Stiffening a Hollow Flag Pole
Stiffening a flag or bell pole
My wife nagged me for 8 years after we moved here to cut down the giant C-Band satellite dish sitting in our front yard. Finally, despite my nagging doubts about the safety of doing so, I unbolted the thing and pushed it off the pole. I missed one bolt, unfortunately and the dish swung back and slapped me off the ladder and slashed my arm. It took months to heal.
Now what to do with the pole?
Three years ago I bought a cast iron ship’s bell and bracket and hadn’t found a way to hang it yet.
Voila! A brilliant idea. Pop off the top bracket that the satellite was attached to and weld the bell bracket to it, then put it back up.
Problem: The bell is significantly heavier than the aluminum satellite dish that used to be up there and the pole is thin walled and hollow. I need to stiffen the pole or the bell will sway when rung. The neighbors may sway when I ring it. I may sway too, when Jay, my neigbor who even hates my wind chimes, hits me with a well-aimed rock.
I learned this trick for stiffening flagpoles, when I worked at Lone Star camp. We had to take down a flagpole once to replace the flag rope and pulley. I had climbed that same the pole once before to rescue a girl’s leopard skin jumpsuit (don’t ask) and found it surprisingly solid throughout the lower section. When we took it down, we found that the original installers had filled the pole with concrete and a single rebar rod to stiffen it and reduce pole movement in a high wind. I saw the same thing done on our local elementary school flagpole, a big silver monster that carried a huge flag and didn’t so much as vibrate in a hurricane.
If you need to stiffen hollow pole that’s short like mine, you can simply climb a stepladder and pour concrete down the opening in the top after you remove the cap. For a flag pole, you may have to cut down the pole and pour the concrete in from the bottom. The pictures below show the step by step procedure needed to stiffen a flagpole.
The rebar should extend about 2/3 of the way up inside the pole and you’ll need to use kind of thin concrete mix to prevent it from jamming up only part way down inside the pole when you pour it. Use sand and cement or concrete mix with a very fine rock aggregate. Even mortar mix might be a suitable alternative – something hard to support the pole against the rebar and make it stiff. Be sure the lower end of the pole is vented in some way so that air pressure doesn’t stop the flow of the concrete into the pole.
If you cut down the pole, don’t try to cobble back onto the original pole. Tear the old base out and concrete a thick steel pole into the ground so that it sticks up about 18 inches above the ground and under the ground about 2 ½ feet. Be sure and check to see that the flag rope is properly set in the upper pulley before you erect the pole. Get some help as shown in the picture. The original pole will sit a little lower if you just raise it up and drop it into the empty base pipe. You can raise the pole in the base pipe by pouring sand into the base pipe to raise it to the height you want. After you get the pole set right, drill a hole in the pipe and pole and screw a lag screw into it to keep the pole from twisting in the base.
The stiffer pole will now carry an extra state flag or larger national flag without whipping wildly in a stiff breeze.
Or it will carry a cast iron bell and bracket, I hope. We’ll see!
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