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Inside Look: How Our Center Poles Are Made

Our founder, Steve Sperry, is one of those people who can build and fix just about anything. However, his gifts go beyond just general craftiness – everything he produces reflects an artist’s eye and a draftsman’s attention to detail. Whatever he makes – sail, tent, chair, barn – performs a job but is always a little extra creative, a little extra unique. Even a simple chore like stacking wood, for example, is, for Steve (below), an opportunity to have some fun.

As a sailmaker, Steve is adept at sewing and intertwining fabric with metal and wood components – hence the look of Sperry Tents. But he’s also an accomplished carpenter and woodworker who designed and built his own home in coastal Massachusetts (shown above). Amidst his wooded property’s generous acreage is a nearly 100-year-old sawmill, which he keeps in prime working order. Dubbed Catbird Mill, this is where Steve, at the age of 77, regularly fulfills center pole orders placed by our family of licensed providers around the world.

Here’s an inside look at how a Sperry center pole is made:

1) These days, Steve sources spruce logs from the woods of Maine. Here’s a recent haul by T. Threlfall Truck and Equipment with 53 logs.


2) Spruce is Steve’s wood of choice because it is stronger than pine but just as lightweight and has smaller knots.

3) Once the wood is onsite, Steve uses rope and pulley to maneuver each log onto the milling platform. All of this is done solo and by hand without any mechanized help.

4) Steve runs each very straight, 26-or-so-foot log through the sawmill. First, he makes rough cuts to strip the bark. Then, with a practiced eye, he transforms each log into an octagonal, tapered tent pole.


5) After the milling process, the poles are planed, sanded, and varnished until they are event ready. When a tent goes up, each pole nestles neatly into a peak patch on the canopy. Simple but stately, these poles require no decoration – they are handcrafted showpieces all their own.

Photos by Corinna Raznikov + Sharon Bartholomew

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