|Throughout the Desert Nose project one of the questions
I heard most frequently was "How are you going to cover it?"
It was generally agreed that blue tarps were "suboptimal"
and would distract one from its nasal nature.
I'll admit I did some hand waving saying things like "I know
I can get brown tarps..." and "There must be a source of
tan tarps out there somewhere...".
I was right -- there were sources for tan tarps
out there on the internet. And for a measly $1200 I could
have a 50' x 50' tan tarp delivered to my door, big enough
to easily cover the nose, but beyond my budget. Some
investigation revealed that I could buy white poly tarps,
similar in strength to the blue tarps, for about $400
for enough smaller tarps to fit together to cover the nose.
The white tarps might begin to look about the same color
as everyone else's noses after a few days of blowing playa
dust, but the poly tarps are probably not adequate in
strength for so large a structure if the winds get high.
The heavy duty silver tarps might be heavy enough. But
it's supposed to be Buckminster Fuller's nose, not the
So, after a few hours of searching I begain sending out
mail to some of the companies I'd found on the net asking
if they had any ideas for an inexpensive covering. One
site in particular,
Sullivan and Brampton
had on their "Divisions" page the following text:
We're known for taking on unusual and challenging fabric projects -
covering missiles to wine tanks to observatories.
Ok, "I've got a challenging fabric project for you" I wrote
in my email to them.
A couple of days later I get a polite email from them
saying that it was indeed an interesting challenge and that
if I'd provide my phone number their tension structure
expert would contact me.
A few days later I received a call from Walter LeMaster,
"I'd like to help you out." he said on the phone.
"That's great! What did you have in mind?" I asked.
"Well, I've got some discontinued old stock we could
look through and see if something would work. Why don't
you come on down to the shop?"
Maybe 'everywhere is here' on the internet, but...
"Really? Where are you located?" I asked hopefully.
It turns out he's located in San Leandro, which is
about 20 minutes from my house and he has time that
day for me to come down and visit his shop. So after
replacing my alternator (that's another story) I make
it down to his shop, which turns out to be a 125,000
square foot, 3 story tall warehouse filled with huge
canvas sewing machines and tables, odd structures in
various stages of construction, walls of stock and
fabric, forklifts, boxes, crates, finished tarps rolled
and ready for shipping, and all the trappings of a
working manufacturing plant.
It's after work and Walter greets me at the door and
gives me a short tour which ends at the back of the
facility. He explains that he's the plant manager and
tells me a little about his company. They were formed
in 1922 and expanded throughout the Bay Area during
World War II, providing canvas products like tents and
truck covers to the military. Later they consolidated into
the onc large plant in San Leandro.
We're standing at the very back of the plant, in front
of a wall of rolls of fabric facing us so that all we
see are the ends -- appearing as discs of colored fabric.
There are hundreds of rolls stacked in a three-story tall
arrangement of dusty rafters.
Walter begins looking at roll after roll, searching for
something close to flesh tone that is waterproof. I join
the search. Several likely candidates turn out to not
be waterproof or not be heavy duty enough. He begins
climing higher and higher into the structure until he
is near the top. Dust is drifting down from some of these
rolls of material, which probably have been accumulating
for a long, long time.
But no luck! In all those rolls there wasn't a single
roll that would work. I thanked Walter for the effort
but he would have none of it. He motioned us to another,
lower set of rafters of rolls of fabric, and there he
found two rolls of material that would eventually become
the nose tarps. He estimated that there was about 45 yards
on each 5' wide roll.
I asked him how much he wanted for them. He said he wanted
to give them to me because he wanted to be a part of the
Desert Nose project. He refused any kind of advertising
or other compensation, but agreed to allow me to link to
his company's web
site. He said he'd sew them up for me too! I promised
to send him email with the size of the tarp I'd need.
I floated home and when I got there I set about to measure
the nose to see what size tarp I'd actually need. There
was about 1350 square feet of material I figured. After
some figuring I realized that there wasn't enough of it to
actually cover the nose. After some experimentation with
the copper-wire model I determined that three 15' x 20'
tarps would cover most of the nose, except for the back,
with relatively little overlap of material.
What material remained after making the three could be
used to make one more tarp of an unknown size.
There turned out to be less than 45 yards on each roll,
so Walter did the best he could with it and made me the
three 15' x 20' tarps plus one tarp 20' x 10' and one
remnant that was 5' by about 12'.
When I went to pick them up Walter gave me another roll
of a very similar colored material of the same kind, but
which was only 30" wide.
Soon after Frank and Marilyn Bonita and I tied the tarps
up temporarily using tarp clamps to get a sense for how
they should be oriented, and what, if any, portions should
be cut off. Then we removed them and grommetted the
permiter of the tarps, one grommet every 16 inches.
Um, that's a lot of grommets, actually. In fact, I figured
we'd need a few hundred grommets before we were done
covering the nose.
You'd think you could just buy these things in quantity
or something... Of course, Orchard Supply Hardware sells
them six at a time. "And you can't really do much unless
you have eight of 'em." quipped Frank. :-)
I guess they're pretty popular, because it had to go to
Home Depots, Ace Hardwares and Orchard Supplies in five
Easy Bay cities to find enough grommets for the job. All
I can say is, if you were looking for grommets in the
Berkeley area of the East Bay that day, sorry.
So finally, the tarps were grommeted, and fitted with
a rope around their perimiters trapped between the
grommets and the fold in the
fabric which they secured.
There were some gaps around the bottom/front of each
nostril, and one angular gap on each side of the back
of the nose. Erin Watson (BRC Ranger "Snookiewookums")
volunteered to sew the the 30" wide material into wider
tarps so we can complete the covering.
Even though it is composed of multiple pieces, there
is enough material to cover the entire nose -- and just
in time for the Big Nose Party!
Thanks, Walter, you are le Tarp Master!