The umbrella challenge: Part 1 – The mechanism

Recently, someone who TOTALLY GETS ME challenged me to build an umbrella from scratch before Christmas. My guess is that if you’re a reader of this blog and I asked you to come up with five things you’ve learned about me, three of them would be “builds shit, loves umbrellas and responds to challenges”, and the other two would be filthy.

In other words, yes. I will do this.


1: I do not have to mine the ore or smelt it into shape. HOWEVER, I cannot use any part of another umbrella for any purpose other than research.

2: It must have a working opening and closing mechanism.

3: The challenge must be completed before December 25th 2012.

So first thing’s first, how do umbrellas work? I decided the best way to start it off would be to reverse engineer an umbrella I already own.

Sacrifices must be made

This is an umbrella that was given to me at the press night for a musical written by the guy from Busted. Luckily I was given two, so I can take this one apart without having to cry. Do not attempt to compare your lives to mine, results may be fatal.

It hurt to do this. But not enough.

It’s actually not easy though, they’re pretty solidly put together. My five minutes of attacking the mechanism with a tiny saw left me with cut gums and no results, so I decided instead to use the better look I’d got to make a guess at the inside mechanism.

I wanted to create a prototype of the mechanism. Not a fully working umbrella, but just one of the struts. I took out my box of k’nex (think Lego is better? FIGHT ME, YOU FUCK!) and set to work until I ended up with this.

This is basically just a device that converts the up and down motion of sliding the base, to the opening motion of the spokes. All I would have to do to make a working K’nex umbrella is replicate this model 8 times, once for each spoke, and then fasten them together.

The next step is to recreate this mechanism using real materials. My guess is it’s going to involve a stick of bamboo and loads of wire coathangers. This is where it will likely get fiddley, but now that the groundwork has been done I’m confident I’ll be able to make a prototype and then use that as a model for the real thing.

Keep a look out for PART TWO – THE PROTOTYPE


~ by Sandy Nicholson on November 7, 2012.

One Response to “The umbrella challenge: Part 1 – The mechanism”

  1. Love it Sandybottom, please can you incorporate some form of hovering mechanism? Mary Poppins ftw! I’m looking forward to Part Two :)

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