent and I would like to believe he lived like a king in his very own wing of CarboFuckingNation '08's awesome camp.

Dennis still has the dome pieces, but I plan to get them and set the dome up at the SCA's garden plot. I will get a clear plastic tarp to cover it and we will have a huge greenhouse type thing for winter growing. Sweet!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hangin' Maters

Right before I moved to Oregon I was introduced to the magic of hanging tomato plants. I was at a nursery and they had a giant cherry tomato plant hanging upside down absolutely laden with juicy little red orbs. Salivate away. I looked at the setup and it seemed simple enough. Plant a tomato in an upside down bucket with a hole in the base, wait till it gets pretty big, then hang the bucket so the mater is upside down. I don't know if this is my theory or it is something I was told, but I think that hanging it upside down frees the gardner from having to support the mater plant as well as allowing the mater to not try to support itself, therefore freeing up energy for juiciness production.
Well, we have an awning on the south side of our porch. I figured it would be beautiful in summer on our side porch with a row of hangin maters blocking the 
sun. Like a plant cave or something.

So I started the maters from seed in the greenhouse real early. Transplanted some starts into old buckets, and let them grow rightside up for a good while. I put bolts into our awning supports midway up instead of all the way toward the front because I was afraid that the plants would put too much torque on the supports that far out. This is what it looked like.

It was pretty awesome if you ask me. But alas, the Summer sun in Oregon is farther to the north than I expected and the awning provided constant shade, not the best thing for maters I'm sure. The maters started stretching toward the sun getting all bent and I was convinced that upon fruiting, the stems would be broken from the weight of my 9 delicious heirlooms varieties.


So I took them down and put em in the garden proper, but this kinda took up ALL the garden space. I tried planting stuff between the plants, but the maters got too big and crowded the others out. We have had TONS of tomatoes this summer. Yummy.