Normally we would talk about history right here but there are so many varying types of shelters and so many varying opinions on the history thereof, let's just skip it and get into building something. We can chat about each type as we build them.
As always, if an item already exists (like the US army shelter half/puptent and the German zeltbaun) we won't be discussing it or building it here. This site is meant to help you design and build something original. The only time we will do a pre-existing item is if the item is so badly done (Hasbro's dogsled) that it requires re-doing....so, sorry Sam.
Field Kitchen Canopy (ACW type with storage)
German Staff Tent (WW2)
Basic Marquee Tent
French Double-belled Wedge
Basic Pyramid Tent
US Military GP Small (MASH type)
Basic Wall Tent
The "basic A-frame" is nothing more than a flat section of fabric (usually some type of canvas) that's as utilitarian in nature as they come. Measurements are all we need to be concerned with on this one so....if you plan a square-base "pup tent" that's 36" high x 72" wide, good old Pythagorus tells us that the tarp has to be 102" x 72" in 1/1 scale....that's 17" x 12" in Joe-scale. Add a half inch all around for hems, of course.
Double-folded hems are great on tarps, but can be on the thick side depending on your fabric choices so you might want to just "fray check" the cut edges and single fold before adding your grommets or ties.
One tip here....since the design is so damned plain and simple, it just screams "DETAIL ME". Since wide-loom cloth is a relatively modern advance, a pair of running stitch lines right up the middle won't look out of place. My opinion is that any time you use more than six inch wide fabric on *any* Joe-scale project, add a seam. Don't go for perfectly matching thread, either! Use a "just a shade off" color that will stay noticable even after weathering. Using brown nylon thread that will stay brown after you tea or coffee-stain the piece isn't a bad idea. Grommets or ties....plan for one every two to four inches....don't go overboard but don't scrimp, either!
On the topic of grommets....several folks have asked where we get ours. We hand-make each and every one from brass tubing (model shop) using a centerpunch, a jeweler's hammer, and lots of practice. Start by flaring the end of the suitable tubing with the centerpunch tip and then continue flaring it by "rolling" the punch tip around and around the flare. When it's flared to your liking, cut it off and insert it into your fabric. Centerpunch-flare the backside of the grommet until it's opened enough to flatten and then *gently* tap it flat on an anvil of some sort. If that prospect daunts you, you can always search for them on the web....they're there if you look. Btw, brass grommets can be "oxide blackened" by dipping them in ammonia or dabbing it on them with a q-tip....painting them is pretty much a waste of time since they won't stay like you made them for very long.
Let's build a "baker" tent now!
A baker tent, contrary to the commonly held opinion that it was named after being used by bakers in WW1, is actually far older than that. Napoleon's troops often slept in Baker-type tents, as have most European soldiers in one form or another since around 1700. The basic design actually can be traced as far back as Rome circa 100AD so it can be used in just about any diorama your figures might find themselves in. The modern incarnation gets its name from resembling a "yankee baker"....a reflector oven.
To begin with, we need to find a suitable fabric. Since it was almost always made from canvas of some sort, a very lightweight canvas shirt fabric is great for re-creating it. My wife chose ours from about five colors the local fabric shop had and it cost us $4.99 per linear yard in 60" widths. We bought two yards even though that amount will really make more than five of this design....but when creating patterns, trial and error are the usual way to go. A common all-cotton bedsheet is perfect as well but looks best if you apply a good coat of paint with an airbrush to give it "body". A cotton bed sheet with a light coat of spraycan grey primer is great and fits every era from the old west to WW2.
As always, with cloth projects on this site, add a half inch all around your pieces for hems and seams. Be sure to read through all of these and plan any modifications *before* you start cutting and sewing.
We start with our side panels which are 17 inches wide and 14 inches high on the long sides and 7 inches on the short side. Mark out the straight lines with a ruler or yardstick on your fabric and the angled cut will be easy. All measurements are approximated so don't worry about getting them exact unless you plan to do more than one and use them in a military setting. Once you have the sides cut, you need to cut the top out and it's roughly 18 inches square finished. The back panel is approximately 7 inches high by 18 wide. The only other part is the front/canopy part and that's a simple 14x18 rectangle.
Here's the entire pattern.
Next step is to plan your lashings and optional grommets etc. The two my wife and I made are for a D&D/fantasy dio and a mountain man dio so our lashings are nothing more than tea-dyed cotton twine added through the seams with a cross stitch needle (the blunt ones) but if you plan a military-type tent you probably want to use cloth strip lashings. Those will need to be added to the seams as you sew them and the best way is to tack them in place with fabritack as you work.
To keep your cloth from fraying when making your cloth ties, iron-on basting material from your local Wallyworld can be used. Lay down a 1/4 inch strip of it on the backside of a piece of your cloth and iron it with a wax paper cover....after cooling, it's nearly invisible and the strip of reinforced cloth can be cut into any narrow size you might need.
Remember that this is a modified leanto design which means lots of poles so look at your pole placement and plan for lashings wherever they need to be. The rule about one tie or grommet every two to three inches fits this one well.
Another modification you might want is to add extra front panels so the tent can be closed with the canopy up as in the field kitchen canopy design....that was a common addition. You can do that by cutting another front panel 14x18" and cut it right down the middle. Hem all the exposed edges and sew those two extra panels to the front edges of the side panels.
The first step in sewing is to hem the front edges of the side panels and three edges of the front panel/canopy. Next, sew each of the angled cuts on the tops of the side panels to opposite sides of your unhemmed top panel. Btw, we prefer sewing, but any "iron-on basting" or hemming material like "Fabritack" is acceptable. Next step is attaching the top of the back panel to the back edge of the top panel, and the top of the front panel (the last unhemmed side) to the front edge of the top. It should look like a rudimentary cross....and trust me, after making a dozen of these, this is the easiest way. Once all the panels are attached to the top, you sew each of the remaining vertical seams and then make one long running hem around the bottoms of the sides and back.
If you did it right....and we didn't get one right until our third try so don't feel bad....your lashes will be on the outside once you turn it right-side-out, and it's ready to be erected. Grab some wooden dowel "poles" and have at it!
The US (Revolutionary War and Civil War) baker-type tents were often used as shelter halves as apeears to be the case with the Roman variant as well....they were erected with two facing each other and the front flaps overlapping for extra rain protection on the roof. If you plan the shelter half design, make the front panel on both 18"x18" so they overlap each other perfectly. Roman-types often had loose back panels....as in the vertical seams were left open for ventilation. If you do that design, be sure to add extra cloth ties around the back and side corners for securing them.
Roman-types were also often erected on top of a short stone wall or dirt berm to give the tent more interior headroom. Something to think about.
If you want to convert it to a simple short wall tent ala the American Revolution, simply double one of the side panels for the new back, and double the top panel so it extends over both halves. You'll need to adjust your sewing patterns and lashings accordingly.
Our next design is a "field kitchen canopy" that was a common sight during the American Civil War. It's nothing but a slightly modified baker-type so it's an easy step up from the last project.
Cut all your panels exactly as before but cut an extra panel that's double the length of the original front panel at 28"x18".
To sew it, start by cutting the original 14"x18" front panel right down the middle to make two 14"x9" "doors" and hem three edges of both of those....then sew those to the front edges of the side panels.
Now sew the side panels to opposite edges of the top panel, then sew the top of the back panel to the back edge of the top panel exactly like before.
Now, where we originally sewed the top of the original front panel to the front side of the top, we instead sew on that doubled front panel we cut after hemming three of its edges.
Turn it inside-out and sew the back verticals and hem the bottom edge all the way around and you're done.
When erected, you'll have a baker-type tent with doors with a 28"x18" canopy extending off the front. That design was very common during the American Civil War and served as everything from a field kitchen to a field hospital to a command post.
Our next project is a WW2 German staff tent. As always, be *sure* to read through the entire article before you start cutting! Plan your modifications beforehand!
While this one in particular is a WW2 staff tent, the same basic design for a "gabled marquee" tent actually dates to the late 1700's in Germany and Austria. The same basic design was used by the Germans from the late 1800's through WW2 with very few detail changes so it can fit a lot of different period dioramas.
We start with the general measurements and layout. The basic "small" staff tent sits on a 6'6" square footprint so all of our walls are going to be 13" wide when finished. The full-scale walls are all 51" tall so ours will be 8 1/2" tall when finished. The gabled roof is made up of triangles that are 78"x30" in full-scale so the triangles have to be 13"x5"....and the roof has to be approximately 16 1/2"x13" in Joe-scale. The front wall with the door has to be split in two so that's two 6 1/2"x13" rectangles.
The complete pattern....and remember to add 1/2" all around for hems and seams!
The tent has two windows that are 2 1/2" high and 3 1/2" wide that are spaced exactly 1" from the top and side edges of the walls. When standing in the tent doorway and looking in, the windows would be on the near right side wall and on the far left side wall.
Remember the tip about cutting windows in tents? Pencil-mark your outline on the front side of the cloth and use a *sharp* xacto blade to cut the X's....and be careful to count the threads you cut! It prevents fraying and allows you to make a perfectly square corner!
One detail on a lot of WW2 tents of this type was the addition of camo loops sewn onto the outside. Three to four strips of 1/2" tentcloth were often sewn on in horizontal lines on the sides and back that formed loops that camoflage could be secured to the tent with. You can recreate those easily by cutting several strips of 1/8" basting-reinforced fabric and tacking (fabritack) them down in horizontal rows. Use a pencil as your spacer as you go. On the roof, run the strips from right side to left....not front to back. If you decide to add the loops, add them *before* you assemble the tent! Before is much easier than after!
To assemble this thing, think straight lines of stitching just like on the baker tent. Hem one long side of both door panels first off....then sew the tops of those two doors to one gable and the windowless back wall to the other gable. Sew the two side walls to the short edges of the roof panel. Next, sew the gables into the long roof panel edges being sure to maintain the angle....and last, sew all the verticals.
To pitch this thing, you need four short poles for the inside corners and two long ones for the front and back gables. Add on about a million guylines and you're done.
To make the larger version of the same German staff tent, you'll simply need to extend your walls from 13"x8 1/2" to 17"x8 1/2" and make your gables 17"x5". Your roof panel will be approximately 19 3/4"x17".
A troop tent version would be 34"x40" so it's a bit too large for most folks to ever build. If anyone needs the numbers and a pattern, we'll draw them out, but we're not going to waste our time or yours on doing one that noone will ever build.
An easy side project for you to do that can add realism to any German dio is authentic tent pegs and poles. The early wooden pegs were 10 1/4 inches long and made from rectangular wood that was 3/4"x1/2". In Joe-scale that converts to approximately 1 3/4" long and 1/8"x1/16" which is too damned thin and fragile to be of any use....they used to break all the time in full-scale, too....so let's go the easier route and make them out of brass rod instead.
We start by cutting a couple of dozen 1 3/4" lengths of 1/8"x1/16" "square brass" rod (available at most modeling shops). For the tip, use your files to shape both of the wide sides down to a chisel point that extends 1/4 of an inch back from the tip. The narrow sides can be chiseled if you want but don't have to be. On the opposite end, use your centerpunch to tap a guide hole that's centered on the brass and 1/4" from the end and drill it half way through with a 1/16" diam bit. In that hole, cyanoacrylate a short length of 1/16" diam brass wire and cut it off so it's 1/8" long. Dip those brass tent pegs into some ammonia until they blacken and you're done. Use a few to erect your tents, but be sure to leave a few laying around your diorama as detailing!
That all-metal peg was very common throughout WW1 and into WW2, though later WW2 ones went back to the wooden design to conserve metal. If you want, you can spray the center sections brown to simulate wood but still keep them as a usable metal peg. The cast aluminum types are already on the market so we won't get into those.
On building authentic poles....we've already had an email asking about them so here goes. This is a quickie addendum so you'll have to look up the exact measurements. I don't have them near me.
Most WW2 poles (and most military poles after as well) consisted of wooden poles with metal fittings for reinforcement. You can do those by selecting a length of brass tubing (model shop) that's the same outside diameter as the pole you want to recreate. Use your needle files to cut some "teeth" into one end of the brass tube to make a miniature "hole saw" out of it. Now select some good, straight-grained dowel of the same outside diameter as the brass and trim one end down about an inch so it slides into the toothed end of the brass tubing. Force it into the brass tubing until it's tight and then start twisting the brass and wood gently to narrow the dowel down as you push it in gradually. The teeth on the brass tube cut and narrow the wood as it slides in. When you have about 1/2 inch of narrowed wood on the dowel end, stop. Now cut a 1/4" length of your brass and slip it all the way onto that narrowed end. The leftover narrowed wood sticking out will fit perfectly into the next 1/4" "socket" on the next pole. Dip all the brass parts in some ammonia to blacken them and you're done.
To make the metal tips that were on some tentpoles (the US military shelter half etc), make your poles as in the last paragraph but trim the wood down on the top pole section so it's just below the brass fitting's surface....then cyanoacrylate a short length of brass rod into that last fitting and then file or turn it down to shape.
Wasn't that easy?
On to the venerable marquee!
This one dates to at least middle Roman times and possibly even a bit before that. It's shown up in so many variants throughout history that definite dating is pretty much impossible, but specific variants have become almost synonymous with specific regions and eras. The Germans built theirs with straight, gabled ends as early as 1756 and still do....the Romans built theirs with a square, flattened roof pitch and modern Italian designs often still are....the Egyptians mirrored their love of the pyramid design by building canopies in that design....the Vikings built the famous A-frame that some folks, my wife and I included, still insist is a unique form of marquee etc.
So what exactly is a marquee and why is it so tough to pin down? Well, any sort of canopy with semi-open sides is a marquee. The dining canopy you had that picnic under last weekened is one, as is the thing your doorman stands under and also the umbrella-shaded table at that outdoor bistro you ate lunch at last week. They exist in so many forms and so many places that even classifying them *as* a marquee is often difficult.
That said, let's work on building one or two of these lovely things.
If we go by definite age, the Egyptian pyramid marquee certainly deserves to be first. It's an easy to build design that looks simply terrific when done well! It's pure geometry....and we all *love* geometry, right?
We start off with a perfect square of any size we want. Let's go for 18"x18" so it doesn't get too big to display. The canopy itself will thus be made up of four triangles that are 18" on a side....very simple pattern.
Add 1/2" all around for seams and hems, of course....and add on another extra inch or so to the bottoms of each triangle for attaching the sides later. Sew them all together to form the pyramid canopy and be careful to maintain the pyramid angles.
Easy one so far, right? Trust me, it doesn't get any harder, just more detailed.
The extra inch we added to the bottom edges all around are then hemmed to form a boxed bottom edge. Hand-sewing the boxed corners is the easiest way....the voice of experience here.
On the inside of the boxed hems, we add velcro or snaps or even wooden toggles to attach the sides, but you'll need to decide. Whatever you choose, just be careful that you attach the fasteners to the inside of the hem on the canopy and don't let the stitching show through. Most marquees used wall fasteners of some sort and vertical side poles every three feet so plan one attachment and pole at least every six inches.
For five foot walls (Egyptian walls seem to have been in the 3-5' range), we need to cut three 18"x10" rectangles....and add the extra half inch all around as always. Hem those three walls on all four edges and add the mating half of your chosen fasteners to one of the long edges on each so they can be attached to the canopy. The fourth wall, cut it a bit wider to about 19"x10" so you can split it right down the middle to form the doors....hem all the sides on those doors and attach them to your canopy. Add your favorite markings if any and you're done.
To pitch ours, we reinforced the vertical pole places with iron-on basting material on the inside of the fabric and then *carefully* cut a tiny hole and added a 1/8" grommet through each one. The 1/8" hole in the grommets then hold the brass-tipped wooden poles we made earlier in this article. The poles' brass tips sticking through the canopy fabric then serve as anchors for the guy lines. For the single center pole, we suggest you iron-on a small square of reinforcing fabric to the inside of the canopy so the pole doesn't push through the center stitching.
A Roman example of a marquee tent would be square just like the Egyptian model above, but have a lesser-sloped roof. To do that, just make your marquee roof panels shorter in height....triangles that are 18" wide by 12" tall etc. An 18" square marquee roof that has triangles that are 18" wide by 9" high would be totally flat.
We've already done the German gabled marquee earlier (even though we sewed all the side panels on) so let's move on to the Viking A-frame now.
A-frames are probably the easiest tents there are to make as we learned earlier and this one is no different. The only difference between this A-frame and modern examples is the method of pitching.
Viking longboats on extended voyages carried a framework of poles lashed to their decks that when assembled, formed a stout framework that one or more sails or tarps were then lashed over to form the shelter. We can do that by simply cutting and gluing/lashing together two large triangles that are 18" on all sides. Make them from 1/2"x1/4" basswood or Liteply. To connect those triangles, we use three more 1/4" "poles" (dowel) that are up to 30" long and simply inserted through the corners of the triangles.
Over that framework, start by draping and lashing one hemmed rectangle of lightweight canvas that's 12" wide by however long your tent is planned to be. The 12" rectangle will cover the top of the frame and extend down 1/3 of the way on both sides of the frame. That's why a lot of folks consider the large Viking A-frame to be a marquee....it's designed to use removable side panels (other sails or tarps).
Next, you cut and hem two more rectangles that are identical to the first, and lash them onto the lower hems of the first one and lash them to the bottom of the frame. That's all their is to it. Grommets can be used of course, but you'll need to paint them so they blend in....these tents were made with hand-stitched buttonholes and not grommets.
In use, these things were often pitched on the deck of a longboat to provide shade and cover. On land, they were often long-term shelters that easily weathered long winters. Add rough plank doors or hemmed triangle ends (both are correct), your own unique carvings or castings to detail the poles, and correct markings and this simple beauty is a real winner!
Remember, it was made from sails and not purpose-built. Decorate it like you would a Viking sail!
If you want to show off your Viking tent dio to its best, consider doing the inside of the tent and removing one or both sidewalls for visibility! The slotted end poles make raising or lowering the tent sides easy!
Norman and Saxon designed A-frames are pretty much identical to the Viking A-frame....they only really differ in the method of pitching.
Start by cutting a rectangle of fabric that's 38"x28" after hemming....be sure to add your cloth ties. Remember, it's sail cloth so stripes are great! That rectangle will make a tent that's 20" wide x 16" tall x 28" long....so you'll need to cut and hem four right triangles that are 16" tall x 10" wide for the doors. Don't sew the doors to the body....lash them with ties.
To pitch it, you'll need to cut some 3/8" dowel for the ridgepole to 30" long and notch it 1" from both ends....two 3/8" uprights, 16" long and chisel-tipped on one to fit the notched ridgepole. Lash the ridgepole down the middle of the body of the tent, peg down one tent edge on your display board, then insert the uprights and peg the other side down. Add single guys to both of the uprights and you're done.
Our next project is a medieval "double-belled marquee" tent. This is one of the most complicated ones we ever constructed but it's not too hard if you go slow and *think before doing*. This one is actually a "round end marquee" but it's called a "double-belled marquee" in a lot of circles....so please, no bull from the nazis. Neither term is contemporary, so anything that accurately describes it is just as right.
We start by laying out our basic pattern....let's go for a 16"x24" center section to keep the math easy and the size relatively small. This is one of those designs that just looks better if you keep the ratio to 2/3 (16"x24" etc) or greater....anything less makes it look too long and narrow. A 1/1 (square center section) is great if you have the room.
On that basic pattern, we can now look at the end measurements as being the diameter of a circle and draw those in.
Our pattern so far would be one rather long strip that's 10" high and 24+24+50" long when hemmed (add the standard half inch all around in other words). Since we're going to do this in as few pieces as we can, our entire wall will be made up of that one long piece. Besides the wall, we have the roof layed out already, too. Since our tent will be 16" deep, we can use that measurement as the hypotenuse of a right triangle and figure that the roof panel will be made up of two 11 1/4"x24" planes which puts our roof measurements at 22 1/2"x24". Figure on a 23"x24" hemmed size that we can trim later to fit.
Since our bells (rounded ends) will be the same angle (pitch) as the roof, we can deduce that each will be exactly 11 1/4" from the top of our gabled center section to the arc circumference of the bell so we can draw the bell as a circle with an 11 1/4" radius. Since that 11 1/4" radius has to fit into an 8" circle radii, we have to make the arc circumference 25" long.
Cut the bells as one single circle of 11 1/4" radius and then cut that large circle directly down the middle....those semicircles will each have an arc circumference of 35 1/3". Each of our bells will use approximately 25" of those 35 1/3".
Let's start putting it all together now. We start by hemming both the narrow ends of our long wall piece. Those hemmed edges will be our door flaps and be centered in the front of the tent. Once both are neatly hemmed, use a needle and thread and tack the upper edges together to make the rest easier.
Next, we center and pin one of the long (24") sides of our roof panel to the tops of those doors we just hemmed. You can now lay it flat and center and pin the back edge of the roof panel to the back edge of the wall panel same as you did for the front. We're just pinning....not sewing!
Next step, we pin the straight edges of our bells to the sides of the front of the roof. With those front edges pinned to the roof panel, we can then go around the arc of the bell and pin the wall to the entire circumference. Once it's pinned securely, we can pin the remaining straight edges of the bells to the back sides of the roof panel.
Now *carefully* remove all the pins holding the wall to the roof and remove the entire wall piece and lay it aside. Working on just the roof, we now sew all the pinned seams holding the bells to the flat section of the roof. It should be perfectly positioned so just go slow and relax.
Next, cut a *long* strip of your fabric at least 2" wide and 100" long and pin and sew that all the way around the edge of your roof as the valance. Once it's in place, get creative and decide on a pattern. We like the old parapet zigzag but it's up to you. Whichever design you choose, be *SURE* to fray check the entire thing before you start cutting!
With the valance in place, all that's left to do is add the snaps or ties all around the roof edge and matching ones on the upper wall edge....and hem the lower edge of the wall and you're done.
To erect it, cut two 1/4" dowels to approximately 18" for the uprights (you can trim them down to fit) and one 24" ridgepole....perimeter poles aren't really necessary but add them if you want. Medieval types often used no perimeter poles according to contemporary drawings and paintings but perimeter poles were used then and still are now so both versions would be correct.
Great work on that one!!! Congrats!
Our next project is a "French double-belled wedge". It's much easier than the marquee version so don't get discouraged!
This one was popular during the American Civil War, but pre-dates that by at least 400 years according to friends. We haven't done any research on this one to amount to anything so we're relying on SCA sources for the documentation.
We start with our basic layout as always. Let's go for an 24"x18" rectangle to keep the math easy and the size reasonable.
We assume the sidewall measurement to be the diameter of a circle and draw those in.
With these flat measurements, we pretty much have the entire plan layed out. The only variable right now is the roof height which we can set ourselves. Kris says the 5/6 ratio of tent height to tent depth looks best so let's go for a 20" tall roof to fit our 24" deep measurement.
Using the Pythagorean theorem (A2+B2=C2), we figure that our roof panels will be 23 1/3"x18" so the full roof panel (a simple A-frame) will be 46 2/3"x18"....add the standard 1/2" extra all around and cut that out.
Next comes the bells....
We had an email recently asking about how to figure the measurements on belled tents....how to get the size of the arcs etc so let's look at that a bit.
On this double-bell, our roof ridge will be 20" high and the radius of the bells' bottom will be 12" (it sticks out 12" from the straight center of the tent) as we've already specified so we assume those measurements to be a right triangle and apply the pythagorean theorem once again to get the bell's radius of 23 1/3" (same as the roof).
So we now know that the bells we cut from our material will be part of a circle that's 46 2/3" in diameter....but we don't know yet how much of an arc they'll be. To get the arc, we have to look back at the original radius of the bottom of the bells which was 12". The circumference of a circle is pi times the diameter (24") so the circumference of the arc of one bell is going to be 1/2(pi x 24)....37 3/4" approximately. If we cut out a circle from our fabric that's a large circle (46 2/3" in diameter), and we measure 37 3/4" around the circumference, that gives us the size of the arc we need to cut to make the bells for our tent.
So in a nutshell, we find the radius of the sloped cone-shape with the pythagorean theorem and then find the length of the arc of the circle at the base and we get the arc that we need to cut for a bell.
Add the extra 1/2" all around, of course.
If we wanted to make the bells from pie slices to alternate the color pattern, we simply divide our arc (37 3/4") by however many slices we want it to be....add the 1/2" to all of them and cut them out. When sewn back together, they will equal the full arc we needed.
On our french double-belled wedge, we simply pin the bells to the flat roof panel we cut out to make sure they're correctly positioned, sew it all together, fray-check a line right down the middle of one of the roof panels to cut as doors, and add a canopy and hem the lower edge and we're done.
For the doors, cut the one roof panel to no more than 13"....and make your finished canopy 13"x18" and hem and sew it to the roof before you add the bells....it's the easiest way.
Congrats on a job well done!
Let's move right into the tipi or "teepee" design now while the geometry is fresh in our minds.
Some sources will state definitively that tipis aren't perfect cones and that they are actually cut to lean back approximately 2' at the top to place the smokehole directly over the fire....me, I remember seeing one set up that way at the Smithsonian one year and wondering why the back side of it was so loose and sagging while the front was stretched tight as an eggshell. What does that tell you? I know that it told me that whoever came up with that idea for erecting it wasn't the person who made that tipi. Even at eleven years of age, I knew that "moving the fire a foot on the inside" wasn't too difficult.
This design is for a perfect cone tipi....if you want something else, grab a pencil and paper and start doing your own math, damn you! Just kidding. If you want a sloped cone, just leave an extra inch or two all around the bottom edge and add the slope when you do the final hem.
We start with the basic layout as always. Since 16-18' was a common size, let's go for one that's 32" in diameter. You'll need a full half of a 4-8' sheet of blue construction foam for the base on this one so get it now.
Since our diameter is 32", we can apply a 4/3 ratio (my wife's fav....she said it looks more "solid") for width to height and get our height at 24". We can now use the pythagorean theorem to get the hypotenuse of that right triangle at 28.8".
Remember how we figured our arc of the cone on the last couple of projects? Draw a large circle of the same radius as the hypotenuse (28.8") and then cut just enough of an arc from that to fit into a circle made up of our base radius (16"). 32" x pi tells us that we need to fit that arc of the cone into a circle that's 100.5" in circumference....so our finished pattern will be....
The entire thing can be cut in one piece, but be sure to leave the extra 1/2" on all sides for seams.
To erect it, you'll need to sew or peg the front seam all the way down. Leave the smoke flaps loose of course, but be sure to fray check or hem them so they don't look ragged. Start by placing four poles into your foam base and lash them at the top with some sinew (craft store). Once those are placed and spaced right to hold your skin loosely, you'll place two more poles between each of those first ones for a total of twelve. Layer them over the ones next to them and those eight won't need lashing. Don't be afraid to trim the pole hole since it hasn't been yet....just be sure to fray check everything before you cut.
The door will be an oval cut that's centered on the front seam....make it 2" from the bottom edge of the tipi and 6" high and 4" wide. You'll need to cut and sew a door flap that will attach at the top of the door (pegs or thread) but hang loose on all the other sides.
Add your own designs and you're done. Congrats on another job well done!
Our next design is a simple pyramid tent. These were popular for a pretty long time and especially in North America from approximately 1700 up until the middle of the 19th century when baker-type tents became popular again. The thing that made them popular was that any simple tipi (cone) design could be set up with a maximum of four poles (most often one pole but sometimes no poles at all) to make a quick and easy shelter that really stood up to the weather. Mountain men, trappers, miners, and explorers loved them for their basic design, simplicity, and durability. The same pyramid tent even made a comeback in the 40-60's in the US as quickie motel shelters alongside the many highways throughout the midwest....people loved "roughing it" in them.
There's no need to draw out any plans for this one since we've covered all of it already. Just do a four-panel pyramid exactly like the Egyptian marquee but make your triangles bigger. 8'x8', 10'x10', and 12'x12' footprints were common with this type of tent, and the height usually ran in the 10'-12' range so make yours 24"x24"x20"-24" for a large one.
Pin and sew all the verticals, add your tiedowns, and hem the bottom....that's all there is to this one.
Doors on these ran the gamut from slit openings to cut ovals etc so do yours pretty much however you want. If you do slits, make that front triangle from two pieces so the door flaps can overlap....and if you do the oval type, sew on a door that can be rolled up and tied above the opening.
Canopies were common....add one if you want.
Easiest way to pitch this one for a dio is to use a single center pole. In reality, that single center pole was the most common because it meant no poles had to be carried....one suitable pole was easy to find on location. In forests, the tent was often simply held up by a rope tossed over a suitable branch. Plains use, four poles were common because they gave the tent a lot more rigidity that stood up to the frequent winds much better.
Our next one is a step up from a basic pyramid so it's a bit more detailed and technical. It's a very easy design to make but it fits very few documentable periods. It seems to be strictly American in use.
We start by cutting two equilateral triangles that are 24" on a side just like in the last project. Be sure to add the extra 1/2" all around of course. The other two triangles that make up the tent sides, we add an inch right down the middle so cut them like this....
Sew all the sides together just like the basic pyramid, then cut right down the middle of those extended side panels. You sew in a straight strip of material that's anywhere from 4" to 12" in width to make the modified pyramid. add your ties and hem the lower edge and you're done.
Congrats on another one!
This next one is a simple yurt....and if you didn't know, a "yurt" is a Mongolian super-tipi so to speak. It's basically a tent that's erected with a lattice-work frame instead of poles which could be hard to come by on the steppes.
We start off by gathering all of our materials and for this one we'll need about forty 1/4"x3/32" basswood strips that are approximately 12-14" in length. We also need a box of brass craft pins (the soft metal type), good quality cyanoacrylate, a roll of cotton or linen craft string, and approximately two square yards of a good quality muslin or light canvas. The common tools you've used before will be all you'll need.
We start off with the "khana" or wall of the yurt and build it from the basswood strips. Lay the first one down on your worksurface and mark the exact center of it with your ruler....then lay another one on top of it to form a large X and carefully drill a hole through both of them at the exact center. Cut one of your craft pins down so it's just a hair over 3/16" long and push it through the hole to hold them together. You can imagine that first strip as being the hypotenuse of a right triangle that's 9" high and the same wide and the second strip adding the other triangle to form an imaginary square. Our finished wall will be 9" so keep that in mind as you work.
As the next step, we drill and pin two more laths (strips) to the first two as in this pic.
Just where you thought you were going to have to measure and drill and pin one lath at a time, it gets easier. If you extend that length of lattice-work just a bit, you can now lay one more lath between each of the pinned ones and then contract the lattice to hold it steady as you drill and pin it in place. The secret is to just measure and drill the first double-X to be sure everything is perfect and then just start adding more laths to the lattice using those originals as the guides.
Keep adding and pinning new laths to the lattice until your khana is approximately 45" long when extended to the point that it's approximately 9-10" high. A 45" khana will make a yurt that's approximately 15" in diameter. Once you reach approx 45", start cutting down the laths so that the ends will fit your doorframe....that means the last few laths won't be full-length pieces. You can often cut them on the right end of the khana and the excess that you cut off will fit the left end of the khana so there's very little waste.
Keep in mind that round toothpicks can be used as pegs instead of the craft pins if you want total authenticity, but either way it's a lot of work.
Last step to finishing the khana is to carefully flip it over and apply a dot of *thick* cyanoacrylate to each pinned hole so the pin is fixed in place....but be careful that you don't glue it to the point that it stops moving! Thick cyanoacrylate is a necessity here so if you don't have it, *DON'T* do it until you get some!
Our next step is building a doorframe for the yurt. We prefer to use the same 1/4"x3/32" basswood lath as we've been using but for this step, you can use 1/2" wide stock if you need to.
Just backspaced out this paragraph for the third time and I still can't figure any easy way to describe this doorframe. Just look at this diagram and think of the door frame as layered-wood stock with openings in the layers for the lattice-work to fit into it and you have the basic idea. The right and left frames are identical and the upper and lower are as well, so just build two of each. Be sure to drill and pin it all together every half inch or so and use round toothpicks and Elmer's glue to be sure it's solidly laminated!. DON'T glue the corner and middle pegs that hold the lattice-work into the frame! The entire point to it being built like this is that it disassembles by pulling a few wooden pegs.
When completed, all you need to do to erect the khana is to extend it far enough that the ends fit into the doorframe openings and then peg them in place with some removable pegs....not glued ones. Disassembly, just pull the pegs and the doorframe comes apart into four pieces and the lattice-work contracts.
With the khana assembled and erected, we add two "belly bands" made up of two lengths of approximately 15' of cotton craft string. The first one will be made up by wrapping one length three or four times around the khana upper edge and tying it tightly....the second will be wrapped around the exact middle of the khana and tied tightly to the doorframe sides. These bands keep the khana from extending outward under pressure from the roof and rafters.
Once your khana is finished, we move on to the next part and that is the wall covering itself. Do you want to use regular old "canvas" (muslin) for a modern look or do you want "authentic" (felt) for real period appeal?
If you go canvas, just cut and hem a length of fabric to approximately 50"x9" and sew on about a million ties along the edges. Tie one end to the left doorframe and work your way around it tying it to the khana top edge as you go. When you get to the right side of the doorway, the excess fabric will be the flap door itself. Make the ties easier....use a large craft needle with some cotton or linen twine as your thread and you can space your ties out to fit the khana perfectly. Just punch the needle through the cloth edge and cut it off to leave two loose threads approx 2" long each. Perfect ties.
If you go "authentic", you'll want to hit your local Walmart or Michael's and get a few sheets of the thinnest felt they have. Real felt is best....craft felt is second best but still fine as long as it's THIN! Do the math beforehand so you buy enough the first trip! If you run out halfway through a project, they'll be sold out of the matching stuff when you go back....they always are ;) With felt, buy several different shades of brown etc and stick to the one color. Don't mix black with white or pink with neon green etc. Sheep/goats etc were domesticated and bred for centuries in each clan unit. All the sheep are/were varying shades of the same color and none of those are green ;)
Flannel! Yes, flannel is perfect! When distressed correctly, it's better scale wool felt than any real wool felt is! Don't be afraid to experiment!
Big tip here when working with felt in scale is to try to distress it as much as possible before sewing/assembling an item from it. Untreated craft felt when used to make something like pants or a shirt etc will make a figure look like a 1/6 scale teddybear. It will be so flat and perfectly uniform that you'll be embarassed to use it and rightly so.
For a craft felt khana, our suggestion would be to cut your felt into strips that are about 2"x12" and sew them back together so the different shades give it a striped color variation. Once sewn together, toss it into a pot of boiling water and throw some teabags or instant coffee into the pot with it. Boil that for a couple of minutes to soften all the fibers and then crumple it up and squeeze all the water out. Don't try to flatten it or iron it as it dries! It will look better wrinkled than flat.
Kris and I have done everything from give felt items to the pets for a few days to rubbing real mud into them etc so don't be shy about experimenting!
With your wall covering laced into place, you start building the roof now, and here's your next choice! Do you want to build a Kalmuck or Mongol yurt with a straight poled roof or a Kirgiz or Turkic yurt with bent poles that form a domed roof? Both will be built from the same basswood strips we've been using but the straight-poled roof will need on eextra step in the form of a roof ring.
We planned ours as a Kirgiz dome from the beginning so let's try that one. There's nothing to it except cutting eight lengths of our basswood into approximately 24" lengths. The length is relative so feel free to trim yours down if you want a less-domed roof. As always, feel free to experiment!
You start the Kirgiz dome roof by....
To be continued....