Understanding the Patio Umbrella

Published: 19th January 2012
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Understanding the Patio Umbrella

Learn about the different components of a patio umbrella and how it operates.

Sunbrella Patio Umbrella

The Patio Umbrella

Patio Umbrellas, also known as outdoor umbrellas, market umbrellas or garden umbrellas, have had a long history. In every civilization, there has been the need for outdoor shading; from early man on to the backyard patio of today's people. The term Umbrella comes from the Latin word Umbra, which means shadow.

Today's patio umbrellas, with improved technology, are much more than early man's use of banana leaves and a stick. Feature rich outdoor umbrellas now can include a crank lift system, pulley or manual lift, a push button, collar or auto-tilt mechanism (as seen on an Auto-Tilt Patio Umbrella), built-in lights and even a convenient integrated stereo system.

Because so much is put into a patio umbrella these days, it is important to know what makes up today's patio umbrella and how to use it.

In this article, we will be discussing the crank lift auto-tilt patio umbrella.

The components that make up this Auto-Tilt Patio Umbrella are:

  • The center pole, which is comprised of a top and bottom pole

  • A crank housing

  • The tilt mechanism

  • The rib assembly, which is actually two connected ribs of a long rib and a short rib (support rib)

  • The runner hub and top hub

  • The finial - ornamental top of the umbrella that also holds the fabric in center of the frame

  • The canopy, also know as the fabric or umbrella cover.

Patio Umbrella Frame

Unless of the offset patio umbrella variety, almost all patio umbrellas will have a center pole. Some patio umbrellas will have a one-piece center pole, which is perfect for commercial grade applications, also known as Commercial Patio Umbrellas. But most have a bottom and top pole, that connect together via a slip, and held in position with a push button. The umbrella in the diagram above, uses a threaded connection, which keeps the patio umbrella in a more sturdy position with less connection sway. The top pole contains the crank housing, that, when the crank is turned, the patio umbrella with either close or open, depending on the clockwise or counter clockwise rotation of the crank. The crank is connected to a nylon cable or, (as with the Galtech Patio Umbrella above) a steel cable. Once the crank is rotated, the cable wraps around the crank shaft and begins to lift the runner hub upwards, via a pulley inside the upper portion of the top pole. The long rib, which is connected to the stationary top hub and the short rib, which is connected to the runner hub, begin to push the patio umbrella upward and out away from the center pole. (Note: Before cranking the patio umbrella open, make sure to slightly pull the ribs away from the center pole, out of "dead-lock" position.) At this point the fabric begins to become taut within the pockets sewn into the exterior of the umbrella cover. Continuing to rotate the crank, will put the umbrella in the complete open position. Once completely open, the patio umbrella is now ready to be tilted. On our Auto-Tilt Patio Umbrella example above, continuing to crank the umbrella (in the same opening rotation) will begin to tilt the umbrella. The auto-tilt patio umbrella is variable, so you may crank to a desired tilt position. Please note when tilting a patio umbrella, that it does not obstruct the traffic of people walking under that patio umbrella. This is usually not a concern when the patio umbrella is placed through a table. Rotating the crank counter to opening and tilting the patio umbrella will return the patio umbrella to normal non-tilt position and further cranking will close the umbrella. Once a patio umbrella is completely closed, via the crank, it is a good idea to push in the ribs to "dead-lock" position. This will prevent the patio umbrella from accidentally opening in any gusty conditions.

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