I need help hacking a travel-friendly rod for hanging quilts
January 30, 2014 7:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm documenting quilts and have a decent set-up in place for photographing them (seen here), but now I've got to take it on the road. My 1"x3"x9' wooden crossbar isn't going to cut it as checked baggage and it's a tight fit in my compact SUV, let alone an affordable rental car when I get to my destination. However--a deal breaker--the crossbar can't be a dowel or have a round profile. With dowel-type crossbars the quilts hang and sag at the top and don't present a flat place to photograph. More details and reqs after the jump.

I currently use these backdrop stand poles with a 1"x3"x9' board with screw eye hooks that slide over those pole tops.

The quilts can be on the heavy side (10-12 lbs) and most have a muslin sleeve attached on the back for sliding a rod through. I've tried dowels as crossbars and while they hold the quilt, they don't keep the quilt face flat.

All the photography backdrop rods I've seen are round, so those won't work. And I've done some homework on taking the 9' board with me. Googling puts the standard linear limit at 62" before a $200 surcharge. Javelins--my nearest dimensional relative--are $150 and "dependent on acceptance conditions for each flight." Given that my current crossbar cost about $20, I'm reluctant to splash out ten times that for baggage.

So I need something collapsible, or modular, that can hold 12 lbs, and with a flat-ish face, and expand to the same dimensions as the 1" x 3" x 9'. I've considered traveling with just the "ends" of my current cross bar--the same materials, but using only the last 6" with the screw eye hooks, and lashing these in some way to another board that I purchase at my destination. But I'd like to avoid that step as I'm only in these places for a short time and anyway, if I'm going to lash the ends to a new board I have to buy on arrival, I might as well just build my current set-up at my destination.

posted by cocoagirl to Grab Bag (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Would you be able to put alternating hinges on the board with some little locks like you see on shutters to hold them in place once opened?
posted by tamitang at 7:29 AM on January 30, 2014

A single door hinge in the middle on the front (which could be mortised in to make it flat) and a draw latch on the back side would keep everything ridged but allow you to fold it in half down below your 62" limit. You might want to step up to a 2x4 instead of a 1x4 for additional strength at your hinge.
posted by Mitheral at 7:36 AM on January 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

As you know, backdrop stands come with a crossbar that is locked in a particular position--it's a fixed anchor, and breaks down into four or five pieces, depending on the model. I assume you have the crossbar from the original purchase.

What I would do is to take that crossbar and drill screws into one side.

Then I would have lengths of plexiglass sized and cut to mount on the screws. Because the crossbar does not spin, if you do this right, it will be true and stay vertical.

Plexi will be much easier to transport than the wood, and lighter. It will also give you the flat surface you need to display the quilts.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:39 AM on January 30, 2014

Rectangular-section structural fibreglass tubing? You might be able to get a smaller section that could fit inside larger sections, and so have 3× 1 metre(-ish) long sections that would fit together. Would need some building from someone who knew how to cut and handle this stuff, and likely some coating/varnish to protect you from the fibres. It would be lighter and stronger than wood.
posted by scruss at 10:24 AM on January 30, 2014

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