How to Build an Umbrella

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Build an Umbrella
Build an Umbrella (Image: e-novatrust.com)

Building your own umbrella is incredibly difficult. In addition to understanding the mechanics of an umbrella, you will also have great difficulty sourcing umbrella parts. Umbrella repair shops are few and far between these days, making it virtually impossible to build an umbrella by yourself. Making an umbrella from scratch may not be possible for you, but this article will help you understand how to cannibalize an old umbrella to make a new one.

If you are looking to repair your umbrella, or modify it in any way, this article can help you. Why bother to repair an umbrella? After all, you can find them cheaply on any streetcorner. However, if you have an umbrella with a lovely pattern, or a vintage umbrella that belonged to your grandfather, building a new umbrella out of the old parts is a great idea.

Things You'll Need

  • Old umbrellas
  • Waterproof fabric
  • Sewing machine and thread
  • Dowels
  • Soldering iron

An umbrella has many parts, as you can see from the diagram. The parts that usually need repair are the umbrella fabric or the spokes, aka the stretchers, or the springs at the top that keep the umbrella locked in the open position. If the springs are broken, you will probably need to change out the whole tube, unless you have special tools.

The most common umbrella complaint is that the spokes are broken. You can fix this temporarily with wire. With the umbrella in the open position, attach a piece of wire from the end of the broken spoke to the tube. Alternatively, you can insert a piece of wire into the umbrella canopy itself to add stiffness in that area. Be cautious, this technique works only on older umbrellas. Always be wary, as the wire could come loose and poke you. For a more permanent fix, you may need to cannibalize the spoke assembly from another umbrella. You might also consider just removing the canopy and placing that on a new umbrella body.

If you have a wooden or metal umbrella with a broken stem, it can be challenging to repair. The stem is the long tube that extends from the handle and makes up the length of the umbrella. You can repair this in a number of ways. If you are dealing with a hollow metal tube, you can weld or solder the broken pieces together. For extra strength, insert a dowel into the hollow cavity, and then weld shut. If it is made from solid wood, you can use wood glue to reattach the broken pieces. You might also consider wrapping your wooden stem in wire. Choose copper, brass or silver wire, and weave it in a braid pattern around the stem. It is time consuming, but will make your stem stronger and create a unique design.

If your umbrella's canopy has become ripped, you will need to replace it. Carefully remove the umbrella fabric, and iron it flat. Use this flattened fabric as your template. You may need to cut your old fabric apart along the ribs to make a perfect pattern, but it will depend on the style of your umbrella. You can find waterproof fabric in many patterns at your local craft or fabric store. You should use a nylon thread for this project. Using the old canopy as a guide, trace the outline onto your new fabric. Then simply assemble, sew together and reattach to the old umbrella body. If you have an umbrella with a plastic canopy, you can repair tears as you would a hole in an inner tube. Patch kits are available at most sporting goods stores.

There aren't many umbrella repair companies anymore, but you can find them in most major cities. They are a great source of advice, parts and assistance. If you have an umbrella you truly care about, you may consider sending it off to be repaired by a professional.

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