Geodome Tent Kit < £50

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Introduction: Geodome Tent Kit < £50

This instructable is going to take you through my process of design and development and give you all the information you need so you can build a 4m diameter geodome kit for under £50. I am also going to go in to some key decision points and ideas for keeping the cost down and making this accessible for every one, i will also put in some options that you might like to consider to make this work for you. All the materials I have used and tools should be easily available free or cost effective.

Why did i build this?
I have been researching geodomes for a while and just love the concept and the aesthetic that they have. I wanted to create a geodome kit, that my Cubs and Scouts could build on summer camp and possibly sleep in.

Key cost drivers:
keeping the cost down keeps thing accessible and enables plenty of prototyping. key cost drivers were price per meter for the spares and price per fixing for the hubs

Domes can be complicated to design and build but the methods I have developed eliminate most of that.

after a quick bit on what is a dome and what type to select, im going to jump straight into the fun bit, the building and will add extra stuff at the end

Step 1: ​What Is a Geodesic Dome (geodome)?

There is tonns of great technical material on the web, have a look at the link below or google it. In essence they are a dome made out of a number hexagons and pentagons each divided into triangles (like a football (soccer) made of leather patches). Structurally they are very strong and can take huge amount of loading from wind and snow. One key structural aspect is large areas can be covered with relatively short lengths of material without internal supports.

Designing them can get quite technical but the methods i use eliminate a lot of that. Just one technical bit to remember is the dome frequency (V) V1 (simplest) V6 complicated. The dome I am going to build is a V2 and will mention V1 and V3 (more on that later)

first choice v1 v2 v3

Comparison for a 4m diameter dome

.................................................V1..........V2..........V3

max length of a strut (m) 2.1 1.24 0.83

total length of strut (m) 53 82 131

total number of hubs 11 26 61

V1: requires long struts so they need to be fairly rigid

V3: required loads more hubs and material so although stronger, it is going to cost more almost double for the structure

optimum choice for a 4m diameter dome i think is a V2

http://www.domerama.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geodesic_dome

Step 2: Materials and Tools

Material
Spars: 65 spars total length 82m (bundle of 1.25m x 25 = £4 x 4 lots running total =£16)

Price per meter and strength was important. During a recent trip to Nepal we built quite a lot of stuff out of bamboo and it is both strong cheap and light.

Bamboo Diameter: Initially i thought i would need about 25-30 mm but when looking in the shops i went for about 12mm. Turns out this has loads of benefits

Hubs: (this bit that joins all the spars)

I use a combination of 2 options both work fine

Cheapest - string or cable ties ( i used this a lot for testing and for full building)

Nuts, bolts and washers ( to date I haven't built the whole dome with nuts and bolts but the tests look really good and next time I build it I will be using nuts and bolts instead of string) 2*25 *£2.5 = £5 running total £21

As this was a kit for my Scouts and not a permanent structure needed a system that they could build easily and consistently. After some prototyping i found screwing metal eylets into the end of each bamboo meant they could then tie them together easily with a simple double knot.

65 spars in total = 130 eyelets, 100,4mm bag = £5 x 2 lots (running total £31)

One tin of two pack wood filler (had that in the cubourd (lets say £5) you don't need much (running total £36)

all other bits (running total £49) ; )

Shopping list:

12mm bamboo x 65 * (longest length) (plus some wast)

130 eyelets

26 nuts and bolts (m6 40mm)

52 washers

duct tape

2pac wood filler

string

2 different colors of tape

Tools:
Drill (3mm) - drill out the bamboo
saw - cut the bamboo to length
knife - cut string

Step 3: Cut the Spars to Length

I used the V2 dome calculator here:

http://www.domerama.com/calculators/2v-geodesic-do...

so the two lengths i need are:

A 30 x 1.093m (Red)

B 35 x 1.236m (Blue)

I adjusted the length slightly to take into the consideration the eyelet not sure how cruical this is but the closer you can get to the actual lengths the better.

Bamboo is not standard so has some natural variants it also has nodes these are your friend if you can get a node near the end of your strut you can screw the eye into it and it wont split and is really strong. I wrapped duct tape around where the cut would be to limit any splintering when i cut them

I lined the nodes up where i could at least on one end. It takes a bit of time but is worth it.

I bundled them up and cut them on the chop saw i also used a hack saw for some of them it actually give a better finish but might take a little longer.

You should now have two bundles of two different lengths

Step 4: Eylets

The center of bamboo can have a very soft center. To clean this out i used a screw just pushed it in and out a bit it worked really well.

Some end sections have a very thick wall and tight hole (smaller then 3mm) some have a wide hole (bigger then 4mm) some end sections might have a knot near them

Drill out all the ends that have a tight hole or a knot with a 3mm drill and screw an eye in them

You will end up with bamboo that you cant screw an eye into as the hole is to big. This is where the filler comes in.

Mix up a small amount (it goes off quickly) and try and force some in the end of the bamboo i used a plastic credit card and that worked fine, I also spread a bit on the screw thread of the eyelet. While still wet screw an eyelet into the filler and pack some more in if you can.

Critical - make sure the eyelets on each end of the bamboo roughly line up

Eyelet O======Bamboo=========O eyelet both lined up (not twisted relative to each other)

At the end of this you should have two different length bundles of bamboo with eyelets in each end

Step 5: Marking Up

As this is a kit you want to make it a little bit easy to assemble and sort out

Rap red electrical tape around the A (short) struts

Rap blue electrical tape around the B (long) struts

You could also use paint or nothing if you want to make it hard to assemble later

Building I am sure you can just work it out from the picture how to assemble it. My garden is a little small for it so i took it to the beach with my mate and his kids (5-7) the 5 year old cut the string and lifted up sections and the 7 year old tied the knots with a bit of help at first and none needed by the end.

It was also blowing hard and the dome (although not covered) stood up fine.

Hub Connection Method:
1. String
2. Nuts bolts and washers (hint: don't tighten the nuts up leave them as loss as you can they need some wiggle room, tighten them up at the end if needed)

Top Down Building method:

Build the top pentagon first and work your way down. This works well for light domes and when you have little people helping who cant reach 2m

1. Lay out the top pentagon 5 red 5 blue
2. Lay out the second layer in the order BRB * 5
3. connect the centre 5 R spars
4. Work your way around the next ring connecting the spars together
5. Lay out a complete ring of red spars
6. Lay out the next layer of spars in the order BB RR (linking blues to the layer above and the same with reds)
7. Connect the spars together
8. Lay out the final ring or blue spars
9. Connect the spars together
10. Dome built

Bottom up build method:

lay the bottom ring then work up great for big heavy domes.
There are some great instructions for the bottom up approach here but using a different hub method
http://www.ziptiedomes.com/2vmanual.htm

Step 7: Covering

You can cover it in what ever you want, if you have a youth club they could make and decorate a panel each out of cardboard or fabric if you are not using this outside, there are loads of options including:

Plastic sheet/ bin bags
Tarpaulins
Fabric
Blankets
Corrugated plastic
The options are endless and depend what you want to do

I managed to get hold of an old fly sheet for a broken tipi and at the moment that works for me although I might try and refine the shape at some future point (any one a wiz on a sewing machine let me know) i just tucked it under and tied a ring of cord through the peg down points and pulled it all tight. Then weighed it down with some water bags just to stop it moving in the wind.

Step 8: Creating a Door

To create a larger door I disconnect one of the hubs and moved some of the spars around (see highlighted picture) I tried to maintain the triangle where I could and used some tape and sting to tie it into place, it didn't need any extra spars. Just have a play, i'm sure it will work for you.

Step 9: Lessons Learnt and Other Options

lessons learnt:

No more nails doesn't work as the glue shrinks when it dries, 2 pac glue or filler works better

Don't use week string as it will need to take a bit of load

Plastic bottles hubs:

After my initial build I really wanted to build a V3 but that meant more hubs and more spars, so back to the drawing board. Then one night I woke up with the idea to use plastic bottles. I actual sat up in bed drew it and went back to sleep. The next day i knocked up the prototype you can see. it is so simple. cut the top off a bottle and remove the tamper ring drill 5 or 6 holes then cut down through the thread to the holes. Use a normal screw in the end of the bamboo with or with out a washer. Slot them into the holes then screw the cap back on. It makes a proper solid hub.

nearly all bottles seem to work but I like the one with a wide neck and there is a load of plastic in them so they are tough.

The hubs price just dropped to close to 0, if you drink a lot of squash. The spar price has come down as now you just need normal screws and it will make it easier to screw into a node and the screws are longer than the eyelets are.

I cant wait to build a V3 with this new hub design and I will post it when I do. If any one works for Robinsons and want to ship me 61 bottles of squash I might even get it built for scout camp. I only like peach flavour though!

I brought a lot of the hardware from Stax but ebay looks good for eyelets and Amazon for bamboo.

I hope you enjoyed this and you get a chance to build your own

If you have any questions or are struggling to get parts please ask I am not a shop but could potentially put a few kits together with all the hardware if any one is interested.

I'm going to enter this in the outdoor competition so if you like it please vote and if I win i'm sure my Scouts will love the tent prize too.

Runner Up in the
Outside Contest

Participated in the
Summer Fun Contest

10 1.5K
59 5.5K
8 151 24K
104 6.7K

15 Discussions

Well done! You mentioned load benefits regarding the smaller diameter.
Could you explain further?
Is the structure more stable, could it handle decent winds for example?

Hi, it was a while since a wrote this but if you are referring to this statement.

"Bamboo Diameter: Initially i thought i would need about 25-30 mm but when looking in the shops i went for about 12mm. Turns out this has loads of benefits"

if so it says "loads of" as in lots of not load as in weight (sorry for the confusion) , what i think i was probably referring to is that due to the reduced diameter you can generally screw straight down the center without the need for a lot of packing material (epoxy, glue, filler etc), it is also strong enough for my intended purpose with out the addition weight, and cost of thicker bamboo.

regarding the shape theoretically very good under heavy leads for example snow, i think from what i remember (please refer to some proper text if critical to you) that they are good in wind due to there shape, distributed load, large flat sides to act like a sail, i have never tested this in practice. i am show there will be lots to consider if playing on the edge of engineering like whether you create lift or down force or some weird frequency in certain conditions. it will need securing down to the ground either by inherent mass or mechanical means if the structure is light and you want to operate in high winds.

I always thought using eyelets for the hubs would be an easier construction than custom fixed hubs. Does the structure flex a lot under load or does it stiffen up with the combined geometry?

hi. if you use string and just tie s simple knot it can feel a little bit loose during the build but gravity pulls it all tight once its finished. my preferred method is to use nuts, bolts and washers. you initially need to put in quite loose to allow for the angles and then go round and tweek them up once it's fully built. if you use this method it is rock solid I use 60mm M6 Bolt and non locking nuts you could use wing nuts to make it easier on the fingers. also drop the bolts through from the outside so they don't snag any cover you pull over. hope that helps. if you have any more questions please let me know

Tim

I like the K.I.S.S. design of this, and how it keeps you light. I could also see it being done with eye bolts and wing nuts for hardware.

depending on the size of dome, a military surplus parachute can also be used as a cover, as they are close to the same sphere as the 3v dome.

Nice work. Very creative. It would be a shame if a money shortage kept anyone from enjoying nature and the camping experience, Thanks for the contribution to the Instructables community.

Carefull with corrugated plastic. crazy flammable and will actually, quickly, become flaming Napalm that is resistant to water.

I have considered something similar with PVC rather than bamboo, which is not readily available in this part of the States.

Great instructable... voted for you in both contests. Will be sharing with my son's Cubs group. Thank you.

Thanks very much, would be good to know how it turns out. I would recomend a 1 V (25 spars all the same length) using old inner tubes as elastic bands for the hubs if you want some thing quick and easy for an evening i tried it a while ago as a test they loved it.