This section features plans
and instructions on how to build many of the goods we offer.
Why offer plans for the goods we sell? Because we ourselves
have often depended on the good will of others to learn
our crafts, and we wish to continue this tradition of free
sharing of knowledge. We take pride in everything we make,
and know the fulfillment of having created something with
your own two hands. So for those who wish to take on the
crafts themselves, we offer the plans below.
Please accept the plan below as our first offering, and bear with us as we
endeavor to document our crafting procedures so that we may compile them into
plans. The plan below is a basic yurt plan, which inspires our current design.
The Construction of a Yurt
By Ellisif Fkakkari (Monica Cellio)
The Mongolian yurt, or ger,
is a round, nominally portable, self-supporting structure
suitable for camping in comfort. It does not rely on ropes
or stakes to hold itself up; rather, the walls, rafters,
roof ring, and tensioning bands all work against each other,
in a marvel of physics and engineering, to keep the structure
standing. It is thus an especially appealing structure
for camping events where space is at a premium, such as
Pennsic, because all of the space it requires provides
useful living space -- no extended ropes are required as
they are for pavillions.
SCA campers have also found
other useful features that the Mongols must have designed
into the structure. A yurt does not even think about moving
or falling down in a storm; consider, for example, the
winds out on the steppes. With a pavillion, the structure
is provided by the roof canvas and ropes; if any of these
gives, the pavillion comes down. With a yurt, the wooden
frame provides the structure and is much more stable. The
yurt frame also has a lot of redundancy built in; if a
single rafter or piece of wall fails, the structure is
Because the rafters bear the
weight of the roof ring, no center pole is necessary unless
the yurt is very large. The Mongols would build their cooking
fires in the center of their yurts, opening a smoke hole
for the purpose. SCA campers faced with fire restrictions
rarely have this option.
Yurts are also remarkably comfortable
during the summer heat. Once you get up in the morning,
you can open the flap over the roof hole and hike up the
walls in 3 or 4 places. This sets up a nice convection
current, and the yurt stays relatively cool all day. (Of
course, this doesn't work when it's raining...) There were
afternoons at Pennsic XXIV when I was more comfortable
sitting in the yurt than under a canvas fly, because the
yurt had a vent at the top.
For modern (and historical)
convenience, the yurt collapses down into pieces no longer
than 8 feet. I transport mine on and in my Mazda 323 hatchback,
though I did have to install a roof rack for the purpose
(much to the amusement of the auto dealer). A minivan would
also suffice if you don't want to deal with roof racks.
What They Did
The Mongols are said to have
built their yurts from saplings laced together with leather
thongs. The rafters might have been either painted or plain.
Felt was used for the walls and roof. It is not clear to
me how they transported the yurt; the folded walls would
be quite a burden for a horse.
The Parts of the Yurt
The key parts of the yurt
are as follows:
The khana, or walls. The
walls look like giant baby gates; they are criss-crossed
lattices that open out or fold flat. Most people build
two sections of khana and bolt them together as part
of setting the yurt up. Because I'm not quite strong
enough to lift half the khana onto my roof rack, I break
mine into three pieces.
The door frame. The ends
of the khana are attached to the door frame in some fashion,
usually bolted or tied.
The rafters. Rafters notch
into the top of the khana at one end and into the roof
ring at the other. (Two rafters are designed to sit on
top of the door frame.) Any given rafter bears only a
small part of the weight.
The roof ring. This goes
in the center and has slots for rafters to fit into.
The fit should be tight to prevent the ring from twisting.
Once the ring is in place, you do not need any center
The belly bands. Two bands
are wrapped around the outside of the khana to prevent
the rafters, which are pushing down, from pressing the
khana farther open. One band goes around at the top and
one midway up the wall.
There are additional pieces,
notably the canvas and the rope that holds the cloth walls
up, but they are not structural.
This article describes how to
build a yurt that is approximately 16 feet in diameter.
While in theory this can be scaled up, I do not know for
certain how big you can make a yurt without requiring a
center support. (I am told that an engineer determined
that you could go as large as 30 feet, but I'm not sure
I believe that.)
Materials and Tools
To build a yurt, you will
need the following materials and tools:
Khana: about 8 8-foot 2x4s
of good quality and a table saw, or 70 8-foot lathes,
1/4 inch thick by 1.5 inches wide. About 300 1.25-inch
carriage screws, 300 washers, 24 (or 48) wing nuts, and
250 hex nuts. A drill, ideally with a drill press. A
Door frame: 2 10-foot 2x4s
or 3 8-foot 2x4s (there'll be waste). 4 bolts long enough
to go through a 2x4 in the wider direction, plus washers
and nuts, or leather and nails to make hinges. A saw.
Rafters: 24 to 36 1x3 firring
strips, of the best quality you can find. (Firring strips
are cheap lumber and you'll have to pick through the
pile to find ones that aren't completely scrungy.) A
jig saw and drill. Sandpaper. Optionally a power sander.
(The number depends on how many rafters you want, which
in turn depends on how cautious you're feeling. I used
30 at Pennsic XXIV.)
Roof ring: 1 sheet of 3/4-inch
plywood. The grade doesn't really matter, but if the
top isn't finished you'll need to sand it to keep it
from chewing up your roof canvas. The scraps from your
rafters. 2 gross (288) of drywall screws. A power screwdriver
or an appropriate drill bit. A saw to cut the plywood.
Optionally, some scrap lathes.
Temporary support: 2 8-foot
2x2s or 1 8-foot 2x4 and a table saw. The scraps from
your door frame, or other scrap lumber. A few nails.
Belly bands: 2 nylon or
other non-stretch, strong straps, 50 feet long by at
least 1 inch wide. I got mine at an Army-Navy store.
About 120 feet of 1/4-inch
rope (not cotton).
A few dozen S-hooks. (The
2-inch size works well for hanging walls; you may want
a few large ones for securing the door curtain.)
4 stakes. (These are to
hold the flap that covers the smoke hole.)
Note that all of this lumber
will weigh in the vicinity of 100-150 pounds. If you transport
it on a roof rack, make sure it's a real roof rack and
not a `ski rack'; the latter will probably buckle under
I bought my canvas pre-made.
The canvas for my yurt comes in the following pieces; there
are many other ways to design the roof canvas, but this
is the simplest to implement
Wall: 50 feet long, 6 feet high, with grommets along
the length of one side every 2 feet or so. (There are
also 3 grommets along each short side.)
Roof: a 20x20 square with a 2x2 square cut out of the
center. The edges of the hole are heavily reinforced.
There is one grommet in each outside corner.
Roof hole cover: a 4x4 square
with grommets in the corners.
Door curtain: 6 feet high
by 4 feet wide, with grommets down each side and across
the top (every foot or so).
My roof comes down to the ground
in the corners and has to be staked down there. Some people
have built roofs that are circular and conical, and these
do not require staking. Other people run a roughly foot-wide
band of cloth around the outside, at the top, over the
wall, to hold the descending roof canvas down. I'm not
enough of a pattern drafter to be able to tell you how
to do a fitted roof, however. (Note, by the way, that my
roof is not under any tension.)
For the khana, you want to
end up with a large number of lathe boards. You can buy
them, but where I live they're outrageously expensive (40
to 60 cents per linear foot). Here, it's actually cheaper
to buy 2x4s and the table saw to cut them down, and then
throw the table saw away when you're done. (I was able
to save myself that expense by using a friend's radial
arm saw, which worked almost as well. We didn't break any
blades, but we had to let the saw cool down after every
10-12 cuts.) We managed to get about 9 lathes out of each
2x4 on average (sometimes 10, sometimes only 8). Remember,
in planning for this, that the saw blade has thickness,
and that all the sawdust has to come from somewhere.
Each lathe needs to be drilled
every foot, offset by 3 inches. That is, counting from
one end, you have holes at 3', 15', 27', 39', and so on.
(You should have 9 inches of lathe left after the last
hole.) If you are cutting your own lathes and you have
a drill bit long enough to go through a 2x4 in the 4' direction,
I strongly recommend drilling the 2x4s before cutting them.
(A drill press helps a lot for this.) Otherwise, you have
to clamp the lathes together, hope nothing slips, and do
a lot of extra work to drill the holes.
Once you have a pile of lathe
boards, you start bolting them together into a lattice.
Make sure that all pieces going in one direction are on
top and all pieces in the other direction are on the bottom;
you do not want any interlacing or weaving. (This will
prevent you from being able to fold the khana.)
To apply a bolt, push the bolt
through both pieces of lathe (with all the heads ending
up on the same side), put the washer and nut on the other
side, use the wrench to pull the head as far in as it will
go, and then loosen the nut by half a turn. The last step
is very important; you need to be able to move the lattices,
but you also need to make sure the head of the screw is
firmly seated so it can't fall out. (An advantage of carriage
screws is that they effectively have the washer built in
on the head side.) And, of course, you don't want the nuts
to be so loose that they fall off.
You can actually make the khana
with 1-inch bolts instead of 1.25-inch ones if you want
to; you have just enough room to make everything fit. One
of the small benefits of a yurt, though, is that you have
100+ convenient coat hooks; I used the longer bolts so
I would be able to hang clothes, my cloak, hats, my drum,
towels, my drinking horn, and so on from them.
The ends of the khana that adjoin
the door need to be straight. This means that the last
few pieces on each end will not be full-length; because
you will have this problem on both ends, you can cut down
some lathes to make these pieces with very little waste.
(See Figure 1.)
Figure 1: One end of the khana.
You will need to break the khana
into at least 2 sections for transport. To do this, pick
a point approximately in the middle, remove the nuts and
washers, and push the bolts out from the inside layer of
wood, leaving them embedded in the outside layer. (When
you assemble the yurt, you will probably want to fasten
these joints together with wing nuts, which you can tighten
with your bare hands.) See Figure 2 for a diagram of how
the wall comes apart into sections.
Figure 2: Location of bolts
to remove (to separate khana).
Be careful when folding, unfolding,
and carrying the khana. Make sure you lift it slightly
off the ground before folding or unfolding. While the overall
structure is very strong, each individual lathe is fairly
weak. (The good news, however, is that the weight is distributed
so well that you can even replace a broken lathe while
the yurt is standing, and it's ok to have 3 or 4 broken
lathes if they aren't all next to each other.) It's generally
a good idea to keep a few spare lathes on hand for repairs.
Making the khana is perhaps
the most tedius part of constructing a yurt. Don't be discouraged
that it's taking a long time to insert all the bolts. You
only have to do it once, for the most part.
The Door Frame
There are many ways to make
a door. I've seen frames that are tied to the khana, frames
that are bolted to the khana, frames that have slots for
the ends of the khana to slide into, and actual doors (not
curtains). You may come up with something you like better,
but what I'll describe is the basic tied-in door frame.
You need 2 pieces of 2x4 that
are 6 feet long and 2 that are 3 feet long. Cut tabs in
the short pieces and notches in the long pieces, as shown
in Figure 3. When you put the pieces together, you'll get
a door frame that's 6x3 (and 4 inches deep).
Figure 3: Notches for door frame.
My door frame has leather hinges.
That is, there are sturdy pieces of leather nailed to the
outside of the frame, with a `latch' at one corner. This
allows me to unfold the frame while keeping it in one (long)
piece; I can then fold this piece and toss it on the roof
You might, instead, prefer a
frame that you can take entirely apart. The easiest way
to do this is to drill holes through the 4 joints (in the
4-inch direction) and put a bolt in each one. This should
also make for a sturdier frame, as leather can loosen over
time. (You could use metal hinges instead of leather to
solve that problem, I suppose.)
The important thing is that
you end up with a sturdy frame. It's going to be under
tension from 3 directions, so you want to make sure it
The rafters hold up the roof
ring. Each rafter hooks over the khana at one end and slides
into the ring at the other. The number of rafters you need
depends on how cautious you want to be and how many slots
you manage to fit into your roof ring (see next section).
It's a good idea to cut a few spare rafters; I've found
that a couple of mine have bowed when I didn't have them
exactly straight into the roof ring, and it's nice to be
able to replace them easily.
Figure 4 shows what a single
rafter looks like.
Figure 4: Rafter layout.
For ease of cutting, I recommend
screwing 4-6 1x3s together and cutting them as a group.
You can then remove the screws. This is much faster than
cutting each rafter individually. A jig saw works well
for cutting the rafters. For the notch, you may find it
easier to make the two parallel cuts and just use an old
screwdriver to break out the pieces.
The holes shown in Figure 4
need to be large enough for a rope to pass through. A 5/16-inch
drill bit would probably work, though it would be snug;
a 3/8-inch bit should provide plenty of room. You will
note that the positions of the holes are not shown precisely;
the left one should be within an inch or so of the notch
and closer to the bottom edge; the right one should be
1-2 inches from the angled cut and closer to the top edge.
Precision is not that important here -- but read through
all of this article, including the setup instructions,
before cutting the rafters so you understand the function
of the holes.
The rounded outer edge of the
rafter (at the khana end) should be sanded; your roof canvas
will be pulled over this, and you don't want to cause wear
on it. If the top edge of the rafter has any rough spots
or splinters, you should also sand them. Other sanding
may be called for depending on your tolerance for the occasional
splinter. Do not sand the sides of the board at the end
that will be inserted into the roof ring; it is important
not to change the thickness of the board at that point.
For two of your rafters, instead
of cutting the khana end as shown in Figure 4, use the
cut shown in Figure 5. These rafters will rest on top of
your door frame.
Figure 5: The outer end for
the door-frame rafters (make a 90-degree angle).
Save the scraps from the rafters
to make the roof ring.
The Roof Ring
The roof ring will require
some fussing, but it's worth the time to do it right the
first time. (Trust me. We've made two.)
The ring consists of two rings
of plywood separated by pieces of 1x3. It looks sort of
like a large wooden doughnut, 30' across and 4' high.
Start by drawing two 30-inch
(diameter) circles on the plywood. In the center of each,
draw a concentric 26-inch circle. Cut these out. You should
now have two rings of plywood, each 4 inches from outside
to inside edges.
Take 3 pieces of scrap 1x3.
(Two should be 4 inches long; the third can be longer as
it's only a spacer.) Take one of the plywood rings and
position the 3 pieces of 1x3 together under it, such that
the center piece (the spacer) points straight out. (See
Figure 6.) You'll probably want to use some other 1x3 scraps
to hold the ring up so it's level. Check the 3 pieces to
make sure they're right up against each other (no gaps),
and when you are satisfied, apply 2 drywall screws to each
of the outer pieces (see Figure 7). Slide the spacer in
and out a bit to make sure it can move. You can now remove
Figure 6: Positioning the 1x3
pieces and spacer.
Figure 7: Positioning the screws.
You have just created a slot
into which one rafter will fit snugly. Now do the same
thing on the opposite side of the ring. (That is, create
another slot 180 degrees away from the first one -- not
on the other side of the piece of plywood.)
Now you have two starting points.
Pick one and place 2 more pieces plus the spacer as close
as you can to the existing slot, while still allowing the
spacer to point straight out from the center of the ring.
Screw the pieces in, and then proceed to the next position.
As you add slots, you will find that the inner ends are
generally right up against each other, while there are
gaps between the outer edges. (It's like the spokes of
a wheel.) This is normal; do not try to fill in those extra
spaces between slots in the front. All rafters must point
directly toward the center of the ring. Figure 8 shows
a roof ring in progress.
Continue to place slots around
the ring until you run out of room. Depending on luck and
skill, you should be able to place somewhere between 30
and 36 slots in the ring. (You could get more in by filing
down the 1x3 pieces, as shown in Figure 9, but I do not
think it's worth it. 30 rafters will be plenty.)
Figure 8: Adding more slots
(longer lines show where rafters go).
Figure 9: Shaving edges to pack
in a few more slots (optional!).
Once you have attached all the
spacers to one of the plywood rings, turn the ring over
(so the plywood is on the bottom), position the other ring
on top, and screw it together.
Note: you will find a drill
with a screwdriver bit very helpful in construction of
the roof ring.
Once you have completed the
ring, drill two holes in one side, opposite each other.
These are the holes for the center support (used during
erection). See Figure 10.
Figure 10: Positioning of support
holes (ring viewed from bottom).
Make sure the plywood on the
side opposite from where you drilled the holes is smooth.
If the surface is rough, sand it to avoid wear on your
canvas. You don't need to sand any of the other surfaces
of the ring, though you might want to sand the outside
edges (plywood and 1x3s) to make the ring easier to handle.
You might want to cover the
inside edge of the ring in some way, to prevent rafters
from trying to push through. You can use scrap lathe for
this. This is an optional step.
Another optional step depends
on how you're going to be transporting the ring. You will
note that when the yurt is set up, you will have a flat
spot in the middle of the roof that's 2.5 feet across,
and that is mostly not covered by wood. Rain will tend
to collect on the canvas in the center of the ring. So
far I haven't had any problems due to this, but you might
want to find some way to create a `dome' in the center
of your ring. One way to do this is to take some scrap
lathe and form an `X' on the inside of the ring (see Figure
11). This will create a dome that prevents water from pooling.
Figure 11: A domed roof ring
The Temporary Support
The job of the temporary support
is to hold up the roof ring until you've inserted enough
rafters that the configuration is stable. You will need
2 8-foot poles with nails in the ends, two cross- beams
that are a little shorter than your roof ring is wide,
and the means to attach the latter to the former. You can
nail it all together to look like an `H' with two cross-beams,
but this can be a little awkward to pack. Mine has leather
hinges that allow the contraption to be folded.
During erection, the nails in
the top of the support slide into the 2 holes you drilled
in the bottom of the roof ring, and one person stands in
the middle of the yurt holding this up while other people
insert rafters (see Figure 12).
Figure 12: The center support.
Putting It Together
The first time you put your
yurt up, plan to spend a few hours on it. It will get easier
once you've done it once or twice!
Putting up a yurt works best
if you have at least three people, though two can do most
of it if they have to. While at least one person I've heard
of has built `support gear' to enable him to set his up
all by himself, I don't recommend this at first.
Here are the basic steps to
putting up a yurt:
Find a good stretch of ground and spread out the khana. (You'll need about
50 feet.) You want all the angles to be 90 degrees (so each section of
criss-cross is a square and not elongated). Overlap the two sections and
bolt them together as described in the section on construction. While you're
doing this, inspect your khana for cracks, and mark any pieces that might
need to be replaced. Hairline cracks that haven't spread very far can be
patched by wrapping duct tape around the lathe. (This also serves as a
visible marker so you'll know which ones to replace later.)
Stand the khana up in a
straight line. Be careful not to crack the bottoms of
the lathes! This is best done with three or four people
taking up positions along the length. Go slowly.
Walk the khana into a circular
shape, leaving a gap of two or three feet between the
ends, with the ends of the bolts pointing into the circle
and the heads on the outside. This is very much a process
of successive approximation; get it approximately round/oval
first and then walk around it and fix specific areas.
Also make sure that your angles continue to be 90 degrees,
and that the height is even. (I walk around the inside
and spot-check the height of the top bolts against my
Attach the door frame. My
door frame is tied to the khana (using more rope than
is probably necessary, but better safe than sorry); some
people bolt theirs. See the discussion in the section
on constructing the door frame for more comments on this.
Whatever you do, make sure the door frame is tightly
attached. A door represents an inherent weak spot in
Attach your belly bands.
Each band should be tied onto the door frame, walked
around the outside of the yurt maintaining an even height,
and tied to the other side of the door frame. Use a knot
for which you can adjust the tension, as you're going
to fuss with these a lot. One belly band goes around
the top (over the heads of the top-most bolts), and the
other goes halfway down the wall. The belly bands keep
the khana from spreading farther out. See Figure 13.
Verify that your khana is
still maintaining an appropriate shape and height. If
you have to make any adjustments, tighten the bands again.
Now you're ready for the
roof ring. Take your center support and slide the nails
into the holes in the bottom of the ring. Stand the supports
up in the approximate center of the yurt. (You'll have
to guess.) The person holding the center support needs
to be able to keep it vertical (so the ring remains horizontal)
and needs to pay attention to what's going on because
of the occasional falling rafter.
While one person is holding
the ring up, other people insert the first 4-6 rafters
(see Figure 12), evenly spaced around the yurt. (Start
with one, then the one opposite it, then the ones between
them, and so on.) The easiest way to insert a rafter
is to stand outside the yurt, lift the rafter over the
top of the khana at an intersection, push the angled
end of the rafter into one of the slots in the roof ring,
and then set the end you're holding onto the khana and
push the notch over the top intersection. If you find
that some rafters aren't quite fitting and some are trying
to fall out, it means the ring isn't quite centered and
needs to be moved. Be very careful when moving a `loaded'
ring; falling rafters hurt! (When I'm the one holding
the ring, I try to keep my head directly under the center
of the ring, so I'll take any falling rafters on the
shoulders instead of in the head.)
After you've put several
rafters in (about 8 in my experience, but it varies),
the ring will lift up enough that the center support
is no longer needed. At this point walk the support out
and put the rest of the rafters in. You don't need all
the rafters, but the more you put in the flatter your
canvas will lie (reducing the number of places where
rain can pool) and the more secure you'll feel. At Pennsic
XXIV we used 30; we will probably go down to 24 or so
next time. I've seen yurts that used as few as 11, but
I don't recommend that for a first time.
Now that there's real downward
pressure trying to push the khana farther out, you'll
need to adjust the belly bands again. 11. After all the
rafters are in, tie a rope to the top of the door frame
on one side, run it through the holes in the ends of
the rafters, and tie it off on the other side of the
door frame. (If your door curtain has grommets in the
top, you'll want to leave a few extra feet of rope at
this point so you'll be able to thread the curtain.)
For extra security, run
a rope through the holes in the rafters next to the roof
ring. This prevents any rafter from moving more than
an inch or two (depending on how close to the ring you
got the holes). It isn't necessary, but it's comforting.
(You'll need to stand on a chair to reach the ring.)
Figure 13: Positioning of
belly bands on khans.
The structural parts are now
done. Now you just need to deal with the canvas:
Attach the wall by unfolding
it around the outside of the yurt and attaching it with
S-hooks to the rope that's running through the rafters.
If the grommets fall too close to the top intersection
of the khana in a few places, don't worry about it and
just skip those grommets. If it happens a lot, adjust
the position of the wall by a few inches. You should
have enough wall left over to wrap around the door frame
and into the yurt on each end. Later you can use some
scrap rope to tie off the center and bottom grommets
on each end if you like. (Just attach them to a convenient
section of khana.) You can attach the inside top corners
to the rafter rope with S-hooks.
Pull the roof canvas over
the top. (This is easier said than done, because the
canvas is heavy.) This works best with 3 people -- two
on the leading corners and one person inside the yurt
with a pole (such as a spare rafter) to guide the center
of the leading edge. Go slowly and be careful of the
center hole, which can easily catch on the ends of the
Attach your door curtain.
If you have grommets in the top, take the excess rope
from the rafters, run the curtain through it, and tie
the rope off on the other side of the door frame. If
you have some other method of hanging your door curtain,
use it. You might want to get a couple of large S-hooks
so you can hook the sides of the curtain to the khana
during high winds, to keep the curtain from blowing inward
and letting in rain. I have a couple of roughly 5-inch
(hand-forged) hooks that I use for this purpose; large
hooks are easy to manipulate from the outside of the
yurt. Someone in Moritu has a door curtain that drags
the grouns by a foot or so, and just keeps a piece of
2x4 on hand to hold it down.
Take the smoke-hole cover,
tie a 15-foot rope to each corner, and drag it across
the top of the yurt (this works best with two people,
one to pull each leading rope). Check its position from
the inside, and when it's centered, tie the ropes tightly
to stakes. To open the flap, loosen two of the ropes
and drag the flap a few feet down one side.
Congratulations, you now have
What To Do When Something
Nothing ever goes perfectly
the first time, so here are some hints on how to solve
specific problems. (I welcome additional problems, with
solutions if you have them.)
The roof ring isn't horizontal
during setup; it's tilting to one side.
This sometimes happens in
putting the yurt up, especially on uneven ground. If
you don't do something about it, the roof ring will corkscrew
and all the rafters will fall out. It is important for
the person holding the center support to keep it vertical,
but the ring can still shift after the center support
has dropped out.
There are two ways to approach
this, depending on how bad the tilt is, how many rafters
are already in, and how brave you're feeling. You should
first try to push up on the lower side of the ring (with
a spare rafter or the center support) and see if that
causes it to settle into a better position. If that doesn't
work, and you're feeling brave, you can toss a rope up
through the center of the ring and out on the high side,
take both ends of the rope, and pull down gently. (There's
nothing quite so scary as standing under a loaded roof
ring and pulling it toward you, but this does work.)
Some of the rafters are bowed.
This usually means that
you're trying to force a rafter onto a part of the khana
where it doesn't want to be. Try moving it one position
to the left or right. If you're having this problem a
lot, you might need to rotate your ring slightly.
Everything creaks and groans
and makes scary noises over the course of the first day.
Relax; that's normal. It's
sort of like a house settling. Inspect your rafters to
make sure nothing is bowing badly, and inspect the khana
to make sure a section isn't being pushed way back at
the top (which may mean you need to tighten the top belly
band). But if all that looks ok, you should be fine.
Some of the khana is bent
outward a lot at the top.
Your top belly band might
need to be tightened. Once the yurt is set up, make adjustments
to the belly bands only with great care; if you release
tension on them or pull too hard too suddenly, everything
could come tumbling down. (This is why you want to tie
a knot that can be slid to tighten, rather than tying
a knot that you'd have to untie to adjust.)
Now that you have a yurt,
you have a world of possibilities in the area of add-ons.
You'll probably find yourself making additions and changes
One obvious feature is that
you have many, many places to hang things. In addition
to the pegs provided by the bolts, you can hang clothes
(on hangers) by hooking the hanger over any intersection
on the khana. You no longer need a clothes rack. (Alternatively,
you could experiment with a clothes rack that is anchored
on one end at the khana and at the other by a free-standing
pole, so your rack is perpendicular to the wall.)
The yurt is large enough that
you can curtain off a private section and still have
plenty of room in which to entertain guests. Because
we aren't allowed to have open flames (let alone campfires)
inside structures at Pennsic, I spread carpets over the
floor. (Pillows and cushions are an obvious addition,
if you do a lot of entertaining.) If you install a cross
beam in your roof ring, you can hang a light from the
center of the ceiling.
S-hooks are your friends;
they hook over the khana and can hold up all sorts of
For Pennsic XXV, I'm thinking
of building shelves. The basic idea is that a shelf will
be approximately 1.4 feet long (the diagonal of one square
on the khana), and the back corners will have hooks that
are spaced to go over 2 khana intersections. In the front
corners will be cords or light chains with S-hooks on
the ends. These hooks are then attached to the khana
directly above the intersections holding the shelf back.
(See Figure 14.) I wouldn't recommend putting anything
heavy, like books, on such a shelf, but it seems like
it could be a great way to store clothing that has to
be folded, jewelry, and miscellaneous small items. I'm
not sure if a shelf twice as long could be safely used,
but I may try one.
Figure 14: A khana-supported
Packing the Roof Rack
I pack my roof rack in the
First layer: rafters, standing
on their edges (so they're 3 inches high).
Second layer: khana, bolt
heads down, one layer per khana section.
Third layer: door frame and
center support, to the sides of the khana; carpets on
top of the khana. (The carpets help hold the khana down
and protect it a little more.)
The canvas and roof ring go
inside the car, as does the bag containing the wing nuts,
S-hooks, ropes, stakes, wrench, and miscellaneous items
Remember when tying stuff
onto your roof rack to wrap and tie down the front of
the pile. The khana is light enough that the wind produced
by driving at even moderate speeds can otherwise cause
it to bend up and break. And if you don't know how to
tie a diamond hitch, ask someone to show you. It may
seem paranoid, but it would be a real pain to have to
re-make the khana because it wiggled loose!
I am not a carpenter. I
am also not an expert on things Mongolian. I learned
about yurts from Todric and Bagshi of the Moritu, who
were gracious enough to take me on a yurt tour at Pennsic
XXII and explain in general terms how they work. I built
my yurt from a set of plans by Ino Ogami, who based his
plans on ones written by Todric. (My Ogami plans were
casualties of the construction process, so I no longer
have them to refer to.)
Johan von Traubenburg provided
tools, carpentry knowledge, the difficult cuts,. and
the realization that it was cheaper to cut our own lathes;
he also helped with the first couple setups while we
figured out how to debug it. Johan and Dani of the Seven
Wells did a large amount of the construction work, which
was especially nice because I prefer to remain far away
from large power saws.
I would also like to thank
Haraldr Bassi, who bravely attempted to build a yurt
from a previous, informal instantiation of my description,
and got much farther than I would have thought possible
I welcome feedback on this
article, especially from people who actually build from
About the Author
Ellisif Flakkari is a tenth-century
Dane who likes to camp in comfort. Monica Cellio (7634
Westmoreland Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15218, firstname.lastname@example.org)
has far too much crap to fit in a proper Viking A-frame
tent for 2 weeks at Pennsic, and wouldn't be able to
transport 15- foot poles anyway.
This article is copyright
1995 by Monica Cellio. It may be freely distributed within
historical re-creation groups so long as no profit is
made, no alterations are made, and this notice remains.
For other uses please contact the author (who will quite
likely say `sure, go ahead' but wants to know about it