dome doors!

this sunday, Rev and I got around to a long-discussed project: installing a proper door on the intern camping dome.

The dome is covered with a white tarp, to keep out the weather, and then a green parachute, to improve its aesthetics and prevent it from standing out like a UFO in the green area in which it is located. Up until this point, to get in and out, you had to lift a piece of the tarp and duck inside a triangle, and it was difficult to get furniture and other items in and out. And I had read about these neat ball-joint dome hubs that some folks in the UK are manufacturing, and I thought, we could use those to change the shape of one side of the dome, and attach a door. Rev went along with the idea, and I emailed the shop owner, and bought some hubs.

The hubs are designed to be screwed into the bars of a wooden dome. Of course our domes are made of hollow aluminum or steel rods — we have three such domes, all made of metal. so we figured, we’d detach the necessary joints, and cut the ends off the bars, so that we could insert a dowel, to which we can screw the hub. then we can change which direction the bars go, because the hub is 6 ball-joints with a central piece so they all swivel, and frame a door, and attach the bars to it. and it worked!

to begin, we got the tarp out of the way by tying it to nearby trees, which created this theatre-like space in which to work:

Then we took apart the joint that was where we wanted the door to go. This meant detaching each of the 5 joints that those 6 rods were attached to, so as to remove the rods entirely, and replacing each of the joints with the new hubs.

cutting the ends off the bars:

a pile of ends:

while Rev cut the bars with the sawzall, our intern Lucas and I screwed the ball-joints to the dowels, to be put inside each bar. (the hub kit comes with the hub, the ball joints, screws, and a washer, bolt & wingnut for stability after the hub is installed.)

we started getting the dowel-and-ball-joint piece into each bar for each of the 5 dome joints.

we used a 6″ length of dowel for each piece so that we’d have some flexibility with regard to the length of each bar, as the dowel could be slid around to where it needed to be, to create the right length of bar. This allowed us to do an infinite amount less measuring before we cut the bars. Later, we drove a screw through the bar-and-dowel, perpendicularly, for stability, but not until we had everything in place.

when we got to the two joints that are at ground-level, we decided not to install ball-joints, as they were not really necessary. instead we removed the bars that needed to go away, and simply re-attached the rest with their original bolts.

finally we had an open pentagon, with ball-joints on the top three joints, in which to situate a door.

Rev built a frame of 1×2″s:

While I hauled up an old door that we had laying around, which I think came from the Mahazda remodel — I think it was an old porch or maybe kitchen door. the glass had fallen out of the window, and we will replace it with screen for ventilation, and add hooks for a curtain. the door is extremely solid, for all its age and peeling paint.

When we got the frame in, we screwed it to the bottom bar of the dome:

and then measured it for the support bars that would spin out from each of the dome joints to attach it.

Rev had to cut each of these bars to length and re-crimp the ends so they could be screwed onto the door frame.

before we hung the door, we ended up adding two extra support bars, screwed on to both the dome bars and the door frame, to strengthen the door frame.

then Rev went back through and added screws to each bar-and-dowel to strengthen and stabilize the connections:

while Lucas and I rebuilt the cottage-stone sill, to help keep dirt and bugs outdoors.

As the sunset lengthened, we cut the white tarp to fit the door, rolled the sides of it around more 1x2s, and screwed it on around the door, to form a permanent attachment. we were careful to manage the tarp for good drainage while we did this, so rain will slough off instead of pooling up above the door. I don’t have action photos of this part, because it was getting dark out and we kept working until the twilight was nearly through.

but here is the final result, in the next day’s light!

the interns are calling it TurtleDome, for its new turtlish appearance.

Rev and I came away from the day feeling like we had accomplished the impossible. Lucas, the tall young man who is living in the dome while interning at Sunflower River, loves having a real door it, and was very happy to be involved in the project as a learning opportunity.

next up, the greenhouse dome! that one’s not on the calendar yet, though, so it’ll probably be a while. ;)