Teepees

10/14/2014

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These teepees were made using very common household materials. A little time, patience and skill and you can make some of these easy domiciles for your next historical game.

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To start, I cut some bamboo skewers to size & used a hobby knife to sharpen one end of each stick. You could leave the point that the skewers are made with, but you will lose some realism. If you whittle the end by hand, it gives the appearance of a log that's been chopped by hand - not machined.  I planned for 5 support sticks per teepee. More or less could be used to fit your preference and
size of teepee.

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Taking a long, thin strip of masking tape I wrapped all of the sharpened ends together about .75" away from the tips. This will be removed later but is going help hold the supports together as we create the frame.

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If you gently & evenly expand the un-taped ends of the support sticks outward, the sharpened ends start to spiral around each other. Using a sturdy circle  container or jar lid to hold the sticks open as you position them will help immensely. Once they are in a position fitting your approval, drop a good amount of glue at every joint where the sticks meet. You want the sticks to be sturdy enough to stay together without the tape wrap.

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Once the glue has fully dried, the teepee frame should be able to stand freely and you can remove the strip of masking tape from the joint. Paint or stand your sticks as you see fit and then wrap/tie sewing thread around the sticks where the tape used to be to act as the actual lashings.

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For the hide covering, cut a semi-circle out of untextured paper towel. In this photo, you can see the piece fits the frame while dry but to get the paper towel to drape more naturally (and add durability), I dipped them into a PVA/water mixture. Paper towel will stretch/expand once it's wet, so they had to be trimmed after they were applied. In other words, don't worry about cutting it perfectly now, because it will be a waste of your time.



I personally prefer Viva brand paper towels for modeling because it has a very soft, cloth like consistency that is a lot smoother than most paper towels (therefore less recognizable as paper towel) and has less tendency to rip when wet.

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Here you can see the paper towels after they had been soaked in the PVA/water mix and applied to the teepee frames. Do not smooth them on too well; leaving the creases and wrinkles that come from handling the wet paper towel will give your hides a nice texture. Having the teepees set up to dry on cling wrap will keep them from being glued to your desk or table. Trim access material as needed. It's a good idea to research some images of teepees to add variety to the styles of your tents.

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Once dry, I painted them with a base coat of a light tan acrylic paint then very lightly dry brushed with white using circular motions to keep the color looking irregular.  I randomly added squiggly lines to represent the seams between different hides using a small paint brush & some very watery brown paint.

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With a sewing needle and brown thread, I added some very basic stitches to tops of the teepees. I coated the inside of the threaded areas with PVA once I was done to ensure that the threads would not come loose over time.

This was a tricky process, especially trying to fit your hand in to the top of the narrow end of the teepee. Lines could easily be drawn on to save you some time if you're not worried about the extra details.

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I taped over the holes on a few old CD's and spray-primed them brown to be the bases.





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For the ground cover, I put a few tea grounds, sand, small rocks, and loose static grass into a plastic sandwich bag. Shaking the bag to mix everything caused the static ground to form it's own clumps. I just brushed PVA on the CD bases, dumped the mixture on and let it dry. The clumps did better than expected in regards to keeping their shape and staying attached to the base.

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Lastly, you can decorate the teepess by paining on patterns and glyphs appropriate for your tribe/era. A few accessories to the bases or other companion pieces to the set really make these teepees come to life.



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Wench's Notes: Brown paper grocery bags are also a good material to use as model hides. It is thicker and harder to form around tight corners such as the peaks of these teepees and the open door flaps. If you're really ambitious, you can apply your hides as individual torn pieces instead of painting on the seams.