Building the Nose
 3na the Jellyfish

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 Building the Nose


 Nose Calculator

 Building a Model

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 Roller Disco 2002


 The Fishmobile

 Camp Nose Fish 2011

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 The Fishcycle

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 Tin Man's.

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!

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