Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Continuing Saga of Ian's Yurt

Extra big thanks to Matt of Future Roots (and Yurtopia) for an amazing few days at Stanmer Park learning more about yurt making - and a whole lot of other stuff too. It felt like being in an Icelandic saga with tools and equipment from the Middle Ages everywhere (and also because my own yurt seems to be taking such a long time to make...)

Matt's yurt nestling in the glade.

Matt's woodland workshop MK II - sadly MK I was vandalised in July this year and burned to the ground.

I would have laughed at the idea of using one of these medieval shaving horses a few days ago but not anymore - they are so useful! They hold awkwardly shaped wood really tight and its quick and easy to turn your workpiece about. They are ideal for doing any shaping on the greenwood poles that Matt uses for his yurts and for loads of other jobs as well.

A selection of drawknives, they can be used to take off big chunks of wood or for fine shaving, simple and versatile.

This is a FROE, something I've never even heard of before, a sort of cross between an axe and a chisel. Again, these simple tools are all really versatile. We talked a lot about a general decline in skill with hand tools - maybe one day when power is not so cheap these things will come into their own again. Matt told a nice story about some yurt makers who had been brought over from Mongolia by one of the English manufactures. They needed a large fret saw so they just made one out of an old bicycle wheel. I guess they don't just pop down to B&Q when they need something in Ulan Bator. I love all that ingenuity and adaptability.

Once more, nice and simple, a forked tree holds a roof pole while it is de-knotted and de-barked. If you see one of Matt's yurts you will notice he gets a lovely finish on these wiggley poles; it's a different look altogether to my sawn timber style.

This is the jungle version of my suburban steamer, an old beer keg...

... sitting over a roaring fire inside an oil drum.

The steam goes from there into a section of gas mains pipe - lovely!

Once they have been thoroughly steamed, Matt bends the roof poles over a gas cylinder sitting in an old staircase...

...while the wall poles are bent between some scaffolding poles. It's all great, simple, ingenious stuff and making what you need out of what you have at hand.

This is my own wheel, third attempt now, built up from two half-inch layers of oak and glued up on a metal former. Next, we drilled it with holes for the roof poles.

But the roof poles have a square end ... time for the best bit of ingenuity of all, the sawn-off pick-axe head.

It gets heated red hot in the barbeque...

...then simply burns the round holes into squares ... Brilliant!

And here is my latest wheel homeward bound.

COMING SOON: the next volume of the Saga of Ian's Yurt, The Erection of the Frame, Part Two.

Thanks again Matt, it was great meeting you and having all those sorting-out-life-and-everything-else conversations. I found out lots about Yurt Making but also a whole lot I wasn't expecting about a simpler way of working with wood and working with greenwood too. Good luck with all your enterprises!


jezz n tina said...

hurrah - the crown is complete - it's easy going from now on ! if you need a hand let me know - i'll pop over.

Mister_Jones said...

hey Ian, excellent photos! and very timely as I have just been organising our own yurt building course at the workhouse at easter.
Hope its all going well for you, the scotland pics look awesome as well.

I have been busy sorting things out... cooking up lots of plans for next year. Hope to see you soon.


Henry Patterson said...

Wow, i thought this was incredibly helpful. You write about lots of information about yurts,yurt makers. Which are quite beneficial for people like us. Appreciate it

Ian Watt said...

Thanks Henry, not sure now that yurts are quite the thing for the wet UK climate but it was great experience making it anyway,
best wishes, Ian