A selection of craft information for artisans of the HFS.

    Medieval Single-Pole Pavilion


    Posts : 81
    Join date : 2011-05-30

    Medieval Single-Pole Pavilion Empty Medieval Single-Pole Pavilion

    Post  Admin on Wed Jun 01, 2011 10:46 pm

    Pavilion Structure and Decoration

    Pavilions are great. Over
    the last decade we've gone from nylon tents to the point where many
    people have nice canvas pavilions. This is wonderful. However, I have never
    quite been satisfied with most commercial pavilion designs. For one thing, they
    are all designed for short people -- I cannot see outside from inside the tent.

    Some time ago I observed
    that the most common pavilion in period manuscript illustrations was a round
    pavilion with a single center pole. Commercial designs for these pavilions
    aren't satisfactory. I started looking at medieval and Renaissance
    illustrations of simple round pavilions, and I made a couple of observations.

    No Perimeter Poles.
    Period pavilions did not use poles (perimeter poles) to hold up the edges. A
    search of hundreds of illustrations of pavilions revealed none that had
    anything that could be construed to be perimeter poles. Many of them show a
    wide section of the opening, where perimeter poles would be visible if they
    existed, without any such poles. No illustration has any sort of finial
    decoration, protruding spike, hole, or rope formation that would give positive
    evidence of a perimeter pole. Some illustrations show a pavilion opened up, so
    the center pole is visible, without showing any perimeter poles (see figure 3).
    Finally, in two particular illustrations there is evidence against perimeter
    poles. The first such illustration shows a group of soldiers breaking camp.
    They have removed the walls from a pavilion, but the roof is still up. There
    are no perimeter poles. shows this illustration.

    The second such
    illustration is even more evocative. It shows a military camp after a storm has
    blown through. Some of the pavilions have been knocked over. One in particular
    is partially on its side, but retains the conical shape of a single-pole
    pavilion. This is impossible with a perimeter pole construction, and is strong
    positive evidence for the spoked-wheel construction that I will describe later.
    Sadly, I've lost my copy of this illustration, so I couldn't include it with
    this handout. I'm still looking for it, though.

    Ropes are uncommon.
    Most period pavilions did not hold up the eaves with ropes, either. A large
    number of pavilions didn't even have ropes. Very few pavilions have the ropes
    at an angle broad enough to support the eaves without some internal structure.
    Two significant exceptions are in frescoes by Simone Martini (c. 1330). The pavilions
    shown are festooned with ropes, and the angle and number of the ropes make it
    possible that these pavilions had no internal support structure. They also look
    droopy and saggy, unlike the taut pavilions shown in most other illustrations.

    Splayed walls.
    The majority of period pavilions had splayed walls, wider at the base than at
    the eaves. There are some exceptions, pavilions with vertical walls (see
    figures 4 and 20), but they are not nearly as common.

    Based upon the evidence
    of manuscript illustrations and paintings, the most common period pavilion type
    is a center-pole pavilion, circular or polygonal, with splayed walls and no
    ropes. See figure 2 for a good example of this type of pavilion.

    So the question then
    becomes, `How did the pavilion gain its shape?' Clearly some sort of internal
    structure is used. My first experiment was using an internal wooden hoop, bound
    into the eaves of the pavilion. This turned out to be awkward, ungainly,
    time-consuming, and unstable. It was hard to put up and involved a lot of
    awkward pieces. In any sort of wind it shifted around and distorted. It was
    impossible to tie down securely, as tightening the ropes distorted it still
    further, and eventually the hoop broke while being bent and warped by the wind.

    So that experiment
    failed. On a large pavilion the hoop technique was inherently unstable and
    fragile. Very frustrating; I had the cloth for a fine pavilion, and no way to
    put it up.

    At this point I saw a
    pavilion owned by Sir Xenophon and Mistress Celynen. Their pavilion was made by
    a company in England that supplies pavilions to a number of historical and re-
    Medieval Single-Pole Pavilion Clip_image002enactment
    groups. As I understand it, the design is based upon a 15th century Burgundian
    pavilion in the Bern Museum in Switzerland. Their pavilion used a spoked-wheel
    construction, with the hub passing through the center pole and the spokes
    supporting the eaves. This system would explain the `pavilion after the storm'
    illustration in a way that perimeter poles or hoops could not.

    So I built a spoked-wheel
    structure for my pavilion, and found that my awkward-duckling pavilion had
    turned into a swan.

    Pavilion Structure

    load-bearing element of the pavilion is a single stout pole in the center. In
    my pavilion this is an oaken pole 2" across. My original center pole was
    pine, 1.5" in diameter, and tended to bend slightly but alarmingly. Oak is
    much stronger than softwoods like pine.

    A wheel-hub is placed 7'
    up the center pole. The hub slides down over the pole before it is lifted into
    position, and rides on a brace there. The hub has 12 shallow holes along its
    edge to take the spokes of the wheel.

    The spokes are simple
    octagonal poles with a 1.5" cross section, slightly less than 6' long. One
    end has a 10' rope coming out of it. The rope fits through a grommet in the
    tent eave, then runs outside to a stake. The other end is tapered to a
    cylinder, so it will fit inside a hole in the hub.

    of the Spoked-Wheel Design

    A number of advantages
    quickly became evident after I modified my hoop tent into a spoked-wheel
    design. It is faster to put up or take down. Ropes aren't necessary. The tent
    is stable, and the roof stays taut in spite of weather. There is also more
    usable space inside.

    Fast Raise/Lower:
    a single person could put up the whole pavilion (nearly 20' diameter at the
    base) alone. With two or three people, the pavilion went up and came down very
    quickly indeed -- five minutes or so, once the edge is staked out. Packing up
    with a storm threatening last Pennsic, three people took down a 19 base
    pavilion in about ninety seconds (without folding the canvas carefully).

    No ropes are needed:
    as I used my pavilion, it quickly became clear that the ropes were unnecessary.
    The tent needs almost no support from the ropes, and I usually don't even
    bother to attach them. Since the walls are staked out at an angle, the walls
    themselves support the roof without the need of ropes.

    Stability: the erected
    single-pole pavilion is very stable, with excellent wind-shedding
    characteristics. The splayed walls give the pavilion a streamlined shape that
    is largely immune to the effects of winds that would knock down a
    straight-walled pavilion. This feature was tested at Pennsic XXV, when a number
    of modern nylon tents and perimeter-pole pavilions were knocked down by storm
    winds triggered by a tornado touch down less than 20 miles from the site. The
    pavilion rode out the weather with no ill effects.

    Taut roof: the roof stays
    taut as a side effect of the design. Perimeter-pole designs require constant
    attention in storms because puddles of water develop at the eaves as the ropes
    get wet and stretch. This doesn't happen with a spoked-wheel-supported roof.

    Space: the amount of
    usable space inside a spoked-wheel pavilion is much larger than inside a
    comparably sized perimeter pole pavilion. No poles interfere with the space
    available at the (swagged-out) edges of the pavilion.

    And finally, the number of parts to transport are
    less than with a comparable-sized
    perimeter-pole design.

    The design also has a
    number of minor benefits. The Pavilion has a `loft' available, created by the
    roof spokes. This can be very useful for hanging wet clothing. The spokes can
    also be used to hang cloth dividers, allowing a lot of freedom in subdividing
    the available space. Decorative tapestries, painted wall hangings, banners, and
    fancy cloth walls can be used to make internal rooms.

    Pavilion Decoration

    you peruse the various illustrations included in the handout, you will see a
    broad range of decorative techniques. Some pavilions are undecorated, plain
    canvas. Some are enormously fancy, with bright colours, interior lining, and
    spiral-carved center poles. In between these two extremes you can see a number
    of pavilions which are basically white canvas with painted linear designs,
    gothic arches, and similar simple decorations. Some are just in one colour,
    some are in two or three.

    Plain, undecorated pavilions are shown in
    figures 2, 4, 9, 13, and 21. Some of these are in pictures with other decorated

    Simple designs, often no
    more than decorative lines on the seams, can be seen on the pavilions in
    figures 1, 4, 18, 23, and 25. These would be easy to paint on a pavilion in a
    few hours, for minimal cost.

    One of the commoner
    decoration techniques for medieval pavilions is various types of gothic arches,
    painted on the walls of pavilions with associated designs on the roofs.
    Although more complicated than the simple linear decorations, these too are
    easy to paint on a pavilion with a little bit of preparation, even in a single
    afternoon. Examples of these decorations can be found in figures 6, 8, 10, 14,
    17, 20, and 24.

    Complex multi-colored
    patterns painted on white canvas are less common, but still occur. Figures 5
    and 15 show two examples of such pavilions.

    Broad stripes and bands
    of color are also used. This decorative technique requires using colored
    canvas, either buying it the appropriate color or dying it yourself. An early
    (13th century) example can be seen in figure 14, a later (Tudor) one at the top
    of figure 26.

    Some pavilions are shown
    in solid colors, often with painted decoration or accents. Examples are figures
    3, 7, 11, 12, 19, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29. These are the richest looking
    pavilions, and are often used in illustrations to denote the pavilions of the
    wealthiest and most powerful nobles and kings. Some of the full-colour
    pavilions are shown with contrasting linings of decorative fabric.

    Finally, many pavilions are marked with the
    arms of their owners. This is often combined with simple linear decoration or
    decorative arches. Examples can be found in figures 1, 4, 5, 8, 10, 18, 23, and

    Making a
    Single-pole Pavilion

    are two simple shapes to sew together: a series of pie pieces for the roof, and
    a series of trapezoids for the walls. The trapezoids have a rectangular flap at
    the bottom to help shed rain. The only other complication is the possibility of
    a running band at the eaves.

    I will describe
    dimensions for three separate designs: a small tent suitable for a dayshade,
    changing tent, or one or two people; a larger multipurpose pavilion; and a
    large pavilion suitable for use as a great hall at events, sleeping a whole
    household, and so on. All of the dimensions I describe are calculated based
    upon finding 60" wide canvas. The bottom edges of the wall trapezoids, on
    all three designs, are exactly 60" across. If your canvas has different
    dimensions you may need to redesign. For example, if you have 96" wide
    canvas, it is possible to construct an 8-spoke pavilion with 6' spokes.

    The small tent uses 8
    spokes 4' long. It is 11' tall, 13' diameter on the ground (134 square feet
    area), and requires 32 yards of canvas to construct. The cost of this tent in
    materials is less than $200, depending upon the price of canvas in your area.

    The pavilion has 12
    spokes 6' long. It is 13' tall, nearly 20' diameter on the ground (293 square
    feet area), and requires 54 yards of canvas to construct. This tent will cost
    around $300 in materials by my estimate.

    The large pavilion has 16
    spokes 10' long. It is 17' tall, more than 25' diameter on the ground (516
    square feet area), and requires 88 yards of canvas to construct. This large
    pavilion will cost less than $500 in materials, depending upon the price of



    easiest way to make the hub is to laminate four pieces of 3/4" plywood to
    make a slab 3" thick. Use good wood glue, and be sure to use high-quality
    plywood. The more laminations (layers) in the plywood the better. Once the glue
    has dried, cut it to shape (8 sided, 12 sided, or 16 sided depending upon the
    size of pavilion) and drill one hole in each side using a 1.5" spade bit.
    You only need to go about 2" deep on each hole.

    After the spoke holes are
    drilled, you need to make a hole through the center of the hub large enough to
    admit the center pole. The size and shape of this hole depend upon the
    dimensions of the center pole.

    The dimensions of the hub
    are not crucial to the design of the pavilion. The important thing is that the
    hub is broad enough for the holes holding the ends of the spokes (8, 12, or 16
    spokes in the three designs of pavilion I describe). In my pavilion the hub is
    6" radius, and the holes for the twelve spokes are 2" deep. This
    means that the spokes should be 4" shorter than 6' (in other words,
    5'8") so the distance from the center pole to the end of the spokes is
    exactly 6'.


    to your lumberyard and buy one 2x4 for every two spokes needed. Pick dry 2x4s
    with no warp or knots. Rip the 2x4 into two 2x2s on a table saw. You can use
    them with square cross-section or make them more attractive by beveling the
    edges with a hand plane, joiner, router, or a tablesaw blade set at 45 degrees.
    Round one end down with a rasp or file so it has no sharp corners to abrade the
    tent. File the other end down to a 1.5" diameter cylinder, so it fits in
    the holes of the hub. The fit does not need to be precise. The twelve spokes on
    my pavilion cost less than $10 total.


    only important characteristics of the center pole are that it is strong enough,
    the right length, and that it fits in the hole in the hub.

    The center poles in
    manuscript illustrations and paintings vary from moderately slim to enormously
    huge (see figure 3). If you have a car with a roof rack that can take a long
    pole, you might want to have a pole without any joint. If not, the following
    joint system is easy and reliable.

    My center pole started
    out as a 7' piece of 8/4 Oak, about 6" wide. I got my fancy woodworking
    store (where I found the wood) to plane it and cut it into two 7' long poles,
    2" square, and some waste. The total cost to me was $25 or $30.

    I then bought a 16"
    section of 2" square metal pipe from a metalworking store. I cut two ends
    of the 7' poles at a 60 degree (steep) angle, then fitted one end tightly into
    the metal sleeve and the other one slightly more loosely.

    Finally, I beveled the
    top section, rounded the top and drilled a hole into it, into which I glued a
    large metal spike. The result is a center pole that comes apart readily, and is
    quite sturdy.


    slowest thing about putting this pavilion up is figuring out where the walls
    should be properly staked. Having a floor, sized and shaped to match the base
    of the pavilion can vastly accelerate this process. This floor can then be laid
    out before the pavilion is put up, showing exactly where every stake goes. The
    floor should be made of some durable, waterproof, rot-resistant material that
    is easily cleaned. Since it is not attached to the rest of the tent it can be
    easily replaced or repaired if necessary.

    Sewing Notes

    may be much better ways to do the stuff I describe below, and I'm sure that an
    experienced sewing guru would know the better ways to do it. If you want to ask
    such a person's advice, great. (And by the way, if you find some better way to
    do some of this stuff, please let me know). If you want to just muddle through,
    follow my instructions below.

    Buy canvas that is
    pre-treated to be water-resistant and fire-retardant, if you can get it. Buy
    good canvas. This is not the place to cut corners of cost.

    I strongly advise that
    you not attempt to sew the pavilion without a very heavy-duty sewing machine.
    You can rent these in some places, or find a friend who has one if you are
    lucky. Some possibilities for renting or borrowing heavy-duty sewing machines
    are university theatre departments, theatrical supply stores, or commercial
    enterprises making or repairing sails or tents. Dont try to use an everyday
    utility sewing machine if you can avoid it. It will be very frustrating and
    take a long time, breaking a lot of needles. I'm speaking from experience,

    Get some experienced
    sewing guru to advise you on any questions you have regarding the sewing. One
    important thing to do is to get them to show you how to make a flat-felled
    seam: all the seams on the pavilion should be flat-felled seams for strength.
    Luckily for anyone who (like me) is a sewing ignoramus, all the seams are
    straight and simple.

    Cutting out the large
    canvas pieces can be a chore, especially marking the long straight lines. The
    easiest way to do this is to lay the fabric flat, then take a surveyors
    chalk-line and use that to mark the cutting line.

    You MUST allow some
    appropriate seam allowance on the outside of each pie piece for the roof and of
    each trapezoid for the walls. I'm not exactly sure what seam allowance is best:
    I added a 1" seam allowance. If you forget to do this, you will waste an
    awful lot of fabric.

    First, finish all the
    rain flaps on the edge of each roof pie piece. The rain flap is the 12"
    deep rectangle at the bottom of the pie piece. You can dag it if you wish, hem
    it or edge it with some contrasting colored edging.

    Now sew all the pie
    pieces for the roof together. At the peak you will need to sew a large metal
    ring or grommet to the pieces. Alternatively you can take a short section of
    1/2" rope (something that will not rot: nylon or hemp, not cotton) and
    wrap the thin ends of the pie pieces around the rope before sewing them down.
    This will leave a hole at the very peak of the roof for the center pole to go

    Finish the top edge of
    each wall trapezoid, and the mud flap at the bottom (the rectangle 5' long by
    1' deep).

    Now work your way around
    the tent, sewing one trapezoid on at a time. Note the dotted line on the
    pattern that marks the edge of the flap -- that is where the top of the wall
    must be sewn to the roof. Make sure that the roof rain flap is on the outside.
    Sew the seam attaching one trapezoid to the other along the side seam as well
    as the roof seam.

    Before you go too far,
    decide how many doors you want and where. To make a door, just finish the
    adjacent vertical edges of two wall trapezoids rather than sewing them
    together. I've found it very convenient to have two doors on opposite sides of
    my pavilion. This allows me to open both doors and let a breeze through in hot
    weather, and it is often convenient to have a back door.

    Once the walls and roof
    are sewn, you need to make small reinforced cups of some of the remaining scrap
    canvas. These cups are sewn to the edge of the eaves. Their function is
    simple--they lock one end of a spoke in the right position on the edge of the
    Take a square of canvas
    and fold to make a triangle. Sew it down and finish the edges using any simple
    method (hem, serge, whatever). Fold again, to make another triangle. Sew one
    edge so that you have a triangular cup shape, with the hypotenuse open. This
    sounds complicated, although it is very easy to do; I hope this illustration
    will help explain it.

    ]Now sew the cup down (making sure not to
    close the cup) so the end of the pole will fit inside the cup. Sew one such cup
    at every spoke position (where the horizontal seam at the eaves crosses a
    vertical seam down a pie piece and wall trapezoid).

    If you want to have ropes
    on the tent, sew simple loops to the outside of the eaves to take the ropes.

    Stake loops are
    constructed by sewing heavy-duty woven cotton straps to the bottom of each
    vertical seam on the walls. Make sure you sew them down securely. You will need
    one loop for every vertical seam joining two wall trapezoids; doors will
    require one loop for each trapezoid edge at the door opening (two loops total).


    your local blacksmith to make you enough 15" or 18" stakes. For
    simple stakes it won't be very expensive, and you might as well have good
    stakes for a good pavilion. If you have no local blacksmith, get some 12"
    tent nails. Don't use aluminum or plastic stakes -- they won't last, and they aren't
    good enough.

    Detachable Walls

    For the pavilion shown in
    illustration 13, it is clear that the walls can be detached from the roof. I
    don't really recommend this for your first pavilion. Sewing the walls to the
    roof makes the whole thing more secure, less work to put up and take down, and
    so on. The pavilion will not be steady (or even stay up) if one of the walls is
    removed because the walls hold up the roof.

    However, if you are
    making a very large pavilion, it makes more sense to have the walls be
    detachable so they can be transported separately. If you want to make a
    pavilion with detachable walls, I advise sewing toggles and loops every six
    inches across the dotted line marking the edge of the roof pie segments, and
    along the finished top edge of the wall trapezoids. You will need to be very
    careful and precise. Small errors in placement will cause gapping and other
    problems, letting wind and weather in at the roofline.

    and Decoration

    Some pavilions were plain
    undecorated canvas, but many of the ones shown in manuscript illustrations are
    brightly coloured or painted. I haven't experimented in dyeing canvas, so I
    can't give any useful advice for reproducing the beautiful full-colour
    pavilions that can sometimes be found in illustrations. Consult with some local
    fabric guru and experiment.

    Painting a pavilion is
    quite simple. Most pavilions were painted with simple lines, gothic arches, and
    the like. This turns out to be quite easy to do. I bought commercial exterior
    acrylic latex house paint from a local do-it-yourself store. You need to thin
    the paint with water so that it soaks into the canvas a bit. This makes it much
    easier to brush on in a single application -- undiluted house paint tends to
    bead up on the surface. You must avoid diluting the paint too much, though, or
    it will wick out from the design rather than sticking to where you apply it. I
    found that thinning the paint with an equal amount of water gave me a good
    consistency. As an added benefit this also cuts the cost of the paint in half,
    as you get two gallons from every gallon you buy. Don't paint your pavilion
    indoors -- find a big slab of clean concrete or pavement to lay the pavilion
    out and paint it. The paint will bleed through the canvas slightly, so dont
    paint on a surface where this will matter. Be very careful to avoid spills onto
    the canvas, as they are impossible to clean up.

    Most single-pole
    pavilions seem to have had a decorative finial, often a golden ball. Some
    pavilions have whole statues on top, as shown in figures 26 and 29. Flags are
    also fairly common, sometimes in conjunction with a gold ball. A decorative
    finial of some sort
    Medieval Single-Pole Pavilion Clip_image007makes
    the pavilion look nicer, but it also has a practical purpose in plugging the
    only hole in the pavilion fabric, at the top. I've experimented with a number
    of simple ball designs but I haven't found one I'm really satisfied with yet.

    Finally, the flap at the
    end of each roof segment is often decorated. They may be dagged or painted,
    sometimes with mottoes and sayings in contrasting colors to the tent.

    A: Pavilion Plans

    and Layout

    These patterns are based
    upon 60" wide canvas. The trapezoidal wall pieces take up the full width
    of the canvas, so can only be laid out in one direction. The most efficient way
    to lay out the triangular roof pie pieces is shown below. It is possible to lay
    them out so as to use less fabric, but not advisable, as it involves cutting
    along the bias of the fabric. Cutting along the bias will allow stretching of
    the piece, which will distort the pavilion in the long run.

    B: Mathematics

    All the calculations
    involved in planning a pattern for a circular (actually, polygonal) pavilion
    are fairly basic trigonometry. Start by drawing a scale-drawing silhouette of
    the pavilion you want, with dimensions for the height of the eaves (the level
    of the spoked wheel), the height from the eaves to the peak of the roof, and
    the width (radius) at the eaves and at the ground. Decide how many spokes you
    want. The number of spokes you wish may be fixed for you by the width of the
    fabric you have -- it is not possible to make a 12-sided pavilion that is 10'
    radius at the base when you only have 48" wide canvas, for example.

    S = number of spokes (segments) in the

    E = radius at the eaves (where the roof
    meets the top of the wall, and where the hub sits)

    G = radius at ground level

    H = height at the eaves

    L = height from the eaves to the loft.

    So the total height of the pavilion is (H +
    L), and the angle Ø between any two spokes is 360/S degrees.

    In addition, we will be calculating the
    values for the following:

    Base = width of the base of the trapezoidal
    wall segments

    Top = width of the top of the trapezoidal
    wall segments (also the width of the base of the roof triangles)

    ApparentWall = apparent height of the wall

    ApparentRoof = apparent height of the roof

    TrueWall = true height of the wall trapezoid

    TrueRoof = true height of the roof triangle.

    The important formula
    here is that the opposite side of a segment or sector of a circle, C, can be
    determined from the radius of the circle R and the angle Ø as follows:

    C = 2R sin(Ø/2)

    So substitute G in for R
    above to calculate Base, and substitute E in for R above to calculate Top.

    Base = 2 G sin(Ø/2)
    Top = 2 E sin(Ø/2)

    The rest is application
    of the Pythagorean theorem. The length of a wall segment in your diagram is the
    hypotenuse of a triangle with sides of length H and (G - E), so by Pythagorus:

    ApparentWall = sqrt(H2 + (G-E)2)

    Similarly, the length of
    a roof segment from the diagram is the hypotenuse of a triangle with sides of
    length L and E, so:

    ApparentRoof = sqrt(L2 + E2)

    Now as a slight
    complication, the apparent lengths of the wallpiece and roofpiece on your
    diagram are actually the length of the angled side of the trapezoid and the
    long side of the triangle, not the true length we are interested in: the length
    perpendicular to the base of the trapezoid and the roof triangle.

    This necessitates one more set of
    calculations using the Pythagorean theorem.

    TrueWall = sqrt(ApparentWall2 -
    ((Base-Top)/2)2) = sqrt(H2 + (G-E)2 - ((Base-Top)/2)2)

    TrueRoof = sqrt(ApparentRoof2 - (Top/2)2) = sqrt(L2
    + E2 - (Top/2)2)

    Now all that remains is
    to add a 6" wide rain flap at the bottom of the roof piece, and a 12"
    wide mud flap at the base of the wall trapezoid.

    I strongly recommend
    cutting a 1/12 scale model of your pavilion out of paper and taping it together
    before you cut any fabric. This is a good way to ensure that your pavilion will
    have the proportions you want, and check against any mathematics errors. You
    might also want to make a little 1/12 scale human figure to put beside it, so
    you get an idea of how big the pavilion will actually be. I didn't do this, and
    I was slightly shocked at how large my little day-shade pavilion ended up. It
    sure didn't look so big when I made the paper model.

      Current date/time is Thu Jul 18, 2019 5:50 am