Simplification is one of our goals at Archimedes Design. In our experience, traditional dome frames, such as icosahedral systems, while very effective for load-bearing applications including dome homes and climbable structures, are unnecessarily complicated for other applications, including shade structures and portable shelters. For us, finding an alternative geometry that takes only a third as many poles as an equivalent sized 3V icosahedral frame certainly fit the bill.

And we’re still simplifying. We recently changed the shape of the end cuts for our poles. We don’t have an exact time savings on record, but I’m guessing it will save something in the neighborhood of that 2/3s reduction cited above. 

This is a simplification you can appreciate too, if you make your own poles. 

Why make your own poles?

  • It will cost you less than if we make them for you;
  • you’ll save on shipping fees; poles are the most expensive part we ship due to weight of steel and an irregular package;
  • you get to participate in your dome’s fabrication, so maker points plus self-reliance. Go, you!

We use 3/4" EMT (electrical metal tubing) for our poles. This is a stock item at most hardware stores, but be advised: prices can vary wildly from one store to another. It pays to shop around.

You'll need different quantities of EMT depending on the size frame you're building,

  • Scout frame: 11 pieces 
  • Nomad frame: 15 pieces 
  • Lodge frame: 22 pieces

The lengths and yield for this project are:
Scout = 41 30” poles + 6 15” poles
Nomad = 41 40” poles + 6 20” poles
Lodge = 41 60” poles + 6 30” poles

You'll also need:
metal cutting chop saw
angle grinder with 60-grit flap disc
measuring tape
spray can of rust inhibitor
ear plugs
safety glasses
shop gloves

Before you go any further, please watch this short video, which provides a good illustration of the cuts you'll be making. 

Ok, let's get started:
Use measuring tape and marker to mark the primary cuts on all of the poles. 
Set the guide to 45 degrees on your metal cutting chop saw.
Make your center cuts, being attentive that angles point in opposite direction at each end.
Make your end cuts, aligning angles as above. 

Now we’ll make the 6 half-length poles:
Pick out 3 poles (if any of your cuts are misaligned, you can use them here).
Use measuring tape and marker to mark the center of each pole. 
Set the guide to 90 degrees on your metal cutting chop saw. 
Cut poles in half. 

Use the flap disc to remove burrs and soften edges on inside and outside of every cut. These angle cuts can puncture just like a giant hypodermic needle, so it’s very important that you blunt the ends of every angle cut

Once you’re satisfied with the metal finishing on your poles, spray the cuts with rust inhibitor. EMT has a galvanized coating to prevent corrosion, but the cuts expose bare steel, which will rust quickly in wet or alkali environments. 

We hope you enjoy making poles for your Archimedes Design dome frame. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.