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Dr Ian Plummer

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Equipment
Croquet Hoops

There is a separate section on the marking out of lawns and the adjustment of hoops. Also see the Equipment Accessories page for equipment associated with setting and removing hoops. The widths of hoops for various events are summarised here.

A croquet hoop comprises two vertical uprights joined at the top by a horizontal crown and must be provided with a means of anchorage at the base of the uprights. In cast metal hoops there are carrots at the base of the uprights for achoring. A set of croquet hoops (for the Association or International rules game) consists of 6 hoops. The Laws of Association Croquet put the following constraints on the design of hoops (Law 3b)

  1. SPECIFICATION Each hoop is made of solid metal and consists of two uprights connected by a crown. A hoop must be 12" in height above the ground measured to the top of the crown and must be vertical and firmly fixed. The uprights and the crown must have a uniform diameter of 5/8" above the ground (*) although minor deviations at the top and bottom are permitted. The inner surfaces of the uprights must be approximately parallel and not less than 3 ¾" or more than 4" apart (subject to Law 53(b) for tournament and match play). Each hoop on a court must have the same dimensions within a tolerance of 1/32". The crown must be straight and at right angles to the uprights.
  2. COLOURS The hoops may be left unpainted or coloured white and, in addition, the crown of the first hoop (hoop 1) is coloured blue and that of the last hoop (rover) is coloured red...

* - UK Tournament Regulations now allow 3/4" uprights.

In addition the tolerance is specified and for manufacturers there is a specification for getting hoops approved by the Croquet Association (CA). Each country has tournament regulations which specifies the gape for hoops for use in its tournaments (CA hoop regulations).

As a rule of thumb the total gap between a ball and the hoop uprights should be only 1/8" (which is the thickness of a pound coin).

Types of Hoops

Selection of hoop varieties
Comprehensive collection of hoops courtesy of Archie Peck, NCC, Florida
  1. Welded American 4-finned x x (Oakley Woods)
  2. Cast traditional solid-carrot hoop (recommended)
  3. Welded American 3-finned
  4. Spiked for use on e.g. a bowling green with flange
  5. Wire hoop as found in garden sets
  6. Welded American 4-finned + + (Rodini ?)
  7. Cast X-carrot hoop (Jaques) (not recommended)
  8. Welded American 3-finned deep
  9. Spiked for use on e.g. a bowling green
Photo: Samir Patel

There are three basic hoop types to consider:

Cast/welded metal
~£250+/set
Metal tube or thick wire hoops
~£60/set
Wire hoops
~£20/set

Cast/welded Hoops

Only cast or welded metal hoops are suitable for tournaments. They are generally made of iron, but some aluminium ones have been produced. Aluminium hoops are easy to carry where the hoops have to be set out and lifted daily but offer little resistance to the passage of the ball. Both sorts of cast hoops are brittle, and should only be knocked into prepared holes in the lawn. Hoops should never be treated like chest expanders - they will snap. Cast hoops are available to Championship size (3 3/4" gape matched to +/- 1/32" on a single lawn) or President's Cup size (3 1/16" + 1/32"). Both have 5/8" diameter uprights. Hoops can also be manufacted by welding the correct diameter stock together. These tend to be stronger than the cast hoops.

image of cast hoopThe tangs or carrots which go in the ground should be solid and not a simple 'X' cross-section. The latter are not solid or heavy enough and hence are not recommended by the CA. Note that if you are buying a replacement hoop, the spacing of the carrots can differ from one manufacturer to another. Some hoops have the carrots concentric with the uprights, others offset. If you have any odd hoops in your set you should paint these as Hoop 1 (blue crown) and Rover (red crown) so that they are always placed in the same holes on your lawn to cater for different carrot spacings. Some companies provide a hoop drill which is a cast iron set of carrots at the correct spacing which can be pounded into the ground to prepare it for the hoop.

Currently Aldridge, Jaques and EDT (Omega) are known to sell hoops in the UK. These hoops are available from the CA. Avoid the older Jaques hoops which have the 'X' section, non-recommended, carrots. Other of the listed manufacturers may well sell hoops. Most companies are cheaper than Jaques. It is possible to buy hoops which are white plastic coated but I have no experience of these.

Hoops that have current Croquet Association Approval are as follows: Omega Adjustable Hoop (Steel; Standard and Championship Approval, December 2000) and Jaques Championship Hoop (Cast Iron; Standard and Championship Approval, July 2005). The EDT Omega hoops have rotating eccentric carrots which allow the gape of the hoop to be adjusted with a spanner once the hoops are in the ground. The Jaques have solid carrots and consequently are stable during play.

There have been recent recommendations of the 'Aldridge hoops' made from welded steel with oversize carrots produced by Bill Aldridge of Bowden Croquet Club (UK), who should be contacted for further details.

In America welded stainless steel hoops are available (see illustration). Hopefully stainless steel hoops with solid carrots will soon be available in the UK. Hoops are tedious to paint!

Cast iron hoops are not particularly strong and will snap if they are pulled apart or stuck too heavily with a hammer. Hoops should be painted regularly otherwise they will corrode and weaken. A small external pit will hold water and lead to a sizeable defect after time. The hoops should be stripped every three years or so with paint stripper then red lead primer or similar corrosion inhibitor used as undercoat. Normal gloss paints are suitable for the final coats. It is also possible to have hoops sprayed with plastic powder (see Renovation section below). If you have more than one lawn you can paint the carrots of the hoops different colours to indicate which set should be used on which lawn. Some clubs additionally number the hoops so that they are always put in the same holes.

Finned Hoops

Finned hoops are used principally in America on very sandy courts. The length of the carrot and flare and number of fins is matched to the conditions. In sandy soil (at the NCC, Florida) hoops like (a) above worked loose very rapidly. The 4-finned hoops (b & c) were more robust for longer. However the large flare of the fins and their thickness caused a bump around the hoop due to the displaced soil. Of the two 4-finned varieties the ones with the 'X X' pattern (b) were prefereable as the '+ +' pattern (c) caused the turf to split in the centre of the hoop in use. The finned hoops are inferior to the solid carrot hoops in play and would be unsuitable for any court which had any stones in the top soil. They are also very difficult to adjust.

Tube and Wire Hoops

The tube hoops are made from 3/8"-1/2" tube and look better than the thin wire ones. Wire hoops run from 6-10mm diameter. The wire or tube ones are fine for all aspects of croquet except for proper hoop running practice - you can always blast a ball through these hoops.

If you get tube or wire hoops I strongly recommend that you paint the lower part of the hoop which sticks into the ground a different colour, leaving 12" of the white hoop protruding above the ground. It gives people a hint of how much of the hoop should protrude above the ground. If this is not done you find six inch high hoops stamped into lawns. Red oxide paint is ideal for the part in the ground and will give some corrosion resistance.

Renovating Hoops

After a season's play the hoops may need some attention. The main problems are: bends in the uprights (bowing) and battered paintwork. Note that bare metal hoops are now allowed by the Laws

Bowing

Cast iron hoops are are brittle! They will snap if hit ,struck hard or over-stressed. The bowing is best cured by pressing the leg or crown of the hoop in an engineer's vise or press. The vise allows highly controlled application of force and, if required, small lumps of sacrificial wood can be added into the jaws to slightly 'over-bend' a bowed section so it returns to straight. The wider the mouth of the vise the better. No attempt should be made to lean on or hit the part of the leg protruding from the vice.

Removing Paint

Hoop rack for painting

Improvised rack for painting hoops

The usual domestic methods can be used - paint stripper, scraper, sandpaper and wire brushing. The latter two are hard work and paint stripper expensive, but easy! Although a long job a metal scraper is very efficient in removing the majority of the paint. A heatgun is ineffective due to the large heat capacity of the metal - heating the hoop to a point where the paint burns off may affect the metal's subsequent properties.

One preferred method of removing paint is 'particle' blasting as this leaves raw metal in its wake. There seem to be subtle differences between sand, grit, shot, bead and soda blasting. Sand blasting is credited with giving a good raw surface for coating and grit blasting leaves a less deep 'orange peel' effect than bead blasting.

Recent experiments (2014) with a strong caustic soda (NaOH) bath on gloss painted iron hoops was very successful, cheap and low effort. The hoops were soaked for ~24 hours and the paint layers could be brushed off with a stiff plastic brush. Adequate personal protections should be used, i.e. rubber gloves, face mask, eye protection and old clothes. Caustic soda does not touch the epoxy painted hoops, e.g. Aldridge. Aluminum should not be placed in caustic soda solution as it will dissolve near instantly, generate loads of heat and liberate volumes of explosive hydrogen.

Priming

The purpose of priming is to inhibit corrosion, improve adhesion of the top layer and improve the surface quality. Some surface coatings however can be applied directly to the raw metal (e.g. spray coating followed by baking). There are various primers, but the choice of primer is dictated by the final coating. Corrosion inhibitors include hot (metallic) zinc plating and/or primer coats (a yellow, acid-etch primer coat, preferably a two-component pack for zinc. Subsequent coats of paint will not adhere to the zinc without the acid etch). Red, yellow and etch primers are cited. In Oxford a couple of coats of 'red oxide primer' are used.

Top Coat

A couple of coats of white gloss paint are perfectly acceptable for the top coat. Emulsion does not wear at all well and should be avoided. We have tried 'Hammerite' but found it too brittle. Recent reports suggest that it sticks best to raw metal without a primer. We have not had the facilities to try proper stove enamel. The trendy coating method at the moment is powder coating. Powered coating uses electrostatic attraction to draw paint powder to the hoop and the hoop is subsequently baked to fix the paint. There are a number of varieties of paint which can be used: epoxy, urethane and polyester. Polyester is recommended as being impact and UV resistant. It also has the best corrosion resistance of the three. Epoxy paint is also available as a 'two pack' product and can be painted onto the hoops. Epoxy is claimed to be the least UV-stable of the coatings.

Costs

Commercial costs for having hoops sand-blasted and spray coated are in the region of £3.75 - £5 per hoop (2001).

Powder Coating

Powder coating is an alternative to paint and is a hardwearing and lasts better. A number of new hoops arrive powder coated (Aldridge).

" We, at Oakley Woods Croquet [...] decided that our (then) current epoxy, or two-part paint was not yielding satisfactory results in longevity or durability.

Powder coating is a process not a product. It is a painting process whereby the paint, in a dry powder form, is applied electrostatically to a metal surface. The painted part is then baked at a high temperature allowing the paint to melt and flow around the surface.

When you were told it was not suitable for exterior applications, that may have been true for the type of powder that the company(s) were using. I am familiar with 3 types, epoxy, urethane and polyester.

Of the 3, we use polyester powder-coating. It is highly impact and UV resistant and flexible, making it the best outdoor coating for hoops that we have found to date. It also has the highest level of corrosion resistance of the 3. The only other alternative is to have the hoops anodized with a white dye included in the process. This treatment actually penetrates the surface of the metal. It is however, an expensive process.

As for surface preparation, we have refurbished hoops in the past and have found that sand blasting is more aggressive and leaves a suitable finish for powdercoating. The nature of powdercoating provides for a smooth finish. If you don't like sandblasting, soda blasting is a much gentler method of removing paint from a surface, but depending on the stubborn-ness of the old surface, soda blasting might not be aggressive enough. A lot depends upon the condition of the hoops on arrival.

Powder coating is a very smooth finish. We put the apply the red & blue to the tops after scuffing the surface with a 320 grit wet/dry sandpaper where the colours are to be applied. The paint we found most effective is a two part epoxy paint. It is more expensive than single part paints but the durability is well worth it. We have two small plastic trays that the paint is mixed in with enough paint to cover the crossbars when dipped. The dipping ensures complete coverage and provides a straight line. Let it drip dry (cure) for 24 hours. "

Another correspondent consulted a specialist who suggests: 1. Preparation of each hoop by grit blasting (which gives a less deep 'orange peel' effect than bead blasting), 2. Hot zinc 'plating' (which is porous and more flexible), 3. Priming immediately with a good, 'yellow' (?) primer, 4. Spray-painting with white top coat.

Note added in commment (2011):

"we sent 12 old ones off to be powder coated. On their return we find that the powder coating quickly chipping badly even with modest playing ( not super fast hoop running)"

Malcolm Crawley writes:
Several years ago I arranged for our club's hoops to be powder coated. The manager of the firm that did them said he wouldn't sand blast them in preparation for powder coating. He said this left a finish on the metal which was too smooth, and the coating wouldn't last long, given the sort of treatment they'd be given during play. He recommended acid etching which gave a rougher finish, but more grip for the powder coating.

From memory it was a season before any of them chipped, and two or three seasons before it was necessary to have them done again. I am no longer a member of that particular club, so I can't give an update of what happened next, but it seems the initial preparation is the key."

Indoor Hoops

Carpet hoop

Indoor hoop manufactured by Oakley Woods.

Indoor hoop

Indoor hoop produced by the Damon Company. Yellow threaded bar is used to adjust the gape of the hoop.

Most indoor hoops consist of hoop attached to a baseplate. This is either taped to a carpet or made so that the baseplate is under a carpet with appropriate holes for the hoop to protrude above the carpet.

See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lsUNiPy-4I Robert Fulford playing James Death.

Pictured right is another type which is intrinsically heavy (~38 lbs). Louis Nel writes:

"We used this hoop as follows. A visible marker (e.g. ball of secondary color) occupies the spot where the hoop should be. Play continuous until the point is reached when the player wants to execute a hoop shot. At that moment the out player carries this table-like hoop onto the court, places it on the spot and climbs onto it, standing with most of his weight on the hoop itself so as to give firmness. So a heavy player has an advantage! After the hoop stroke, the outplayer replaces this contraption with the hoop marker and play continuous."

Oakley indoor Wicket

Oakley Woods Indoor Wicket- see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO9DOkG5Rf4

Kroeger Fleming Indoor Croquet Wicket

Kroeger-Fleming Indoor Croquet Wicket - see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GfrmdH1uiw

The Montevideo Astroturf Hoop

Montevideo hoop. Photograph Dr Ian PlummerMontevideo hoop. Photograph Dr Ian Plummer

The Montevideo Hoop intended for use on Astroturf.
(Click here for dimensions of the hoop)

The Montevideo hoop was devised by Jonathan Lamb for use on Astroturf pitches. The hoop is held in place by integral 8mm pins (eliminating the need for a baseplate). Made of solid iron and designed for winter practice/friendly games on artificial surfaces, the hoop allows almost any all-weather hockey or football pitch to be used for croquet. The upper crossbar is designed to prevent the feet from spreading and to allow the hoop to be held by an outplayer for hard shots; They can be used on most all-weather surfaces without leaving a lasting mark. See http://www.jclamb.com/.


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Updated 22.ii.17
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