Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How to Add Weights and Tape to a Color Guard Flag

After getting such a positive response from my How to Pad and Tape a Color Guard Rifle and How to Make Color Guard Swing Flags tutorials I decided to make it a series. The last piece of equipment in my DIY Color Guard series is also my first love since my newbie flag corps days in middle school –  the flag!
Do you want to toss a color guard  flag so high it touches the sky?

You can if add weights to each end of the flag pole.

Pin this post for reference!

 While we are at it, let’s add Cheaters (also called Thirds, or Cheater Tape) to the pole too. Adding Cheaters to the flag pole is an excellent cleaning tool to ensure the guard members’ hands are in the same position.

Cheaters are not illegal if you compete in marching band, winter guard, and drum corps. However it is possible for judges to take points off if the cheaters make it glaringly obvious hand positions are not perfect. For this reason, many competition guards use clear tape or a color matching their flag poles. 

How to Add Weights to a Color Guard Flag


Most color guard equipment stores sell weights made for color guard flags, although most folks (including myself) do not buy them. Personally I think they are stupid money for a one size might not fits all kind thing that you can’t return. Not to mention, you can't easily change the weight of the pole to fit the type of tosses a new routine requires.

 It is cheaper and easier to buy carriage bolts at the hardware store to use as flag pole weights. That way you can experiment with how you want to weight your poles for about 2 to 4 bucks a pop. That also allows you to put your booster money towards beautiful custom flags instead of spend weights.

You will need:

2 crutch tips (more durable than the plastic caps that come on flag poles, IMHO)
Large carriage bolt ( I am using a 1 inch wide and 2 1/2 inch long carriage bolt)
Small carriage bolt (I am using a 1 inch wide and 1 1/2 inch long carriage bolt)
Flag pole (I am using a 5 foot pole because that is what my guard uses for parades on crowded streets)
Lead free electrical or vinyl tape for the ends

As long as you remember that the big weight goes on the top and the smaller weight goes on the bottom you are halfway there!

Make it:

1. Optional but recommended: Wrap tape around the end of each carriage bolt to keep it from clanking against the inside of the metal flag pole. You don’t want to distract from the amazing musicians around you a rattling flag pole now do you?

BTW the correct answer to the above question is no.

2. It usually easier to slip the flag onto the pole next than trying to put the flag onto the pole over the bulky crutch tips. It’s no big deal either way as long as you eventually put the flag onto the pole right side up!

3.  I like to tape my flag to the pole with 2 to 3 rings of electrical tape, the top with the crutch tip, and then taping the crutch tip to the flag pole (see Step 4.)

The white ribbon is a weird sleeve loop that came with the flag I bought.

Some color guard instructors swear this is a bad idea and forbid their guards to do this. You won’t be penalized either way in a competition situation. It all depends on preference. 

 Although I do recommend following your flag line instructors wishes FYI.

4. To keep the flag from “sailing” (bunching up during a performance) place two pieces of electrical tape side by side over the top of each crutch tip. 

A dramatic recreation of a flag sailing. Not pictured: The smile masking the frustration of trying to correct a sail while also performing. Guardies you know what I'm saying, right?

The idea is to create a smooth taped surface so the silk slides off the end of the flag pole instead of bunching up.

 Some instructors prefer a star type formation of tape. Again this is preference and again do what your guard or band director says unless you like to run laps!

5. Run 2 to 3 rings around the side of each crutch tip to completely cover the cap and to tape it to the flag pole.

A wee little bit of my crutch tip is not covered with tape. This might make it fail a winter guard judge’s inspection but is fine for practice and non competition situations.

6.  Tape the flag to the middle-ish part of the pole with a few loops of tape.

Ta Da! You just created the Tab.

7. Repeat Step 2 with the small carriage bolt and the bottom of the flag pole. 

8. Put a crutch tip on the bottom of the flag pole and tape in place like you did in Steps 4 and 5.

I didn't retape this end of the pole for this tutorial.  Busted! 

How to Add Cheater Tape (Thirds) to a Color Guard Flag Pole


The super duper cheater tape secret.

When it comes to putting cheater tape on a flag pole, most color guards, flag corps, and drum corps will break the pole into thirds although some may place cheater tape at different measurements depending up the work they are doing in their show.

For the sake of simplicity, I am going to show you how to add thirds of cheater tape since that is somewhat the standard. The only difference between adding thirds to a 6 foot flag pole and a 5 foot flag pole are the measurements.  

You will need:
Flag on a flag pole.
Clear tape, lead free electrical tape, metallic tape (get more info here)  or prism tape (get more info here.)

Make it:

1. Measure the bottom of the flag pole and break it into thirds, marking each with the pencil.
  • A five foot color guard flag pole is 60 inches long.
  • A six foot color guard flag pole is 72 inches long.

2. First Cheater: Put a ring of tape:
  • Five foot pole: 10 inches from the bottom of the flag pole.
  • Six foot pole: 12 inches from the bottom of the flag pole.
3. Second Cheater: Put a ring of tape:
  • Five foot pole: 10 inches above the First Cheater/10 inches below the Tab. (20 inches from the bottom of the pole.)
  •  Six foot pole: 12 inches above the First Cheater/12 inches below the Tab (24 inches from the bottom of the pole.)
4. Go forth and spin!**

 Performance action shot! Whoosh, whoosh and HIT!

** Stolen from my guard captain’s recently emailed final instruction to our guard before we met for group rehearsal.

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