Some of the following comments include amounts of money in the imaginary unit called "C-shells." These units are used to avoid any hint of illegal price fixing in the balloon industry.
In our opinion and experience, a 5 pack is best made on a monofilament line. We usually make columns sizing the balloons to 9". Generally if it's air filled we do 9", Helium we do 11" (or 10 1/2 if using tight pearls).
There are 2 ways to make a 5 pack cluster: tying the necks of the balloons together, and putting individual balloons on paper clips.
Place the 5 pack on the monofilament and twist one balloon around the line: this should keep it in place. Actually the first 5 pack on the line should have 2 or 3 balloons twisted around the line since it will be supporting the rest of the column. I would also suggest twisting extra balloons on the last set. This column, correctly packed, should stand on its own up to about 8 feet tall, especially if you add 1 or 2 sand weights into the column near to the bottom. As we build the column we also like to use the back of a chair or a heavy cardboard circle or even a piece of pegboard to push the first set against.
Also, save any of your PVC and EMT scraps, you can buy connectors to adjust sizes. This is an inexpensive version of a base plate, great for indoor use with air-filled columns. As for attaching large balloons, probably a mix of helium /air would be best. If you use only air, you need to make sure you have a cluster of the balloons to act as a collar for your large balloon to hold it upright. In a pinch, we've filled jumbo balloons with helium, tied ribbons to its neck and attachd to sand or water filled balloons. Place the jumbo balloon on top of the column and use ribbon attached to its neck to tie or wrap into the column. Hide the weight by pushing it into the cluster of balloons.
As for aluminum rod, that is best used for sculptures (hearts stars, etc.) or to augment PVC or EMT. It is not rigid enough to stand alone. Look in the Yellow Pages under scrap metal, aluminum, or metal fabricators. You have to do a little bit a creative research to find it. Also, if you have a local balloon distributor, suggest they stock aluminum rod if possible. Unless you're the only balloon business in town, others may be looking for the same thing.
One more tip! To color light weight plywood bases, rather than forever repainting, my wife thought of simply wrapping them in the disposable plastic table covers. Needs 2 layers. Very quick and inexpensive. Comes in almost every balloon color. Save what you don't use for the next job.
Later, I bought steel base plates (custom cut) from a machine shop. I called around and got prices. I ended up paying only $11 each for 6 steel base plates 16" x 16"! Then I had a friend weld flanges onto the center of each one. I use these for outside (as well as inside). Each steel base plate ended up being about 27 lbs. (They were substantial enough to support 12-foot columns (4-cluster) topped with a 3-footer, outside.) Also - when I picked them up from the fabrication shop the edges were rough. Be sure to take some work gloves with you to pick them up or move them around, and maybe an old blanket or old towels to lay them on in your vehicle.
I used the bases recently for a dance pavilion at a wedding! I purchased inexpensive white (twin size) flat sheets (Wal-Mart, $3.66 each). Cut each sheet in half (width-wise, not length-wise). I used each half doubled over (for added coverage) and "wrapped" each base plate with this - kinda like wrapping a present. (Remember wrapping record albums?) Then I taped the sheet corners down with white duct tape. With tulle tied at the bottom of my column, no one could see the duct tape. This worked GREAT and looked fabulous! The bride and her family were thrilled.
Note - be careful. There are confusingly similar pieces that connect two pieces of 1/2 inch conduit together. These WILL NOT fit into the 1/2 inch floor flange.
Instead of the FLOOR FLANGE from the plumbing department, you can also try a light fixture holder. They are shaped like a small Frisbee, 3 to 4 inches in diameter with a 1/2 inch hole in the middle. These are already painted (white or gray). They are a little cheaper than the cast iron floor flanges, but not as strong.
With either Floor Flanges or the light fixture holder, you'll need to buy wood screws with heads big enough to not go through the holes. Be sure to get the longest ones possible that won't stick through the base. Also ask the plumbing guy to show you some nipples. A nipple is a plastic or metal pipe that is threaded at both ends. These will screw directly into a floor flange or a light fixture holder without a connector piece. They are available 1, 2, 3, and 4 feet long. They cost a couple of dollars each.
SOLUTION: 16" x 16" x 3/16" plate steel with the thread only (stud) of a 1 1/2" long bolt welded in the center. The steel "pin" has a female thread to screw onto the short male thread welded in the centre of the steel base plate. The outside diameter of the 10" long steel pin is the inside diameter of the steel electrical conduit you use with SDS panels. Then - ALL steel, aluminum or PVC rods you use will have this same inside diameter so that they all fit snugly over your steel pins.
IMPORTANT TIP: Have your welder cut a "handle slot" about 3/4" in from one edge of the base plate. Oval slot about 4" long by 1 1/2" wide. Now the base plates are easy to carry for all staff, as they each have their own "handle."
To increase the weight of base plates, have the welder duplicate 12 extra bases only. However, instead of welding a threaded stud in the center he cuts a 2" hole. For canopies, place 3 extra weight plates on top of your base plates before you screw in your 10" pin. All steel should be painted with a metal primer and one coat of enamel as a min. This prevents rust stains.
Finally; To stop damage to polished floors. You can glue to the underside of each base plate a square of carpet. This allows the decorator to "slide" on polished floors if necessary to accurately position. eg: SDS uprights.
It's a considerable investment initially, but you won't regret having all your base plate worries behind you forever. Get the steel fabricator to make you 8 base plates and the 12 weight plates all at once and it will cost much less than 2 at a time. Indoors, outdoors, dance floors, SDS panels, canopies, arches, one base plate for any project! In the short term, the right equipment for the job will often be a considerable capital expense. Yet the most economical one for your business in the long term.
------------- | | | | 0-----0-----0 | | | | -------------Elbows on corners and tees where the zeros are! Glue it together with a five foot or taller piece of PVC protruding from center tee. I leave the middle so it will swivel for heart arches and long low arches! Add patio blocks wrapped in material to weight down the bases. One on each side of the center pole! I use 3/4" PVC. I buy it at the hardware store for 18 cents per foot!
If you are using 1/2" conduit it will slip inside 3/4" steel floor flange (I will have to check those sizes to be sure because after all these years of doing this I buy by sight and not by the numbers but you can play with them at the hardware store and figure it out for yourself) when wrapped once with duct tape and not slip around at all. The floor flange can be screwed onto a square of plywood and weighted down (not that reliable), screwed directly to an old wooden stage or trailer for floats (But this is not an option for most of your clients), or welded to a 1 foot square of 1/2" steel (THE BEST and cheapest way to make a reliable baseplate that will last FOREVER) to make a multi-purpose baseplate. Take a second piece of steel pipe the same size and weld at a 45 degree angle beside the 90 degree one and you have your angle for the bottom of walk through hearts.
A: If you are using clusters of 4, inflate and tie 2 sets of duplets. Twist them together to create a cluster of four. Then slide 2 balloons over the rod so that the rod is now in the center of the cluster, near where the 4 are twisted. The two that you have placed over the rod now get twisted together once to hold securely on the rod. If using 6 or more balloons per cluster, then you might want to use paper clips instead.
A full canopy (this is where the entire top is full of balloons as opposed to a border or crisscross canopy that only does the perimeter and crisscrosses the middle) needs a lot of column base weight. The size will determine the weight and 30 - 60 pounds per support is needed. I would tend to go more toward the 60 pounds.
Now how to get this weight.
Also the size of the canopy is also a factor. We have built many many sizes of them from 15 x 15 feet up to 30 x 30. It is our experience that a full canopy should not exceed 30 x 30 if it only uses 4 bases and poles. It is possible but you would need special bases and probably real pipes (instead of conduit poles).
We have never built a "Full" canopy using more than 4 bases and poles. 6 or 8 supports would allow a bigger canopy. I'm not sure how it would look as far as the canopy effect, but I would think it would probably look kind of like a double canopy. It is possible that effect might not be what you are expecting. Be sure to discuss with the customer.
Finally, just want to mention it again, you need a lot of weight. Don't underestimate it.
________________ / 2 2 Garland length = T x / L + 9.87 x D \/ where: T = number of Turns around the column L = garland Lead = vertical distance the garland rises in one turn D = garland Diameter = (Column Diameter) + 2 x (Balloon Height) Note 1: You can substitute 10 for the 9.87 without introducing any significant error. Note 2: This formula works with any consistent set of units, ie., use inches for the lead, diameter and height, or use feet for the lead, diameter and height, or use meters for the lead, diameter and height, etc. Note 3: Balloon Height can be 1 to 1.25 times the balloon diameter.
__________ / 2 2 Garland length = T x / L + C \/ where: T = number of Turns around the column L = garland Lead = vertical distance the garland rises in one turn C = (Column Circumference) + 6.28 x (Balloon Height) Note 1: We'll just call this "the BHQ TLC formula." Note 2: This formula also works with any consistent set of units, ie., use inches for the lead, circumference and height, or use feet for the lead, circumference and height, or use meters for the lead, circumference and height, etc. Note 3: Balloon Height can be 1 to 1.25 times the balloon diameter.
Convert the lead and diameters to inches and use the first formula. T = 3.5 turns L = 48" D = 24" + 2 x 11" = 46" 2 and L = 48 x 48 = 2304. 2 Now, D = 46 x 46 = 2116. Multiply this by 9.87 to get 20884.9 Add 2304 and 20884.9 to get 23188.92. Take the square root to get 152.28 Multiply 3.5 by 152.28 to get 532.9 inches. Divide 532.9 by 12 to get 44.4 feet. This is the length of the garland needed to wrap the column. Now you can use the standard equations to find out how many 11" balloons are needed to make a 44.4 foot long garland.
Convert the lead and diameters to inches and use the second formula. T = 3.5 turns L = 48" C = 75.375" + 6.28 x 11" = 144.45" 2 Now L = 48 x 48 = 2304. 2 and, C = 144.45 x 144.45 = 20867.2 Add 2304 and 20867.2 to get 23171.2. Take the square root to get 152.22 Multiply 3.5 by 152.22 to get 532.77 inches. Divide 532.77 by 12 to get 44.4 feet. This is the length of the garland needed to wrap the column. Now you can use the standard equations to find out how many 11" balloons are needed to make a 44.4 foot long garland.