15 November 2010

The Copy-Cat Taj: Material Culture sixteen: A&S 50 Challenge

The copy-cat Taj
Sayyeda Samia al-Kaslaania
Copyright November 2010, Julia May

My partner and I decided we needed a new tent for SCA camping. We had a great wall tent from Fall Creek Suttlery http://fcsutler.com/ (a company we highly recommend), which was awesomely affordable and served us for 5 years. It was too small for us anymore, so we sold it to a friend who was headed to Pennsic.

I’m not sure how I stumbled onto Max and Mickel’s webpage http://www.sacoriver.net/~freegate/Pavilion.html , but I found their plans for the Taj. Designed by two engineers, with details about why they made each decision, the idea appealed to my honey and we started calculating. It met our requirements of 1. being able to stand up in the whole tent, and 2. fitting a queen sized bed with the head/foot at the center pole. It has a 20 foot diameter.

We ordered Sunforger treated canvas from Itex for a great price, and borrowed an industrial sewing machine that has floated around the Barony for years. The furniture in the living room was rearranged so we could have the floor space to cut the pieces. I sewed everything together while Oswald cut and fit all the wood pieces. It was strange to realize the tent was to have more square footage than the living room, the largest room in our house.

A crying moment was had. We calculated the size of the roof panels two inches smaller than the size of the wall panels. The top and the bottom didn’t fit each other. Thankfully, the local tentmaking guru took a look at it and confirmed that I could fix it pretty easily by taking two inches out of each of the 14 wall panels. By taking it out of the middle of the panels it looks like it was done on purpose and gives us a different opportunity for decorating the tent.
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. MS Arabe 5847 fol. 38. Maqama 14.

The Taj is 14 spokes, and big enough to fit three queen sized beds (that happens when you work with round tents). It takes about 30-45 minutes for two of us to set it up, including pounding the stakes in standard ground. The stakes were created by Dan Kretchmar, a blacksmith in the Twin Cities. His website is here http://www.irontreeworks.com/  They're 18 inches long and made of half inch square stock. The bottom has a 130 degree twist that corkscrews into the ground as you pound them in. In the above image they're not pounded in all the way so that they're easy to move.

Of course, one of the side-effects of a big tent is that it weighs a ton, and takes up a lot of packing space. However, we weathered a storm that dumped three inches of rain in a very short time (producing knee-deep standing water throughout the park for several hours as the storm sewers were backed up), and no water got inside through the wall-roof connection, nor under the sod cloths.

The pitch of the roof is much lower than many of our friend's tents. People often ask us if we were going for the look of a yurt/ger, but it's just an effective way to use the fabric and make a pitch that will shed water. It's a similar profile to images from the Maqamat al-Hariri illuminations from the 12th century. We definitely need some roundels on the Taj.

We are indebted to Max and Mickel for their sage wisdom and words of advice during the process of making our first tent!

Find more details in my photostream at flickr: