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Geodesic dome tent

We built a dome tent to use for holidays and festivals such as the Glastonbury festival and Healing Fields gathering. We constructed the frame ourselves and bought the canvas from Albion Canvas. The tent is sixteen feet in diameter and has eight foot (!) headroom. Living in it is far removed from traditional camping. There is more space than you could shake a stick at (or 65 sticks to be precise). With the central area as a "living room" there is still room in the surrounding area for a double bed and plenty of storage. If the tent was otherwise empty we reckon you could sit about twenty people inside in a circle. One of the nicest aspects is that it is very low tech - if anything were to break we will never need to got back to any manufacturer to fix or replace any fancy fibre glass or carbon fibre poles The struts are made of ash and the all the joints are 25 mm alkathene water pipe which has been melted in hot cooking fat then flattened to make the spade ends. It is totally waterproof and appears to be immune to the wind. Probably the biggest risk would be turning up at Glastonbury without the tin containing the twenty six 8 mm roofing bolts which are required to hold the whole thing together...hmmm.

Photos / Videos / Information / Thanks


(click on each picture to see a larger version ...)












Trying out the large doorway

Testing the frame

On Dartmoor - 2

On Dartmoor - 1

On Dartmoor - 4

On Dartmoor - 3

Glastonbury Healing Fields - 2

Glastonbury Healing Fields - 1

Testing the frame Trying out the large doorway On Dartmoor - one On Dartmoor - two On Dartmoor - three On Dartmoor - four Glastonbury Healing Fields - one Glastonbury Healing Fields - two



There's lots of information on the web about how to build geodesic domes. Among many good sites I made particular use of the following:

The Buckminster Fuller Institute (Bucky - The original Mister dome)

Albion Canvas (supplied the canvas, mat,groundsheet, advice etc.)

Geodesics Unlimited (includes great photo of the joints)

Chris Southall (unfortunately the link to his dome instructions page is not currently working but I kept the link cos he's a great guy!)

Geodesic dome calculator (calculate for any shape, any size)

Geo-dome UK (has good links to other sites)

This diagram shows the relative positions of the long (shown blue) and short struts (shown red) during assembly of the frame.

Assembly diagram

We made a tenth scale model so that we could play with various arrangements hanging drapes to create a nice feel for the interior.

The model is made of gardening sticks whittled flat at each end and with 0.5 mm holes drilled for the "bolts" which are made with single strand electrical wire.

(Click the image for a larger version)


Whilst playing around with the model we realised that five drapes could easily be hung from the central pentagon to create an inner sanctum.

This arrangement in the full size tent  still leaves room for a double bed and plenty of storage in the outer ring.

We used the inner sanctum for counselling sessions - keeping all our camping gear tidily out of sight.

The drapes are hung from curtain wire which is stretched between the main frame roofing bolts.

(Click the image for a larger version)

This is how the joints of the frame look when the tent frame is assembled. The blue parts are 25 mm (outside diameter) alkathene water pipe, cut into  100 mm lengths, softened in boiling water to fit tightly over the ends of the wooden struts, then dipped in cooking oil heated to 180 degress centigrade for about 10 seconds before being squashed flat in a vice to give a nice flat "spade end". The edges of the plastic are then cleaned up using a surform tool. The pipe is finally secured in place with a single 3/4 inch countersunk stainless woodscrew. A single 60 mm roofing bolt (8 mm diameter) secures the joint with washers each side and a wing nut.

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This Adobe Acrobat file shows the costs and time spent building the frame: DomeBuildCostsXls.pdf


This personal bit is from Alec - I'm not thanking Bindi here cos we did it together as a team. It wasn't really such a big task but in thinking about who to thank for help I realise that many people contributed in ways of which they are probably totally unaware:

So thanks to Thinley Chodron for the initial inspiration and instructions, to Alan Wenham at Albion Canvas for solid ideas and advice, to Chris Southall for his notes, drumming and that workshop in Spain, to my brother Rob, the lover of shape, for showing me it was possible 30 years ago, to my dad Frank for the maths, practicality and discipline to see it through, to my sister Ros for all her support over the years, to my mum Eileen for teaching me how to connect with people.

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