This is installment number 4 of our Flag Basics Series, to check out all of our flag posts Click Here.
Our team is asked fairly often about flag pole weights – what are they and are they necessary. In this post, we’ll give you the basics, show you a few available options, and give you some tips on how to safely use your pole weights.
Remember: There are no real hard and fast rules for balancing your pole. Pole weighting really varies from person to person, group to group, if they even choose to do so. These are simply guidelines to help take some of the guess-work out of weighting your poles.
That said, let’s get started!
What are pole weights and what do they do?
Pole weights, are exactly what they sound like, weights that you add to your color guard flag pole. These weights may come in the form of carriage bolts, specialized “jam” weights, PVC inserts, or even rolls of nickels and quarters taped inside the ends of the poles.
Weighting your pole helps the flag rotate in the air when executing tosses. The drag from the fabric moving through the air causes the pole to slow down and not really go anywhere. Adding some weight to the top of the pole helps it to make the full rotation and come back down. Adding additional weight to the bottom of the pole helps to balance it out a bit – having just weight in the top can cause wobbling if the weight is more than 2 inches.
How much weight to add, if any, all depends on your choreography, what kind of flag your group is using, and whether you are spinning into the wind like during the outdoor marching seasons. If your group doesn’t do many tosses during your show or are spinning during the winter guard season, you may find it completely unnecessary. Likewise, if your flags are very lightweight, as with budget flags or digital silks, you may find that you do not need to add any weight to balance your pole. However, if you’re using a more intricate show flag that contains plenty of seams, or larger swing flags, you may find that it takes a fair amount of weight to get your pole perfectly balanced.
The biggest concerns with using weights are having them fly out of the pole and hitting someone or something. This happens fairly often… To prevent damage to property and other people on the field or floor, taping is key. You will want to tape your preferred weight into the end of the pole using electrical tape, add a high-quality rubber crutch tip (such as the 58561), and then tape your crutch tip in place.
If you begin to hear your bolt clanking around in your pole, it may be time to re-tape your weight. If it’s still making a bunch of noise, try wrapping with some foam and/or tape around the bolt.
So what weight system works best?
It’s all a matter of what works best for your group. Will, color guard instructor and a member of the Band Shoppe Sales Team says, “I’ve spent years trying different things and have used everything from nickels and quarters taped together, to washers stacked up, to a bolt and washer, to carriage bolts, to no weights at all. It really just depends on the person and/or group and what they want. I try to discourage people from thinking that unweighted poles are “bad” or “wrong” because it’s not. If you don’t do a lot of tosses, then you don’t need much additional weight and that is okay.”
There are basically 2 kinds of weights:
- Aluminum Flag Weights – Used with aluminum flag poles, the weights are also called stack weights or “jam weights” because they are jammed into the end of the pole for a permanent to semi-permanent fit
- Carriage Bolts – Typically available in 1-1/2″, 2″, 3″, and 5″ lengths. Carriage bolts may be the most popular way to weight your flag because you have more control to pick the exact combination of weight needed for your flag and choreography needs.
Determining the size of your weight:
The amount of weight needed for your flag will depend on a few factors.
- The size and weight of your flag
- Your choreography and how much equipment-work your group performs
- Wind conditions (in outdoor performance situations)
- Personal preferences
The only way to find the perfect weight for your situation is to experiment. Try a few different combinations of weights in a couple of different poles. A good starting point for experimenting with weights is to choose a carriage bolt in the top of the pole that’s about 1/2″ longer than the bolt in the bottom end of the flag. For example, a 2″ long bolt in the top with a 1 1/2″ bolt in the bottom. Then, toss & spin through difficult sections of your choreography to determine which feels the best.
Tape, tape, tape, aaaand a little more tape…
Now that we have all that out of the way, we’re ready to install our weights. We’ve put together this handy, printable guide help get you started! Click Here for the PDF version.
Here’s what you’ll need: 2 Rubber Crutch Tips, Your Pole Weight of Choice (we are using a Carriage Bolt for this example), A Flag Pole (whatever size you wish), Scissors, and Plenty of Electrical Tape.