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Prototyping shelter designs with scale models?
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Rob E

Locale: Canada
Prototyping shelter designs with scale models? on 02/23/2012 10:47:26 MST Print View

I have some shelter designs that I would like to explore and I am thinking about going from laying them out in Google Sketch Up first, then to save time/material I am thinking about constructing parts of the shelter in smaller scale first, before prototyping it full size.

Now,I am not talking about a 100% accurate representation with every detail, but rather just the major structural elements, to get a sense for how it goes together and hangs. I am thinking of 2-3 feet in over all length for a single person shelter, and making it out of inexpensive 2nds material or plastic sheeting.

I appreciate that things like tensions and the way fabric stretches and behaves will be highly dependent and size, but does anyone think that this will be a worthwhile exercise? Or is it just going to be a waste of time?


jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Prototyping shelter designs with scale models? on 02/23/2012 10:52:36 MST Print View

I prototype things sometimes

2 mil polyethelene tarp and duct tape works

garbage bag or other paper at 1/10th scale can be useful

Another possibility is to use twine at each of the ridge lines. You can see if there's enough head room for example. This is the easiest.

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
scale models on 02/23/2012 20:11:33 MST Print View

I teach GED prep, but without a more advanced scientific education, scale models are the only thing that work for me.

The best bases are flat surfaced corrugated plastic material used in packing to protect contents. That is because you can poke music wire partially through it almost endlessly. Cork bulletin boards are a poor second choice, but work.

As noted, the frames are music wire, with about the same flexibility as the real full size pole.

Use the same fabric as will be used on the full size shelter.
Here is a photo of Epic Malibu on music wire to provide a better idea:

Scale Model

Heavy pins are inserted into to the cork board at an angle, and through the fabric at the apexes, to tighten the fabric over the frame.

This achieves the purpose you may have alluded to - too see if the material will tighten tautly over the frame the way you'd like.

Rob E

Locale: Canada
Re: scale models on 02/23/2012 20:44:34 MST Print View

Hi Samuel,

Very cool, that cork board idea is brilliant... I was thinking of using thumb tacks pushed into cardboard. I think I am going to give the scale modelling a try. If nothing else it will work on my sewing skills,


Jack Hoster
(OrlandoHanger) - F
Prototyping shelter designs with scale models? on 02/23/2012 21:20:24 MST Print View

Don't forget the backpacker for scale.

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
scale models on 02/24/2012 21:23:01 MST Print View

Thanks, but not so brilliant. The plastic packing material works much better.
It is hard to describe or photograph, but looks like this:


It holds pins, music wire etc., and does not crumble like cork board.
If you use the cork board, Staples has better quality than the cheap crumbly stuff at Walmart. And if there is no backer, you may need to glue plastic strips to the back to keep the music wire from poking all the way through. None of those problems with the stuff in the photo that can be used over and over again.

Instead of Jack's doll, I use a piece of foam, cut to a coffin shape. The scale I use is 1:6, or 2"=1'. So the foam is 14" long, 3-4" wide, and 2" thick, representing an occupant in a sleeping bag needing 7' length, 1.5-2' width, and 1' height to be comfortable. The foam can also be bent up to see if your head is likely to hit the canopy when sitting up - always a consideration with single wall tents that are often wet with condensation on the inside.

Good luck.

Edited by scfhome on 02/24/2012 21:38:52 MST.