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Friday, September 19, 2008

Making Tent Poles-

Many modern tents use shock cord poles. These are tubes that fit together with an intersecting connector, and the whole assembly is held together by an elastic cord that runs through the center of each tube. Here is an illustration of a tent supported by flexed shock cord poles.

The poles are flexed, creating stress that can be used to support the weight of the tent. Unfortunately, flexed poles sometimes bend. I had that happen, largely due to impatience in assembly. Sections hyper extended, and the fiberglass broke. I now had a repair job on my hands.

Some poles are aluminum, and can bend. I read of carbon fiber poles, which are light but also can splinter like the Fiberglas poles. My poles are Fiberglas. It is likely that a repair will be necessary if you use a tent often.

There are kits available. I thought the one I bought was reasonably priced, at less than ten dollars.

When I laid out the broken pole, and the kit, I could see I would have a challenge. First, I had to disassemble the original pole. I tried to be clever, and break it down only as far as necessary. I clamped the shock cord between two sections, so I could isolate the broken section and only remove the parts necessary to get the broken section out.

Once I had the broken section out, I used it to get a length for the new section. I cut one of the sections from the repair kit to that length, and tried to reassemble the pole. Unfortunately, there was just enough difference in diameter on the new piece and the old connector that the new piece wouldn't fit.

I laid it out again, and thought. Eventually I determined I would have to build a new pole with the kit parts, and salvage whatever else I needed from the old pole. I eventually got a new pole laid out, and the time to thread the cord was upon me.

The kit comes with a wire that will pass through the center of each pole section. The terse instructions said to tie the cord to the wire, and pull it through. Now the way you secure the cord at the end of the pole is to tie a knot. If I tied a knot onto the wire, it would not pass through the pole center hole. Hmmm.

I used thread. I tied thread to the wire, which I had nicked with a knife to provide a little holding barb to keep the thread from sliding off of the wire. I threaded the wire through the tube, and pulled the thread through. I tied the thread to the shock cord, and pulled the cord through.

This is good, up to a point. However, the cord stretches. That stretch loads the cord and that loading is what holds the poles together. So, now the cord must be stretched before threading the next pole. I used a clamp to hold the loaded cord and keep it from sliding back through the tubes.

The process was repeated until all of the pieces were threaded. Now I just had to tie that knot. Unfortunately, when I released the clamp I did not have the cord held tightly enough. It sucked back through the tubes, requiring me to do it again.

Once I got to the same point, it couldn't happen again. I was ready, and holding the cord tightly. I thought.

So, after threading again I used two clamps to secure the cord. This allowed me to keep the cord loaded, tie the knot, and be sure things were secure before removing the clamps. Success!

Last of all was replacing the rubber end covers. I now had a new tent pole, and some spare parts for future repairs. The new tent pole does not fold quite as neatly as the old one, because I ended up with various lengths to the sections due to simply not knowing what I was doing.

For the future I have a few ideas. First, get the measured length of the old pole, and disassemble the whole thing. Using old and new parts, lay out a new pole for that length. Make any cuts necessary in such a way that the folded pole will be easy to pack away. If possible, acquire enough new parts to completely rebuild the old pole, and keep the old parts as spares.

I plan to get two small clamps for the repair kit. I have a small saw that will serve for cutting down tube lengths. I want some stronger thread or fishing line to use for the pull line. I plan to look at upholstery needles as options to replace the pull wire, since they have eyes to which the thread might be tied. I also need to find a source of the end caps. They should be cheap, so I will get quite a few.

Now I have made a tent pole, and can build on the knowledge. Great idea for a YouTube video, isn't it?

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