Drilling Struts
 3na the Jellyfish

 The Home Dome

 Cutting Struts

 Drilling Struts


 Nosefish Dome Deck

 The Desert Nose

 Roller Disco 2002


 The Fishmobile

 Camp Nose Fish 2011

 Gray Water

 Fish Hats

 Nosefish Shower

 The Fishcycle

I built a 20' diameter geodesic dome using 3/4" electrical conduit (metal pipe). It will be my home at Burning Man.

Follow the Photo Tour to see how the parts were made and for more photos of the finished dome.

Here's some diagrams that show how to cover a dome with tarps. I use costco tarps which are 12' x 16' at the price of 2 for $14. It leaves a hole at the top, which is ideal for ventillation. Attach another tarp over the hole with three permanant ropes, plus one you use to attach it at night and to pull the top tarp on or off. A 10' sqare top tarp is idea size for an optimal 2v dome. or a 3v dome with a 16 foot diameter, etc.

I built the dome based on figures produced by The Dome Calculator at http://www.desertdomes.com. Mine is a "3 frequency" dome, built to about 3/8ths of a sphere.

I covered it with a 35' diameter olive drab Army surplus parachute which I purchased through Ebay. I set up my tent inside the dome, and it nestles nicely against the curved inside of the dome. I plan to cut remnant carpet into triangles and place them on the floor.

Don't use a parachute for your dome!

The only thing that didn't work in my 2000 Burning Man experience was trying to use a parachute for a covering. As it turned out, a parachute has none of the right characteristics and many of the worst possible characteristics imaginable. Here's just a sampling of why I think a parachute is the exact opposite of what you need for a dome covering:

  • It catches the wind and applies extra forces to your dome. Parachutes are designed to catch the most wind possible by weight. What you want is for wind to slip over your dome. A parachute presses against the struts and forms lots of tiny parachutes trying their best to slow your dome down with respect to the wind... ;-)
  • It catches the rain in pockets which form when the material between the struts sags under the weight. The water pours through these sagging resevoirs, drilling holes in the playa beneath, even right through a carpet. Parachutes are not waterproof.
  • It whips mercilessly in the wind causing enough noise that you have to raise your voice substantially to be heard. Parachutes are loud, but offer no acoustic insulation! Gee, could it get any worse? Yes! Read on...
  • It gets tangled when you try to put it on your dome. Believe it or not, shingling panels of silver tarps is probably the best idea. Shingling means coving from the bottom toward the top, and having higher tarps overlap lower tarps. Water rolls off, and no one tarp is too big to handle, even in the wind. Parachutes are unweildy.
  • If all that isn't enough, a parachute is translucent and traps air. In other words, your dome becomes an oven during the day because the covering traps the sun's energy in the air inside your dome. Parachutes form ovens, not shade structures.

I also have a hammock and two awesome Lafuma reclining chairs, a table and whatever else I have room to bring. I want to create a chill space which is visually private, shaded, but still with enough space to not feel cramped. And during the night, it will be nice to lower the canopy for privacy and warmth.

The desertdomes.com web site has an incredible FAQ about how to build domes out of metal conduit. The FAQ surely saved me a lot of time, frustration and wasted material.

It took me two days to produce about 130 pieces. The first day I cut the pieces to length and flattened the ends of about 1/3 of the pieces using a manual press. The second day I flattened the rest of the pieces and drilled holes in each end at just the right positions. Then I spray painted the ends of each piece and let them all dry.

It took me three hours on the third day to assemble the dome from pieces using 3/8" carriage bolts, fender washers, lock washers and nuts. I needed a stepladder which was about 3' tall to finish the top but I'll figure out something else to stand on for Burning Man.

Once assembled it is remarkably strong! You can climb on it, but I ask that people avoid putting their weight on the middle of any of the pieces -- you can climb from vertex to vertex. The triangles at the bottom are different sizes, but the largest is just big enough for me to wheel my bike into. :-)

The total cost of the materials for the dome was about $200, and you can get a Parachute for about $40-$50. Steven's Creek Surplus in San Jose had them for $40 at the time I wrote this page (7/5/2000). The rebar for the stakes cost another $2.25 each and I needed 8. So the total cost was less than $275.

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