Posts Tagged camping

Level Up to Our Second Pennsic: Even Better Than Last Year!

15 August 2012

We’ve done it — we’re now level 2 in the SCA! How do we figure that? If we can survive our second Pennsic, we deserve to level up!

Pennsic last year was epic, but this year was even better! We remembered all sorts of promises and goals we’d set last year after various incidents, including:

Shopping at Pennsic

  • We brought more garb! We both had more stuff to wear. AND this year we set up a proper laundry station and clothesline behind our pavilions, so we could wash things during war … made a big difference! Alas, we still need more. Next year we’ve set a goal of having more Pennsic-appropriate garb, which for us means more linen shirts/smocks and doublets/gowns.
  • We used our space better! Last year we borrowed a 14×14 Regency that was just too small for the three of us. This year we purchased TWO 12 ft. round pavilions that we setup side-by-side — one for us, and the other one for my son and my mother. MUCH better! I had my own little space which no one ever need enter where I managed to put in a small desk and vanity, and I was ever so much happier.
  • We improved our beds. While we used the same double bed as last year, I did NOT bring the cotton futon nor the cotton sheets — last year they held moisture and I was miserable at night. Instead, I brought several foam pads (one camp pad and two pillowtop pads) all covered by microfiber sheets — such a difference! The bed was always dry and comfy. And Alexander has a special “KidCot” with a tent over it — keeps him off the ground (dry) and enclosed (warm and bug-free).
  • We did more. I made it to the A&S Display (awesome), taught an embroidery class, and experienced my first Pennsic Party. Gregor fought in EVERY battle this year (so proud of him). And we were Head Retainers for Their Highnesses, and as a result, we saw new sights.

That said, we still have a fairly long list of things we want to improve upon or make for next year, which I will record here in the hopes we remember!

One of my blackwork class students

  • Leave earlier! We left at 11:00 am, but we should have left before 9:00 am. We had to set the second pavilion up in the dark.
  • Pick classes in advance. I didn’t attend classes early on because I was too distracted, so by the time I was ready, there wasn’t much I wanted to take (except for one class, A Tale of Two Aprons, which was cancelled!)
  • Teach more classes. At least two, if not three. This is such a fantastic opportunity to meet people. Which leads me to my big one…
  • Meet more people! My darned shyness is always getting in the way here, but this is such a great place to meet new people, and I really need to try harder. I want to go to more parties next year, introduce myself to more people, and get more involved. It’s so easy to feel lost in the crowd, and only I can remedy that.
  • Help more. Everyone seemed to think that being Their Highnesses’ Chamberlain was “enough,” but it wasn’t … I wanted to be more involved and be more helpful. I suspect this will come in time. Last year I had nothing to do, and I remember being really bummed about that, and I went home and fixed it by volunteering for various things. So this year I had more, but I still felt like I had more to give.
  • Make more stuff. Things we want to make by next year include: a break-down wagon, a vanity with drawers, mirror, and small bowl, an armor stand, another chair for Gregor, more cool garb, and finials and banners for our pavilions.

Highlights of this year at Pennsic include:

Gregor looked great!

  • Marching out to the field twice with Cynnabar, music playing, drums beating, banners flying … just love this.
  • Welcoming Gregor back after every battle.
  • Being interviewed by Channel 10 during the A&S Display.
  • Introducing my mom to both Pennsic and the Society!
  • Discovering that one of my class students had a connection with me in the mundane world, and neither of us knew it!
  • Going to a party with Ceara and sharing some of Straum’s meat … (get your mind out of the gutter!)
  • Watching my 7-year-old haul 130 lbs. of ice back to camp by himself. So proud of him!
  • Having good enough garb that I got compliments and photos taken of me
  • Being sketched by three lovely ladies in the market … quite delightful!
  • Getting the Award of the Tower’s Foundation from my Barony, our mid-level award for service … wow!
  • Going to bed early and getting up late … 😉
  • Retaining for Their Highnesses when two lords were made into knights and watching their faces …. I cried!
  • Being able to help Their Highnesses and Their Excellencies during court
  • Rounding up retainers, scheduling them, and giving them little tokens as thank-yous … my first time doing this and it went smoothly.
  • Shopping with Her Highness one afternoon … the crowds parted for us!
  • Watching it hail … and having our pavilions and shadefly weather the storm!
  • Drinking mudslides with the ladies in camp!
  • Getting a pity beer from Hjorlief while out “wandering” with Ceara

    Watching the Midrealm Dragon Kite above the field

  • Seeing the gorgeous dragon kite flying above the battlefield
  • Wearing striped stocks the ENTIRE war!
  • Sitting with my creations at the A&S Display … what fun!
  • Marveling at how good Gregor looked in his doublet, his hat, and his new helmet.
  • Celebrating Alexander’s 8th birthday with a ‘smore cake of his own creation, complete with lighted toothpicks for candles!
  • Being of help to my fellow campmates in various ways … love being helpful!
  • Dancing under the shadefly during the big thunderstorm that popped up during Drunken Court
  • Receiving Eggbert, a little green knitted dragon from Gregor <3

Suffice it to say we had a wonderful time. We were sad to see it end and we can’t wait for next year!!

Our Epic Pennsic: Videos, Photos, and Memories!

20 August 2011

We’re home from our first Pennsic War! The Midrealm didn’t win, but we certainly feel like victors! We successfully prepared, survived, and enjoyed a 10-day long SCA event/camping trip filled with both amazing and challenging events. If you want just the highlights, check out this short video I made of our “Epic Pennsic” — it even has a soundtrack and some battle footage.

As is to be expected, our Pennsic was not perfect. But I believe strongly that mistakes can be the best path to success (if you learn from them!) so it’s all okay. Here are the bumps in the road we encountered:

  • Strapping stuff to our car rack was NOT easy! We’d chosen to put our futon up there and it kept flapping up when we got up to highway speeds. We had to stop three times to re-strap it, and that put us behind schedule. Solution for next Pennsic: Buy or rent a small trailer so we don’t have to put stuff on the roof!
  • Arriving too late in the day to set up camp before dark! This was related to the point above, as stopped to re-strap really slowed us down. Solution for next Pennsic: Plan to leave by at least 9:00 am.
  • Putting the tarp under the canvas pavilion as if it was a modern nylon tent with a floor resulted in a moat around the inside perimeter of our tent after a rainfall on the first night. It was sprinkling and getting dark fast when we arrived, and we didn’t understand that the tarp had to go OVER the edges of the pavilion so that the rain would run off the canvas into the ground, not into the tarp. Had we not been pressed for time when setting up, we could have probably figured that out. This is one of those cascading issues. But we learned fast! Solution for next Pennsic: Set the tarp up the right way to start with, and think carefully about where water will go when it lands on the canvas.
  • Not enough garb! Gregor laughed when I told him I thought we needed at least one outfit for each day. He changed his tune once we got to Pennsic. We need more! Doing laundry was too time-consuming. Solution for next Pennsic: Try to have at least one outfit for each day PLUS a few extra for clothing changes due to heat, humidity, or rain.

That list isn’t so bad, really! Much worse things could have happened, such as my painter’s canvas shade fly collapsing due to all the rain. But, amazingly, it stayed up for the entire time and provided MUCH needed shade. I am glad I took a chance on that, but next year we’ll have a proper shade fly that keeps out water, too.

Some of my personal highlights of Pennsic XL are:

  • Retaining for the king, His Majesty King Arch, immediately after Opening Ceremonies. I’d never retained before, so I totally winged it … and it worked out fine. I got to see the Heroic Belted Champions Battle and Belted Champions Battle up close. I got to see the broken arrow that starts the war! I got to see Her Majesty Queen Runa give out awards (tokens?) to the Belted Champions on the field. It was a terrifying but thrilling experience for me! Definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, and that’s a good thing.
  • Camping with Cynnabar. Everyone was kind and welcoming, and helped us feel like part of the group. The showers were awesome, as were evenings around the fire. And my son even had another 7-year-old to play with, which I wasn’t expecting. Cynnabar was also VERY convenient to shopping, food, and the battles — a really prime spot. We are very fortunate!
  • Going to a vigil for a knight-to-be with Their Excellencies, Cynnabar’s Baron and Baroness. They invited us along one evening, which we really appreciated. So not only did we get a chance to speak with them for an extended period, during which they patiently and candidly answered our questions about the SCA, but we also were able to witness a vigil. Very cool!
  • Seeing all my camp furniture in action. Everything worked and stood up to the rain, wind, dew, and heavy use we gave it. That made me feel great!
  • Volunteering for guard duty at the Midrealm Royal Encampment. We did it twice, and it helped us newbies feel like we were involved and useful. I highly recommend this for other newcomers.
  • Walking with Gregor when he was in his full plate armor. This was an unexpected experience. I mean, yeah, I thought he looked cool, but I didn’t realize how unusual his armor was until people stopped and stared, took pictures, and gave him kudos. It was a little like walking with a celebrity. He did look really good!
  • Talking a stroll at twilight around Pennsic. Gregor and I went exploring one evening and walked down around the lake. There was a mist everywhere and it was pure magic. At one point when we’d paused to stare across the lake at the encampments, a woman stopped to tell us how she and her husband stopped every year on that exact spot to take it in, and how she and her husband had met at Pennsic 20 years ago.
  • The Cynnabar’s Got Talent show. Lots of fun, but let’s just say that Ermenrich is lucky Gregor didn’t challenge him in defense of my honor. Ha ha. ‘Nuff said. 🙂
  • Getting my first SCA award — the Award of Elephant’s Heart! This was totally unexpected and it made me really happy!

I could go on and on, but then I’ll never get any new blog posts up. So I’ll just end it here with some of my favorite photos. And this …. I can’t wait for next Pennsic!

Gregor ready for inspection before war

The OTHER Cynnabar Shield Wall

The Pennsic Battle Horn blowing at the start of the field battle

Gregor on Midrealm Royal Encampment guard duty

A Gothic Chair: Making SCA Camp Furniture for Pennsic

23 June 2011

I think this weekend’s project will be to make some Gothic Chairs that come apart and fold flat for transport, like this:


Gothic Arch break-down chair by Master Rhys Terafan Greydragon

They look nice, fit in with our personas, and would appear to be comfy (especially with an added seat cushion). All the plans for them were generously posted by a fellow SCA member at

I will make my chairs from plywood, as he did. I don’t anticipate any problems, with one exception — the mortices! On my trestle table I had to make 8 and it was zero fun … each of these chairs has 12! TWELVE! Ugh. Still, these are the best looking chairs I see, so I shall try anyway.

A Trestle Table for Under $35: How I Built a 15th-Century-Style Table for Pennsic From an Old Door and Pine Boards

19 June 2011

My Trestle Table

If you’re prone to dancing on tables, read no further. But if you want an authentic-looking, wooden trestle table that you can take to events, or even use as a craft table in your home, do I have some woodworking plans for you! You won’t be able to dance on this table, sure, but its lightweight tabletop is perfect for lugging about without breaking your back … or your wallet!

How did these plans come about? In 2011 I joined the SCA and I needed a table for camping at Pennsic, but I didn’t want to spend a fortune on it. I could buy a couple sheets of plywood, but I want to use this table year-round for crafts, so I preferred something that would look nicer. Alas, oak and even select pine is really pricey — $100 and up for the project. My solution? I combined an old recycled door (for the table top) with inexpensive pine (for the legs and spacers) for a 15th-century, St. Jerome-style trestle table that comes in at under $35.

An Old Door for $5

What You Need:

  • 10 feet of 2″ x 4″ pine – $3
  • 10 feet of 2″ x 12″ pine – $10
  • 8 feet of 2″ x 10″ pine – $7
  • 1 36″ x 80″ hollow door slab – $5 at my local recycling center (or about $30 if you buy one new at Lowe’s)
  • Dowels- $1
  • 4 (four) 1″x 2″ x 8″ firring strips – $3.20
  • 1 12″ x 24″ x 1/2″ oak board – $3
  • Wood glue – $2

Total for the Table: $34.20

Optional Extras to Make Your Table Fancier:

  • Stain (Minwax Polyshades Antique Walnut Gloss) – $12
  • Moulding to put around the table edges – $20
  • Wood burning tool to make designs – $12

Equipment Used:

Jigsaw, circular saw, drill with boring bit, sander, chisel, mallet, pipe clamp, spring clamps, sawhorse, ruler, knife, permanent marker, safety goggles

Experience Required:

I’d say beginner-intermediate. I’ve only made a few things from wood (some benches, a two-step stair, some trellises), and I was able to create this table to my satisfaction.

So you may be wondering what in the Known World possessed me to use an old recycled door as a tabletop. I thought a door would be both inexpensive and light enough for me to carry on my own. I can’t very well use this table at Pennsic if I can’t even carry the tabletop to my camp site, now can I? A hollow door slab is really quite lightweight, but still strong enough to function as a great table. It’s true, no table dancing, but how often does that really happen anyway (oh, right, I’m going to Pennsic … )

A door is the perfect size for a trestle table

As for finding an old door, my local recycling center had about 50 of ’em, all for $5-$10. I was able to find one that hadn’t ever had a door handle installed, too. And it was already stained a good color. Just needed a little dusting! You might have one hanging around the house from a remodel (or know someone who does). And I’m convinced that doing something like this is period — our ancestors recycled wood, including old doors, whenever it made sense. Wood was never wasted.

As to whether you can actually use a hollow door slab as a tabletop, yes, you can! This is a common practice among folks who need furniture on a budget, model train enthusiasts who need a place for their layouts, drafters who need a desk, and crafters who want a large workspace.

The Table Plans

So here’s how to make the trestle table — these plans are adapted from those posted by Charles Oakley and bits and pieces picked up from other online sources.

1. Join the Leg Pieces: Cut the 2″ x 12″ board into four 30″ long pieces. Cut the 2″ x 10″ board into two 30″ long pieces. Place one of the 2″ x 10″ boards on the floor or some other flat place, and flank it with two of the 2″ x 12″ boards, creating 34″ x 30″ of wood. Repeat with the other three boards. Drill holes in the edges of the boards where they meet, then insert dowels into them and glue them in place with wood clue. Clamp and allow to dry for 24 hours.

Join the wood tightly and securely

2. Size the Tabletop (Optional): If you want to use the full length of your door slab, just skip this step. I wanted my table to fit into a free space in my studio so I could use it as a craft table, however, so I’m shortening my door slab. Here’s how to do it: Measure 58″ inches on your door slab and score it with a knife (this prevents splintering when we cut it). Cut the door so it is 58″ long (I used a circulate saw). [Note: You can vary the length of your table, but be sure to change the length of your stretchers in step 3 accordingly.] Make room in the newly open end by pulling out/pushing in the reinforcements you’ll find there. Cut your firring strips to about 34″ long and place them just inside the open end of the door for support on the end, using wood glue to keep the strips in place. Clamp and allow to dry.

Plug the open end of your hollow door with strips of wood and glue

3. Create the Stretchers: Take the 2″ x 4″ and cut into two 51″ lengths (shorten or lengthen this if you have a shorter or longer table than me). Trim the end of each spacer according to the diagram below. To create the mortise (the hole in the end of the stretcher), use a boring bit on your drill to drill in two places (either end of the bit of wood you want to remove), then use a jigsaw and/or chisel to remove the extra wood and smooth it down.

Cutting the ends of the stretchers

Mortise in the end of a stretcher


4. Create the tenon keys. The tenon key is the tapered bit of wood that will fit into the mortise and hold the legs and stretchers in place). You need four of them. Use the oak board (or just leftover pine) and cut the board into two 4″ x 7″ x 1/2″ pieces, then cut each of those boards diagonally in half and round the ends. Each key should be 1″ at the bottom and about 3″ at the top. You can this diagram (PDF file) to cut your tenon keys: trestle-table-tenon-key.pdf

One of the tenon keys

5. Cut away the extra wood in your table legs once the wood glue has dried (wait at least 24 hours). Here is the diagram I used for my table legs. I drew the pattern in Adobe Illustrator, printed it out tiled, taped the pages together, cut it out, and drew the pattern onto my wood. Just flip the pattern over to do the other side of the wood. Here’s the pattern I used in a PDF: trestle-table-leg-design.pdf

Marking my pattern on the wood

Cutting out the design on the legs

6. Assemble your table legs, stretchers, and tenons. Now that everything is cut out, put your table legs and stretchers together. You may find that some tenons don’t quite fit in some mortises, and now is the time to narrow/widen as necessary. Once it’s all put together just the way you like, take a permanent marker and write indicators on each board so you now how to assemble it quickly and easily next time.

Assembled legs with tenons firmly wedged in mortices

7. Attach tabletop anchors. As the tabletop is so light, I want to avoid actually attaching the tabletop to the legs, just in case the legs were a bit too heavy for it when it was picked up or otherwise moved. So I attached simple 1″ x 2″ boards to the underside of the table, on either side of where the legs meet the table, to hold the table in place and prevent it from moving about when used. I attached the boards to the very sides of the door, where it is solid, for the most secure hold — and this has the added advantage of strengthening the underside of the door a bit. Now the tabletop just rests on top of the legs, but doesn’t slide or move thanks to the anchor boards. (Note: If I find the tabletop moves or tilts during use, I’ll simple drill holes through the anchor boards and into the top of the legs, then slip a dowel through for stability.)

Anchor boards attached to the underside of the door/tabletop

And that’s it … the table is done!


A functional trestle table for under $35!

Now you can fancy it up, if you like. Since I’d saved so much in the construction of the table, I decided to put moulding around the edges and stain the moulding, legs, stretchers, and tenons. That cost an extra $32, although I’d already bought the stain for another purpose (my cooler cooler and my benches). Here is my completed table:


My inexpensive but lovely trestle table

Tips I Learned the Hard Way:

  • Buy dry wood. Wet wood is super heavy and hard to cut! And it won’t take any stain until it dries anyway.
  • If possible, smooth or otherwise plane the sides of the wood boards before you dowel and glue them together in step 1. This will really help the boards stay strong and stable.
  • When you apply any wood glue, put glue on all surfaces to be glued in a thin, even coat. And clean up any wood glue that beads or globs during the drying process — it’s really hard to get this glue off once it has dried.
  • When staining with tinted polyurethane like I did, keep a cloth handy to wipe drips — it gets tacky VERY FAST and is hard to wipe up later. Also, do not go back over previously stained areas (anything older than, say, 3 minutes) until it is absolutely dry because it will glob and gunk and look yucky. This happened with mine, and I got better at the staining thing as I went along (told you I wasn’t that experienced!)

All comments, questions, and suggestions for improvements most welcome!

Also, it’s probably not clear who wrote and made this table, but it was me (Genoveva), working on my own. Gregor was in another state at the time! He’s since helped with many other projects, but not this particular one.

Update 2/2014: This table continues to serve us very well and has survived six weeks at Pennsic so far. I am glad I used a hollow core door, especially now that we have quite a bit of stuff to bring to Pennsic and weight is an issue. The table gets near daily use at home, too, as my sewing table. Here are photos of the table in action:


Our table at Pennsic 40

Table at Pennsic 41

Table at Pennsic 42

Our table gets a lot of use!

My table functions as a sewing table at home most of the time

And we’re planning to bring it to Pennsic 43! And if you’re interested in camp furniture, check out these other things we made:

Our Cooler Cooler: How We Turned a Boring, Mundane Cooler Into an Old Treasure Chest

6 June 2011

In preparing for Pennsic, I know we want to bring a cooler. Gregor will be fighting hard, it will be hot, and it would be good to have a cold drink or two. But a cooler? How mundane is that?! So I set out to look for ideas on bringing a cooler to Pennsic. Here’s what I found:

  • Hide the cooler in the tent
  • Throw a blanket or rug over the cooler
  • Make a wood box and put the cooler in it (i.e., Medieval Cooler Chests)
  • Buy a fancy, expensive, wooden cooler (i.e., Cowboy Country Coolers)
  • Change the outside of the cooler so it wouldn’t stand out

My Old Red Cooler

The last idea fascinated me, and I discovered this link on Making a Cooler Cooler by Ceallach mac Donal. I loved his idea of decoupaging his cooler, so I set out to try it with my old, bright red cooler. It was pretty simple but still quite functional, so it seemed like the perfect guinea pig for this idea.

Next I needed to gather the supplies, and luckily I had several at home already. Here’s my list of what was needed for this project:

Things I used to transform my cooler