Geodesic Dome Construction (Tips and Tricks)

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Geodesic Dome Construction (Tips and Tricks)

Postby jgruher » Wed Feb 23, 2005 1:58 pm

I’ve tried four different shade structures so far, three home-made and one a large army surplus tent. The tent is by far the best but would cost about $500. I should be able to build a geodesic dome for about half that so I think that will be my project for this year. I have a pretty good idea about what raw materials I need and what the final structure is composed (segments of 3/4" metal conduit is my plan) of but I was wondering if anyone had any tips for me. Especially on the following:

--Best way to cut 3/4" metal conduit (with and especially without power tools)
--Best way to crimp/flatten the ends of the 3/4” metal conduit after I cut it
--Best way to drill through the ends of the 3/4" metal conduit after I cut and flatten it (without buying a really expensive drill press)

Also, any great ideas for a covering? I want something more opaque and rain-resistant than a parachute. I was thinking about getting some canvas painters drop-clothes (cheap at Home Depot) at making a cover out of those.

Any other input is also appreciated! Thanks!

-Joe
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Re: Geodesic Dome Construction (Tips and Tricks)

Postby sputnik » Wed Feb 23, 2005 2:03 pm

jgruher wrote:--Best way to cut 3/4" metal conduit (with and especially without power tools)


The best way is with a cutoff saw. Cheaper would be a metal cutting blade for a circular saw. Hacksaw is cheapest, but a hell of a workout.

--Best way to crimp/flatten the ends of the 3/4” metal conduit after I cut it


Best way is to get a press, next best way is to use a sledge (cheap too, but a hell of a workout)

--Best way to drill through the ends of the 3/4" metal conduit after I cut and flatten it (without buying a really expensive drill press)


Best way is the drill press. Cheaper is an electric drill with the right size bits, but you'll need to drill starter holes and then probably work your way up.

Regardless of how you do it you'll need some way to anchor the tubing as you work it. A vise would be best.
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Postby Martiansky » Wed Feb 23, 2005 2:05 pm

Try this website www.desertdomes.com
I am also going to make a 2V 3/4" dome this year. (My 1st year)
So the theme this year is like a giant camp out in the desert? With people bringing lots of shit from all over? uh.. -Marscrumbs
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Postby killbotvariable » Wed Feb 23, 2005 3:57 pm

Check out this guy's webite too

http://burningman.rengeekcentral.com/Dome.html
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Postby Bob » Wed Feb 23, 2005 5:15 pm

A rented power hack saw on a stand, or a variable-speed sawzall, wouldn't heat up the conduit as much as a cutoff saw with an abrasive blade -- less zinc fume. If you rent the tools, plan ahead on what kind of jigs you need to work efficiently.
Amazing desert structures & stuff: http://sites.google.com/site/potatotrap/

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Postby swampdog » Wed Feb 23, 2005 5:17 pm

Don't know why everyone's so set on domes. My campmates found this design for a quonset type structure and built it for pretty cheap, using 80% shade cloth as a covering. It was shady and breezy, easy to put up, cheap to build. The only drawback is that it's long and (relatively) narrow, but it seemed fine to me. My campmates put their fairly large tent under it, we had a cooking area, room to sit, and even room for our bikes much of the time.

http://www.maxicon.com/Burning_Man/PVC_Structures/pvc_on_the_playa.htm

Here's a picture of ours - it wasn't really taken for documentation purposes, so it doesn't "show it off"

http://tinyurl.com/5a7rz

Here's a writeup that includes some details on the shade structure as we built it (btw, "we" here is mostly Brian, my campmate. Credit where due).

http://tinyurl.com/4jbp6
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Postby Bob » Wed Feb 23, 2005 5:25 pm

I've never been set on a dome. They're pointier than they look.
Amazing desert structures & stuff: http://sites.google.com/site/potatotrap/

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Postby Guest » Thu Feb 24, 2005 12:23 am

Swampy, I like it, thanks for the description and pics from the link. Might incorporate something simislar in 05.

I've gone with the 10x20 costco carports for the last few years, just a standard tent with no cover before that. They work well (the carports), easier than pvc even though I feel like it's cheating. We've had 2 for a few years and then last year had an RV to increase the amount of space and crap we could drape shade over.
Gotta do a dome someday...

maybe in my backyard.
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Postby robotland » Thu Feb 24, 2005 6:16 am

swampdog wrote:Don't know why everyone's so set on domes.


I bet you didn't watch the burn from YOUR roof!
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Re: Geodesic Dome Construction (Tips and Tricks)

Postby robotland » Thu Feb 24, 2005 10:15 am

sputnik wrote:
jgruher wrote:--Best way to cut 3/4" metal conduit (with and especially without power tools)


The best way is with a cutoff saw. Cheaper would be a metal cutting blade for a circular saw. Hacksaw is cheapest, but a hell of a workout.
You can also use a plumber's pipe cutter, but it takes longer. Gives you a VERY clean end.

--Best way to crimp/flatten the ends of the 3/4” metal conduit after I cut it


Best way is to get a press, next best way is to use a sledge (cheap too, but a hell of a workout)
I flatten almost 3" of my ends, and find that it helps in assembly. (Less critical on a 2V dome.) If using the "blacksmith" method, taper the flattened area to prevent folding and creasing of the metal.

--Best way to drill through the ends of the 3/4" metal conduit after I cut and flatten it (without buying a really expensive drill press)


Best way is the drill press. Cheaper is an electric drill with the right size bits, but you'll need to drill starter holes and then probably work your way up.
I drill a 1/8" pilot hole and then follow with a stepped bit and open it up to 1/2". (To accomodate 3/8" bolts.) I use a corded hand drill, which is a little hard on the wrists- Best to take breaks. The stepped bit produces very hot little shards of scrap, so wear long pants.

Regardless of how you do it you'll need some way to anchor the tubing as you work it. A vise would be best.

I go through and flatten all of the struts on ONE end, and then rest the flattened end on a low chair or stepstool with a FLAT surface while I pound the other end on my anvil. ( A piece of rail or scrap metal works too.) You can ballpark the 18 degree-or-so bend with the height of the chair, saving you the trouble of going back and bending. It all evens out in the end, especially with a 2V.
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good point

Postby swampdog » Thu Feb 24, 2005 10:31 am

Robotland say:
I bet you didn't watch the burn from YOUR roof!

which is quite true. But I'll bet with the time and money I saved by not building a dome I could build a kick-ass standalone platform!

Seriously though, you're quite right of course - good and bad points about any approach.
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Postby Martiansky » Thu Feb 24, 2005 11:11 am

Robo, how did you taper the ends of the pipe while you smushed them?
So the theme this year is like a giant camp out in the desert? With people bringing lots of shit from all over? uh.. -Marscrumbs
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Postby robotland » Thu Feb 24, 2005 11:55 am

I started by pounding the whole "smush zone" down into a flattened oval, and then completely flattening out to the end. Mind that the section where the hole's going to be is completely flat, so it's less likely to catch the drillbit. By the time I hit my stride I was getting the ends done in about a dozen strokes or less, which is still a good workout with a three-pound hammer- It helps to use a blacksmith's hammerstroke, lifting and dropping the hammer from above with your shoulder as opposed to using your elbow in a hingelike motion as though you were driving a nail. Ear protection advised! I also discovered that doing domework on a cement floor is a good way to get a truly spectacular headache- You're bound to overstack the strutpile at SOME point, and the results can be LOUD.
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Re: good point

Postby robotland » Thu Feb 24, 2005 12:05 pm

swampdog wrote: I'll bet with the time and money I saved by not building a dome I could build a kick-ass standalone platform!

Seriously though, you're quite right of course - good and bad points about any approach.


I agree, and refer you to the title of this thread.....

I built my first 2V in one afternoon, and steel was still cheap- $2.30 (!!) for a stick of 3/4". It has served as Temporary Barn, Winter Party Place and Campground Conversation Piece for years now. Worth every penny of the not-that-many-in-the-long-run that I spent. The very pretty Mountain Hardware basecamp dome tent of equal size costs 3 grand, and for that you don't even get a floor. AND you can't climb on it.
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Postby Martiansky » Thu Feb 24, 2005 1:01 pm

Now conduit is $5.69 for a ten-foot 3/4"!! AIIEEE!!!
Wish it was only $2+, I'd build a bigger dome then! Put it on my land and live in it!! HA!!
So the theme this year is like a giant camp out in the desert? With people bringing lots of shit from all over? uh.. -Marscrumbs
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Non Traditional Geodesic Dome

Postby LostMachine » Thu Mar 24, 2005 8:29 pm

I just wanted to Post my site on our Dome construction. Maybe people will get some ideas from it.

http://www.LostMachine.com/projects/orbbject/index.html


Image


LM
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Postby Martiansky » Thu Mar 24, 2005 8:33 pm

Cool site! You have a pic of Tank Girl in front of your dome model! Rock on!
So the theme this year is like a giant camp out in the desert? With people bringing lots of shit from all over? uh.. -Marscrumbs
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Postby BadDawg » Thu Mar 24, 2005 10:04 pm

Don't forget to make sure the seam on the conduit
is not pointed straight up or straight out to either side,
point it in the middle of the 12 o'clock & 3 o'clock
position, that will lessen the chance of splitting the conduit.

For cutting conduit I use a port-a-band, hand held
portable bandsaw.

For mashing the ends flat, I was going to go with the
hand sledge & anvil, but came up with a idea for a
small portable press. Made a set of dies out of some
1/2" plate steel. mashes the end nice and flat with
a nice half circle crimp. takes little effort to use.
As soon as I can get some photos of it, I will post them
up here.

Drilling duties will be handled by drill press.

If anyone near the Reno area is looking to do a dome
and doesn't have the tools, let me know i willing to lend a hand.
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Postby Dork » Thu Mar 24, 2005 11:55 pm

Either buy the tools or find someone in your area who has them already. People often buy tools because they like using them, so don't be shy about asking around.

Any sort of steel cutting saw can go through the conduit. You can do it by hand with a hacksaw or a pipe cutter but it will take forever. If you start now you might finish by August. The comment about zinc fumes makes a good point. If you cut it with an abrasive saw, do it outside while wearing a respirator. Inhaling that stuff is no fun, believe me.

Drill presses can be bought at Harbor Freight pretty cheaply. So can big sledge hammers.

Flatten and drill one side of each pipe, then set up a jig of some sort to assure the flat ends are level and the holes are spaced properly. The closer they are to the correct measurements, the better they will fit together in the end.
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Postby robotland » Fri Mar 25, 2005 5:48 am

AAAAAaaaahhhhhhh......To discuss the dome again- such bliss! I've been busy in the Eplaya's absense, working on deck mods for the Snowman tripledome structure....I now have a wooden deck in seven segments, held in place by gravity and a few bolts. The seven segments are 7/10 of a circle, with the rest left open for a ladder and slide (!).
Anyone else getting carried away? Building second stories? Decks? Garages? Carraige houses?
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Postby Martiansky » Sat Mar 26, 2005 4:49 pm

YAY! I am now the owner of 40 pieces of 3/4 conduit! Used a 11% off coupon and saved on the cost.

Still unsure about the lengths. I'd hate to screw it up! DOH!
So the theme this year is like a giant camp out in the desert? With people bringing lots of shit from all over? uh.. -Marscrumbs
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Postby sputnik » Sun Mar 27, 2005 9:57 am

Msky, go here to calculate your lengths.[/url]
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Postby sputnik » Sun Mar 27, 2005 10:00 am

Be sure to read the FAQ. for example:

Are the lengths given from vertex to vertex?
Yes, the lengths given are from vertex to vertex. If you are building a dome out of metal pipe by flattening the ends and drilling holes, you will need to add about 3/4" to each end for a total of 1.5" for each strut. If you are building a dome using connectors, you will need to subtract twice the length of the connector (one for each end) from each strut.[/b]
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Postby Tancorix » Sun Mar 27, 2005 10:02 am

Thanks for the link Sputnik. They've updated that site and it's a lot better. The first calculators and decimal conversions drove me crazy.

Of course I don't have the space to haul a dome out there now, but there's always next year.
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Postby sputnik » Sun Mar 27, 2005 10:04 am

No problem. Now I have to figure out why my BBCode is showing.
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Postby Martiansky » Sun Mar 27, 2005 1:05 pm

Wish I didn't suck at math! I am thinking of a 9 foot radius. So I can utilize a whole 10 foot length of conduit without waste.
I'll have to look at the desert somes site more closely later.

Thanks Sputnik!
So the theme this year is like a giant camp out in the desert? With people bringing lots of shit from all over? uh.. -Marscrumbs
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Postby sputnik » Sun Mar 27, 2005 1:52 pm

Looks to me like you have enough to make a 1V 9 foot radius dome, or a 2V 8 foot radius.
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Postby BadDawg » Sun Mar 27, 2005 3:36 pm

If I'm right you can do a 2V with an 8'-3" radius using
10' lengths with very little waste.
If you decide to go the 1V route just use the 10' length,
and save yourself a lot of cutting.
Since you have 40 pcs. of conduit, you can get creative
with a 1V dome. Instead of doing 5 sides using 25 pcs.
you can go 6 sides which only adds 5 more pcs.
And with a 1V all the pieces are the same.
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Postby robotland » Mon Mar 28, 2005 6:40 am

The drawback to 1V domes is that unless you use PVC or BIG conduit, (Bigger than 3/4") ten feet is a LONG strut that will bend MUCH more easily. PVC will flex under load, but EMT will not. Even the struts on a 2V, which are little more than half that length at longest, will bend a little.
Dammit, Java is disabled here at the Cancer Center and I can't plug figures into the Dome Calculator!! I will go home tonight and measure my bottom dome's struts- It's the largest that you can make from 10' lengths of conduit without buying 65 sticks instead of 40, and the cuts are something like 57"/63". Gives you a dome in the neighborhood of 18' diameter. (I built it four years ago, and have forgotten the figures!)
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Postby robotland » Mon Mar 28, 2005 8:19 am

From "Conduit Dome Tips"....Step 4: Eliminating Waste
This part is tedious, but worth the effort because it will save you money and you won't have to feel bad about throwing away tons of wasted pipe. You will have to repeat steps 2, 3, and 4 to do this right. It may take a while, but I would think you were a bad person if you didn't at least try. Conduit is usually sold in 10' lengths, so your job is to figure out how to cut those pieces eliminating as much waste as possible. Make sure to add 1½" for each strut to allow for drilling. For all you 2v dome builders, it's easy because there are only two lengths involved. The magic numbers for a 2v dome cut from 10' conduit pieces are A = 5.3', and B = 4.7'. These numbers allow for holed drilled ¾" away from the ends. 2v people may now skip to step 5. The rest of you: Still with me? Play with the numbers until you can get the maximum number of struts using the minimum number of conduit pieces. You may try 2 A's and 1 C, or 1 A, 1 C, and 1 F. Don't forget that different numbers of struts are required. Don't get stuck with more or less than what you need. I never said this was the easy part...

......."5.3 feet" equals "5 feet 4 inches"....
......."4.7 feet" equals "4 feet 8 2/5 inches"....

These two, added together, are MORE than 10 feet. I lopped a fat half-inch off of the 4.7 footer, if memory serves. If you want micrometer accuracy, don't come to me for it! Allow for kerf (the part the saw removes) when cutting. I might have upwards of an inch of discrepancy in the lengths of my 2V struts, and it never caused me any trouble, but the higher up the frequencies you go the more accurate you'll need to be. (Two of the 3V struts are VERY similar.)
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