Introduction: Repairing Photography Umbrellas
OK, its bound to happen. You are walking around your studio, you hit your light stand, knocking it over. Or even though you have a ton of sand bags on your light stands outside, a gust of wind whips up and blows it over. In either case you scream, run over, and see a couple of bent or broken supporting rods to the spokes of the umbrella. There isn't anything you can do except run down to your nearest camera store or order another umbrella online.
After three umbrellas I got to thinking there has to be a better way and being a hands-on guy I think I've come up with a reasonable fix. I've seen web pages suggesting a fiberglass rod to replace the supporting rod. That's pretty good. They are flexible and chances are if it falls again it would flex enough but another rod would break or bent. I don't have small fiberglass rods like that and they could be hard to find. Like other folks I want to do something with materials on-hand or something I could get my hands on quickly.
If you looks at the supporting rods they are actually long skinny strips of metal bent in a “U” shape along the length of the rod. Instead of using a solid cylinder style rod they use a “U” shape rod for cost and ease of assembly. Instead of replacing the rod I'm thinking of reinforcing the rods. So my answer is wired coat hangers.
Step 1: List of Materials
The materials needed are:
Wire coat hangers – preferred not coated but you will be hard pressed to find them.
Cleaning swabs – used to apply the epoxy if you don't want to get your hands dirty
Tie wraps – to hold the rods together
Small Side Cutters – trimming and cutting the tie wraps
Heavy pliers or wire cutters – to cut the hangers to size
Sand Paper – to remove the coating on the hangers if they are coated
JB Weld – to glue the hangers to the rod.
Left out of the picture (ok I forgot):
long nose pliers – used in the attempt to straighten the rods
rubber gloves – if really don't want to get your hands dirty
Step 2: The Broken/bent Rods
This first picture is of a bent but not broken rod. The second is a broken rod mated together.
Step 3: Cutting to Fit
Cut the wire coat hangers to the length of the rods you are supporting. In my case the supporting rods are 10” so I cut eight pieces about 9” long.
Step 4: Removing the Coating
If you found uncoated wire coat hangers skip this step. Most if not all wired coat hangers are coated to prevent rusting. Remove this coating with the sand paper. Above is a visual comparison between two coated and sanded rods. Notice how the two coated rods (in this case on the left) have a slight green appearance and the sanded rods (on the right) are shinny.
Step 5: Straighting the Rods
Using your long nose pliers try to straighten out the “U” rods as much as you can. If you can't get them straight enough to lay the hanger rod inside the grove of the “U” rod, then cut the rod at the kink. Or if it accidentally breaks, don't worry. Straighten out the end of the “U” rod as much as you can.
Step 6: Placing the Hangers in the Rods
This picture shows a hanger rod being placed inside the “U” rod. In this case I've crimped the end of the “U” rod around that hanger rod to help hold it in place. Use tie wraps to help the rod from sliding and crimp where needed.
Step 7: Showing the Hangers in Place Inside the Broken Rods
These two pictures shows another broken “U” rod with a hanger rod already in the “U” rod with tie wraps holding both in place. The tie wraps are placed at the end of the hanger rods to help them stay in place.
Step 8: Showing the Hangers in Place Inside the Bent Rods
This is a picture of a “U” rod that was bent but not broken. You can see the kink in the “U” rod. I was able to the straighten the rod enough to place a hanger rod inside the grove. There is enough tension between the “U” rod and the hanger rod that using the tie wraps will hold the hanger rod in place without crimping.
Step 9: Re-enforcing All Rods
Even though there only three bent/broken “U” rods I re-enforced the other five “U” rods.
Step 10: Mixing Up the Epoxy and Applying It to the Rods
Using the directions on the tubes of JB Weld, mix up a couple of inches of epoxy. Once the epoxy is mixed use a gloved finger (or not) dip your finger tip (or cleaning swabs) into the epoxy and spread it along the length of the hanger rod and “U” rod filling in the “U” channel. Here is one broken “U” rod after the epoxy had been applied.
Step 11: Final Step
This shows the eight spokes that were either repaired or reenforced. I let the umbrella to cure upright because the weight of the umbrella will push down on the rods forcing them to stay in place. Inverting the umbrella couple pull on the “U” rods apart.
Let the umbrella setup over night in the upright position.
The next morning clip of the tie wraps and you should have a working umbrella.
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