Creative MeFites: help us improvise queue management on the cheap!
January 16, 2014 6:01 PM   Subscribe

A community organisation I volunteer with needs a way to manage queues at public events. The wait isn't long and the crowd isn't rowdy - we just need a visual indicator of where people should stand in line. Our plan is to string rope or bunting between poles around a metre high, but proprietary queue barrier poles are crazy expensive. Can you help us improvise an alternative using cheap and/or recycled materials?

We need the poles to be:

- Light and compact enough to fit, say, 20 in the back of a car.
- Stable on grass or tarmac - or adaptable for use with either.
- Able to be used by volunteers of all abilities - ie, nothing requiring a post hole driver.
- Cheap - preferably under $8 each.
- Durable enough to survive hard ground, wet weather and being bumped around in transit.
- Not dangerous to children/clumsy adults
- Materials available in Australia (our local big box hardware store is Bunnings, in case that helps).
- Bonus points if made from recycled or otherwise "green" materials.

Some ideas I've been considering so far:

- Tread-in pigtail posts (designed to hold electric fences) - with a separate base for use on tarmac?
- Ikea desk leg bolted to a plywood base - with holes for tent pegs to secure them on grass?

But I'm sure there must be better options out there using materials from industries I'm unfamiliar with. Some magic combination of plumbing fittings and bamboo poles? Something using scaffolding base plates? A foolproof design we can assemble from scrap wood? Please help us, creative MeFites. We can't be the first community organisation to attempt to solve this problem on a budget.
posted by embrangled to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Small traffic cones + 1 meter dowels inserted in hole.
posted by drlith at 6:32 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

PVC pipe maybe? It's very cheap here in the states and you can easily make little stands with the elbow joints.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 6:33 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

PVC pipe duct taped to 5 gallon buckets. Transport empty; fill the buckets with water at the site. You'll need lids for your buckets if you don't want them to collect trash.
posted by Mitheral at 7:31 PM on January 16, 2014

The only time I have done this, we used 5-gal buckets and filled them with cement and stuck the pole in while the cement dried. Cheap but not lightweight or portable.

Not sure if this helps or not, but the proper name for the actual barrier/rope/pole setup is "stanchion," thought that might help your googling.
posted by radioamy at 7:38 PM on January 16, 2014

Response by poster: Great ideas so far, thanks so much everyone. I left one requirement off the list: the poles need to look nice. Shabby chic in a "we believe in creative reuse and recycling" kind of way is fine, but we still need the area to look attractive and reasonably professional. We may be able to compromise on the other factors in order to achieve this.
posted by embrangled at 7:42 PM on January 16, 2014

How about poles in large buckets, held in place by large, smooth stones? You can also decorate the buckets, and stones look nicer (and can be unloaded in varying quantities, depending on the strength of folks helping with set-up). Then get a couple colors of plastic streamers or banners, and set the cordons by laying the two colors back-to-back and gently twisting the material so you see each color in turn. You might even be able to find plastic streamers made from recycled materials.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:19 PM on January 16, 2014

Stepping up my bucket plan:

The buckets and poles can be painted with plastic spray paint.

Instead of duct taping the poles to the buckets silicone an over size pipe cap to the inside centre bottom of the bucket and cut a hole in the lid to fit tightly around your PVC pipe. This way the pipe can be easily removed for transport, but to would look less Red Green.

You could decorate the outside of the buckets with all sorts of things including wood strips to give them a coopered look but anything much more than paint is going to prevent the buckets stacking for easy transport in cars.

There is a lot you could do with hypertufta to make bases for your poles including hollow ones that you could fill with water (make a form to hold your poles, a good size plastic bowl 12-14" across works well) but a big stone of hypertufta is still pretty heavy.
posted by Mitheral at 8:24 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

3/4" PVC pipe fits nicely through the opening in a 2 liter soda bottle. Add sand, concrete or plaster of Paris to the bottle for stability before inserting an appropriate length of pipe. Top each pipe with a T-fitting and thread a brightly colored rope through the Ts. Furniture grade PVC is available in a variety of colors, or dress everything up by spraying with a plastic-compatible paint. This solution is compact, easy to make, transport and assemble, recycled (and that provenance is obvious without looking too junky, so you get your green points with style), and well under your budget.

For faster, easier set-up on site, use a saber saw to cut a slot through the top length of the T so you can drop the rope in from the top without threading. Or source a snap-fit T, which already has the slot.
posted by peakcomm at 7:58 AM on January 17, 2014

Since your people are not rowdy, how about using outdoor Xmas lights, no poles, to define the queue? Similar to airplane landing strips.
posted by PickeringPete at 9:28 AM on January 17, 2014

I've never done this, but it seems like you could cast some volcano-shaped bases out of concrete, sticking a cylinder of styrofoam or whatever into the center to create a hollow the right diameter for your vertical pipe or dowel. Both the concrete and dowel could be painted or stained.
posted by lakeroon at 6:02 PM on January 17, 2014

This is an approximation of something we've done, based on what I found available at your Bunnings.

Plant pots (get pots deep enough to bury the pigtail posts to a depth that they don't sway)
Bags with ties (the ties are important)

Line the plant pots with the plastic bags (the extra bag can stay puddled at the bottom) and fill 1/2 to 3/4 with sand. These should be sturdy enough on grass or pavement to not easily tip over, and the drawstring (mostly) helps the sand stay in the bag during set up, moving, and storage. When you want to use the bases, open the bags, tucking the ties down between the pot and the body of the bag, stand the pigtail posts into the center of the sandbag and run your rope as usual. At the end of the evening, remove the rope, pull the pigtail posts and pull the bag ties to (mostly) keep the sand in while you stow the bases. Done and ready to deploy at the next event.

Although definitely not as sturdy as a concrete base, they are inexpensive to make and to replace, are not too heavy for most people to haul in and out of a car, and not too awful looking. The plant pots are large enough to be noticed and normally not tripped over, and tall enough not to pose an impalement hazard to children. The bases can be stored with the sand bags still in the pots or you can remove the sandbags to a pile and stack the pots. Sand leakage does happen, but unless someone turns a bag completely upside down, most of the sand stays in the bag if the drawstring is pulled.
posted by faineant at 1:03 AM on January 18, 2014

« Older The modern materials of the artist (iPhone edition...   |   What lenses should I get for a Pentax K5 II? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.