Tent Making – Part 1

Augustine planing for that finished lookAs part of the GTV mobile story sharing project I have been tasked with creating a Liberian designed shade covering for the back of our 4Runner that the GTV system will ride around in. The idea is that it’ll keep people cool, eliminate glare from the sun on the monitor, improve lighting conditions for the camera, and hopefully look cool.  This design will later be integrated with an American design, using modern materials and fabrication techniques, to yield the final product. To create the Liberian prototype I employed a couple local carpenters, Dauda and Augustine. Here’s what went down:

Dauda drillingOn Thursday I met with Dauda and we talked about the design. I told him we wanted a strong structure that could be setup by one, but if need be two people. Since we were getting something custom made, I thought it would be cool if it could be mounted onto the roof rack of our 4Runner and then fold out into place. So I talked this over with Dauda and he seemed to be down with it. We agreed to meet back Saturday morning to do the installation.

Tent polesSo on Saturday I show up at 8am, and there’s Dauda already on the scene, finishing up some of the poles. I was impressed. He and Augustine make a few feet for the support poles and then started setting up the tent. It was at this point that I realized that the custom made fold-out design had scrapped for a more traditional 4 poles with 4 supports and some braces design.Rethinking the design I wasn’t super happy about this since I hadn’t been consulted on the redesign, and the new design just wasn’t cool. It also had some serious issues, one of which was that the support beams were a foot off the ground. Thus people couldn’t just walk up to GTV with out stepping over a cross member. Also, it took the whole crew of carpenters to setup the tent. This was more than the 1, maybe 2, people I wanted for it to take.

The drawing boardSo we talked things over. Apparently I hadn’t been specific enough in sharing my vision with Dauda. He thought the new design would be stronger and easier to make than the fold out design. And in truth the design was fine, it just wasn’t what I wanted. So after some sketching on my note pad, and talking about exactly, to the inch, what I wanted, we came up with design number 2.

Second DesignThis design took advantage of the 4Runners vertical support and ended up being a lot simpler. I was pretty happy with the end product. Basically we braced the rear hatch with a 2×2, created a brace that hooks into the roof rack. This brace elevates 3 2x2s to the same height as the open rear hatch. These 3 pieces then formThe carpenters and their finished product the end points of our covering. With a wing span of 105″ x 100″ (8’9″ x 8’4″) I think we can accommodate a fair number of people. This design can be assembled/disassembled by one person and packs up neatly for transporting to the next location.

Me and the guys

Check out our little video at the end.

It packs away neatly for those long trips in the bushMonday I plan on talking to some tailors to make the fabric part of the tent. Hopefully it’ll work out wonderfully. This was a great learning experience for me to better understand how toSecond design close-up (1) communicate my ideas to the people I’m working with here in Liberia. Especially the value of good diagrams and drawings. I meant to make some CADesque drawings before my first meeting with Dauda. I was just too busy. I did get to have a brief conversation with the carpenters about the X, Y, and Z planes, and perspective. That was cool.

The rubber yard (1)I also wanted to show the rubber yard, this is an area in town where you go to buy things made of rubber. Apparently every scrap piece of rubber in the country is brought here and sold. We came here to buy “rope”, or old tires cut into thin strips and used as bungie cords. The place has very post-apocalyptic feel to it with all these weird shapes of black matter hanging and lying around in nicely organized piles. So I just wanted to share that with you guys. The rubber yard is located in town near Benson street and some other street that escapes me at the moment.


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