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!


Christiana Cook said...

Seeing that balmy green leaf light in the background is soothing to my desert dried soul.

theoxenia said...

What happened, Ldub? I want to see your projects.