THE QUICK AND EASY DAY SHADE
BY DANR BJORNSON
"Don't be discouraged when you see something nice that someone else has done. Don't say, 'Oh, I could never do that.' Look at it and say, 'How could I do something similar?'" -- Master Bran Trefonnen
'Twas a cold, rainy event at which my lady and I decided that never again would we be without shelter. We created a day shade which looks nice, was easy and cheap to build, and sets up in minutes with only two people. With time, we made adjustments and improvements. Along the way, we have received many compliments. That some of these compliments were veiled in good-natured envy has inspired me to write this.
This article details how we constructed our day shade, and what we learned from doing so. You can build your own and improve on what we have done while achieving the medieval look that makes the SCA fun. Our day shade was built with minimal tools and equipment, rolls into a small package, and is lightweight. It has a peaked roof and sloping back. It provides protection from the sun without obstructing the view to the front and sides. The area under the roof measures about 9 feet wide and about 6 feet deep, enough space for 2-4 gentles.
The day shade consists of a canvas sheet, five poles (4 corners at 6 feet and a center pole at 8 feet), up to ten ropes (depending on soil conditions), and a stake for each rope. Our original design used 4 poles, the front 2 at 6 feet and the rear 2 at four feet. This design gave a sloping roof and the back reached all the way to the ground. However, it had limited headroom and the roof sagged a bit. By adding a long middle pole and making the other poles the same length, it gives a tighter, peaked roof and more headroom, but the back flap no longer reaches all the way to the ground. The diagrams and descriptions refer to this newer design, but you can adjust the height and other details to best fit your height and the space available in your vehicle. Our 8-foot center pole, for example, breaks down into two pieces to better fit the confines of our chariot. Space does not permit me to describe the construction of the break-down section.
Each pole has a nail set into the top, which pokes through the canvas to keep it tight. We left the nail heads on, for safety and to keep the rope from slipping off. I recommend drilling a pilot hole, about 3/4 the diameter of the nail shaft, before driving the nail in, to minimize the chance of splitting the pole. The nail should protrude between 1 and 2 inches to ensure the canvas and rope do not slip off.
The guy ropes are looped over the nails on the pole ends to keep the poles upright. For decorative effect, we put some curtain-rod finials over the nails each time we set it up. We tried wooden stakes for the guy ropes, but found that large nails (60-penny nails are nearly a foot long) are better. They are easy to drive in and remove, and hold very well. Each guy rope has a loop tied in it to go over the stake. The other end of each rope goes through a tensioner, loops back through the tensioner, and has a knot tied on the end to keep it there. The tensioner is a simple stick with two holes in it, but it allows the length and tension of the guy ropes to be adjusted instantly, which is a great convenience during setup and breakdown. We used the 2x2 scraps left from making the poles for our tensioners, but 1x2s or 1 1/2-inch dowels would work just as well (we had a lot of scraps due to our experimenting with different pole lengths).
For the canvas, we used a painter's drop cloth because it was already sewn to size. We put regular brass grommets in the corners to strengthen them where the poles would poke through. We recommend that you reinforce the corners prior to setting the grommets. For the poles, we chose the cheap weather-treated 2x2 square poles, picking through the stack to minimize knots, cracks, and rough spots. These come in 8-foot lengths at the store we prefer, but any length is fine, since you can make tensioners out of any scraps you create.
Because your pavilion is made of canvas, it also takes paint well if you wish to add your device or other designs. It is also easy to sew dags onto the edges if you want to spice up the plain white canvas.
Setting up this pavilion is a simple process. As with any new endeavor, we recommend you practice once at home before attempting to do so in front of your friends. Lay out the canvas in your chosen spot. Then drive the stakes 3-5 feet out from the corners. The number of stakes you use depends on the soil conditions; use more for soft soils. Push the poles through the grommets in the canvas, install the finials (if you use them), and loop the rope over the stakes and the top of the poles, leaving plenty of slack. Once the poles are laid out, stake down the rear flap With one person on each side, pull the rear poles upright and tighten the ropes enough to hold them in place. Then, step forward and raise the front poles, tightening the ropes again. Raise the center pole and position it. Finally, make any final adjustments to the ropes to keep your pavilion sturdy. With the pavilion standing, you can set up your carpet, chairs, banner, and other things to make it your temporary home.
Breaking down the pavilion is done in reverse order. When it's done, you can roll the entire thing up in its own canvas, saving one or two ropes to tie up the bundle, for easy transport back to your castle.
This is how my computer envisioned the completed day shade. At the top of this article is a picture of ours, set up and decorated.
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