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This is the framework of a yurt, constructed by Walter Gigandet


(Photo by Walter Gigandet)

Materials & dimensions:

I used white ash for the poles and walls, because there is a stand out back that is young growth, and way overcrowded. The diameter of the yurt is 11  feet across, the walls are about 40" high, the wall poles are 48" long, but lose height when the wall is opened to build, it becoming a series of X's. The roof poles are 8 feet long, there is an 18" overhang for a drip edge.  The doughnut in the center that I'm sitting on is 30" across, with 6" width of wood 3" thick (pine). I used whatever scrap boards I could find, sandwiched them together in an overlap pattern, drilled and pegged them together, and cut an inner and outer circle. There is a 20" wide smoke hole in the center, I'm sitting on the edge of it in the picture. All the poles were peeled while the sap was up, so the bark came off easily, or else next year powderpost beetles would bore holes all thru the wood if the bark were left on. A 1" auger was used to drill the 26 holes in the doughnut for the rafters to fit into. The top 2" of the poles were shaved down to 1" for a snug fit. There are 52 wall poles, The wall poles have three holes drilled in them, one in the center, and one each a few inches from the end.

Rawhide was traditionally used, so that is what I used, though nylon cord would work fine and last longer. Do not use commercial rawhide; it is too weak. I had a few strips from an old dog chewy that I wanted to use up before cutting up a deerhide. Pulling it tight thru the drilled holes in the poles, would cause it to break, and after drying it became brittle and tore.

All the roof poles have a hole drilled in them, 6' 6'' from the narrow end that goes into the drilled holes in the compression ring. A small rawhide loop is tied on here to attach to the top of the "X" in the wall.

Setting it up:

The wall is in two sections (it's easier if you have a person to help, but I did it alone). Drive a 4' stake in where the door will be to support the wall, till the door frame is installed. Tie one end of the accordion wall to the pole, then walk away, feeding out the poles as you go, in a half circle. When you get to the far end, have a 6 foot forked branch to support the wall from falling down, or drive in another stake and tie it to it. Drive in a stake on the other side of the doorway, tie the other half of the wall to it and expand it, tying the two walls together where they meet. Install the doorway. I made mine arched, about 5 feet tall. You can then remove the poles driven into the ground. Adjust your walls so they are round and the size you want, and evenly spaced. Install the compression ring, which is cordage. I used baler twine that was reversed wrapped. Without the compression ring of cordage to keep the walls from blowing out, the shelter will collapse. The cordage goes all the way around the outside of the walls, and ties to the doorway.

Get three of the roof poles, and the doughnut. Spacing the poles to be equidistant, put in two poles on the doughnut and loop the bottom end on the wall. Put the third pole into the wooden doughnut, lift it up, and loop the third pole onto the wall -- the smoke hole is now in place. Put the rest of the poles into their places, on top of the X's on the wall, and the frame is complete.

As you can see from the photo, the structure is plenty sturdy enough to support my weight. I covered the yurt with reed mats (made from phragmites reeds). Traditionally felt mats were used; most folks use tarps today. Traditionally, a long term shelter was about 15 feet across -- large enough for a family to live in. I made mine smaller, so it would be more mobile. 

Sorry, no more pics, this was taken as the shelter was going down.