A Quick Look at How an Umbrella Works

A Quick Look at How an Umbrella Works
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Even though it’s far from the most exclusive things you own, the umbrella is frequently a lifesaver. After all, it’s the only thing standing in the way of you getting soaked if transportation isn’t around. And under those circumstances, you wouldn’t trade it for the world.

That’s why the odds are you’ve probably thought about how an umbrella works. Not frequently, but it likely did cross your mind a couple of times when you were out in the rain. 

And it would be nice to know the ins and outs of the item we rely on to keep us dry. Well, this text will give you those answers. We’ll explain how an umbrella works and give you a bit more information about this item that we so often take for granted.

The Main Parts

The Main Parts

In order to understand how it works, you need to know the basic parts of an umbrella. We’ll only go over the essential bits as there’s really no need to get bogged down in the details and waste time talking about things like ferrules and top notches. In this section, we’ll focus on the classic, non-collapsible umbrella as it is the original design and what people associate most closely with this term.

The shaft is, in a sense, the body of an umbrella and includes the handle, the part you hold. On the shaft, you will find a part that’s called the runner. That’s the bit you slide up when you want to open your umbrella. Naturally, it’s also the part you use when it’s time to close it.

Next up, the most recognizable part of the umbrella – the canopy. That is the fabric which actually keeps the rain at bay. The strips of metal which run along the underside of the canopy and give it the recognizable domed shape are known as the ribs. The last part we’ll mention are the stretchers. Those are the metal struts which support the ribs and the canopy when the umbrella is open.

How an Umbrella Opens

The way an umbrella opens is relatively straightforward. When the runner is at the bottom position, the stretchers are gathered around the shaft and your umbrella is closed. To open it, you simply push the runner up.

This will start to extend the stretchers and they will, in turn, push up against the ribs. This forces the ribs to assume a spherical shape and stretches the canopy. Once you push the runner all the way, it will lock into place thanks to a spring located inside the shaft. The stretchers are now fully extended and the canopy is tight. The runner cannot slide down the shaft because of the spring and a locking mechanism, and your umbrella is ready to help you brave whatever calamities nature has in store.

Once you come out of the rain, closing your umbrella is equally simple. You just need to press the spring in the locking mechanism, and this frees up the runner to return downward. As it moves down, the stretchers will fold. Once the runner is at the bottom, another spring will once again lock it, this time ensuring your umbrella stays closed.

Other Types of Umbrellas

Other Types of Umbrellas

In addition to the classic umbrella, we should also briefly mention the collapsible variant. Collapsible umbrellas follow the same underlying principle but have a somewhat more complicated mechanism.

The main difference is that a collapsible umbrella has a two-piece telescoping shaft; this means the pole can retract and dramatically reduce in size. The result is an umbrella which can fit into your bag and is easy to always carry around. And whenever you want to use it, you just need to pull the shaft and it will extend.

Another variant is the automatic umbrella. The basic principle remains identical to the classic version but it has one distinct feature. The shaft is spring-loaded and you do not need to manually move the runner. Instead, all it takes is the push of a button and the umbrella will fully open. You can even find models where you can automatically close the canopy, also using just one button.


Despite the fact that the umbrella is certainly not the most complicated invention of all time, there is a bit more to it than initially meets the eye. Hopefully, we’ve managed to shed some light on this topic and explain what makes these everyday items “tick.” If so, the next time you open your umbrella, you’ll likely appreciate it that much more. And it’s always nice to appreciate the little things that make our lives easier.