Friday, November 30, 2012

I got a phone call some time back. "I have a couple steel shafts and I want to turn them into flagpoles." I get approached with this request quite a lot. So I started my usual round of questions thinking a couple parts later, the customer would be overjoyed and he would be well on his way to flying a flag. Instead he said, "let me stop you there and send you a picture of where the flagpoles will be going."

Moments later, I opened my email to this. He went on, "I really want to make something nice." Anyone who has dealt in transportation knows, Alaska is one of those hard-to ship locations. So for Joe Carter to source shafts locally, he not only saved himself quite a bit of money, he also saved himself quite a headache. Sometimes, the best way to become a flag flyer, is not to buy a prepackaged pole kit, but to get creative and make your own. And that is just what Carter did... three times over.

It was clear, Carter had a mission in mind to take these three scrapped steel light pole pipes and convert them into a car stopping flag display. To see the end result first, is almost a crime. But I thought you should appreciate the beauty of this design before we get started with Carter's real flag story. His story starts online. Craigslist (Craigspro) had an ad for some old light pole shafts. Carter picked up the phone and jumped on the deal, purchasing outright eight 37 ft. poles with 12 inch square bases. The steel pipe tapered at about 8 feet. Without even knowing it, Carter had stumbled upon a very valuable find. Tapered steel is not the industry standard. This was the practice before aluminum, but today, a steel tapered pole is about twice as expensive.

Bondo on the top extension
At this point you might be picturing, Carter taking a flatbed down to pick up nice black poles and hauling them up for install, but these were not in nice condition. More importantly, they were not black. They were white powder coated with rust spots from head to toe. They'd been laying in the mud  for some time. Looking out over the water, seeing the tree line, and glancing back at the 37 ft. light poles (tapered to 3.5 inches), he thought, I think these poles are not tall enough. Not a problem for Carter. A couple extensions, some Bondo body filler, two-part marine paint, and some welding later he had 40 - 45 ft. deep gray graphite (black) flagpoles.

Reinforcing Access Door with Cam Action Cleat
With more than adequate metal knowledge, Carter and I spent time talking about his options. I felt confident he could finish these poles with an Internal Cam Action Cleat system to the ropes run on the inside of the flagpole for a more deluxe appearance. He liked the idea, but there was something missing. All internal system flagpoles have access doors. To make an access door, you have to cut a significant hole into the shaft. This effects the integrity of the shaft and can cause problems down the road. Carter was on top of it. With a bit of welding, he cut the door and added reinforcing.

Tom's Foundation
Walking through the internal system and helping Carter get the right flagpole parts for the job, we began to see the light at the other end of the tunnel. Some hard, yet fun, work was looking like it was going to pay off. Wes another local was even willing to donate some time with his Cat lift, jib and boom. From the top of the flagpole to the bottom, nothing was normal about this job. One of the foundations was a reverse flange with bolt holes to mimic a shoe-base install, commonly used for light pole foundations. In addition, Carter used a left over shaft to erect a proper lighting display with a three-tenon extension. Typically, lights are either attached to the pole, or shine from the ground.

Community Flag Raising Ceremony
For Carter, this was not a solo endeavor. He wanted this to be a community project. He built 4 flagpoles. Three for his display and one for his neighbor, Tom. A ceremony was held with local Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of America on July 15th, 2012. Singing of the Star Spangled Banner, the Pledge of Allegiance, and American the Beautiful accompanied the hoisting of the American Flag.

Carter's Display with the Lighting Shaft

Along with the American Flag, Carter flies the Alaskan State Flag and a custom flag he designed for his business, The Petroleum Center where he manages investments advisory accounts. The flag design is quite unique, based off of the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio. I was asking him about it the other day, and he came up with the design to remind himself that nothing is random. It is a talking point that many people comment on. The combination of beauty, elegance, and intrigue, makes this display what flag flying is all about. And this is only the beginning of the many stories these flags will generate for years to come.

Now, atop the bluff facing Kachemak Bay, sit two flag displays which look out across the southern part of Cook Inlet into the Gulf of Alaska. Truly breath taking. People passing through town stop to admire the craftsmanship and Carter takes them on an unbelievable flag story.

I wish I could show you all the pictures in this article, but there are too many! So for more pictures, click here!