Aerial Equipment Part 6: Portable Aerial Rig *1 Year Outdoor Review

**I am NOT an aerial instructor or rigger. I am NOT a professional. My ideas on safety may not be the same as yours or what a professional aerialist/rigger/instructor recommends. Please refer to a professional if you have questions. Facebook Safety in Aerial Arts Group is a great resource.**

It has been over a year since I purchased my Ludwig Aerial Rig. I still love it and I’m glad I have it. It has been kept up outdoors the entire time. Recently, I took it down and inspected it, then put it back up. I took photos of how it has weathered over the past year.

Ludwig Rig

Purchased and first installed February 2016.

Complete inspection March 2017.
(I do regular inspections of the legs, tie downs, rope, and climb to the top to visually and physically inspect pulleys and connections on every use.)

My biggest concern was to look for rusting on any of the welds on the rig and to make sure all the screws were tight on all connections on rig.

  • There was NO rust on any of the welds.
  • All screws on the legs pieces were still screwed down. There was one screw on the header leg that was not super tight but it was still secure. All quick connects (the buttons) were in place and secure. The header eye bolts were tight (unmovable) and free of rust.
  • There was some surface rust on the inside of the tube of the header and on parts of the legs that were inside the other pieces of leg. There was not not a huge amount of rust. I will continue to monitor it.
    Note: My Fiancé used some grease on the connection legs to reduce friction and be another barrier to prevent rusting (likely not needed but he wanted to do it).
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One year: Surface rust on the leg beam where it was inside of other beam.

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One year: Surface rust on inside of header beam.

  • The area with the most rust were the tie down cleats. These are untreated steel and get wet almost daily from our sprinkler system. I cleaned them with Navel Jelly (soaked them for 15 minutes then scrubbed them off with a green scrubber, did this 4 more times-soaking for 15-25 minute intervals & then scrubbed them before they were clear of the rust.) Then I sprayed them with Rustoleom Clear Primer to slow down future rust.
    Note: I also ordered a brand new set just to have available, if needed. 

Before and after: Tie off cleats.

Soaking cleats in Navel Jelly.

One year: Rust on leg from cleat.

Pulley System

I decided I was going to change out all the hardware on the pulley system when I took down the rig for inspection. I did this for 2 reasons:

  • I was concerned about weathering of the pulleys, carabiner, quicklinks, and rope. The labeling on the carabiner & pulleys say: “For intense use the pulley should be replaced every 12 months, for normal use the pulley should be replaced every 24 months.” I was not intensely using it. (I consider something like zip line use all day long to be intense use. I was only using it to pull aerial equipment up one or twice a week and on the equipment for a few hours at a time.)
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    Pulley labeling.

    But I wasn’t completely comfortable with leaving them out in the elements (sun, wind, and rain) all year and not taken them down for cleaning/thorough inspection.
    AND on my regular inspections, I’d noticed that the top carabiner had some rust on it that concerned me…

  • Aesthetic purposes: I found that Fusion Climbing had come out with all black pulleys. I like that look so much more than the Blue/purple/orange pulleys and the price wasn’t much different on Amazon.
    Note: I confirmed with Fusion Climbing that the Amazon “Shop For Lifestyle” fulfillment company was a licensed distributor. Fusion Climbing also sent me additional information about the pulleys so I was able to confirm the packaging & product was legit.)
    Fusion Matte Black Pulley Flier

    I purchased a new all black rope. The old rope had a yellow stripe in it that I didn’t really care for.

I adore having the pulley system because it is so easy to switch out apparatuses and to take down and store equipment. But it is definitely a piece that requires more inspection and maintenance than if I didn’t have it. That is something to consider when putting together a portable aerial rig system.

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One year: Eyebolts, side pulley and quick links.

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One year: Middle eyebolt, carabiner, and double pulley. Note the rust on the carabiner.

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One year: Side eyebolt, quick links, and pulley. Note how the top quick link doesn’t look like its all the way tightened.

During my big inspection I was curious to how they weathered. This is what I found:

  • The quick links weathered phenomenally. No rust. No damage. I noticed that one wasn’t fully screwed tight. It was closed and the threads engaged but just not fully tight. See above photo.
  • Pulleys
    • The pulley’s color (blue, purple, orange) had faded from the sun.

      One year: Paint color faded.

      One year: Paint color faded.

    • The spinning mechanism did not stick at all. All of the pulleys moved freely. Only slightly less freely than the brand new pulleys.
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      New and one year old pulley: side by side.

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      New and one year old pulley: side by side.

    •  

      The only rust on the pulleys was a small amount on part you clip into where it was being rubbed metal on metal. Other than that the pulleys were very clean after being left up outside all year.

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      One year: Small amount of rust and wear.

    • I cleaned, dried, then lubed/oiled the old pulleys with silicone oil. They now run smooth as ever. I bagged them and will store them for later use.
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Silicone oil. Bought off of Amazon.

  • Top carabiner = Rusted.
    • This was the piece I was most worried about. It was the most ugly. I had noticed it getting rusty about 2 months prior to taking down the rig but did not realize it was as bad as it was until it was off and in my hands. The shine had disappeared. There was visible rust. However, the triple locking mechanism worked fine and was not fused shut and it opened and closed fine.
    • I cleaned it up and lubricated it with graphite. Then I did some research. I found that this rusting is called “Surface Oxidation.”  It is a steel carabiner and they are plated finish to prevent this. After time that coating wears off and they do begin to rust. See last paragraph of this link to Fusion’s Carabiner Information.
    • I’m keeping it for minimal use (I.e. I used it when rigging for an underwater photoshoot.). I think it is fine to use but it is kind of ugly so it won’t be used every day.
      Note: I was also informed that I could use clear nail polish to protect it.
    • I initially replaced it in the pulley system with the same type of steel carabiner because that’s what I had on hand. I have now changed my pulley configuration and have a Maillon Rapide Quick Link 10mm to take its place.
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      New and one year old carabiner.

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      One year: Wear on carabiner.

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      One year: Rust on carabiner.

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      One year: Wear & rust on carabiner.

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      One year: Carabiner after cleaning and oil.

  • Rope.
    • The old rope is still in excellent shape. There is no deformities, breaks, bends, kinks, or abrasions to the outside sheath.
    • It does feel slightly stiffer than the new rope but I think with a wash it will be back to normal.
    • I did research on climbing ropes. Here is an “How to inspect a climbing rope” guide.
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One year: Rope.

Final Thoughts

First question:

I have heard people ask if they can keep their rig up year-round.

My opinion:

For the Ludwig rig in Florida is YES

  • BUT make sure you are constantly inspecting it for wear, rust, screws that are loosening, etc.
  • Ludwig has also commented that he has kept a rig up year round in Colorado and it has not had issues. If you have more questions, I refer you back to the makers of the rigs. Please read all the info on his website about his rig. Ludwig Rig
  • There is also a lot of information on the Safety in Aerial Group on Facebook. Please join and use the search function to look up questions. (Outdoor, aerial rig, portable, pulley, free standing = these are good places to start.)

Second question:

Can the pulley system be kept up year round?

My opinion:

For my pulley system in Florida is also YES with a few considerations.

  • Think about how much use and weathering the pulleys and the rope are taking. My rig was used only by myself for a few hours once or twice a week (so not that much use). You may want to change out parts or the entire system once a year or do a complete inspection/cleaning of the system and evaluate replacing the system (at least once a year).
  • I feel like with cleaning and lubrication of the pulleys and cleaning of the rope I could continue to use the old system. I have changed out my system for aesthetic reasons not purely because I needed to retire the other system.

Note my shed that holds all my mats and other aerial and circus equipment.

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Trial 2 DIY Aerial Costumes: Fabric Paint and Rhinestones

This is my second attempt at making an aerial costume. I had a white cotton unitard with wide legs (not tight like I would want for aerial routines) that had been laying around for a few years because it was an “On SALE” mis-order that I couldn’t return. I finally decided to give fabric painting a try.

  1. I started the by sketching a pattern of what I wanted my swirls to look like then I colored them in.
  2. I put the unitard on my inflatable mannequin (bought off ebay $25) and took a pencil and drew outlines of the shapes.
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  3. I put Jacquard Water Based Resist in a Jacquard 1/2 ounce squeeze bottles with stainless steel tips (see below for list of supplies) and outlined my design.
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  4. I used Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow to fill in the design. I put the paint (which looks and feels like fabric dye) in the small 1/2 oz squeeze bottles. I used a very small amount on a paint brush and applied it to the fabric.
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    It spreads very quickly and you need to be very careful that it stays in the lines.
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    NOTE: I should have made my water resist lines thicker because the paint (dye) bled out quite a bit.
  5. I had to “fix” all these areas where the paint bled through. I took white textile paint and touched up the design. You can sort of see the paint but from a distance it looks OK.
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  6. Next, I took Jacquard Textile paint and outlined the design and made some high and low-lights around it.
  7. Then I ironed to set the paint into the fabric.
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  8. Time for some rhinestones. I separated them by color and size.
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    Then I planned out the order that I wanted to attach them and put them into lines.
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  9. Attaching rhinestones is very easy. I watched a few You Tube videos on How to Embellish Dance Costumes. I used E600 and a Jewel Setter (a stick with a bit of wax at the tip. You can get them at Michaels or a craftstore and they help A TON!).
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    Finished product:

I like it. It isn’t professional and I wouldn’t use it for a paid performance but it was a great learning experience. I now know how these paints work on stretchy fabric. I learned about water based resist, dye-na-flow, and other design aspects. It still needs some work but …I like it.

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Supplies I’ve acquired during the past few years.

Fabric paint:

Some I had purchased in 2014. I’m not sure how much I paid for it. The new paint I’ll put purchase prices for reference. Fabric paint isn’t cheap unless you know the exact colors you want. Otherwise it all adds up pretty fast.

Jacquard Textile: For Natural Or Synthetic Fabrics

  • 122 Black. Very thick paint. Used about 6 months ago to paint over the logo on my bouldering crash pad. It covered the bright orange in two coats.
  • 123 White
  • 111Sky Blue
  • 114 Turquoise
  • 155 Fluorescent Blue
  • 151 Fluorescent Yellow: very light, could not be seen very well on white fabric.
  • 153 Fluorescent Pink. (2.25 oz.) Amazon $7.96
  • 156 Fluorescent Green. (2.25 oz.) Amazon $5.72

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Jacquard Lumiere: Light Body Metallic Acrylic

  • 561 Metallic Gold: 2 bottles purchased about 10 years ago for a Wonder Woman costume. One bottle opened and 2/3 empty. The paint was very thick but it still worked fine.
  • 567 Super Sparkle
  • JAC9901 Halo & Jewel Colors Lumiere Exciter Pack, 9 Color (0.5 oz. bottles): Halo Pink Gold; Halo Blue Gold; Halo Violet Gold; Pearlescent Turquoise; Pearlescent Green; Pearlescent Magenta; Russet; Pewter; Sunset Gold. Amazon $9.99

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Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow: Free Flowing Liquid Color For Natural or Synthetic Fabrics

  • 830 White
  • 801 Sun Yellow
  • 824 Azure Blue
  • JAC9908 Dye-Na-Flow Exciter 9-Colors (0.5 oz. bottles): Chartreuse; Turquoise; Periwinkle; Violet; Magenta; Scarlet; Bright Orange; Golden Yellow; Sun Yellow. Amazon $11.65

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Jacquard Water Based Resist

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Other stuff

Tulip Glitter Spray Fabric Paint – 40 oz. Michael’s $7.49 (on sale $5.99) *Looked great when I tried it. It was a sheer glitter but I’ve been told that it doesn’t hold up well when washed.  It was easy to do so maybe this is for that costume that you wear once and then have time to re-spray after washing for the next use.

Tulip Glow in the Dark Spray Fabric Paint – 40 oz Michael’s clearance $2.99

Jewel Spinner with Rhinestones – Michael’s $2.99 (on sale $2.40)

Tools:

  • Cardboard
  • Water bowl
  • Paint brushes- assorted
  • Foam brush
  • Pencil
  • Scissors – Michael’s Bent 365 $12.99 40% off = $7.79 (to be fabric only scissors)
  • Jacquard 1/2 ounce squeeze bottles with stainless steel tips
  • Bead pick (plastic stick with wax on tip to place rhinestones) – Michael’s $4.99 for 3 (on sale $3.99)
  • Stencils
  • Paint pallet with cover -Michael’s $1.59
  • Mannequin – Inflatable Female EBay

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Trial 1 DIY Aerial Costumes: Fabric Paint, Cutting, & Rhinestones

This blog goes through some trial DIY aerial costumes. The first is just an old tank top that I test painted. The second I had an old unitard I was going to throw away. I re-dyed and cut, painted and rhinestoned to make it special and customized.

Intro:

I don’t know how to sew and I never had a nack for drawing or painting. Soo…I thought it would be a great endeavor to make myself some aerial costumes. (I don’t know why I always think I can do these crazy things…) I started by brainstorming ways to create…since I cant sew I needed to start with a pre-made base.

I was looking discount leotards, unitards, and biketards (I didn’t know if I was going to be any good at costume making so I wanted to keep it cheap). I did a web search and pinned a bunch of potential items. I tried to keep it “cheap” cotton, white or nude. Here is my Pinterist page.

NOTE: I had been thinking about making a costume a few years ago but never actually got around to doing it. I had 2 cotton white unitards (one has tight legs and the other has wide legs (the wide leg one was a mis-order & not what I wanted for aerial but it will be a good trial piece). I also already had a good base of fabric paints in metalics, blue, yellow, white and black. (And I was slowly buying more and more. I need to stop my visits to Michaels and my late night Amazon shopping binges.)

I’m also creating a list of awesome aerial costume makers/websites because although I am loving costumes that I make myself sometimes you need a professional costume. Please leave a comment if you have other DIY costume ideas or know an awesome aerial makers.

Trial tank top:

First I started by drawing some different ideas out on some paper. I was trying some swirls and other patterns. I have little or no artistic talent when it comes to drawing…but I’m going to see where it goes.

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Then I took an old tank top that I was going to throw away and put some cardboard between the layers and sketched some lines with a pencil. Then started painting.

Meh, not that great but that’s why its an old tank that I was just testing my skills on. It does look better on than on the table…

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Trial Unitard: Old light pink cotton unitard

It was stretched out and faded and has a few holes starting in the leg and crotch. I was going to throw it away but then I stopped and thought it would be a great piece to start with because if I ruined it I wouldn’t feel bad…I’d just have wasted a ton of time. It took me an afternoon to dye, cut, and paint (we went out to dinner while the front was drying and I finished painting the back that evening). Then the next morning I ironed and added rhinestones (which took less than an hour).

Ombre Fabric Dye:

I wanted to refresh the color and I had a package of Dylon Flamingo Pink fabric dye that I had purchased 6 or 7 years ago and never used. This is the video I tried to follow. Ombre fabric dye video.

  1. Wash without using fabric softener.
  2. I put the unitard on and marked it with safety pins where I wanted to gradients to be (chest, hips, knees).
  3. I found a hanger and some ribbon and I used my laundry room cabinets to make “hooks” so I wouldn’t have to hold the unitard all the time.
  4. Then I got the unitard wet and rang it out.
  5. I set up my bucket in the sink. I also set out the dye, salt, measuring spoon, scissors, plastic spoon to stir on the counter.2016-04-02 14.38.55
  6. I heated water up in the microwave in a plastic bowl and dissolved the fabric dye and added the salt.
  7. I made sure the tap water was very hot and started filling my bucket in the sink. Then I added in my fabric dye mixture.
  8. I submerged the unitard up to the waist and kept dipping it from waist to knees for about 20 min.
  9. Then for about 10 min I dipped it from chest to waist.2016-04-02 14.38.22
  10. Then let it sit for about 10 more minutes hanging with just the knees to the bottom in the bucket.2016-04-02 14.39.10
  11. Then I rinsed the unitard until it ran mostly clear.
  12. Then put it through my washer and dryer. 2016-04-02 15.58.38

Cutting:

I’ve seen some instagram posts and a YouTube video by Adam Slacks with a unitard that has been cut up and I really liked that look. I wondered if I could do it myself. I had tried to cut a t-shirt before and it turned out OK…so I decided to give it a try.

I used pins from Pinterest for inspiration:

Steps:

  1. I put the unitard on and kept the safety pins in to mark body landmarks (chest, hips, knees).
  2. Then I took a pencil and marked where I wanted to make my cuts.
  3. I used a piece of cardboard inside the unitard to help stretch it out and keep shape.
  4. I used a ruler to help keep the lines straight but I ended up eyeballing most of the cut.2016-04-02 17.30.12
  5. As I braided I used the safety pins to hold the final braid in place.
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  6. Then I just used a simple thread and needle and sewed the end of the braids together with knots.
  7. I bought an inflatable dress mannequin from ebay for about $25
  8. I kept it on the mannequin for the painting and rhinestones.
  9. I used a pencil to draw some swirls then painted some silver and pink swirls. With the silver at the top and the pink towards the bottom to keep with the ombre feel.
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  10. Then finally I put some rhinestones on it with the clear crystals at the top and the pink crystals towards the bottom.
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  11. Finally, I put it on and tried it out on my hoop. Fiphone - 24Fiphone - 29

NOTE: Cutting will make the size change sometimes smaller and sometimes larger. The S curve cut/braid really pulled the fabric out of line and it was too small for me. It ripped on my first trial. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed because…well its already cut up. But I suggest a few trial runs before using a cut unitard in a performance to make sure the cuts don’t rip in inappropriate areas.

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