Q. What are the main differences between wooden flagpoles and others?
A. Wooden flagpoles look quite different as they have a traditional square base for the first 5ft or so, followed by a transitional octagonal portion of about 2ft before going into the cylindrical section, which is gently tapered to the apex. The grain of the timber can be seen through the paint or varnish so they look natural and unique and not mass produced and plastic-looking with give-away seams. They sound satisfyingly solid when tapped unlike aluminium or glass fibre poles which sound disappointingly hollow. They are just as strong as other materials and customers have the reassuring feelings and knowledge that they have purchased a traditional hand crafted product.
Q. What sizes are available in wood?
A. Any size the customer requires.
Q. Who typically buys wooden flagpoles?
A. Organisations where the cost is not the most important factor and the need for the genuine product is essential. Historic houses, military bases etc.
Home owners who want a “real” bespoke product that has been hand made especially for them.
Q. Why is wood more expensive?
A. The time involved to make the flagpole by skilled craftsmen, together with the cost of top quality timber which is then selected and laminated to give flexibilty, strength and a long life.
Q. How long will wood last?
A. 50 to 100years if our simple maintainenance regime is followed - see below.
Q. Why does wood last much longer now?
A. The materials used are of a much higher quality and traditionally wooden flagpoles were made from one piece of timber which meant that some knots and defects were hidden inside the timber. Because we laminate the wood, we individually select each piece to ensure there are no defects. The supporting tabernacle ensures the flagpole does not come into contact with the ground so they cannot rot from the ground up as they used to. The tabernacle allows the flagpole to be lowered for maintenance quite easily.
Q. How much maintenance do wooden flagpoles require?
A. See the Routine Maintenance section below
Q. Do glass fibre flagpoles need any maintenance?
A. Yes. They also need repainting as the frost can cause the fibre to split and eventually break down completely. They also suffer from weather damage and they discolour, as do all flagpoles.
Q. How much does a flagpole weigh?
A. This obviously depends on the size of the flagpole and what it is made of, and of course even timber of the same species does vary in density but I have given some approximate examples below.
Typical Flagpoles with 5" sqare bases
20 foot Douglas Fir 80lbs (36.5kg)
25 foot Douglas Fir 95lbs (43.5kg)
30 foot Douglas Fir 111lbs (50.5kg
20 foot Oak 107lbs (48.5kg)
25 foot Oak 128lbs (58kg)
30 foot Oak 148lbs (67kg)
Flagpole with a 144mm diameter circular base
40 foot Douglas Fir 140lbs (63.5kg)
40 foot Oak 187lbs (85kg)
Q. Can the flagpoles be delivered and installed?
A. Yes. We can do everything for the customer. We do not outsource any aspect of the business to a third party.
Q. Can you copy the design of an old or existing flagpole that needs replacing?
A. Yes. We can copy any design, size and length.
Q. Why do you reccommend lowering the flag when wind speeds are high? Surely the whole point of a flagpole is that it is there to support a flag?
A. Obviously it is possible for us, even in this country, to experience winds of Hurricane force and clearly the forces involved are easily capable of causing structural damage to buidings etc. without tempting providence by flying a flag as well. In fact a flag will start to destroy itself above certain wind speeds (Force 6 wind speeds cause the flag to "whip"). To be safe we advise lowering the flag whenever wind speeds greater than Force 5 are forecast and you will find that most reputable flagpole suppliers do the same.
Q. What is the meaning of all these technical terms?
A. The following glossary may help you, and it can be fun to use some of them when you are talking about your flagpole.
Glossary of Terms to do with our Flagpoles (many of them with old nautical connections)
Bent - a nautical term used to describe the action of having tied a ‘halyard’ onto a flag.
Chamfer - is formed when the corners of the square butt of the flagpole are bevelled to provide an octagonal transition between the square and circular cross sections.
Cleat ¬- a metal fitting provided with two arms so that the ‘halyard’ can be made fast by taking two or three turns under and over the arms.
Douglas fir - a light reddish brown softwood that has high stiffness and crushing strength, and high bending strength. These are ideal properties for a flagpole and ‘lamination’ enhances these properties.
Eye - a loop formed in the end of a ‘halyard’.
Finial - a decorative piece at the top of a flagpole often turned into an ‘ogee’ shape.
Fly - the horizontal length of a rectangular flag in use, see ‘hoist’.
Halyard - a braided flexible ‘rope’ that is ‘bent’ to a flag and used to ‘hoist’ it. The old version of this word is ‘haulyard’ which indicates its original nautical use on board ship.
Hoist - the vertical height of a rectangular flag that is next to the Flagpole, see ‘fly’.
Hoist - the action of raising a flag.
Lamination - a woodworking technique where layers of timber are glued up into a solid block. The benefits are that we have absolute control over the quality of the final product because we can select flawless boards to make the final product. This allows us to achieve the strength and flexibility that is necessary for a reliable flagpole.
Ogee – a solid that is defined by double ‘s’ shaped curves like the top of a minaret.
Rove - when the end of a ‘halyard’ is passed through anything it is said to be ‘rove’ through it.
Sheave - a small pulley wheel that is fitted in the ‘truckhead’ sometimes referred to as a ‘truck’.
Toggle - a wooden pin in the form of an elongated barrel that is attached to a flag. It is passed through a loop or ‘eye’ in the halyard to connect them together.
Tabernacle – is a fabricated mild steel structure that supports a flagpole vertically. The lower part is sunk below ground level. Two ‘ears’ project above ground so that the flagpole can be supported vertically, it is gripped between them by means of two bolts. When the lower bolt is removed it is a simple matter to lower and raise the flagpole for routine maintenance.
Truck - see sheave
Truckhead - a circular wooden cap fitted to the top of the flagpole which can be fitted with one or occasionally two ‘sheaves’ or ‘trucks’ through which the halyard is ‘roved’
Q. How would I maintain a wooden flagpole?
A. See the Routine Maintenance Advice below
Routine Maintenance for a Wooden Flagpole
Maintenance of a highly stressed component like a flagpole that is subjected to the extremes of weather is clearly important. It really is a case that “prevention is better than cure” prevention is simple but a cure is virtually impossible. Don’t forget that we all start off with good intentions but it is only too easy to put the maintenance off until next year and so on, and we frequently see evidence of this with older flagpoles exhibiting only traces of the original paintwork (nevertheless some of these are at least one hundred years old!). Clearly, not only is this false economy, leading to premature failure but obviously these circumstances are beyond our control. The only maintenance required to ensure that your wooden flagpole survives for several generations, is simply as follows.
1) Inspect the flagpole and fittings regularly (say 6 monthly) for signs of deterioration of the finish. Ideally this would involve lowering the flagpole but realistically a visual inspection using binoculars is a good substitute. Look for signs of weathering and the start of bare patches or peeling paintwork/varnish. Pay particular attention to areas of potential wear, for example, the finial and where the halyard may have been slapping against the pole, and around metal fastenings. If you can see any deterioration of the finish do something about it now. Do not forget to ensure that there is always a sufficient air gap between the base of the flagpole and the ground - do not allow debris or soil to bridge this gap.
2) Every three years or when inspection reveals a need for attention, whichever is the sooner, lower the flagpole and lightly rub it down with abrasive paper. Start with an abrasive grit of about 120 and finish with an abrasive grit of about 240.
3) Apply fresh coats of paint/varnish as required (see below). Now would be a good time to inspect the halyard and replace if it is showing signs of wear and tear, because if it fails once the flagpole is re-erected it is not possible to replace the halyard without lowering the flagpole again.
Painting regime for your wooden flagpole
1) The inspection will reveal whether it is necessary to apply primer to any bare timber followed by a coat of undercoat but most likely it will only be necessary to apply one or possibly two coats of gloss paint.
2) A new painted flagpole is finished with 2 coats of primer, a coat of undercoat and 2 coats of gloss, lightly rubbing down between coats where necessary once the paint is sufficiently hard.
3) Since the rigorous selection of the boards that go to make a flagpole mean that knots and blemishes are unusual, if there are one or two small ones we treat them with an application of a knotting solution before priming.
Note - It is false economy not to use good-quality paint such as Dulux etc. Recently we have adopted the use of Leyland trade paints with very good results so far, these can be obtained from www.screwfix.com. We use 2 coats of the Leyland ‘Acrylic Primer Undercoat’ which is quick drying although it tends to raise the grain like all water-based paints so it is necessary to lightly sand down between coats. This is then followed by one coat of Leyland undercoat which has good coverage and opacity – again light sanding will be required. We use Leyland ‘Truguard’ Flexible Gloss for the final two coats which the manufacturer claims resists blistering and cracking and so far, this seems to be true.
Varnishing regime for your wooden flagpole
This is broadly similar to the painting regime above, but there are some important differences. Generally a varnished finish will need more attention than a painted one. It is important to be aware that yacht varnish is traditionally sanded back and re-coated annually on wooden boats (in fact some boat owners actually 'refresh the finish mid-season as well) and a flagpole has to endure similar hostile environments to masts and spars.
If the finish is allowed to deteriorate without maintenance then the appearance of the timber will be seriously affected by UV and eventual maintenance will involve sanding down the flagpole until clean timber is exposed before re-varnishing. Of course any of these exposed timber surfaces will also allow the ingress of moisture which can be the start of serious deterioration of the structure.
The second consideration is that if any of the varnish has completely broken down, then it is possible that UV could attack and compromise the integrity of the adhesive used in laminating the flagpole.
It is for these reasons that it is particularly vital to check the finish regularly and to use good quality yacht varnish, following the manufacturer's instructions to the letter - do make sure that it contains UV filters ( some yacht varnishes are not suitable for marine use! We consider that a flagpole has to endure similarly harsh environments to the mast and spars of a boat). We have tried several different manufacturer's products and at the moment we are using a varnish called Le Tonkinois which is a natural finish with good UV & water resistance.
Painting regime for the steel tabernacle and any metal fittings
1) If there are signs of the finish failing or evidence of corrosion it will be necessary to clean off any local corrosion products using a rotary wire brush or hand wire brush until clean metal is exposed. We use Smooth ‘Hammerite’ Metal Paint which can be applied directly using an aerosol tin or by brush painting.
If you have any other questions, please contact us.
The square base, transitional octagon and circular section can be clearly seen in the first photo.
The second photo shows the final fine hand sanding after the flagpole has been power sanded with and without the lathe rotating at slow speed simultaneously.