As far as prop making goes, making ground/jump poles is just about as simple as it gets. It’s a great started project because it’s easy and because a set of poles gives you a lot of options for performance events. I’m making these for use in trail and gaming classes, but they have a myriad of uses in set ups.
Here’s how I went about making my new set of poles.
First, materials. Poles are really just dowels that have been cut and painted. You’ll want to make sure you buy the right size dowel for your scale. For 1/32 scale (Chips/Stablemate) I’m using 3/16 inch diameter dowels from a hobby store. Before you go, you’ll want to calculate how many pieces you need. They’re generally sold in 36″ lengths. I wanted my poles to be equivalent to 12′, which in 1/32 scale is 4.5 inches. I increased that to 5” just to be safe, multiplied that by 8 (the number of poles I wanted) and got 40 inches. So I bought two 36″ pieces. To do my scale conversions I used this handy scale calculator.
In addition to poles, you’ll need sand paper, a saw or dremel, masking tape, and acrylic paint. I also used sealer (Krylon) and play-doh (an idea adapted from Friesian Fury Studio’s post on using play-doh for masking).
Next, you’ll want to measure out the poles on the length of dowel.
I left a bit of space between each poles length so the dremel would have room to cut. You wouldn’t need to leave so much if you use a hacksaw (and/or aren’t such a klutz like me).
You end up with poles a little over the intended length (in my case, 4.5 inches). If your poles are close to that, you can probably just move right on to sandpaper. Since mine each had several millimeters to lose and I had the dremel handy, I used that. You have a lot more control with the dremel when you can cut straight down, instead of at an angle as you have to do when cutting a long piece. That allows you to get a lot more precise and get the pole just a hair over the goal length.
Then a bit of sandpaper on the ends will take off any roughness and get them to a uniform length. You might want to sandpaper the whole piece, depending on how rough your dowels are. Keep the ruler handy so you don’t overdo it and end up with a pole that’s too short (I just plan ahead for failure and start with extra poles. I need seven, so I’m making nine).
Once your poles are all cut and sanded, it’s painting time. Poles come in just about any color or combination that you can imagine, but mine are going to be a relatively staid blue and white stripe.
I start with doing a layer of white. I do half a pole at a time, and stick the unpainted end in a lump of playdoh to dry.
Once those are dry, simply paint the other half. To make the stripes, I taped off the areas I wanted to remain white and then painted blue over the exposed white. There are a lot different striping styles out there, but you will want to measure out the taping if you want the poles to match.
This is blue tape with blue paint, but hopefully you get the idea. The ends and middle of each poles are taped up to keep them white.
You may need to do a couple layers of color. Try not to put it on too thick or it’ll look funny later. Once you pull the tape off, you may need to redo some of the white where it bled through or the taping was off. And then you’re done!
For longevity and durability, you may want to seal the poles with a matte fixative. I did mine using the same playdoh base technique, one half at a time. For some scenes, you might want old weathered poles. Handily, they’re pretty easy to make so you can create a whole arsenal in different colors and conditions, a pole for every possibility!