Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Umbrella idea development

Don't give up when trying to create something new. It doesn't matter if it's not exactly what you wanted to create. Sometimes you have to go in a different direction to get the goal you want. A simple example is my small goal of creating an umbrella out of gum wrappers. Making things out of gum wrappers is a hobby I enjoy. It's cheap and if I mess up, I just throw them away. I try to make different things and challenge myself to make more complex things. I don't care if anyone actually needs an umbrella made of gum wrappers, I just like making new things. I may not succeed, but trying and the challenge is the fun part anyway. I thought up this idea for an umbrella last fall as I was travelling back and forth to California for business. I had already been making little origami cars and boats and wanted something different. I couldn't get started making one because I thought it was not possible to get what I wanted - a nice looking umbrella that would stay together without glue. I finally decided to just try a simple one to see what it looked like. I worked the all my spare time on one trip trying to get a design that would look like an umbrella. The attempts were frustrating because there just wasn't a lot of room on the little pieces of foil to attach a bunch of ribs for a proper umbrella. Eventually, I got a four sided little thing that was loosely covered with triangle pieces on four sides.

It didn't look like the umbrella I had envisioned. It only had limited coverage on the top. Two of the sides were just loosely placed on there and would fall off every time it moved it. It was lopsided and fell at the slightest provocation. I put in a lot of work getting this thing to reality and it didn't look very much like an umbrella. I was frustrated with that idea.

I put that notion aside for awhile and worked on some other goals. I made a five pointed star that was fairly easy to make. I modified the star by covering the tips, making it more solid looking. I kept thinking about the umbrella and how this star might help make a top for the it. If I took the five points of the star and connected them together at a central point, the top of the umbrella would be formed.
I thought that if I could bring the points of the star together and connect them to a central set of supports, it would look like an umbrella. I got something that looked more like a lamp than an umbrella. It had a better top than the first one and stood up better. It still had too many pieces and had spaces between the panels that made up the top. It also tended to fall apart whenever I moved it. I kind of liked it as a lamp, but not as an umbrella.

I took a break from umbrellas again. I decide to build a cube. It was nice and had equal sides that maxed out the length of each wrapper per side. It made a fairly nice symmetrical cube, but is was too bare. I thought some color would look nice so I decided to add some of the big foils from the 15 packs of gum. I could easily cover a side or two with the big foil by rolling the ends for connecting to the cube. I did similar connections on chairs before. I wanted to have four adjoining walls to have covers, which was a problem because with four sides I really had 8 connections to make - 2 per each foil. I found that if I put two big foils side by side, rolled equal pieces off of each end together, it would form a connection between the foils and allow connection to the cube. This allowed me to cover four adjacent sides with four big foils.

This connection between sides could also be used to connect panels for an umbrella top. This meant that I wouldn't need as many connections to make the top and it would have less gaps for the rain to get through. I made the first one using this new connection type with five panels for the top.

This was a better top that looked more umbrella like. It was lopsided and required bracing underneath to support the top without sagging. It also was fragile and tended to come apart each time it was moved. It stood up well using the same stand as the lamp. I really didn't want to stand it up, but when I set it on it's side, it would come apart.

I tried another one with 8 panels. This used connectors at the top using the same sticks that support the top to connect to the handle. This made it less likely to fall apart at the top. It also required a lot of support underneath to cure the lopsidedness. The handle was thinner, which I liked, but it was still too complex. I didn't like the connection at the top sticking out that far.

I created one with four panels for the top. I used the connectors for the top panels and the handles to be the same pieces, this time bent down into the lower part of the umbrella. With fewer panels the need for support was reduced so that it was better to leave the bracing off. The handle now was one piece at the bottom with an additional benefit of being able to attach a curved end to it.

Here is a 360 degree view of my latest umbrella.

Just my strange hobby, but it's fun to create things and work on improvements. Here is a step-by-step instruction on how to create the last umbrella.