Instructions for making Tent Poles
By John White
The Following is written by John White, proprietor of Avalon Forge. John is very generous with his time, and a joy and delight! He has been supplying the needs of the reenacting community for many years.
1. Buy the lumber - At your local lumber yard, carefully select the number of poles you need from the 2 by 2's by the length you need. You can either get treated or non-treated (cheapest). Select by these criteria as best you can: straightness, lack of knots, freedom from sap. Sapwood is heavier due to the sap content. Or if preferred, you can buy 2 by 4's and rip them into 2 by 2's. Note: milled lumber is significantly smaller than the nominal trade size due to loss from planing. The advantages are; less expensive and you can often get a better grade of wood this way. Trim the poles to length and sand or configure to octagon shape (options).
2. Get steel reinforcements - There are several ways to reinforce the neck of the poles to prevent splitting. Following are some suggestions: Visit your local muffler shop and beg discarded lengths of 1-1/2 inch diameter exhaust pipe. Cut (or have them cut) to length; anywhere from 1 to 2 inches, whatever you prefer. Most pipe nowadays is aluminum coated. This can be burned off, leaving a nice "forge" finish. We found that putting them in our wood burning stove did a nice job. Or you can sand them clean and just let them rust. You can also wrap the ends with heavy "tin" (really steel) from a tin can, fold it over and nail it into place.
3. Make steel pins for the top of the pole - We recommend 3/8 inch mild steel about 5 inches long, with half its length to be imbedded in the pole. If you have trouble finding this, you can get some very large nails and cut off the heads. The exposed end should be smoothed by grinding or filing.
4. If you opted for the exhaust pipe approach - Round the end of the pole just enough so that you can start the reinforcement on, then hammer into place. Next, drill a hole for the steel pin, using a drill just slightly smaller than the pin diameter. Take the prepared pin and using an old hatchet at a slight angle, hit the pin several times on the lower end to raise up a series of burrs. This will help insure that the pin will not work out after use. Pound the pin into place.
5. Finishing - Can be either linseed oil (a 50-50 mix with paint thinner or turpentine) or paint of your choice.