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Embarking on a "Period" Medieval Encampment
Copyright  © 1997, 2007, 2014 Elizabeth Jones
Maestra Damiana Illiara d'Onde
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  Introduction    Inspiration    Finances     Time     Transportation and Storage     Packing and Setup     Energy and Attitude    Skill    Pavilions     Ground Coverings     Awnings     Decorating     Inside the Tent     Pavilions     Lighting     Furniture     Other Accessories, Kitchen and Hearth setup

Since joining the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) 25+ years ago, I have always been impressed with "period" encampments. When we started in Germany, we had modern tents, internet commerce didn't exist, and we threw fabric over everything. Thankfully we can do a much better job now of recreating the middle ages, but we all have to make our own compromises on how far to take it.

 More often than not, I have attempted to make my surroundings appear as medieval as possible, but those attempts could vary greatly in their success and authenticity. Around 1994 several factors came into line, and my first generation of a period encampment was born. I first started this article in 1997, not as an expert, but as a person who had experienced a few seasons of camping in this manner, and learned from each one. Now time has passed without ever publishing it, and I can no longer say I am a novice. However, each season brings improvements to my camp and I hope that this article will inspire others into taking the period plunge, and discover how much value it can add to life in the Society. Please note that this is not an essay on camping within an enchanted ground. That is an issue that deals with behavior as an integral part of the environment., although I am interested in trying that approach in the future. This article focuses mostly on the physical attributes that make up a camp, not the actions within. You will see in this article that we still make compromises on modern vs. medieval or "medievalish" and that works for us.

  Many things are needed for this project - some tangible, some not. I think that you need at least a small portion of each, but luckily one can pace the project over several months or years. I went gung-ho at first, because that was my entire project for the summer. I knew I would make mistakes, and that it would take a lot of energy. I was also prepared to invest quite a bit of money because I did not have time to make things myself. Other people must decide what ratio is appropriate for them. I have tried to categorize the various resources needed as follows: Inspiration, Finances, Time, Transportation, Energy, Skill.



  I mention how long I have been in the SCA not as a deterrent to other "younger" members, but simply to indicate how long this process can take. Admiring is different from being inspired, and for most of my years in the society, the prospect seemed daunting. Consequently, I admired other people's encampments and pavilions, but continued to invest time, money and energy into disguising my own, pseudo-medieval digs. I was fortunate enough to own some accoutrements, but I could constructively criticize my own efforts, and admit that it had a long way to go. Earlier on I had spent a great deal of time (and lots of muscle), sewing my own pavilion. The merits of doing this will be discussed later, but suffice to say that the "creation" lasted about three seasons. Its demise coincided with the birth of my son, so for a year or so we didn't camp at all, but spent event nights in a hotel and just visited the site during the day. Unfortunately, without an encampment of one's own, it truly is only visiting, and it is hard to get that magical feeling that night-time brings. After my son turned two, I felt brave enough to camp again, and so this project started with the purchase of a professionally-made pavilion.

  I credit several people with inspiring me, and have included mention here because I think the information is valuable. They all go about this in different ways, but the outcome is the same: lots of fun and an encampment that inspires people to say "Wow". I was one of the "wowers", until their enthusiasm infected me enough to want to do this myself.

  Duquesa Mistress Isabella of York, East Kingdom: Isabella takes a holistic approach to everything in the society, and always has beautiful clothes, jewelry and accessories. I saw her first pavilion many years ago, and it stood out from the rest because of the elaborate gold and red border she had painted on the edge. In addition she had attached heavy gold silk fringe to the border, and the effect was spectacular. Isabella is very conscious of the entire effect, and has a lovely interior also, with proper furniture, hangings and lighting. Everything exudes luxury, and although some of it is costly, she like the rest of us, has an eye for bargains that can be turned to our advantage. Isabella pursues a sixteenth century Elizabethan environment. She feels that her camp evolves through time, and she seeks to make one improvement each year. This aspect - one improvement a year - is what I have naturally adopted since the first initial push. It works well for continuous improvement without over-exertion. Isabella continues to embellish all types of things in her business: World of Isabella!

  Baron Master George Emerson True, East Kingdom: Emerson commissioned a great sixteenth century outdoor kitchen from drawings he had seen. It wasn't particularly expensive for what he got (about $125 at the time), and it is large enough to cook for many people. He got me into period cooking outdoors. Emerson has always been interested in how things work, and if the replicas we make actually function like the originals. I am always wandering into his tent and asking about various small improvements. In the past few years, he showed me his version of candelabra, which I have included here for lighting. One thing I like most about Emerson's tent is that it is usually set up for indoor dining and activity at night. I don't have room for this in mine due to children's beds and pole layout, but it makes an intimate setting, being able to enter the tent at night and sit around a table. One memorable evening a friend had created home-made marshmallows, and the toasted them over a little flame in the tent! Here are friends John and Rufina at his cooking site and the marshmallow event:



  Mistress Thora Sharptooth & Master Doff East Kingdom, now West: Thora and Doff camped with Emerson one year at Pennsic, and we dropped by to visit. Many of you may remember their area, as it was enclosed and marked as a period encampment, though not in enchanted ground. Both Thora and Dof have Viking personas, and their tents reflect this. In addition, Thora had been experimenting with building bake ovens (one of the items on my dream list), and Dof was usally working with period tools. I remember his lathe in particular. They mostly stay within their encampment, and people come to visit. Using Pennsic as an experimental site for ideas conceived elsewhere, they maintain calm by not racing around trying to see everyone. I think it has paid off, and everyone knows where to find them. Over time, we have also adopted this manner, and spend more time enjoying our own camp.

  Lord Tristan and Lady Gwen, West Kingdom: I have to say that this encampment was truly inspiring and helped move me into high camping gear. While at Estrella War in the late 1990s (version 1 of this article!), I was delighted to walk down the street and see a magnificent 15th century encampment with all sizes and colors of tents. Seeing people in Burgundian dress, bias-cut hose and period shoes was enough to make me barge in and visit. Inside the main tent I found Tristan, working on a pair of shoes for a new member of their company. Tristan is fortunate enough to have ties to the theatrical community in California, and had acquired six little "pencil" pavilions for a film job he had done. Mixed with the other big tents, and surrounding a large lashed cooking structure, this camp was the closest I had seen to SCA nirvana. Tristan and Gwen lead a Burgundian company military modeled after some in Europe. They feel that it is just as easy to start off doing things in a period manner, rather than investing time and energy doing them wrong. I would tend to agree, and now encourage newer members to put their resources into a lasting investment. Tristan and Gwen are well known nowadays for their successful mercantile "Black Swan Designs and Historic Enterprises" where they continue to create replicas for all sorts of living history. From their shop I was thrilled to pick up a Perugia embroidered tablecloth and handtowel - more proof that years later they continue to inspire me and others!

  Master Luke Knowlton, East Kingdom: In contrast to the Burgundian camp, years ago Luke had a small compact model. He reenacted English Civil War at the time, and has been a vast source of knowledge to me in my quest for things. Luke camped almost throughout the year, and in the Northeast U.S. that is cause for admiration. Also is the fact that he managed on his own, and without acquiring so many things that he could not fit them in his little Honda hatchback. Selectivity was the key to his approach, and he was a master at packing. This can be one of the biggest challenges in period camping, so we are always looking at how the worth of an object compares to its size and shape. Luke pays great attention to detail, and was especially proud of his porcelain chamberpot which he kept in his wall tent. We practiced all one summer to be up to the challenge of camping with Luke and his English Civil War comrades at Pennsic. Knowing that they have done this for a long time, we wanted to live up to their expectations, and not leave mundane items strewn around.



  Alas, very few people have the income to simply buy every wonderful piece of period camping gear that they see. I have lusted after Savonarola chairs for years without succumbing, but after time came up with a better approach (see Furniture below). It is always a balancing act, but this endeavor is one that usually requires some financial planning. The most important part of a period camp is the pavilion. One can buy all the accessories in the world, but place them around a modern tent, and it does not present the look you want. I will discuss pavilion types in more detail later, but suffice to say this outlay can cost anywhere from about $300 to $2000, on average. Of course, one person can buy a small wedge for less, and a group could invest much more for a super size pavilion, but I feel most families would fall into this median range. One can always economize in this area, as with others, by doing some work oneself. You must weigh the cost versus time benefits. In general, my recommendation would certainly be to invest in a properly made canvas pavilion. Unless you have heavy duty equipment, patience, muscle, time and still what amounts to a substantial investment in materials, you are much better of getting a professional to do this for you. Spend your time hand crafting other things for your camp.

  The other costs are not nearly as prohibitive, and can be spread over several years. Proper tables and benches cost us about $150 to make. Wood is not very expensive, and does not have to very sophisticated to give a period appearance. Wide boards on sawhorses can serve well as a table for minimal investment. There is a certain authenticity that lower or middle class camps have. It is almost preferable not to see luxurious furniture and cloth everywhere, as sometimes this doesn't match the rough natural surroundings. My point here is that if you avoid obvious mundane furniture, and use raw wood, you will achieve a more credible look and probably save money.

  Cooking equipment also is an investment, but you can start off small. For example, a small or medium kettle and tripod/spit can be obtained for perhaps $100. This is a type of cost that can easily be defrayed by camping with other people who share similar interests. There is really no point in everyone owning the same equipment, if you all camp together on a regular basis. Iron is heavy! It is easier and cheaper to decide who will purchase (or make) what, and plan your encampment for most efficient use. Owning duplicate equipment only leads to disuse and waste of money. After many seasons and inspiring my friends to invest in cast iron, we now own too much, and I have to resist the purchase of more! Here is our friend Faoiltighearna at work over our pit with tripod set up:

  In general, I estimate that you can save approximately 30-50 percent by making things yourself. This of course depends on markups, and does not take into account that you can get great stuff for only the cost of materials if you have a craft that you can barter.



  There are several factors to consider here. The first is how much time you have in relation to money. When I built my first pavilion, I had much more time than I do now. I made it out of old army cargo parachutes and covered a gazebo frame. (Parachutes are made of triangular pieces of cloth so you can imagine the challenges. I laid it out in a field outside my house - Precision was not the name of the game!) It seemed worth it to do it myself, even though the results were admittedly funky (but I was very proud of it just the same!) Now I am more financially comfortable, but have scant free time, so if I can find things that match my requirements in quality, authenticity and cost, I usually buy them. One problem with being an artsy person is when I see something for sale, I think "I can make that", even if I can't! On the other hand, this attitude usually delays an impulsive purchase until I realize I am willing to pay for other people's time and expertise. For example, we have purchased two tents but did make all our poles, ropes and pegs - it took us at least a weekend or two to accomplish. It saved us about $200 overall, after the investment in materials.

  The next time factor is how often you plan on using your encampment. We realized that to set up our pavilion, furniture, and cooking area to our satisfaction would really require a full day. Therefore, we do not usually go to camping events that are less than three days, which means only holiday weekends. We do not find two-night weekends rewarding enough, as we need to break down a scant 24 hours after setting up. Before investing in equipment, especially a pavilion, you should consider how much time you have to set up your encampment and if it is better to have a smaller camp you can use more often, or a larger one that needs help and more time. Some people I know have also invested in a small tent, just so they can go to shorter events without as much commotion.


Transportation and Storage:

  You definitely need a large vehicle in order to transport a good-size pavilion. Pole length in particular is an issue (so be careful whether you decide on six or seven foot poles!), but the amount of canvas in a large marquis is also a factor. On the other hand, with good design and purchasing decisions, people like my friend Luke can exist quite happily with a hatchback. Over time, we migrated from small pickup truck, to Aerostar minivan with car-top carrier, to renting a U-Haul trailer for Pennsic.

  Several years ago we splurged and purchased a 8' x'10 trailer with a side door. This has been wonderful, as we keep all our gear in the trailer year round, and only have to do a fraction of the packing previously needed. With this kind of space plus a full size pickup truck, we obviously don't have to conserve on space like before, and can generously offer to haul things for other people as needed. However, we have suffered two breakdowns at camping events, which become much more complicated with a trailer, so be prepared! At first I had lots of ideas about building shelves and racks into the trailer to organize our stuff, but we still just pack it in. Note: one needs to be conscious of load with a trailer. We put all of our ironware at the front (near the truck) and our heavy chairs ahead of the axle. Wood poles are on one side and other wood/heavy stuff on the other to balance it while driving.

  Storage: We do leave our tent canvas near the top of the trailer so we can pull it out first for setup. We remove this, bedding items, archery gear and clothing at the end of the season for indoor storage. Some seasons I have been lazy and not removed the tent, beddingor clothing. Usually I find a bed of ants when this happens so now we place cedar disks in the gear and thoroughly spray the floor of the trailer with ant spray. This seems to help but I try to be good and take out the cloth. All the rest of the gear: wood, futon mattress (yes it is cloth so in danger) cooking gear, dishes etc., stay in the trailer. Once in a while I will get brave and excavate an item for a non-camping event, but in general it is a pain to dig it out so we keep a separate, more delicate set of feast gear for our day events. Our trailer lives outside as we do not have a garage, and most years we remember to jack up the wheels during out snowy winters (but not always!) We have never needed or invested in a storage trailer that remains at Pennsic - we prefer to have our gear near us at home.


Packing and Setup/Takedown:

  Generally, we have tried to learn better packing principles: pack in things you can actually use. We do not bring mundane "packing" like suitcases, plastic milk-crates, or round containers if we can avoid it. This is because once you arrive at the site, you simply unpack and try to hide the mundane items from view. Instead, we have purchased square or rectangular wicker baskets that stack easier, and we use these to store food products and clothing, books and toiletries on site. Any mundane kitchen products are easily covered with a piece of natural canvas or cloth, but the baskets themselves can remain visible. We also bring laundry bags that fit into wood stands to put behind our bed. They are not in themselves period, but keep laundry from getting damp from the floor, and blend better being of canvas and wood. You can spend a lot of money buying baskets from home decor stores, but a cheaper venue is Salvation Army, Goodwill, Savers or some of the charity stores. People are always donating baskets. Square or rectangular pack better. Recently I am trying to collect small medieval-looking versions of things like combs, mirrors, jewelry boxes so that I can simply bring those instead of a modern version that I need to cover.

  Any accessories we make are with great consideration given to their transport . Our large interior poles break down to half their length, and our bed, tables and benches break down as flat as possible. Limiting items like coolers by coordinating with other camp members also helps. In addition, we really try to put a hold on bringing mundane items unless we have absolutely no substitute. We do not bring "that extra director chair, just in case" anymore.

  The particular problem that my husband and I face is that we like to entertain. We enjoy having people drop by, and consequently are always trying to furnish and supply for many people, even if they don't camp with us. Therefore we have probably accumulated more stuff, than is necessary for a family of four. My suggestion is to share the load with your friends if possible, especially if you all go at approximately the same time. This will help counter the accumulation problem of one family, and spread the transport issues around. Some years we went to the July 4th event preceding Pennsic, we spread out all of our kitchen gear, including dry goods, ironware and feast gear, and decided what we really needed to take with us for Pennsic. Then we packed it all together. This saves us individual packing time, space and setup time at the site itself, as we already know what we have and still need.

  Setup: Since I have been a project manager in my professional life, our approach to camping events resembles a small military campaign. There are lots of lists, tasks and timelines in the period leading up to leaving, and I consider when we are going to arrive and how much daylight will be left, as well as how hot it will be. Sometimes we stay somewhere the night before Pennsicor other events to deliberately arrive around noon, refreshed, with a good breakfast, and ready to tackle the day. I really DO NOT like arriving at a site past 5 p.m. even in summer, as we only have about 3 hours before dark, when everything gets much harder. That said, I have set up in the dark, in the pouring rain, and mistakenly drank bubble liquid instead of seltzer water (then literally foamed at the mouth!) That was a memorable camping event which led to the lists, timetables and military campaign approach.

  Our goal for the afternoon or first day is to get the tent up, and most of our stuff out of the trailer and into the tent under cover. Beds and tables/chairs get setup the first night, and clothing goes up on the pegs. That's about it. By that time we are tired and want to eat and relax, before falling into bed. The first night we usually eat cold stuff and use a propane lantern for light. The next day is when I take over and spend a lot setting up theshelves, kitchen, banners, etc.

  For the last decade or so I have written a list of things I want to do for the encampment in the next event or season. I have many tattered pieces of paper that go missing and then re-appear in baskets or envelopes. Usually some things are accomplished and many are not. Also I have an indespensable and very important setup diagram (above). This is because we have all the hooks, shelves, pegboards and they have to go on in a certain order. This complex setup also ensures no one knows how to set it up except me, which is not ideal.An alternative approach is to set the tent up "vanilla", and then add all the bits the next day, but this does require loosening ropes, lifting canvas and ropes, so the diagram helps get the majority ready at time of setup.

  Takedown: I try to pack up little things and shelves the night before, clean the ironware and not do any hearth cooking the night before leaving to minimize the effort. We pack up and move things into the trailer starting with the tables and shelves. We have learned to takedown the tent roof onto the bed frame, which remains standing till the end (with bedding removed). This allows us to fold walls and roof on the bed at a more ergonomic height, and avoids having the canvas touch the ground and get grass and dirt on them. Lastly, I pack the trailer with thought to laundry and how long till the next event.

  A side note to Setup/Takedown (and Energy in the next section) is Humor and Attitude. I would get very grumpy while setting up or taking down camp, and impatient at kids or husbands. It helps to pace the setup or takedown and not go through without breaks. Else it becomes an exhausting exercise and not at all fun.


Energy and Attitude:

  This may sound off-topic, but setting up a period camp is not for sissies. I tell people: "It's more like moving house, and it isn't minimalist camping like the Boy Scouts!" It usually requires a fair amount of physical exertion, especially when you get into larger pavilion sizes. My husband and I cannot set up our pavilion alone, and so must rely on the help of friends or strangers. Luckily, people asking for help in the Society usually receive it. Still, lugging all the equipment around could be an issue for people of poor health, limited energy, or who camp alone. Consider weight and how awkward your accessories could be before investing in a purchase. In addition, I must comment that children tend to sap one's energy level anyway (at least smaller children do), but it becomes a real challenge when setting up a camp like this. Basically, we lose an adult to entertain the smaller children, so this should be considered also. Now that my children are older they get to help like any other "grown-up", and are particularly useful at driving or pulling stakes.


  Skill: It certainly helps to be handy, or creative enough to try new skills in creating a more period setting. I have become better at various types of woodworking, and painting will hide many faults with materials. Most of the decoration created in our camp comes from stenciling, which may not the decorative method used for all things in period, but helps the non-artist control the outcome. Sewing is useful, but in a crude manner, usually for various bags, bedding, wind walls, pennant, cooler covers, etc. Blacksmithing is a skill that we buy, and I have been at Pennsic, run down to one of the blacksmiths, had various bits made or repaired for our hearth. You can certainly buy most things needed, but you will eventually find that you want a more specific type of item, which will require your own hands or some custom treatment. It's fun to try and make these things. If they're not perfect, but functional - that's fine! You can always make a better one, or decide, like in my pavilion story, that you want to buy from someone who does it better.

  Well, now on to considerations of a more physical nature.



  There are many types to choose from on the market. I have already stated that I recommend purchasing over constructing on your own. As this piece is the heart of your encampment, and MUST be structurally durable in order to provide you pleasure, do not skimp here. It is an investment that will last many years with care, and one that you can personalize beautifully to suit your own tastes. If maintained well, it also has an excellent resale value should you outgrow it or wish for another design. Consideration must be made to the type of material: in general, I would recommend purchasing the more expensive canvas such as Sunforger Flame Retardant. The cost is certainly more than “regular” canvas, but it is treated to be flame retardant (not fireproof!), waterproof, and it allows a great deal of light into the tent. In addition it weighs less than regular canvas. I would also recommend wood pole construction over that of metal. Despite the ability to frame in jointed aluminum, metal construction is not as period in appearance as that of wood.

  There are several period tent makers that advertise regularly within SCA literature and appear at major events In general, you should do as much investigation as possible from people you know before purchasing from any particular vendor. Most tentmakers will require a deposit of between 20 to 50 percent to start construction. This usually takes several weeks, and peak season is of course the spring and summer. I ordered mine in late February and received it just in time for Memorial day. Note, I experienced communication difficulties with my vendor when I attempted to order something they considered to be custom. It eventually worked out fine, and I am perfectly happy with the quality, but this should be a consideration. If you want something specially made, be very sure to specify in writing and with diagrams the exact construction you expect. Do not assume that the vendor knows what you what imply because they make tents for a living. Don’t be afraid to give them feedback after you purchase it, either. Remember that these are major investments, and that vendors are interested in improving their quality and therefore expanding their business. Their survival depends on customers being happy and displaying their products to other potential buyers.

  If you buy a tent, take care of it! We have always tried to brush off grass and dirt from the canvas before folding and storing it. We NEVER store it damp. If it rains on the day of departure, and we have to pack it wet, we will unfold it at home and let it dry out. Occasionally, but not often this has happened (perhaps two or three times in 18 years so we are lucky!). When this happens I will sometimes take the time to wash it with mild soap and a brush. This takes off many layers of dust and grime. I believe the tent manufacturers suggest hosing off the dust each season, but usually we can't be bothered.

  A very good reference on period tents is Lord John Elys' (Stephen Bloch) page at . In this he covers both pictures of tents in period paintings, has a good list of tentmakers and discusses tent-making construction. I would recommend looking at the period tents for inspiration, and if you are seriously intent on making a pavilion, do as much learning from his site and others before you start! Another discussion on making pavilions can be found in the Compleat Anachronist #26 (Pavilions of the Known World, SCA, 1986)


  Note that as with many other items that we term "period", commercially made tents are really not exact replicas of those used in the middle ages and renaissance. In general you will notice that tents in period had different rope construction, seam placement and peak height. Still, these modern commercial versions are the closest approximations available on the market, and are very similar overall. Perhaps the most endearing characteristic of some period tents are the little "windows" that jut out from the roof. I know of no vendors who sell such modifications, and do not think this would be compatible with their construction methods.

Here is a photo taken at Estrella of a tent with a loft in it (ladder going up inside) and a window for ventilation. Very neat!

  I will not review all the various types of tents available on the market. It is easier to obtain a catalog and look at dimensions and comments put forth from the manufacturers. Instead, I will simply state my own experience and reasons that we have chosen various models. Each has merit. In choosing your own model, you should consider whether you will divide the space into "rooms" via hanging drapes, screens or the like. Take the time to draw the dimensions on graph paper so that you can play with it. If you own a bed, or just sleep on an air mattress, you will have to consider its placement within the tent. The hardest part is working around the center poles, be there only one or two.



Oval Marquis: This is my favorite model due to looks and similarity to those in period. They have a certain elegance that the squarer types do not possess, and setup is easier and quicker. A good friend had one which we found very easy to make the roof tight and without wrinkles. The major drawback to ovals is that they have 30 percent less floor space than their rectangular counterparts. A moderate size oval marquis (11' x 17') cannot be easily divided into rooms due to pole placement, which tends to be towards the end of the oval. If you are a one-bed household, you can put the bed in the middle and be fine but if you need more beds or rooms, you will need a much larger marquis to accomplish this. I cannot stress enough the need to lay out beds and rooms on a floor plan before purchasing a pavilion!

Rectangular Marquis: This is the model I chose (12' x 18') even though I liked the look of the oval better. I don't regret this choice, and we have loads of floor space since we chose slanted walls. This adds almost three feet all around the poles, and so our effective floor space is really 18' x 24' even though our ropes are still in the same place. We have noticed that it is harder to eliminate roof wrinkles in this model because it is not easy to get the four corner posts absolutely true. Still, we have never taken it down and started again, but try to get them as square as possible. After drawing my dimensions on graph paper and laying out the beds and space, I found this to be a fairly flexible model that allowed me to carve up the space into three spaces initially (bedroom, central day area, and child's room/stuff area), but more if I wanted it later. Over the years I have used several different layouts depending on the sleeping arrangements for my children. Originally a crib, then a crib and air-mattress, then a trundle bed that fit under our larger one, and now they sleep on separate cots to either side of us (teenagers wanting independent space). I have found that I can slice our pavilion either vertically or horizontally on a layout to create different rooms and spaces. Due to right angles this is not a problem. The picture to the left shows my encampment and rectangular pavilion.

Square Pavilion: Our friends chose a 15'x15' square pavilion after much consideration. The originally had to consider space limitations for only two people at Pennsic, and wanted to be able to divide the space into rooms. Their model is particularly attractive because the roof is sewn in gored triangles, as the originals in period would have been. In most tents, the roofs are made in straight rectangles of fabric with only side triangles being added to gain the desired shape. This means that painting the seams will not achieve the desired effect as the originals, but in this newer model this problem is overcome. We are all eager to see the roof painted with stripes down the seams, as we believe the effect will be identical to those in period. This model affords them plenty of space, but does not allow for a central area. No ridge poles are used in this particular model. Using curtains, our friends are able to accommodate both adult and children's sleeping areas. The white and gold example is a nice square pavilion at Estrella.

  Wedge and Wall tents: These are smaller choices that may be appealing for budget or transport reasons. A wedge can be very affordable, and is very versatile. It offers limited floor and upright space, but is the perfect "little" addition for children who are old enough to sleep on their own (and who enjoy more confined spaces) as a guest or storage tent, or as a shade or kitchen pavilion. It only uses three poles, a few ropes, and goes up in minutes. Two people on setup would be preferable, but I think that one could struggle along okay if necessary. A larger wedge certainly overcomes some of the space issues if it is needed for multiple adults and cost is a consideration. I bought a wedge last summer for my son and friend so they could sleep separate from us now that they are older and may come back late. We will also use it for day trips or when we want a "day tent" for troll or other event purposes. Wall tents are also good candidates for cost issues. They afford more storage space because part of their walls can be jacked up with small poles or branches so that the walls do not slope in immediately. They are also easy to set up.

  Viking Tent: I have seen a number of people make their own Viking tents. In general, they are a lot easier to construct than medieval pavilions. Consisting of an "X" that crosses close at the top and wide at the bottom, with two ground poles used as stretchers and one on top. The "X" in front and back are usually carved or painted for decoration. These are good tents for one or two people: it is hard to fit more than one bed inside, but it has a good deal of headroom. Since I am not a Viking in persona, I cannot speak to any other accessories.


Round Pavilion: I confess to having little experience with a round pavilion, other than loving the way they look. Unfortunately, they have the issue of much less floor space than any of the above models. In general, I think this is a good option if you have only one bed, and are okay with a smaller living space. One option could certainly be to use a square area in the middle using curtains, and use the space behind the curtains for storage of unsightly modern objects. There are a number of construction methods out there. Certainly they are a very period model. These were photographed at Estrella War and are lovely examples of various decorating:



Ground Coverings:

 I purchased a regular heavy canvas groundcloth (10 oz?) with my tent and could not lift it. Remember that a purchased groundcloth is the full square footage of your tent floor, versus walls that are in pieces, so a groundcloth will be even heavier than the roof if of regular (heavier) canvas. I have abandoned use of my groundcloth after it became so saturated with dirt, mildew and grime after a few years, and use pieces of it for covering our wood.

  Many people use some type of plastic tarp as a floor - certainly this creates a waterproof barrier, but is obviously not period. I don't like plastic because it crinkles underfoot, which I find very annoying. If you are intent on this course of action, I would recommend at least getting a brown or green color versus the garish blue! Another option is to use the clear plastic disposable dropcloths for painting underneath a more suitable floor covering, like carpets or canvas. This would keep it cleaner, but with less crinkling noise.

  I have never used carpets, although I know many people who do. Certainly the Turkish-motif carpets can be very period-looking if you wish to haul it. I know there are indoor-outdoor types now available.

Burlap: Somewhere in the middle of my groundcloth's demise, I decided that I needed an alternative floor decor to "mold and mildew". My solution was to get wide lengths of burlap at the fabric store, sew them into large mats, and paint a design on them. Due to their loose-weave, they are easy to shake out, and don't get muddy. I use them straight on the ground. Burlap is not especially easy to paint, and my design is quite crude in execution, but it has served fairly well. I like the burlap because it is light, stays clean and doesn't take up much room.


  Painted Groundcloth: This was a project for in 2008. I had seen friends paint small versions of this, but I wanted a large one for the whole floor area. The great advantage of a painted groundcloth is that can be hosed off and resist the dirt and grime of the unpainted kind. These are made with canvas, treated with gesso (as with an artist's canvas) and then polyurethaned for sealing. For smaller versions you can purchase pre-gessoed canvas from online art stores, but for a very large sized cloth (like my entire tent floor 18'x24') I would spend about $200. Originally I wanted to have a full 18x24 groundcloth, but after two square feet of gessoing, decided there was no way that would happen. Instead, I scaled down to two 9'x12' untreated painter's dropcloths, gessoed and polyurethaned them. I will make a couple of smaller floor cloths to fill in the main gaps where we need them - like getting behind the beds. Due to the scale of this, I did a rather large cruder design or risk the project never getting done. In reality, I finished one and have used it for five years now. The other one is ready for stenciling but still sits in my basement! It is possible to paint the cloth without using gesso first, but the painting effort will take longer and it is harder to paint rougher weave fabric - gesso makes it smoother. I believe floor cloths are "period" but have not tried to document them myself. At any rate, anything is better than plastic! Note: make sure your roll up painted cloths versus folding as they will crack.

  Straw: If available on site, this is an excellent covering for floor, especially the entry-way, which usually becomes a bit muddy given a little wet weather. At weekend events, we will always try to grab a bale or two, because it will save your encampment in case of heavy rain. I have often been the porta-john "fairy", strewing straw on the walkway to and in front of this popular destination - for our camps benefit, but also for the general public. The main drawback to straw is getting it in your bed if you don't brush off your feet, and cleanup. Caveat: at some events, now at Pennsic, they will not allow the straw to be dispersed like this, even if you promise to clean it up. Another use for straw is to stuff a bed-tick. That is a cover that holds stuffing. I didn't mind the straw so much but my husband hated it. It does get a bit hard and lumpy, probably more tolerable with a featherbed on top. After a few years of sleeping on straw he rebelled and we acquired a second-hand futon mattress from a friend, He is MUCH happier now!



  Most tentmakers will provide an optional awning for each tent. The most simple type covers the entryway with two poles sticking out. Like a patio or porch area for your home, you will usually want some outdoor covered area for either simply "being outside" or to cover things that you want to leave outside (like armor) but don't want to get wet. Again, consideration to this should be given before you order, although awnings can be purchased afterward. However, be very careful if you decide to order an awning later. Do not assume that your vendor remembers your exact tent, although it may be standard dimensions. Construction methods and materials change over time, and you may end up with an awning with different grommet or tie placement etc if you are not very specific. It took me three returns of my awning to get it right - this was due to it being "custom" at the time, and my assuming the vendor knew/remembered certain things about my tent.


  Awnings can also turn into rooms, if you order the roof with the same treatment as you would the tent roof itself. Our friends ordered an awning later, bought another three walls and turned their square pavilion into a two-room. Here are a couple of nice awnings: on a communal bar and in the Outlands camp at Estrella:


  Consider RAIN in your selection of an awning. My selection was a non-period "porch" - a flat wide area, that gives us another 10 feet across our entire frontage. We use this for dining and our kitchen, and it looks very nice. However, we have to be vigilant when it rains, as the pitch of the porch roof is not very great. We usually stick an extra pole in the middle and drop the end corners a lot if it rains hard.(See photo above) I hate this aspect as I feel like I'm living in a hobbit hole with the corners that low, and usually wake up to check it. If it is during the night we leave it canted like this and are assured of rest. I am sure there is a scientific method to determine how long or wide a roof can be, combined with pitch, to keep from collecting rain. Occasionally we use our pole-arm to poke off pockets of rain from the awning, but you have to be careful as over time this will affect the weave and drops of water will come through.



Decorating the Pavilion and around Encampment: No matter what type of pavilion you choose, there are many things you can do to make your tent more appealing to the eye.

  Painting and Stenciling: Decoration of the tent is the most obvious, and probably makes the most difference in setting your pavilion apart from those around it. We have found stenciling to be the easiest method, especially for those who are not artists. Anyone can do it, and all that is needed is a well cut stencil. I was taught this by Faoiltighearna and it has helped me decorate both my modern home and encampment. You can see some basic instructions she wrote at: As our friends acquire pavilions, we invite them to drop buy, and we will help them cut a stencil and show them how to do it. Many people choose to decorate their borders or dagging area, and this is the easiest place to start. A straight border affords the most versatility of you have not chosen a design at the time you buy your tent. However, the dagging area is also the most limited, so it is important to size the decoration or stencil pattern to within its limits. Any decoration on fabric of this size (even for small tents) takes a lot of patience and time. The dagging on my pavilion and awning totals 102 feet! That is a lot of painting. I went on to paint the roof peak, and will one day get to doing the walls. I found that painting the roof made the most difference in looks, and painted tents in period frequently were decorated in several layers of decoration starting at the peak and working their way down. It is important that you scale your decoration to large size, and not obsess about small details, for they will rarely be noticed. It will also take you an eternity to finish if you treat painting a tent the same way that you might paint a manuscript. I added little dots to my roof that I cannot even see from the ground, so won't make that mistake again. Consider also the period that you are trying to recreate. These tents are basically all medieval and renaissance, so Viking or Islamic motifs are not necessarily appropriate. On the other hand, this is definitely a labor of love, so you need to paint something you can live with.

  If you choose to paint or stencil your tent, use a fabric or general purpose acrylic paint available in craft stores (get the larger bottles, not the 3" size!) and mix it with a bit of fabric medium. This is a white liquid (it won't change the color of your paint) that allows it to seep into the fabric better. It will not seep through the sunforger canvas, but would possibly through lighter fabric. Don't use straight housepaint on fabric! It gets very stiff, and may crack when you fold up your canvas. Be smart and start on an area in the back until you get the hang of it, and don't sweat mistakes. If you stencil the tent over many years, you will notice a shrinkage in the tent canvas that may affect the stencil placement. I finally finished my front dagging last year and found that the stencil was not quite the right size. No matter, I squashed it in and did not worry about the occasional overlap. A perfectionist would probably have cut a new, slightlty smaller stencil. Lastly, you will see in the pictures of my encampment that I paint a lot of stuff using stenciling. Over the years I have accumulated and cut a lot of stencils, so I tend to re-use old stencils for new projects if I am lazy. I started with a rabbit table, and then made a rabbit shelf. I used some of the roof stencils for my floor canvas. I used Gilded Pearl (an old East Kingdom group) design on my chairs, and also mixed in motifs from my custom medieval ceramics designs. So never throw away a stencil!

  Finials also add splash, and these can be painted to match the tent. The most available are round or spired, and wood ones can be found in the drapery sections of home or hardware stores at approximately $2 each. The spired type are harder to drill, as the tops taper, so it may be necessary to trim your tent pole pins.

  Fringe can be added to a straight roof overlap, although I would not want to sew it on. This is for the same reason as I will never sew another pavilion - the canvas is way too heavy to drag through the machine, and you are best served with a commercial machine anyway. But Isabella's tent did look wonderful with that fringe! To the left is a lovely fringed tent from Estrella.


  Banners and Pennants: The addition of a banner flying from the peak is also beautiful, and is the best opportunity to advertise your camp to those who are searching for it. My center poles do not allow for the attachment of a banner as they do not poke through the canvas. But you can set them outside on their own poles if this is the case. A good article on the use of flags and heraldic displays can be found in Tournaments Illuminated # 148, fall 2003 (Flags, Banners and Heraldic Displays by Rey Baretto, p 14-18) . It provides dimensions, defines the various types, and is a good heraldic reference. It also gives a little information on construction. Some silk pennants fluttering in the breeze are on my list to make in the future



Windwalls: I am not sure whether wind walls have any period origin, or if we have created these as a visual indicator between encampments. However they do serve as an excellent opportunity for color and heraldry. Many people use simple fabric, and slash it. I prefer to look at period heraldry, and created a project a few years ago to paint motifs from the Siena cathedral floor on 8 canvas windwalls. We don't need slits in them, as there are gaps inbetween. I simply purchased 58" wide Sunforger and cut it into 5 foot lengths). My wind walls are multi-functional - I have casings on the top, through which we normally thread cord to pull the walls tight, and wound round wooden poles inserted into "portable holes" (a useful, although probably not period accessory: two iron rings welded onto rebar which can be hammered into the ground to hold a pole. This prevents the need to put a spike on the pole itself and is easier to put in the ground). When not used as walls, they can be hung as banners indoors or out, by inserting the poles horizontally through the casing. These have been useful in decorating various drab surroundings and are large enough to hide mundane sights. I would advise the use of large motifs to get the right effect. Otherwise, like the tent, the decoration will disappear in the large amount of canvas. Pictured are some favorites from Estrella and a photo of my own project with four of the 8 animals shown.

  Mudwalls: I want to mention here that we do have a length of cheap muslin, with a few casings sewn in, and 36" width. It runs on a cord across the top and ties to a few ground stakes. I ran to the merchants one season to get this fabric because there was a lot of rain at Pennsic and our tent was on a main road. As cars went by they splashed my tent with the mud, and I wanted to avoid this. So our muslin "mudwall" is unadorned and purely functional: to take the mud from the road and not get it on our tent!. It is washable, and I don't put it up unless I see a lot of rain and mud appear.


Sunscreens: Several years ago I made quick screens out of cheap white muslin. I have been using them ever since, and they are probably 15 years old! I simply made long (about 7 feet) lengths of cloth, and sewed casings top and bottom. Through each casing I inserted a wooden 4 foot dowel of about 1/2" diameter, with a staple at each end of the cloth to hold them in place. I drilled small holes through the ends of the dowels, and threaded some cord (waxed lacing works great) through in a loop. The loops can be tied or go over tent poles - whatever works for the occasion, and we simply move them around during the day as the sun moves. Being white they get bleached out naturally. Once every few years I will wash them down with a hose and soap, or repair the staples. These really help block the sun, and they can go on top of the tent (for moving around easily as the sun shifts), or under the tent roof. In the picture they are on top. They also help keep the rain out of the open area as water wicks down the fabric, even though they are thin and cheap!



  Shelves can be made of simple boards strung between two poles. Rope or upholstery webbing can be used as slings, and loop over the tent poles with grommets if needed. These shelves are very sturdy, and can actually be placed one above the other if necessary. This is the easiest way to get stuff off the floor, and placing mundane items in small baskets on the shelves looks fine. You can anchor the rope to the pole by tying a small piece of string around the rope near each shelf. This will help stabilize against wind and slackening of exterior ropes. Take a little time to make your rope loops, straps or webbing the same length so you don't have to worry about uneven slant on shelves. Usually there will be some depending on ground level.

  Small iron hooks that go over pole tops can be bought from some tent vendors or blacksmiths: these can be used for hanging garb, cloaks, or to fit a closet pole between, thus creating a portable garb rack. The type of hook you purchase for a rack will depend on what type of walls you have: straight or slanted. I can use hooks that sit flush on the tent poles because I have slanted walls, but people with straight walls need to search for pole hooks that extend out from the poles and allow for the width of a coat hanger on the rack (similar to a plant hanger).

  Hanging Clothing: I used to put a closet pole (with finials on the ends) up on the iron hooks to hang our clothing. But I abandoned this because I hated the look of coathangers(not period and a pain to manage!) I am now much happier with peg-hooks on a board. These can be easily made with dowels and a board, then hung on iron hooks between the tent poles. I made two decent size peghook boards for either side of my tent. I am happy to say I did not require my husband’s woodworking skills for this, although pegs were flying all over the basement using my technique! Just drill holes slightly smaller than the dowel width and bang them in with a hammer. Drill two holes on top and bottom at the ends of the board. You put the iron hook through the top one, then tie the bottom hole to the pole with some twine to stabilize if needed. If I am hanging fancier clothing, I will sometimes hang it by the sleeve arm rather than back of the neck. Judgement should prevail on heavier items. Storing clothes in wicker hampers is fine if you don't mind wrinkles. Again, if your tent walls are straight vs. slanted like mine, you will probably need a hook that extends out away from the wall.

  Clothes Hangers on Pole (Before) vs the new and improved Clothes on Pegboard (After)

  Room dividers can be easily rigged to screen of less attractive areas or for privacy. The easiest way is to string a line (that does not sag or stretch) between poles, and then attach your drapes with curtain rings or through a channel in the fabric. Of course, using appropriate fabric also helps the ambiance - plain colored sheets do not give the same effect as a painted panel or a swath of damask. Take cues from painting of period interiors, as these will help you determine what is appropriate. Unfortunately, there are relatively few paintings where the inside of a tent can be seen, so one has to interpret normal interior decorations and apply this knowledge sensibly. (see Stephen’s website for tent interiors in period)

For standing screens, a similar concept to the sunscreens is used: Take fabric and use the entire width, making casings at top and bottom. I used 60" fabric, seweed two widths together forming a center casing also. I inserted wooden poles (closet poles are fine) and they are about six feet tall. So each screen has three poles, three casings and two dowels (flat wood is also fine) that stretch the top pieces so they don't bunch up. The trickiest issue is deciding on the base. I have recebtly found tiki torch iron holders that may be the best looking and functional. You need weight on the base so they don't tip over. Lighter poles (like aluminum) might help, but be less period. I also like to use these in vigils or to create a small private space at events, like a royal room. You can see I stencilled mine with fleur-de-lis and also made a tablecloth to match so I have my little blue and gold room anywhere I need it!


General Storage: As mentioned in the transportation section, you will be better off using the same containers to transport and store onsite. Forgo the Rubbermaid tubs in favor of large wicker baskets with lids or cloth covers. We always seem to end up with some modern stuff about, which I try to push behind the bed or behind the larger baskets. For many years we would have toys about, although we try to use more period types, and these are stored in large burlap drawstring bags.



Lighting: Getting enough light for tasks can be a particularly difficult problem, given our (sensible) phobia of open flames in tents. Battery lights (even flickering holiday candles!) are not the same as the real thing. This becomes an issue of you wish to entertain in your pavilion at night. There is really no substitute for candlelight, and the most beautiful addition is probably a chandelier hanging from the peak. At least it is out of harm's way, and under normal circumstances should not present any problems. It is far safer than having an open candle on the nightstand or attached to poles, so please do not do this. If you are going to have flame in your tent, invest in a chandelier, and keep an eye on it, especially during bad or windy weather. Chandeliers do come in both short candle and oil varieties, and both are fairly safe as they contain the flame within glass globes.

  A few years ago, Emerson shared his design for a wooden chandelier. These are based on ones seen in King Rene's Tournament book and are very simple and portable. We made one with six legs, or you can have a couple of four legged cross versions. They use tealights and can be lowered using a chain or rope pulley. Tealights usually extinguish while we are asleep and are cheap. Note that they allow enough light to see things in the tent but not to read in bed.

  Emerson also shared the idea of a floating oil lamp in a glass: very simple to make using lamp oil or olive oil, a cork disk, metal disk on top, and a lampwick strung through the middle. The glass and water magnify the light, which help for table areas. The water is also a safety mechanism that will extinghuish the flame if spilled. Glass il lamps are represented in the middle ages, and the most period shape is a U or globe with a waist.

  Since the original floating cork version I have since experimented with various oil lamp sizes and shapes in an effort to produce reading light at night. For oil I use plain olive oil and for the wick I buy cotton cording from the fabric store. Instead of a cork floater and metal disk (which can block the light of the flame) I use three strand twisted wire wedged inbetween the two halves of a small brass grommet (Size "00"). This holds the wicks and suspends it from three edges of the glass. They are easy to make with a little beading wire and some pliers. I simply squiggle the ends to they are a little more decorative and bend them to fit the glass shape.

  Here are some photos of a recent experiment with glass and water.

  I have seen photos of 19th century sewing circles that use bottles of water around a single candle: the bottles magnify the light. The other variable is wick size: I have used a very large wick (1" wide cotton webbing) and it does create a much bigger flame (but burns more oil). I have a small set of six globes in an iron-ring chandelier that I have rigged on my table with an iron stand. Due to the number of globes it does throw enough light to read from. I also hang two small oil lamps from either side of my kitchen shelves.

  Lighting the oil lamps can sometimes be tricky: it has to be above room temparature, the wicks need to have old char removed each night, and sometimes the flame needs to be held to the wick for 15-20 seconds: this heats the oil below enough to light the flame. A small amount of oil 1/2" or less, will burn enough for a night. Note: Don't try this at home for long! During a 7 day power outage we burned out large wick oil lamp in the house and I can still see the soot stains on the ceiling! It drives home how smoky the middle ages could be! Master Bedwyr has some good handouts on lamps and lighting that I used to get started:

  For other areas, smaller lanterns look wonderful, and there are many types available at fairly low cost. Most of these are not really period (including some of my own), but they do supply ambiance. I have noticed that candle lanterns, particularly those with glass on all sides actually provide more light than oil. Liquid paraffin should be chosen instead of citronella or standard lamp oil for those choosing oil models, as it will not blacken the glass or smoke as much.

  A good source on various aspects of period camping, including lighting, furniture and kindred ideas can be found on Master Terafan Greydragon's website: I am pleased to say I knew Terafan years ago in Germany, when we were all challenged by U.S. military jobs and lack of available resources for period camping. Years later, looking around for research on this article, I came across his site and am delighted in our similar interests despite the separation of years and geography!




  There are usually two types of beds that people build for camping (besides modern camping beds, air mattresses or cots). These are rope beds and slat beds. Both have period origins. I know many people who have rope beds, which are made by interweaving ropes in and out of a wooden frame. Due to their complaints about how long this took to set up, and the sagging that inevitably happens after sleeping on it a while, we decided to make slat beds instead.

  Prior to this we had bought a herculon and wood bed, which was fine for one person, but two people tended to roll into the middle, like a hammock. We did use it for children for a while. Anything that gets you off the ground is welcome, as most people find when the weather is cold.

  Our slat beds were fairly easy to make, and we used cedar and pine - in this case we did not use any polyurethane, since we hoped our beds would always be under cover! The slats can be kept separate, but we used upholstery tape (which is essentially wide burlap strips) to hold them together and in place, We just roll these up and unroll them - a very quick setup.

  We have used a variety of mattresses on these beds: air mattresses, until we got fed up with the air escaping in the middle of the night. We changed to a straw tick, which is a big rectangle of tough fabric, essentially a huge pillowcase, stuffed with straw. This is quite fun to do, and very period. However, as my husband's back got worse, so did his sleep on the straw tick. At one Pennsic I was accused of torture, and forced to buy some foam cushions to offset the cement-like feel he claimed it had. I did not find it as bad; others have told me that some feather beds on top of the straw works really well, but I had already gone past that degree of tolerance. Now we use an inherited futon mattress with a foam egg-crate top, which is squishy enough to be comfortable.

  I have seen several people make four-poster beds which, of course, are extremely period. Anyone who has slept in very cold weather can tell you that actually pulling the drapes closed will help retain heat, especially if there is a canopy on top. So these beds were not just for ostentation - the drapes were very useful. If you go to Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, a living history site, you will see many four poster beds with wool drapes. This makes absolute sense given the climate of New England. Many people use cotton or other cheaper fabric for their drapes, but wool would have been the most practical. Here is a picture of our bed (with straw tick and down comforter), and my friend Catriona's lovely four-poster: Beds are also very useful for stuffing unsightly objects underneath. You can also make a trundle bed for children or other people that can go underneathe. Our bed is high enough to do this.



  Many years ago in the SCA I was in love with the Savonarola chair, and really wanted to build these for my campsite. I never did, although I have seen many people create these, and you can also find mass-produced ones in Italy and through various vendors who cater to the medievalist.

  Savonarola Chair (Italian, 15th Century)

  Glastonbury Chair (English, 14th Century)

  After I started acquiring all this gear, I realized that the chairs would not fold flat, and however much I loved them, they were not practical for camping, and usually pinched one's butt. I know that many people in the SCA now make "plus-size" versions to be more comfortable, but I turned my interest to a Glastonbury chair instead, due to it's flat, folding and easily disassembled nature. Terafan has done an excellent job of mapping various Glastonbury Chairs on his website, provides a simplified pattern, and these can also be found in detail in the book, "Medieval Furniture". Note that the book version is a pattern off the original chair, which resides in Glastonbury, England (hence the name), but is not for the novice woodworker. When my husband and I read the book, we realized there was quite a bit of fiddling in the angles of the seat. Being simple people who want relatively instant reward for our efforts, we were deterred from this pattern, and continued to lust after the chair a bit longer. Coincidentally, a few years ago, I ran into a Victorian era copy in the Colt Mansion chapel, and the owners kindly allowed me to disassemble, measure and trace as much as possible. This gave us some exact dimensions and the ability to simply trace the rather ornate arms in plywood to try a mockup. At the same time, I wandered through the Cloisters Museum in New York, and came upon another version, which I had not seen before: A Box Chair. It was love at first sight! A Glastonbury Chair with Storage: an SCA camper's dream! I wriggled around on the floor taking numerous photos, and came back resolved to finally build a bloody chair.

  Original Box Chair: Italian 15th Century - Cloisters Museum, New York.

  Left: The original is carved wood with a lighter "something" rubbed or stained in the relief to make the carving stand out. There are human figures on the front backrest, and lions and dragons on the arms. There was an additional piece for the backrest, now missing (slots are visible). The general motif has acanthus leaves as ornament. The box-cover seat is bare (undecorated), which suggests it had a pillow on it.


  Below: Testing of the mockups before they were painted - note trial arms: these were at first the same style but later changed to be different for each chair.


  The problem with a decent mockup is that you may never build the real one. We made two models, one smaller (for my 5'5" frame) and one larger for my husband's 6'0" frame. We did make the initial arms out of plywood, but then substituted them for normal 2x4 pine. The frame is made out of pine, with the box sides out of plywood and the "legs" (stubby though they are) out of round wood finials.


  We tested them for an event or two, and then I decided that they were keepers, so resorted to paint in order to hide the plywood. The original was carved, but the wood variations gave it a brown and white look, so I chose the same colors for my paint. There may have been paint added to the carving on the original chair: but no evidence remains except the white: it is clear that on the side panel of the box there are two female figures, which are only outlined at this point. It would have made sense to give the figures definition using paint, as many other statues and cassone (wedding chests) were painted also.

  We have been really happy with these chairs - our friends Catriona and Uther built at set at the same time. They are great for storing mundane items: I keep paper goods, batteries, CDs, garbage bags, etc. in mine, and they break down into a box with handles and some flat pieces of wood. We use pegs to put them together, and add a cushion on the seat and back for comfort. Our designs are not as elegant as the original or Glastonbury chair'ss subtle angles, but they worked well for our intermediate wood working skills.


  Here are the patterns for the larger chair if you are interested in making them! You can choose between arm styles - the plans show the Glastonbury style arm, but my smaller chair has the original arm style.

  In addition to the Savonarola, Glastonbury and Box Chair mentioned, there are many other types of chairs that one can use. My friend Muriel has ventured into making some lovely "X" chairs - which are similar to the Savonarola, but have simple X slats and no back. These can also be purchased by various vendors who market to the SCA. Period stools can be fashioned fairly simply, and have the advantage of breaking down flat.

  16th century stool from Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  Plans based on this stool can be accessed on John LaTorre's website: John came to a Pennsic class I hosted on period camping, and we had great fun sharing notes. John published The Pavilion Book (ISBN 978-0-9796035-0-3) which is a great resource with much more detail on tents than I have in this article! The book is available as an e-book from Amazon, but you can also buy a paper copy from various SCA merchants.

  Of course, there are other types of chairs like the "Viking" chair (2 pieces of flat wood, one slit through the other), and wooden camping chairs that are more period in looks. My favorite, item for the budget constrained is simply the canvas folding stools sold by various vendors. They are about $10-15 and give a much better look than modern camping goods, are light to carry, and easily toted around a camp fire. I also use one of mine to hold my wooden keg - it has stained the seat, but no matter.

  Another neat and simple idea is simply a round of wood (from a tree that is!) with some holes chiseled out for sturdy branches or turned wood to be stuck in it. These can even be disposable if you don't have room to haul them back!


  Many people use chests or stools instead of long benches. Most extant furniture from the period are smaller stools, not long benches. I think this is because mass seating would probably have been cruder and not as well kept. Of course, church pews are benches also. Longer benches do require some sort of support - usually one or two stretchers across underneath the seating area to prevent sagging in addition to stretchers on the bottom to keep the legs upright.


  Temporary Tables and Sawhorses

  As mentioned above, there are various temporary ways to achieve a table, and the easiest for the beginning camper is usually a store-bought plastic table and a table cloth - the longer the better. Graduating from that, some plywood on a set of saw-horses is easy, although wide boards on home made sawhorses (without snapping metal jaws) are better solutions and entirely period.

  Box Tables and Benches:

  In 1991 we made the trek to the XXV year celebration in Texas. We had no period pavilion at the time, but started our furniture accumulation by building a box table and benches. I call them this because the table top folds in half into a box, and the bench tops combined make another long box. The design is not period - I believe we bought the pattern way back then, and I have seen a few patterns around since then for sale. My husband did a really nice job on these, and they have lasted 23 years, with only a minor repair (too much weight on a knot made a bench break - we reinforced it with a board underneath and screws). People still walk over and ask us about them, which proves that even “periodish” things can be admired greatly. Although polyurethane is not period, (but some varnishes were), we take the precaution of giving our furniture a liberal coat or two, as they are often exposed to rain. In 16 years we have not coated the table or benches, but they have held up fine, with a somewhat battered and worn look which helps them look more period. "Camping" and "shiny" don't seem to go together.


  Later on, when I needed a table to use for our camp kitchen, my husband created a modified box table, but designed it with crossed legs to provide stability. It certainly is stable, and we made it higher (34") so that it would be more comfortable to cut or knead on than a standard height dining table (30"). However, the crossed legs have "feet" that don't allow the whole assembly to fit into one box. So we have a piece left over. This uses metal bolts instead of wooden pegs, which also takes longer to set up. Like the box tables, it is not a period design, but packs nice and is SOLID!

Box table for kitchen

  Trestle Table:

  Some years ago, we resolved to make more a more period table. My friend Emerson was again the source of inspiration, and showed us his trestle table - similar to the idea of boards on saw horses. The difference here is that the trestles have three legs, instead of the modern four, which make them suitable for uneven ground. This was an exercise in frustration at first, because our modern woodworking skills made us shy away from a simply chisel and hammer, power tools did not work for the holes.

  The trestle is a block of wood with three rectangular slots chiseled out. The legs, narrow at the top and wider at the bottom, fit into the slots. Our outside table leg is wider and more ornate than the inner ones, although this is not necessary. The trick (and it is a trick - you cannot do this by creating a symmetrical slot), is to chisel one side of the slot straight, and the other will be slanted. The straight of the leg fits into the slot, and the pressure of the slant kicks the leg into an angle, but it stays in place due to the straight side of the slot. This is not at all complicated but is hard to describe. Do not make the mistake of slanting both sides of the slot like we did (and had to start again with another block. Likewise, if the slots are too big (over chiseling), the legs will fall off a lot. The legs should fit tightly, and leaving the wood unvarnished at the top can help them stick better. Note that nothing is permanent - the table top, trestle blocks and legs can all come apart. We originally screwed the trestle to the underside of the table for more stability, but eventually removed it. The setup is simple enough: stick the legs in the trestle tops, and pound them in till they stay put. The put the table top on. Note: leaving the trestle tops unvarnished is better. We used polyurethane and it makes them a bit slippery.

  I once visited Stratford on Avon, and toured Anne Hathaway's cottage. In it they have a 16th century table with game notches and holes in it. This gave me the idea of painting a chess and cribbage board on the table before the protective layer of polyurethane. We play a number of games, and this allows us to just keep the pieces nearby, versus bulkier boards. Again, having succumbed to a "paint or decorate everything" mentality, I also painted a similar design on that complements my other furniture. We have not perfected the trestle table yet, but would like to try some benches to see how they would work. Like chairs, benches and stools, there are many other types of tables, but these are useful for camping as they break down easily. Here are two tables we made at the same time: our game table and Catriona and Uther's plain table:



Other Accessories, Kitchen Setup and Cooking Hearth
Like in my regular 21st century home, the kitchen in my campsite is really the heart of the encampment. I think this is the area and activity that makes me feel the most medieval.

  Here is how I set up my kitchen: Box table for prep with two board shelves suspended over. I store all my cups, plates, bowls on the shelves. I used to have large baskets with mundane cooking equipment (saucepans, etc) underneath, but now try to only bring one medium saucepan and a single bottle of propane with a burner on top. This is for the much-needed coffee first thing when I wake up, and the occasional lazy moment for heating soup or something modern. I have three rectangular baskets underneath with various provisions. If they are modern, I cover them with canvas or a towel. I suspend bags of flour and sugar from hooks (using plastic bags inside the muslin).

  Spices, oils, sugar, etc are brought in small glass jars or bottles with corks. I use recycled Don Julio tequila bottles for olive and corn oil. After seasons of converting modern containers to "period" and back, I simply keep all the above in the "period" containers even in my kitchen. Makes packing a lot faster!

  I have an extra couple of pieces of sunforger canvas that I hook to the kitchen area to cover it from rain, dew and sun. It is staked out with tabs or pieces of strong string. An extra wall could be used as this, but I rigged it together over time and it is rather crude. I have found that setting up my ironware under the cover of the canvas, but to the side where it is accessible, is better than leaving it out near the hearth overnight. I also use some pieces of scrap lumber under the baskets and ironware so the grass, bugs and damp do not make them yucky after several days or a week. This helps departure and cleanup time, and will often avoid the need to hose off the basket bottoms or recoat the iron with oil. For garbage we use a small canvas laundry bag on a stand, with a plastic bag in it. Probably a large round wicker basket would be more authentic, but the advantage of the folding stand is it travels flat and we can close it to avoid rain and bugs.

  Cooking Hearth: As mentioned above, ironware can be a bit of an investment but can be worth it. I bought my tripod and kettle before I had any other camping gear. These can cost a bit, but dutch ovens and frying pans are easily available at modern camping stores, charity shops or tag sales. Try those before buying full price (half the fun is a bargain!)

  My inventory is several sizes of frying pans, two large modern dutch ovens (we bake in these), a couple of smaller older dutch ovens, the medium three legged cauldron, a tiny one, a small copper pot with lid. Tripod and spit, grill and various implements.

 As a starting kit, I would recommend one dutch oven, a small and large frying pan. The dutch oven is not the most period shape, but is versatile and can be used for baking or cooking. Getting a tripod, or a spit that can convert to tripod is another good investment. I cannot begin to describe the benefit of meat cooked over a wood fire on a spit! You do need to season the ironware by heating it in the oven with oil for a couple of hours. I am not a fanatic about cleaning the ironware a certain way - I just make sure to clean and oil it before I store it back in the trailer or it will get rusty. I do sometimes use soap, but not much - boiling water is the easiest way to clean it.

  The most critical implements are: a shovel for putting ashes on top the dutch ovens, a log gripper, a fan or bellows for flame encouragement, a hatchet for making good-size cooking kindling, and gloves. I made woolen oven mits long ago, or leather work gloves are useful and easy. I made a small muslin "fuoco" (fire) bag that hides a plastic ziplock. This contains matches, a litte tinder and some dryer lint that can be used in case other stuff gets wet. We usually have a bucket of water near the fit for safety, and always try to set it up 10 feet away from canvas.

I have a lot of cooking gear now, so my setup depends how much cooking I will do and how many people will be helping. I do have a modern small portable firepit that I bring to events that don't permit a ground fire. I can suspend either the tripod or spit over it but not both, so this is my minimalist setup. Cooking a more complex meal requires two portable firepits.

 If I will be camping for a week and we will have a number of people participating, we dig a rectangular pit, about six feet long and three feet wide. This can be dug, or we have used bricks, stones or flag stones on the grass to avoid digging. A raised hearth is easier on the back. We have three areas: One for the grill (not used very often but handy for grilling or using with a frying pan; one for the spit and one for the tripod. Usually we bake before doing meat or the tripod/kettle so just move the fire around. I could go on for days about firepit cooking and there is a fair amount of activity in this area nowadays. My advice is simply: try it! Have fun! Eat your mistakes - they will be few!

Cooler Covers: Obviously, anything that needs covering is not period. Terafan has an article on making wooden coolers, but so far we have not done this. We come from early SCA training that taught: "if it isn't period looking - cover it". Burlap works well for this (does not draw attention), or you can decorate a cloth one, although this has no more merit than any other non-period item! My more recent covers are plain canvas and allow the cooler to be opened without pulling off the whole cover. Panther Primitives carries a number of coller covers and other useful bags. I prefer to simply buy the canvas from them and make my own to fit.


  Kegs: Having a water keg is much nicer than plastic coolers or water bags. This is an investment, but lasts for many years (our is about 20, althought taps need more frequent replacement). These are readily obtainable from Panther Primitives and other vendors. They come in Humongous, Large (5 gallon) and small sizes. We use the 5 gallon for our camp. Taps are also available from them. If you are new to this concept, you need to remember that water swells the wood - this is how the water stays in. When you first use a water keg each season, the water will pour out of the cracks -it is not broken! The fastest way to fill it is to immerse it in cool clean water for several hours: use a large cooler or sink. I had to do this quickly this summer - the keg was swollen enough in about four hours to keep water in, but it still leaked. Normally, I get the keg out the day before and keep filling it with water outside, allowing it to leak out then refilling it. I used to do this with the hose, and then rinsed it really well before filling it from the sink with potable water. A horror story a few years ago about a friend's friend who died from a bacterial infection gained from a hose has made me start filling it only from the tap.

  Barrel stand
Using a canvas stool as a stand
We also have a smaller keg that I use for water or white wine. I got it in Italy (it is a real wine keg) - probably about 1 gallon. I have put red wine in it, but it stained the wood permanently on the inside so that water comes out a little discolored. For this reason I usually use it with white wine or water.

  In hot weather, covering the keg with a towel will keep the water cooler. It never really gets warm, but adding some ice cubes to your cup (okay not generally available in period!) can cool it down to a pleasing temperature. Contrary to what you may think, the water tastes fine, not woody, although some people will comment if you have well water vs. city water, etc. Kids do love playing with the tap and seeing the water come out! You can buy keg stands from the same merchants, but being cheap, I use a canvas stool (stained with rust from the keg, but otherwise fine). Here is a nice keg stand someone made:

  Sink Stand: This is on my list to make for inside our tent, and I have seen some commercial wooden ones recently availble. It is similar to keg stands, usually being a folding version of some sort. I would make a small trestle table with a basin dropped in a large hole. Most period is a jug of water next to the bowl. Ideally, there would be a hole in the hole and a drainage hose out of it, but that makes it quite un-period, so simply being able to chuck the bowl of water after washing your face or brushing teeth in the tent would be okay, and a nice luxury to wandering outside. I have not researched any period sink stands, but a bowl and jug are certainly period.

  For larger kitchen or dishwashing areas we use plywood or boards on top of sawhorses with a modern stainless sink nestled between another sawhorse. We run drain hose out of the sink into a drainage pit, as many others do. However, I would prefer to use a large copper basin and have seen some lovely ones that could be converted if they ever went on sale! We like other, like running water in our camp and so have hoses, water heaters, showers: these are not of a period nature, but are disguised if possible. This is a main difference between us and the Enchanted Ground concept: they don't make use of this, and we still want our own shower.

  Don't ask me about toilets or chamber pots because we don't use them!

  Folks, that's it for my current state of camping. As you can see from the list, there are many things you can do, but part of the enjoyment is pondering the next improvement and then doing it! Just yesterday we cleaned the basement and found an iron cooking stand Gruffydd had made in blacksmithing days of yore. He riveted on the missing leg (now found) and it is now ready to be a stand for a small charcoal brazier. This will replace my morning propane habit for coffee prep. Now I just need to find a period kettle and something to hold the charcoal! The quest continues...

  Good luck with your journey and have fun!