Camping under the stars is still a distant prospect for our son, but for now a tent offers him infinite possibilities for adventure. It can become a traveller’s camp or a bear’s den, an Inuit’s igloo or a Viking’s tent. It can also provide shade for sunny outdoors and a strategic base for hide-and-seek operations
Naturally, we could not deprive Budster of these magnificent opportunities, and started working on a tent as soon as we realized what he stood to miss out on. We started in the winter, actually, in anticipation of getting back outside, but the project tied up a bit too much of our living room, so we waited until the summer to put the finishing touches on the tent.
Materials for Building the Viking Tent
– six pine boards (1x4x4”)
– three long dowels (4′ long, with a diameter of 1-1/4”)
– one long dowel (4′ long, with a diameter of 1/2”)
– a hand saw
– a drill with drill-bits of two sizes; 1-1/4” and 1/2”
– a vise for holding wood in place
– 4.5 meters of fabric
– 30-60-90° triangle
– a measuring tape or a yard stick
How to Build the Tent
We based our tent on the finds from the Oseberg ship burial – a treasure trove of Viking artifacts including the wooden framework for a tent. These kind of references are close to hand, when your husband makes historical armour for a living. :-) I was fond of its carved dragon heads, and the simplicity of the construction appealed to me. You do not even need nails when making this tent!
At the ends of the tent are equilateral triangles, which means that all the boards forming its sides will be the same length. In our case, their length is 4′. The angle between the boards should be 60° , and you can mark it with a help of a 30-60-90° triangle.
Using a handsaw, cut the edges off all the boards to a 60° angle. We took an evening and, while watching a movie, carved the dragon heads on tops of two boards. However, such a project would require the use of a scroll saw and carving knives. You can decorate the tops of two or even four boards, but if you want to keep it simple, cutting the edges to a 60° angle would give a tent a clean look and save some work.
Next, take one of your boards and drill a 1 1/2” hole approximately an inch above the end of the board.
In order for the holes to match on the overlapping boards, make a simple pattern, based on the first hole. For patterns paper we like to use pizza or cereal boxes. This box was full of muesli bars a couple of days ago, and now it is a pattern for a tent. Recycling at work!
Dowels will be used for putting the tent together. They will determine the length of the tent, so feel free to use any size you want, depending on your needs. To hold the big 1-1/4” dowels in place, we recommend using small 1/2” inch dowels. Cut twelve wooden nails out of them, 3” long each.
Drill holes in the poles, 3” away from each end. Glue six of your dowels in the holes, and after they dry, drill another set of holes closer to the ends of the dowels. The distance between two holes should be equal to the thickness of the two boards that will be sandwiched between them. This next set of pegs does not get glued in – they are removable pegs that make the tent easy to put together and take down. This is how it will look.
Start assembling the tent. After it is assembled, insert the remaining wooden nails in the holes, close to the ends of dowels to secure boards in their place.
For the fabric cover of the tent, we bought undyed cotton. The simplest way to cover the tent is to cut a rectangle, sewing the ends into tubes for the lower poles to pass through. The tent’s ends can also be closed in with a pair of triangular flaps per end. Since our tent had dragon heads on top, the patterns for our end flaps had to leave a hole for them to come through.
You will have to disassemble the tent to put the cover on, but it is quick and easy. Those Viking must have had Ikea furniture in mind when they designed their tents! Also, when disassembled, it takes little place and is lightweight.
If your little adventurer plans to find shelter from the rain in your tent, you will need to coat the cloth with a commercial tent sealant. As for protecting the wood, you can either use an outdoor varnish, or seal the boards with oil.
Budster loves his tent. He has come to the age where he needs some privacy, and the tent seems to fulfil the need – if only for a few minutes at a time. This tent is also a good opportunity for him to organize his own space. When we set it up, he dragged in a bunch of his favourite things: a couple of books, a puzzle, a pair of earmuffs, and even his waggon. He struggled with the last one, but prevailed.
With older children, there is in the possibility of including them in construction and further customization of the tent to their liking: painting the boards, painting designs on the fabric, or interior decorating on a scale that they can handle. Alternatively, the Viking tent can be a segue into a fascinating material culture.
For now, though, we are heading to the tent with our favourite books, a sheepskin to lay on, a couple of cookies – to have a relaxing afternoon in the yard.