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How to join a Tarpaulin

topic posted Fri, May 1, 2009 - 4:13 AM by  Blueberry
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This is a puzzle I'm trying to solve at the moment.
I need to make a round Tarpaulin from a number of new square ones to be used in the bottom of a circular tent.

I have figured out all of the geometry for making the circle but i am having trouble working out a way to join them.

Here were my thought processes.

It needs to be fairly long lasting and neat looking so gaff is out.
As far as i know glue won't work because the plastic tarp will "sweat"and the glue will come off.
I would really like to sew them but i don't have access to a large/strong enough sewing machine.

my last thought was maybe to ''weld" / heat fuse them together but i am really not sure about how to approach this?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
posted by:
Blueberry
Australia
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  • We have successfully joined smaller pieces of tarpage to make up larger spreads by way of :
    a) hand stitiching a seam using a plain running stitch or chain stitch...sailmaker needle.... unraveled polypropelene cord strands used as thread.
    b) ordinary household sewing machine using No.16 or No.18 needle, and strong thread. Set stitch length to go wide. Double up material for strength, or run double stitch lines. Pin pieces together first on the floor before running the seams on the machine.

    The alternatives are to employ polypropelene-specific adhesive (expensive & difficult of application), or else heat welding (Very expensive equipment required). Gaff comes loose in a hurry & looks poorly. So, yeah, sewing is your best bet. It's worked for us and has tested against winds & weather.
  • Unsu...
     
    I'd not buy the little squares. Instead I'd go get me a big one.

    Another option is to leave the innards of your little enclosure bare earth and simply spread a poly sheet or tarp for the individual units such as sleeping bags or whatever. The whole floor does not need to be covered. If it's surface water from rain that has you concerned use a little earth to prop up the tarp around the edges and whatever rain water flows in will flow around and not over the individual tarps.
    • How big is this tent ? You can get some really big tarps, up to 70' sq. ! Why would you go to the trouble of joining smaller ones, seems a major hassle, a one piece floor is defiantly better ( w/o seems).
      • Oh Yeah the idea was to get one big one and then cut to size but unfortunately we were unable to find one locally and needed them urgently last time we just cut them to fit and gaffed the seams as a temporary measure, and yeah it is a really big tent.

        It is a 10m diameter geodesic dome, Which is being used as a circus tent. Ideally in the future we will be getting some kind of round canvas flooring but for the moment we just need something to keep the damp out until we can get afford one, but the main reason we need them to be reliably joined is so that people don't trip over the edges.

        Sounds like sewing is going to be the way to go then. I'm a little concerned because the tarp is quite heavy duty but I'll do a little test and see how we go. Would you recommend putting wax or something on the seams?
        • Normal ply polypro tarp material can easily be sewn by a normal household machine; no need to go to an industrial grade sewing machine....... But...
          .....if your tarp is a double or triple ply heavier material, then that leaves out the household sew machine.

          For heavier sewing, look to sailmaking techniques >> strong large needle, pressed home with a sailmaker's palm, a sort of leather piece fitting over the hand to assist pushing the needle stroke. Or else leather workers' sewing tool, a wooden handled needle supplied with a small spool of heavy waxed thread.

          The tarp seams we've sewn together, even in the field, have resisted rainwater penetration. Unless your completed tarp meets total water immersion, it ought to keep out ground moisture without seam waxing.

          As to covering personal tent floors, the heavier ply polypro seems to hold up to limited use, but for public spaces, such as workshop space where dancing, yoga, massage, takes place, you'll want something stronger than woven polypro. We've found that old discarded heavy duty vinyl swimming pool covers are extremely durable, even ideal as floors for temporary public spaces at gatherings. Swimming pool covers are normaly replaced every 3-4 years, so any large city swim pool maintenance concern will have access to plenty of old covers as they are in the business of replacing old with new. In several instances, all we've had to do is approach such folks and they are happy to give away the covers... saves them having to haul the heavy lot clear to the tip. Ten meters is not an unusual size when it comes to vinyl swim pool covers. These are easily cut down to your desired shape & size using a box cutter.

          It's surprising how one's primitive skills blossom when the need arises.
  • If you are talking about the cheap poly tarps they sell in Australia everywhere, then a household sewing machine will do the job most easily. If you can, sew some cover tape on a big zig zag stitch.

    the real problem is getting the bulk of the tarp to feed through smoothly. Probably a 2-3 person job with one person lining two halves up, one on the machine and third just very gently moving the output out of the road to prevent it bunching up.

    It would be better if you could glue these as any thread is going to eventually cut the plastic. sadly, I do not know of a nice flexible glue to do this.

    If it was a heavy tarp, then I have bashed domestic sewing machines to death on sewing up gear in 8oz grade. At one stage, you could buy them cheap, use and trash. Not so common now. if you need one, see if you can get one (trade in ) from a sewing machine shop.

    If it is heavier, good luck finding canvas/sail needles, needle and palm, etc in Australia.

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