|Fiber Glass Geodesic Dome|
After many events worth of work setting up and breaking down my heavy metal dome I set out to build a light & easy to carry/pack dome, that would be strong enough for a small living space at some of the events I frequently attend.
If you want detailed instructions on dome building please read my Steel dome build page. This page will only follow the specifics that pertained to building a fiberglass dome.
I tested many different materials including wood, plastic and carbon fiber, but when it came to strength, wood seemed to still be to heavy or to breakable and not very good with the elements, plastic was worse, and carbon fiber, while a perfect material in so many ways would have been so expensive I would have had to sell my wife to gypsies to be able to pay for it,.. so I settled in on fiberglass rod,.. strong & flexible, relatively light weight, and good against the elements.
Sourcing 35, 10' poles of fiberglass rod was a challenge all its own,. I eventually found a fiberglass merchant that had set up shop near a Boat & RV strip mall and specialized in supplying odd shape and sized fiberglass to support the RV merchants around him. the only problem was that the longest rods he could order where 8', so instead of a standard 17' dome I was going to have to settle with something closer to 14'. Since this was going to be a personal living space dome I decided that was acceptable, and would make the dome even lighter to carry. (Near Seattle WA try a place called Fiberglass Mart its up north on 99 a friend of mine says this merchant can now supply 10' lengths)
After using my dome calculator to calculate the largest dome I could make from 8' rods I set to measuring and cutting the rods down to length. This I did the hard way with a hand saw, it could have easily been done with any number of electric saws. Cutting fiberglass creates glass dust which is itchy at best, and bad for your lungs at worst. consider where your working, and using protective stuff like a face and eye mask.
I needed a way to join the poles together at the ends, I spoke to a few metal manufacturers and the price they quoted me for a small run of 130 pieces for the shape I described would have melted the brain cells of any accountant. I had to find something that would work, so I went back to my first metal dome and asked it nicely what I should do. strangely enough it replied (in the form of the first model I built out of bamboo stakes and electrical connector ends,..) bigger electrical connectors,.. while still some what pricy they where remarkable workable into the design and a quick test showed that they would do the trick.
So now with my poles cut to length and my ends figured out I had to "paste" them all together. For that I chose a 2000lb Epoxy for metal and fiberglass of the shelves of my closest big box store. however I had a small problem my poles where a bit bigger then the electrical connector ends.
To remedy this I chose to sand down the ends of the fiber glass rod, I was going to do this a bit anyway to help the epoxy bond, but just a little more pressure and a little more time on the sander, and the rod ends where all finished and ready for gluing. I rigged a basic hand drill as shown on the right to make the sanding an easy job, a bench sander would have worked a bit better, but this rig did the trick. I then turned to the electrical ends and using a rat tail file roughed them up inside a bit as well again to help the epoxy bond.
Next I lined up all my poles and mixed up half of my epoxy. I quickly put a few drops of the glue onto each electrical end and pushed the rod into place careful to make sure the rod was inserted about the same distance on every end. and that the epoxy was well spread. this went remarkable fast and within a few minuets I had them all lined up and drying.
Once the epoxy had set hard, I moved to start adding the electrical connectors to the other ends careful to keep all connections parallel and flush I used the floor to make sure all was in alignment.
I allowed the epoxy to cure for a full two days. I wanted to make sure everything was really dry and well bonded for the first stress test.
Everything worked out remarkably well. I could carry the entire dome in one hand and when constructed I grabbed onto the center apex and pulled myself up,.. it bent a little bit (fiberglass will do that) but completely held my weight.
During construction however, I found that the electrical ends where prone to bending as they are a little more flexible than I would desire. but if caution is used during the build, once all the bolts are tightened down, the structure is extremely strong. My metal dome is obviously stronger, but for a tent,.. this thing made out of fiber glass is remarkably strong.
I also made a fit to size dome
cover from rip stop,. more to come on that in a bit.