Friday, July 19, 2013

Making Washington's Tent, Weeks VII, VIII, and IX: Tent Pins

It's been a busy few weeks in the tent shop, as we continued working on knapsacks, hunting shirts, and common tents. I've been travelling a bit, including to Gettysburg for a National Park Service living history event commemorating the 150th anniversary of the battle, and I'm just now getting back into the routine here.

Aaron Walker, Michael Ramsey, Gwendolyn Basala, and Tyler Putman at work on a common tent.

Tyler Putman and Joseph Privott sewing hunting shirts.

We're still awaiting canvas for the Washington marquee and in the meantime have just about completed the tents accessories. Our tent poles need iron bands before they're ready to use (see my last post), and we've made quite a few tent "pins," or stakes, over the past few weeks, working at both the Joiner's Shop and the Deane Wheelwright's Shop. We'll need quite a few pins for the marquee, and something like a dozen for each common tent we make. The advantage of these pins over the metal examples used by most reenactors is obvious as soon as you handle them. They're lightweight and, when prepared properly, quite durable. In fact, the U.S. army continued to issue wooden tent pins at least through the Second World War. The pins associated with Washington's sleeping marquee seem to be white oak, so we used some reject pieces from the wheelwright's shop, mostly wood that, because of knots or twists, is unsuitable for white oak's usual use there, for spokes.

Three stages of tent pin construction. Note the curve of the unworked piece at left, making it unsuitable for spokes but not for tent pins. Also note the notch in the finished pin, which will hold the rope connected to the tent.

Based on close examination of the original pins, we believe the construction of each involved only a few basic steps, namely:

Sawing split pieces of white oak to length

Rough shaping with a side axe (Peter Follansbee explains this tool here)

Sawing out part of the notch

Chopping or chiseling out the notch and perhaps more axe work

Cleaning up using a shaving bench and draw or drawing knife

Although we tailors and seamstresses don't have much woodworking experience, we've been able to produce tent pins that closely match the originals. It's been nice to work outside when the weather is tolerable and a great chance to talk to visitors about the many other trades involved in producing campaign equipment such as tents. We've also benefited from the generosity of other artisans in Williamsburg who've shared their tools and workspaces over the past few weeks.

Aaron Walker and Gwendolyn Basala at work in the joiner's yard.

Joseph Privott and Tyler Putman at work in the Deane shop yard.

Signs are good that we'll be seeing our tent linen soon, so check back for more updates. As always, you can check in on us via our webcam and facebook page

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