A recycled flag pole, OR…Woodworking on the CHEAP!

In our front yard we have a wonderful 20-foot tall flag pole, the second one in the yard. The following is the replacement flag pole, installed last year – make a mental note of the golden ball at the very top of the pole:

New flag pole

The old flag pole failed during a storm last year; strong winds brought it down. But Sandy kept it, knowing what she wanted to do with it. Her instructions to me were something like this: “Get some 2 X 4s, cut them so each half is about 4 feet long, and make me something with four corners, preferably overlapping in the middle. And please drill a hole in the middle, to accept a 1/2-inch dowel. Oh – NO finish on this piece!”

At this point I had NO idea what she was up to; I headed for the shop, cut the 2 X 4s into two separate pieces 45 inches long, marked the center line for each length, measured the average width at the center of each piece, and took them to the table saw. After 10 minutes on the table saw I had perfectly-fitting cross laps in each half to accept the other; added a little glue, and clamped for about 2 hours.

I removed the clamps, marked the center point accurately, and drilled the hole with a 1/2-inch Forstner bit. At this point I realized that the assembly was to be mounted on top of the old flag pole, where the ball on the tip above the flag was. It was a little bit of a job to remove the aluminum ball from the 1/2-inch shaft, but I managed, by banging away with a mallet while holding the ball in a metal vise.

With the ball now removed, I tested the fit of the shaft in the wooden cross pieces. Perfect! A little snug, but a nice fit. A design note: To minimize the possibility of water getting in the glue line, I placed the wood assembly such that all the glued edges pointed downward. I have only one regret: There is no finish on this first unit; it is bare 2 x 4 pine – a real test of the suitability of bare pine outdoors in NW Missouri.

I took the whole thing back to the house, and Sandy proceeded to attach four purpose-purchased pizza pans lined on the top surfaces with some kind of mesh. She used rivets hammered through the pans into the wood, and pretty soon we were ready to install the new item, Patent Pending:

Pole feeder

Sandy even dug the 3-foot deep hole to accept the old flag pole with the new bird feeder system, I mixed two bags of concrete, and poured. After a few hours we tried to raise the pole and lock it in place – a ball bearing is supposed to pop, to lock the inner tubes. In this manner the pole can be raised to its full 20-foot height. But, after sitting on the ground in one of the flower beds for several months, the ball bearing does not want to pop, even after applications of WD-40. We are still trying to figure out what to do.

I keep telling her she should apply for a patent, since we have a working prototype in place (even if we cannot raise the pole to its full height). Unfortunately, applying for a patent would require a few thousand dollars…

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