Posts Tagged pennsic

Sabaton! The Medieval Steel Toe Boot

26 June 2011

With mighty Pennsic just over the horizon, it’s time to buckle down and get some of my own projects done. First on my list is constructing a pair of medieval sabatons — I thought that they would be the perfect solution for not yet having historically accurate footwear and not wanting to show it! The sabotons shall, of course, be designed around German sabatons of the 15th century in shape, style and application of materials. However, I’ve never attempted to craft plate armor of any sort let alone a pair of curvacious and articulating plates shoes. Can I do it? Well, after seeing the great challenge that was the making of good period armor, and knowing of the vast quantity of modern tools and materials we now have at our disposal, I better be up to the challenge!

I shall be working closely with two shire brothers of mine — an experienced armorer, Master William the Sinister, and my good friend, Charles von Strausberg. I don’t want to cut any corners on this project and plan on using materials and tools as close as true to the period as possible: 16 ga. mild steel, quality leather, steel (or brass?) rivets and the like.

I have always liked the fully inclosing construction of the sabaton (except the bottom of course) and plan on doing the same. I started reading on just what exactly the armorer was looking for when they built the sabaton and just what sort of styles would have been correct. Lots to learn it seems. Amusingly, it turns out that the pointed toe sabatons of the 1300s and 1400s could be as long as 24″, but that the maximum length allowed actually was dependent on the rank of the wearer. As a combatant in the SCA, the concept of a long (absurdly long) toe would only get in the way and could be a potential safety risk to my fellow fighters. Thus I shall be adopting an modestly pointed toe for this particular project.

I choose to design sabatons that enclose the foot but that aren’t permanently attached to the boot. The concept of being able to change out footwear on a per event basis is quite appealing to me, to be honest. I also wanted to reinforce the gothic style of armor by running a fluted channel down the center to the toe.

After some simple sketches I choose to make a scale mock-up using cardboard. I ended up with a functional (and fitting!) design that ended up consisting of 8 overlapping components. I envisioned a belt and buckle design that will allow me to fasten the heel plate to the rest of the sabaton for reasons of convenience (not shown). So far I’m happy with the design, but its only cardboard — I’m looking foreword to seeing how well such a thing could be crafted in steel.

I’m still working on exactly how I want to attach the sabaton under the boot under. I’ve gone through a number of ideas, both modern and medieval, but have elected to take it step by step. I found it interesting that I choose to design functionality before historical accuracy but still ended up with a similar design in the end (imagine that!). For me first foray into armorworking, I’m seriously enjoying this.


Current Time Spent: 1 hour 30 mins (for conceptual work and mock-up)

Current Cost: $ 0.00


A Gothic Chair: Making Progress On My Camp Chair!

25 June 2011

Have a seat, pull up a chair … my chair! I now have a gothic chair that breaks down for flat transport and goes together with just bits of wood (tenon keys). After deliberating for a while over what to do about the 12 mortice holes and how I was going to make them, I finally came up with a solution … the Dremel TrioTool. I LOVE this tool, It does everything necessary to make these woodworking projects — cuts, routs, and sands. You can even do a nice rounded edge for decoration. If you’re thinking about doing some projects and aren’t sure what tools to get, get the Dremel TrioTool — it only cost me $89 by using a 10% discount coupon from the post office (normally $99).

Anyway, enough about power tools … here’s the chair so far:

My Unfinished Gothic Chair


Side view of the chair

A closer view of the quatrefoil in the chair back

Me sitting in my new chair ... it works!

Things left to do:

  • Cut out quatrefoils in the sides of the chairs.
  • Make armrests
  • Make better tenon keys from oak
  • Sand everything
  • Stain it

But all in all, not bad for a day’s work! I spent a couple of hours yesterday, plus about five hours today.

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:

A Shade Fly for Pennsic: Ideas and Links

17 June 2011

Among my wish list for Pennsic is a shade fly to put out in front of the pavilion. What is a shade fly? Basically, a shade fly is a piece of canvas that is suspended with wood and ropes to provide a shaded area. I want one because I know I’ll prefer to spend my time outside (it’s supposed to be hot at Pennsic!) but I’m super sun-sensitive, so I need shade. A shade fly is my answer.

First, I checked to see how much a shade fly would cost from one of the pavilion suppliers. Panther Primitives wants $203 for a 14′ x 14′ fly made with 10 oz. Sunforger (cheapest option) — and that’s without poles/ropes, which are $174 extra. Plus shipping costs on top of that, so I’d be looking at $450 or even $500.

Second, I looked at how much it would cost to buy Sunforger canvas by the yard to construct it myself. I found 36″ wide 10 oz. Sunforger canvas for $6.25 yard. Since I wanted at least a 12′ x 15′ shade fly, that would be $125 + shipping for 20 yards of 10 oz. Sunforger. Still a little more than I want to pay right now. Perhaps in the future when I feel more secure in my fly/tent-making skills.

Third, I checked out alternate canvas sources. Joann’s has outdoor canvas for $20/yard — too expensive! Cotton duck canvas is $13/yard  — still too much. Even cotton twill is $5 yard, and I don’t know how well that would even work. Looking around online, I see people have had success with heavy-duty painter’s canvas drop cloths. Lowe’s has  9′ x 12′ 10 oz. cotton canvas drop cloths for $20. They aren’t “boat shrunk” like the Sunforger stuff, but I could pre-shrink them by washing them several times in hot water. And two put together — after sewing edges and reinforcing the center — would give me a shade fly of about 11′ x 16′.

So, after thinking about it quite a lot, I decided to get the drop cloths. They’re in the washing mashine now, shrinking, before I begin sewing. While I was at Lowe’s, I also got a 2″ x 4″ x 12′ ridge pole, some 2″ x 2″ x 8′ poles (8), lag screws (8), 10″ steel nails (10), and rope.

But now that I have it all, I realize I don’t see how I’m going to put this shade fly up by myself! I’m strong, but not that tall … and this is tall and big. I think I’m going to need to sew the fly (including grommets), attache the lag screws to the tops of the poles, and then wait for Gregor to come in July before we assemble and test it. He’s tall — he can help!

Here’s my inspiration for my shade fly, and about what I want it to look like:

A Simple Shade Fly

In the meantime, here are some useful links about shade fly construction:

Tent Information/Research (this is the main inspiration for my shade fly — post is about 1/2 way down by asbrand)

Shade Fly 101 by Maestra Giovanna

Shade Fly by Adventures of a Wanna-Be Seamstress

A Table for Pennsic: St. Jerome’s Trestle Table

9 June 2011

It’s time to make a camp table. I’ve been thinking about it a lot — and researching ideas online — and I would like to make a trestle table so it’s easy to take apart and put together. Specifically, I want to make one that looks like this:

St. Jerome in His Study

The above engraving is by a German artist (Albrecht Dürer) in 1514. It is a great, period table that would fit well with our personas. And it looks pretty easy to build. I’ve found several plans for it online:

The Peacock Table (made from common wood stock)

St. Jerome Trestle Table (made from plywood)

I’m torn between using plywood and non-plywood. I want to use the table on a regular basis as a sewing table, so I’m leaning toward non-plywood. But it’s expensive and I’m finding it hard to find 2″ thick wood that the first plans call for.

I am considering using a door slab (a door without paneling or a hole for a handle) for the tabletop. I used to have a table from IKEA that was essentially built like that and I never had a problem with it. And door slabs are only about $25. So I’d just need to find the wood for the legs and braces.

Tomorrow morning I am going to a place we have here called Reuse Center. They sell reclaimed lumber and old doors. Maybe I can find something interesting and affordable there that I can use in lieu of plywood.

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


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