Monday, April 25, 2011

Mini May Pole How to

As Beltane is just around the corner, and I've shamefully abandoned this place since I created it, I thought Wulf wouldn't mind me re-posting a guest post he did on my blog last year. Enjoy this very awesome post about a very awesomely creative men!

When Andréann said she'd love a mini-maypole for Mariann, my first thought was “It'll have to fold up somehow or I'll never be able to mail it.” I imagined something that stood on the floor that the two of them could dance around; it wasn't until later that I realized she'd probably meant a miniature maypole to sit on the table! I've worked as an opera prop builder for 25 years, so a full-size maypole that could fit into a small mailing box seemed a perfectly natural thing to ask for. I often forget that most of the world doesn't work that way.

It also had to be lightweight, and sturdy enough to be played with by a toddler. (I just substituted “to be handled by a tenor” and figured it would be about the same.) I also didn't want it to be too “good”, so it wouldn't be a tragedy if someone's dancing got too energetic and it was damaged. I like cardboard tubes as a building material because they have exactly the needed qualities: they're lightweight, rigid, sturdy and above all, cheap – usually free. So of course I never throw them out, either at home or at work, and was able to find a good one that was about the right diameter and long enough. I cut it into four sections (using a bandsaw, but one of the other nice things about cardboard tubes is that you can easily cut them with just a craft knife.) To join the sections together I needed another tube exactly the right size to fit either into or over them. Of course even in my vast tube collection there was nothing precisely the right diameter, but I did find one that fit over, though a bit loosely.

I cut short pieces about 6" long and glued them onto three of the tube sections, extending about half way past one end of each. (The bottom section would fit onto the base and not need an outer sleeve.) Because the outer tube was slightly large, I built up the end of the smaller tube with a couple of layers of brown kraft paper glued on to make a snug fit. The other ends also needed to be thickened just enough to make them fit precisely but still slide on and off easily. I was originally going to glue on a layer of thin felt, but it was much too thick and with a bit of experimentation I found that a single layer of adhesive cloth tape was exactly right. Easy!

I'd like to say I carefully calculated the optimal width for a stable base, but I have to admit I just made it fit the scrap of plywood I happened to have! I used hardwood marine plywood because it's quite heavy and is much stronger than ordinary construction plywood. That means you can cut it into quite thin shapes without it being too fragile. And one of the problems I had got myself into by making a two-piece slotted base is that the pieces that fit up inside the tube were going to have to be quite thin but would be subject to a lot of stress. If I didn't have to make the base come apart for mailing, I would have just used a circle of ordinary plywood with a piece of wood screwed to it to fit up inside the tube.

The top of the maypole is the part that I would improve. I wanted it to be a pinecone shape, which I made by cutting rows of petals out of stiff paper and gluing them over a styrofoam egg. Even as I was doing it I realized I should have used felt. It would've been easier to shape over the egg so I could have cut larger petals, and would have made a better finished shape.

My original plan was to cover the pole with gift wrap, but when I tried it didn't look very good and was going to be awkward to deal with the raised sleeve sections. In the end I just gave it a base coat of gesso and painted it with acrylics, which was better. Fortunately the cardboard tube already has a spiral seam on it, so it was easy to wrap a strip of paper around to draw out a nice even spiral.

I happened to have three lengths of 1 in. ribbbon in good colours, and tied it onto the top with lengths of ¼ in. ribbon. Little bells onto the ribbons give it a bit of jinglyness.

After it was all assembled I realized I'd made it bigger than was really necessary. I wasn't sure how tall Mariann was, but I knew this would be taller than her. (Though I was surprised to see that it was almost twice her height! So tiny!) But toddlers grow very fast, and the extra height means she'll be able to dance around it for a couple more Beltanes before it's too short. By then I imagine it'll be danced to pieces anyway!

You can find Wulf writing in his blog, Into the Woods...

In the spring of 2008 we bought 40 acres of land just north of Colborne, Ontario. Mostly mixed hardwood forest, with no improvements except a primitive road and a well, it awaits our slow progress from city dwellers to forest folk. This is the record of our journey.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Any big plans for Beltane?  I have been crafting and just sent out my WWP Beltane swap parcel.

I have a ritual planed for April 30, getting very excited.