Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Emperors Old Clothes

At the height of the nomadic tentage tradition, the yurt became a symbol.

The tents of state have become big affairs and could no longer simply be made as trellis or yurts tents (because of size and length of roof ribs) anymore, but the emperor’s tent remained always a yurt, usually of crimson colour, a colour that was kept for the use of the ruler only.  Crimson yurt

The moving camp, or ordu,  at times was the size of a small city.

A nomadic tradition that had its routes with the mongols (or even before them), this nomadic camp will form around a ruler or one of his persons of status, and would continue to travel as a unit even after their death at times.

The romance of these traveling camps to me seems immense, although if you dig into it you can see that as long as nomadism was a pastoral thing, where the camp moved with its grazing livestock, it was sustainable

But at later times when nomads became rulers of empires, through a process we talked about here, their nomadic camps turned into whole moving cities, and I think have become less sustainable.

Those cities where born out of conquest, which is not unlike grazing; where a moving people took from the landscape what they need, except that with conquest they took what they could.

For a golden age that started with the mongols and ended with the Mughul empire, nomads have become kings, and their tents have become palaces, I like the fact that even at its highest point, the emperor had kept a yurt, a tie to those nomadic roots.

I think its not the just the fact that in order to keep the lavish life style, these nomads had to keep “grazing” on the sedentary.

Its the fact that the lavishness and riches of their lifestyle turned them into the very people that they conquered, that brought down the moving cities of old.


Emperors yurt

But as you may be able to see  we do have a warm corner in our heart, for those moving cities that had a crimson yurts in their centre.

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Of Fire and of Spirits Intent

This Entry will be the last Entry out of a series of three that show how to make an excellent gas bottle stove.In the last two we got the stove cut and welded together.In this on we will focus on putting the chimney on, the bottom door and the air vent mechanism.We will finish with how to make and put the door latches on.

Step 15 (counting from last time)- using your welder on its highest setting cut the hole for the chimney.

Step 16- weld the chimney in place

Step 17 – cut the bottom door and mark the cut out for air vent, cut the air vents shutters.

Step 18 – cut runners for the shutter flaps. This is a two layer operation and is made out of two layers of steel. The first are like runners for the flaps to run along, the second holds the flaps from coming out. The first must be made from the same thickness steel as the flaps or they will be either too loose, or would not move in their tracks.

Step 19 – draw a couple of little hearts.

Step 20 – cut the hearts out (sounds mean).

Step 21 – Weld hearts on flaps and all together to form the air shutters.

 Step 22 – cut strips for the door latches.

 Step 23 – drill hole for bolt and weld backside, and beat the Latches into shape, weld the latch holders into position, apply more stove paint and ….. viola ….. the double heart stove is made.


gas bottle stove gas bottle stove

gas bottle stove vent stove metal hearts IMG_0753gas bottle stove IMG_0755 gas bottle stove and yurt

Of Fire and the Spirit or Stove Making Part 2

This is the second episode of Nomadic stove making, in which we will continue to show how to make a fabulous stove from an old gas bottle, the design for this stove having been thought of by an old friend of mine when he used to live on the road.

I think this is is a great design, and although for every truck we build we like to create  a new design of stove, we are re-visiting this one for old times sake.

The last episode of stove making saw us up to step 7 when we welded the top of the stove on, and cut the door openings.

So Step 8 – cut the spare metal off the top of the stove plate, using your welder on its top setting….. yes this is actually possible, and probably how plasma cutters were thought of. If the Goddess of love is confused again with all the technical stuff, basically welding on highest settings burns through the metal, and can be used as a way to cut the metal plate instead of angle grinding.


Step 9 – discard the excess (note the angle grinder versus welder cutter methods used)


Step 10 – take the (pre-cut) long strips for the grill, and weld together (note the central plate, this is useful so the morning kindling does not fall through).

IMG_0728Step 11 – round it upIMG_0729

Step 12 – weld the grill into place between the door openings and, repeating steps 7-9, weld the bottom piece on.


Step 13 – weld the top door into place with some steel hinges.


Step 14 – weld some nice legs on the sides





Of Water and the Spirit

The above title is of a book I would love to recommend everyone (and the goddess of love especially) to read. My favourite bit is of how the author’s grandfather’s funeral supper gets cooked on the celling, with the cooks being upside down!.

We will borrow the title style for this entry and call it “Of Fire and Of Water”  to do a little a series of tutorials in nomadic fire and water.

The other day we decided that as we now see the road rising towards us again, it is time to make a stove for our 4×4 overland camper. As we like to make things hard we decided to make a water tank for it the at the same time.

We will however start with the stove here, so this will be a tutorial in how to make a gas bottle stove to heat up your heart.

Step one, find a gas bottle and cut to size. IMG_0930   Step two cut door openings IMG_0934   Step three, cut some extra pieces for doors, and for the top and bottom.IMG_0927 Step four,  using your crane flatten up the top and bottom pieces. IMG_0928 Step five and, beat the flattened pieces even flatter with a hammer (also useful for those without cranes). IMG_0929 Step six, get someone else to cut long strips of metal from an old chassis for the grill. IMG_0933 Step seven, while that someone else does the hard work, quickly weld the top on.IMG_0935

The meaning of פירגון

פירגון (firgun) is a an Hebrew term that means – giving someone credit, to speak highly of another person without any investment for yourself, telling of the worth of a third party individual.

So in the firgun slot of today we would like to speak of another yurt maker we think highly of, Henry Dowell .

It was a several years ago….. we were contacted to make a cover for Henry, for a school yurt, soon later another followed when he bought another of our yurt covers, one that was a part of a job that went bad.
He made the frame to the cover measurements, which was very clever.


Few years have now passed and we have seen Henry becoming one of the most popular yurt makers in the country, his nice yurts are very reasonably priced, and he is easy to work with (I know not all of us yurt makers are like that, I mean easy to work with).

We have seen so many yurt makers come and go, partly due to the fact that yurt making is like hunting gathering, sometimes you have no orders, and sometimes you hunt for big game, a reality which led a few to diversify and hire yurts too, for those moments when the prey does not come near enough.

Here is an amazing hire yurt Henry just finished.


Henry Dowell yurt palace


A really interesting yurt type we think, and that cute little upper storey trellis is adorable, with it’s mini doors (where the flu comes out of).

We feel like there is really not near enough of this type of פירגון (firgun) going on, the fact that there is not even an English equivalent sheds some doubtful light on the chances of it becoming a full scale activity in these parts, especially not amongst yurt makers, who tend only to their own yurt hunting.

We recently finished a 32ft cover, for (the now famous) Henry, which actually gave birth to this blog entry before it became a Hebrew lesson.

Here are a few pics of the cover making, as you can see the 32ft cover is a big thing, below you can see the joining seam, (this seam is when you have to feed the whole cover through the machine) It went through the machine like butter, so all the worry about trying to join such a big one and it not going through the machine was for naught.

yurt cover making

yurt cover making

Yurt cover making in front of yurt

Yurt cover making

And here it is in it’s new home

yurt cover complete

30 yurt cover complete

And finally if you follow the link you can see a movie of Henry putting this 32ft yurt up, amazing how quick he does it too!.

Nomadic Dreaming workshops

Because we have moved so much in the past. And because I don’t like having a fully kitted workshop sitting about just waiting for that occasional piece of woodwork.

We keep a nomadic workshop, even when we are in one place for a while, it’s a minimalist approach that teaches us to make do and improvise.

This is how we make yurt frames.


Our gas fire

We use every day objects that you can get anywhere in the world. A gas bottle and a land drain pipe for steaming the yurt frame elements.


hmmmm that actually works really well


we love cranes

We suspend the whole rig from our crane (another every day item found anywhere).


Yurt wall jig

Three posts in the ground as jig (ok all yurt makers use this very same rig, even the ones who have workshops)

You get the gist it’s not only that we make nomadic structures we make things as if in on the move n.

Instead of having a shaving horse (another thing that takes space) I use a bit of string and two poles.

It’s a minimalist approach, like Cody Lundin (from dual survival) who walks barefoot to teach his feet to endure and to learn to walk slow , I think one should not spoil oneself with workshops, having another house to house the tools you use to build houses means you need two for each one.

Ok enough with the minimal brain wash


improvised shaving horse

Making yurts is a very special art, it should not really work, we use green wood which is unheard of for final wood fabrication, as wood needs seasoning.

The secret is that in some magical way (fortunate for us nomads without storage space) steaming leaches the wood out and brings the fibres closer together so after a few days the wood is seasoned!!!! It usually takes half a year at least the normal way.

This means that yurt making is good craft for nomads I guess, how lucky for them, as i hate to think what they would have to do otherwise, the truth is that people always knew how to do things quickly.

I decided to try and apply the same leaching and binding properties to other wood work elements to make them more nomadic too.

People carve green wood bowls all the time, you have to use green wood I guess unless you have a power lathe, or some very sharp tools, that part is true to all.

But the bowls need to be seasoned for quite a while, I don’t believe in that, I’m an instant kind of person.
I carve and eat out of the same bowl …… on the same day.


Broad axe


Crooked knife


Done deal

But because there is a reason behind why some like it slow.
That truth is that some of my bowls have cracked because I don’t like it slow enough, so they don’t season and all the wet/dry stuff that comes from bowl life is to much to bear.

The magical answer came to me the other day, why not use the same method to nomadically season the wood.
So I boiled the bowl (just like I steam the ash poles for the yurt walls) the amount of tanin that came out of the oak was formidable, I think the secret is in that leaching the wood out, and driving all the air out of the vessels (pores) one “seasons” wood much quicker. Although I can’t fully figure all the ins and outs of why.

I could see the little air bubbles coming out the end of the pores in The wood, which meant to me that the hot water is in effect flushing it all out.

This is another way in which those who don’t like it slow, don’t like wood working workshops (but like cranes) and can’t wait for their wood to season do things, some like it ……. now.

The advantage is that it does not take much to create a home (or yurt) and make the things you need in it, all in a days work.


Boiling my bowl for dinner

Some tribal societies ended up using their spare time for dreaming, because it only took them few days to build their homes, and 20 minutes or so to gather food to eat, that left a whole lot of time to have collective dreaming projects, This is my cup of tea, and the reason why some like it quick is because they need to leave time for dreaming.