Shelters, Shacks and Shanties
by D.C. Beard
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Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties

Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties


With Illustrations by the Author

NEW YORK Charles Scribner's Sons 1916


Published September, 1914



As this book is written for boys of all ages, it has been divided under two general heads, "The Tomahawk Camps" and "The Axe Camps," that is, camps which may be built with no tool but a hatchet, and camps that will need the aid of an axe.

The smallest boys can build some of the simple shelters and the older boys can build the more difficult ones. The reader may, if he likes, begin with the first of the book, build his way through it, and graduate by building the log houses; in doing this he will be closely following the history of the human race, because ever since our arboreal ancestors with prehensile toes scampered among the branches of the pre-glacial forests and built nestlike shelters in the trees, men have made themselves shacks for a temporary refuge. But as one of the members of the Camp-Fire Club of America, as one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America, and as the founder of the Boy Pioneers of America, it would not be proper for the author to admit for one moment that there can be such a thing as a camp without a camp-fire, and for that reason the tree folks and the "missing link" whose remains were found in Java, and to whom the scientists gave the awe-inspiring name of Pithecanthropus erectus, cannot be counted as campers, because they did not know how to build a camp-fire; neither can we admit the ancient maker of stone implements, called eoliths, to be one of us, because he, too, knew not the joys of a camp-fire. But there was another fellow, called the Neanderthal man, who lived in the ice age in Europe and he had to be a camp-fire man or freeze! As far as we know, he was the first man to build a camp-fire. The cold weather made him hustle, and hustling developed him. True, he did cook and eat his neighbors once in a while, and even split their bones for the marrow; but we will forget that part and just remember him as the first camper in Europe.

Recently a pygmy skeleton was discovered near Los Angeles which is claimed to be about twenty thousand years old, but we do not know whether this man knew how to build a fire or not. We do know, however, that the American camper was here on this continent when our Bible was yet an unfinished manuscript and that he was building his fires, toasting his venison, and building "sheds" when the red-headed Eric settled in Greenland, when Thorwald fought with the "Skraelings," and Biarni's dragon ship made the trip down the coast of Vineland about the dawn of the Christian era. We also know that the American camper was here when Columbus with his comical toy ships was blundering around the West Indies. We also know that the American camper watched Henry Hudson steer the Half Moon around Manhattan Island. It is this same American camper who has taught us to build many of the shacks to be found in the following pages.

The shacks, sheds, shanties, and shelters described in the following pages are, all of them, similar to those used by the people on this continent or suggested by the ones in use and are typically American; and the designs are suited to the arctics, the tropics, and temperate climes; also to the plains, the mountains, the desert, the bog, and even the water.

It seems to be natural and proper to follow the camp as it grows until it develops into a somewhat pretentious log house, but this book must not be considered as competing in any manner with professional architects. The buildings here suggested require a woodsman more than an architect; the work demands more the skill of the axeman than that of the carpenter and joiner. The log houses are supposed to be buildings which any real outdoor man should be able to erect by himself and for himself. Many of the buildings have already been built in many parts of the country by Boy Pioneers and Boy Scouts.

This book is not intended as an encyclopedia or history of primitive architecture; the bureaus at Washington, and the Museum of Natural History, are better equipped for that purpose than the author.

The boys will undoubtedly acquire a dexterity and skill in building the shacks and shanties here described, which will be of lasting benefit to them whether they acquire the skill by building camps "just for the fun of the thing" or in building them for the more practical purpose of furnishing shelter for overnight pleasure hikes, for the wilderness trail, or for permanent camps while living in the open.

It has been the writer's experience that the readers depend more upon his diagrams than they do upon the written matter in his books, and so in this book he has again attempted to make the diagrams self-explanatory. The book was written in answer to requests by many people interested in the Boy Scout movement and others interested in the general activities of boys, and also in answer to the personal demands of hundreds of boys and many men.

The drawings are all original and many of them invented by the author himself and published here for the first time, for the purpose of supplying all the boy readers, the Boy Scouts, and other older "boys," calling themselves Scoutmasters and sportsmen, with practical hints, drawings, and descriptions showing how to build suitable shelters for temporary or permanent camps.






















































Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties




IT may be necessary for me to remind the boys that they must use the material at hand in building their shacks, shelters, sheds, and shanties, and that they are very fortunate if their camp is located in a country where the mountain goose is to be found.

The Mountain Goose

From Labrador down to the northwestern borders of New England and New York and from thence to southwestern Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, the woodsman and camper may make their beds from the feathers of the "mountain goose." The mountain goose is also found inhabiting the frozen soil of Alaska and following the Pacific and the Rocky Mountains the Abies make their dwelling-place as far south as Guatemala. Consequently, the Abies, or mountain goose, should be a familiar friend of all the scouts who live in the mountainous country, north, south, east, and west.


I forgot to say that the mountain goose (Figs. 1 and 2) is not a bird but a tree. It is humorously called a goose by the woodsmen because they all make their beds of its "feathers." It is the sapin of the French-Canadians, the cho-kho-tung of the New York Indians, the balsam of the tenderfoot, the Christmas-tree of the little folk, and that particular Coniferae known by the dry-as-dust botanist as Abies. There is nothing in nature which has a wilder, more sylvan and charming perfume than the balsam, and the scout who has not slept in the woods on a balsam bed has a pleasure in store for him.


The leaves of the balsam are blunt or rounded at the ends and some of them are even dented or notched in place of being sharp-pointed. Each spine or leaf is a scant one inch in length and very flat; the upper part is grooved and of a dark bluish-green color. The under-side is much lighter, often almost silvery white. The balsam blossoms in April or May, and the fruit or cones stand upright on the branches. These vary from two to four inches in length. The balsam-trees are seldom large, not many of them being over sixty feet high with trunks from one to less than three feet through. The bark on the trunks is gray in color and marked with horizontal rows of blisters. Each of these contains a small, sticky sap like glycerine. Fig. 1 shows the cone and leaves of one of the Southern balsams known as the she-balsam, and Fig. 2 shows the celebrated balsam-fir tree of the north country, cone and branch.

Fig. 1. Fig. 2. Fig. 3. Fig. 4. Fig. 5. Fig. 6. Fig. 7.

Balsam Beds

The balsam bed is made of the small twigs of balsam-trees. In gathering these, collect twigs of different lengths, from eighteen inches long (to be used as the foundation of the bed) to ten or twelve inches long (for the top layer). If you want to rest well, do not economize on the amount you gather; many a time I have had my bones ache as a result of being too tired to make my bed properly and attempting to sleep on a thin layer of boughs.

If you attempt to chop off the boughs of balsam they will resent your effort by springing back and slapping you in the face. You can cut them with your knife, but it is slow work and will blister your hands. Take twig by twig with the thumb and fingers (the thumb on top, pointing toward the tip of the bough, and the two forefingers underneath); press down with the thumb, and with a twist of the wrist you can snap the twigs like pipe-stems. Fig. 3 shows two views of the hands in a proper position to snap off twigs easily and clean. The one at the left shows the hand as it would appear looking down upon it; the one at the right shows the view as you look at it from the side.

Packing Boughs

After collecting a handful of boughs, string them on a stick which you have previously prepared (Fig. 4). This stick should be of strong, green hardwood, four or five feet long with a fork about six inches long left on it at the butt end to keep the boughs from sliding off, and sharpened at the upper end so that it can be easily poked through a handful of boughs. String the boughs on this stick as you would string fish, but do it one handful at a time, allowing the butts to point in different directions. It is astonishing to see the amount of boughs you can carry when strung on a stick in this manner and thrown over your shoulder as in Fig. 5. If you have a lash rope, place the boughs on a loop of the rope, as in Fig. 6, then bring the two ends of the rope up through the loop and sling the bundle on your back.

Clean Your Hands

When you have finished gathering the material for your bed your hands will be covered with a sticky sap, and, although they will be a sorry sight, a little lard or baking grease will soften the pitchy substance so that it may be washed off with soap and water.

How to Make Beds

To make your bed, spread a layer of the larger boughs on the ground; commence at the head and shingle them down to the foot so that the tips point toward the head of the bed, overlapping the butts (Fig. 7). Continue this until your mattress is thick enough to make a soft couch upon which you can sleep as comfortably as you do at home. Cover the couch with one blanket and use the bag containing your coat, extra clothes, and sweater for a pillow. Then if you do not sleep well, you must blame the cook.

Other Bedding

If you should happen to be camping in a country destitute of balsam, hemlock, or pine, you can make a good spring mattress by collecting small green branches of any sort of tree which is springy and elastic. Build the mattress as already described. On top of this put a thick layer of hay, straw, or dry leaves or even green material, provided you have a rubber blanket or poncho to cover the latter. In Kentucky I have made a mattress of this description and covered the branches with a thick layer of the purple blossoms of ironweed; over this I spread a rubber army blanket to keep out the moisture from the green stuff and on top of this made my bed with my other blankets. It was as comfortable a couch as I have ever slept on; in fact, it was literally a bed of flowers.



THE first object of a roof of any kind is protection against the weather; no shelter is necessary in fair weather unless the sun in the day or the dampness or coolness of the night cause discomfort. In parts of the West there is so little rain that a tent is often an unnecessary burden, but in the East and the other parts of the country some sort of shelter is necessary for health and comfort.

The original American was always quick to see the advantages offered by an overhanging cliff for a camp site (Figs. 9, 10). His simple camps all through the arid Southwest had gradually turned into carefully built houses long before we came here. The overhanging cliffs protected the buildings from the rain and weather, and the site was easily defended from enemies. But while these cliff-dwellings had reached the dignity of castles in the Southwest, in the Eastern States—Pennsylvania, for instance—the Iroquois Indians were making primitive camps and using every available overhanging cliff for that purpose.

To-day any one may use a pointed stick on the floor of one of these half caves and unearth, as I have done, numerous potsherds, mussel shells, bone awls, flint arrow-heads, split bones of large game animals, and the burnt wood of centuries of camp-fires which tell the tale of the first lean-to shelter used by camping man in America.

Half Caves

The projecting ledges of bluestone that have horizontal seams form half caves from the falling apart of the lower layers of the cliff caused by rain and ice and often aided by the fine roots of the black birch, rock oak, and other plants, until nature has worked long enough as a quarry-man and produced half caves large enough to shelter a stooping man (Figs. 8, 9, and 10).

Although not always necessary, it is sometimes best to make a shelter for the open face of such a cave, even if we only need it for a temporary camp (Fig. 10); this may be done by resting poles slanting against the face of the cliff and over these making a covering of balsam, pine, hemlock, palmetto, palm branches, or any available material for thatch to shed the rain and prevent it driving under the cliff to wet our bedding.


It is not always necessary to thatch the wall; a number of green boughs with leaves adhering may be rested against the cliffs and will answer for that purpose. Set the boughs upside down so that they will shed the rain and not hold it so as to drip into camp. Use your common sense and gumption, which will teach you that all the boughs should point downward and not upward as most of them naturally grow. I am careful to call your attention to this because I lately saw some men teaching Boy Scouts how to make camps and they were placing the boughs for the lads around the shelter with their branches pointing upward in such a manner that they could not shed the rain. These instructors were city men and apparently thought that the boughs were for no other purpose than to give privacy to the occupants of the shelter, forgetting that in the wilds the wilderness itself furnishes privacy.

Fig. 8. Fig. 9. Fig. 10.

The half cave was probably the first lean-to or shelter in this country, but overhanging cliffs are not always found where we wish to make our camp and we must resort to other forms of shelter and the use of other material in such localities.



NOW that you know how to make a bed in a half cave, we will take up the most simple and primitive manufactured shelters.

Fallen-Tree Shelter

For a one-man one-night stand, select a thick-foliaged fir-tree and cut it partly through the trunk so that it will fall as shown in Fig. 11; then trim off the branches on the under-side so as to leave room to make your bed beneath the branches; next trim the branches off the top or roof of the trunk and with them thatch the roof. Do this by setting the branches with their butts up as shown in the right-hand shelter of Fig. 13, and then thatch with smaller browse as described in making the bed. This will make a cosey one-night shelter.

The Scout-Master

Or take three forked sticks (A, B, and C, Fig. 12), and interlock the forked ends so that they will stand as shown in Fig. 12. Over this framework rest branches with the butt ends up as shown in the right-hand shelter (Fig. 13), or lay a number of poles as shown in the left-hand figure (Fig. 12) and thatch this with browse as illustrated by the left-hand shelter in Fig. 13, or take elm, spruce, or birch bark and shingle as in Fig. 14. These shelters may be built for one boy or they may be made large enough for several men. They may be thatched with balsam, spruce, pine, or hemlock boughs, or with cat-tails, rushes (see Figs. 66 and 69) or any kind of long-stemmed weeds or palmetto leaves.

To Peel Bark

In the first place, I trust that the reader has enough common sense and sufficient love of the woods to prevent him from killing or marring and disfiguring trees where trees are not plenty, and this restriction includes all settled or partially settled parts of the country. But in the real forests and wilderness, miles and miles away from human habitation, there are few campers and consequently there will be fewer trees injured, and these few will not be missed.

Selecting Bark

To get the birch bark, select a tree with a smooth trunk devoid of branches and, placing skids for the trunk to fall upon (Fig. 38), fell the tree (see Figs. 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, and 118), and then cut a circle around the trunk at the two ends of the log and a slit from one circle clean up to the other circle (Fig. 38); next, with a sharp stick shaped like a blunt-edged chisel, pry off the bark carefully until you take the piece off in one whole section. If it is spruce bark or any other bark you seek, hunt through the woods for a comparatively smooth trunk and proceed in the same manner as with the birch. To take it off a standing tree, cut one circle down at the butt and another as high as you can reach (Fig. 118) and slit it along a perpendicular line connecting the two cuts as in Fig. 38. This will doubtless in time kill the tree, but far from human habitations the few trees killed in this manner may do the forest good by giving more room for others to grow. Near town or where the forests are small use the bark from the old dead trees.

Fig. 11. Fig. 12. Fig. 13. Fig. 14.

Using Bark

To shingle with bark, cut the bark in convenient sections, commence at the bottom, place one piece of bark set on edge flat against the wall of your shelter, place a piece of bark next to it in the same manner, allowing the one edge to overlap the first piece a few inches, and so on all the way around your shack; then place a layer of bark above this in the same manner as the first one, the end edges overlapping, the bottom edges also overlapping the first row three or four inches or even more. Hold these pieces of bark in place by stakes driven in the ground against them or poles laid over them, according to the shape or form of your shelter. Continue thus to the comb of the roof, then over the part where the bark of the sides meets on the top lay another layer of bark covering the crown, ridge, comb, or apex and protecting it from the rain. In the wigwam-shaped shelters, or rather I should say those of teepee form, the point of the cone or pyramid is left open to serve as chimney for smoke to escape.



The Adirondack

THE next shelter is what is generally known as the Adirondack shelter, which is a lean-to open in the front like a "Baker" or a "Dan Beard" tent. Although it is popularly called the Adirondack camp, it antedates the time when the Adirondacks were first used as a fashionable resort. Daniel Boone was wont to make such a camp in the forests of Kentucky. The lean-to or Adirondack camp is easily made and very popular. Sometimes two of them are built facing each other with an open space between for the camp-fire. But the usual manner is to set up two uprights as in Fig. 15, then lay a crosspiece through the crotches and rest poles against this crosspiece (Fig. 16). Over these poles other poles are laid horizontally and the roof thatched with browse by the method shown by Fig. 6, but here the tips of the browse must point down and be held in place by other poles (Fig. 10) on top of it. Sometimes a log is put at the bottom of the slanting poles and sometimes more logs are placed as shown in Figs. 15 and 16 and the space between them floored with balsam or browse.

The Scout

Where birch bark is obtainable it is shingled with slabs of this bark as already described, and as shown in Fig. 17, the bark being held in place on the roof by poles laid over it and on the side by stakes being driven in the ground outside of the bark to hold it in place as in Fig. 17.

Fig. 15. Fig. 16. Fig. 17. Fig. 18. Fig. 19. Fig. 20. Fig. 21.

The Pioneer

Fig. 18 shows the Pioneer, a tent form of shack, and Fig. 19 shows how the bark is placed like shingles overlapping each other so as to shed the rain. The doorway of the tent shack is made by leaning poles against forked sticks, their butts forming a semicircle in front, or rather the arc of a circle, and by bracing them against the forked stick fore and aft they add stability to the structure.

Bark Teepee

Or you may, if you choose, lash three sticks together at the top ends, spread them in the form of a tripod, then lay other sticks against them, their butts forming a circle in the form of a teepee (Fig. 20).

Commence at the bottom as you do in shingling a roof and place sections of birch bark around, others above them overlapping them, and hold them in place by resting poles against them. If your camp is to be occupied for a week or so, it may be convenient to build a wick-up shelter as a dining-room like the one shown in Fig. 21. This is made with six uprights, two to hold the ridge-pole and two to hold the eaves, and may be shingled over with browse or birch, elm, spruce, or other bark; shingle with the browse in the same manner as that described for the bark, beginning at the eaves and allowing each row of browse to overlap the butts of the one below it.




IN building a shelter use every and any thing handy for the purpose; ofttimes an uprooted tree will furnish a well-made adobe wall, where the spreading roots have torn off the surface soil as the tree fell and what was the under-side is now an exposed wall of clay, against which you may rest the poles for the roof of a lean-to. Or the side of the cliff (Fig. 23) may offer you the same opportunity. Maybe two or three trees will be found willing to act as uprights (Fig. 24). Where you use a wall of any kind, rock, roots, or bank, it will, of course, be necessary to have your doorway at one side of the shack as in Fig. 23. The upright poles may be on stony ground where their butts cannot well be planted in the earth, and there it will be necessary to brace them with slanting poles (Fig. 25). Each camp will offer problems of its own, problems which add much to the interest and pleasure of camp making.

Beaver Mat

The beaver-mat camp is a new one and, under favorable conditions, a good one. Cut your poles the length required for the framework of the sides, lash them together with the green rootlets of the tamarack or strips of bark of the papaw, elm, cedar, or the inside bark of the chestnut (A, Fig. 22); then make a bed of browse of any kind handy, but make it in the manner described for making balsam beds (Fig. 7). You will, of course, thatch so that when the side is erected it is shingled like a house, the upper rows overlapping the lower ones. Then lash a duplicate frame over the browse-padded frame and the side is complete (B, Fig. 22). Make the other side or sides and the roof (C, Fig. 22) in the same manner, after which it is a simple matter to erect your shack (Fig. 22, and E, Fig. 22).

Fig. 22. Fig. 23. Fig. 24. Fig. 25. Fig. 26. Fig. 27. Fig. 28.

The great advantage of this sort of shelter is that it is much easier to do your thatching on the ground than on standing walls, and also, when done, it is so compact as to be practically water-proof.

Fagot Shack

The fagot shack is also a new style of camp and is intended for use in places where large timber cannot be cut, but where dwarf willows, bamboo cane, alders, or other small underbrush is more or less plentiful. From this gather a plentiful supply of twigs and with improvised twine bind the twigs into bundles of equal size. Use these bundles as you would stones in building the wall and lay them so as to break joints, that is, so that the joints are never in a continuous line. Hold the wall in place by stakes as shown in Fig. 26. Use the browse, small twigs with the leaves adhering to them, in place of mortar or cement so as to level your bundles and prevent their rocking on uneven surfaces. The doorways and window openings offer no problem that a rank outsider cannot solve. Fig. 27 shows the window opening, also shows you how the window-sill can be made firm by laying rods over the top of the fagots. Rods are also used across the top of the doorway upon which to place the bundles of fagots or twigs. Twigs is probably the best term to use here, as fagots might be thought to mean larger sticks, which may be stiff and obstinate and hard to handle.


After the walls are erected, a beaver-mat roof may be placed upon them or a roof made on a frame such as shown in Fig. 28 and thatched with small sticks over which a thatch of straw, hay, rushes (Figs. 66 and 69), or browse may be used to shed the rain.

One great advantage which recommends the beaver-mat and fagot camp to lovers of nature and students of forestry lies in the fact that it is unnecessary to cut down or destroy a single large or valuable young tree in order to procure the material necessary to make the camp. Both of these camps can be made in forest lands by using the lower branches of the trees, which, when properly cut close to the trunk (Fig. 121), do not injure the standing timber. The fagot hut may be made into a permanent camp by plastering the outside with soft mud or clay and treating the inside walls in the same manner, thus transforming it into an adobe shack.



WHILE the ingenuity of the white man may make improvements upon the wick-ups, arbors, huts, and shelters of the native red man, we must not forget that these native shelters have been used with success by the Indians for centuries, also we must not forget that our principal objection to many of them lies in the fact that they are ill ventilated and dirty, both of which defects may be remedied without materially departing from the lines laid down by the savage architects. The making of windows will supply ventilation to Indian huts, but the form of the hut we must bear in mind is made to suit the locality in which we find it.

Apache Hogan

The White Mountain Apache builds a tent-shaped shack (Figs. 29 and 32) which is practically the same as that already described and shown in Figs. 18 and 19, the difference being that the Apache shack is not covered with birch bark, a material peculiar to the North, but the Apache uses a thatch of the rank grass to be found where his shacks are located. To-day, however, the White Mountain Apache has become so degenerate and so lost to the true sense of dignity as a savage that he stoops to use corn-stalks with which to thatch the long, sloping sides of his shed-like house but by so doing he really shows good horse sense, for corn-stalks and corn leaves make good material for the purpose.

Fig. 29. Fig. 30. Fig. 31. Fig. 32. Fig. 33. Fig. 34. Fig. 341/2. Fig. 35.

San Carlos Shack

The San Carlos Apache Indians build a dome-shaped hut by making a framework of small saplings bent in arches as the boys did in Kentucky when the writer was himself a lad, and as shown in Fig. 30. The ends of the pole are sunk into the ground in the form of a circle, while their tips are bent over and bound together thus forming a series of loops which overlap each other and give stability and support to the principal loops which run from the ground to the top of the dome. The Indians thatch these huts with bear-grass arranged in overlapping rows and held in place with strings (see Fig. 69) made of yucca leaves (Fig. 31).

Chippewa Shack

Much farther north I have seen the Chippewa Indians build a framework in practically the same manner as the San Carlos Apache, but the Chippewas covered their frame with layers of birch bark held in place by ropes stretched over it as shown in Fig. 32. The door to their huts consisted of a blanket portiere.

In the same locality to-day it would be difficult if not impossible to procure such large strips of birch bark; but the dome-shaped frame is a good one to be used in many localities and, like all other frames, it can be covered with the material at hand. It may be shingled with smaller pieces of bark, covered with brush and thatched with browse or with hay, straw, palmetto leaves, palm leaves, or rushes, or it may be plastered over with mud and made an adobe hut.

Pima Lodge

The Pima Indians make a flat-roofed lodge with slanting walls (Fig. 33) which may be adapted for our use in almost any section of the country. It can be made warm and tight for the far North and cool and airy for the arid regions of the Southwest. The framework, as you may see by referring to the diagram, is similar to the wick-ups we men made when we were boys, and which are described in the "American Boy's Handy Book," consisting of four upright posts supporting in their crotches two crosspieces over which a flat roof is made by placing poles across. But the sides of this shack are not upright but made by resting leaning poles against the eaves.

White Man's Walls

The principal difference between a white man's architecture and the Indian's lies in the fact that the white man, with brick, stone, or frame house in his mind, is possessed of a desire to build perpendicular walls—walls which are hard to thatch and difficult to cover with turf, especially in the far North, where there is no true sod such as we understand in the middle country, where our grass grows thickly with interlacing roots. Boys will do well to remember this and imitate the Indian in making slanting walls for their shacks, shanties, and shelters in the woods. If they have boards or stone or brick or logs with which to build they may, with propriety, use a perpendicular wall. The Pima Indians, according to Pliny Earle Goddard, associate curator of anthropology of the American Museum of Natural History, thatch their houses with arrow brush and not infrequently bank the sides of the shack with dirt.

Adobe Roof

If you want to put a dirt roof on a shack of this description, cover the poles with small boughs or browse, green or dry leaves, straw, hay, grass, or rushes and put the sod over the top of this. If in place of making the roof flat, as shown in Fig. 33, you slant it so as to shed the rain, this sort of shack will do for almost any climate, but with a flat roof it is only fitted for the arid country or for a shelter from the sun when it is not expected to be used during the rain.


The teepee-shaped hut used by the Navajo Indians will shed the rain. To build this shack interlock three forked sticks as shown in the diagram, then lay other poles up against the forks of these sticks so that the butts of the poles will form a circle on the ground (Fig. 34). Thatch this with any material handy, after which you may cover it with dirt as the Navajos do, in which case you had better build a hallway for entrance, as shown in Fig. 35. This same teepee form is used by the California Indians and thatched with wild hay (Fig. 341/2).



A DESCRIPTION of the Pontiac was first published in my "Field and Forest Handy Book," a book which contains several shelters similar to the ones here given, most of which were originally made for Caspar Whitney while he was editor of Outing.

The Pontiac

The Pontiac, as here given, is my own design and invention (Fig. 36). It is supposed to be shingled with birch bark, but, as is the case with all these camps, other bark may be substituted for the birch, and, if no bark is within reach and you are near enough to civilization, tar paper makes an excellent substitute. Fig. 37 shows the framework of a Pontiac with a ridge-pole, but the ridge-pole is not necessary and the shack may be built without it, as shown in Figs. 36 and 39, where the rafter poles rest upon the two side-plates over which they project to form the apex of the roof. In Fig. 39, although the side-plates are drawn, the rafter or roof poles are not because the diagram is supposed to be a sort of X-ray affair to show the internal construction. The opening for smoke need not be more than half as large as it is in Fig. 39 and it may be covered up in inclement weather with a piece of bark so as to keep out the rain.

Cutting Bark

Fig. 38 shows a tree felled in order to procure bark. You will note that the bark is cut round at the bottom and at the top and a slit is made connecting the two cuts as already described so that the bark may be peeled off by running a blunt instrument or a stick, whittled to the shape of a paper-cutter or dull chisel, under the edge of the bark and carefully peeling it back. If it is necessary to "tote" the bark any distance over the trail, Fig. 38 shows how to roll it up and how to bind the roll with cord or rope so that it may be slung on the back as the man is "toting" it in Fig. 36.

Building the Pontiac

To build a Pontiac, first erect the uprights E and E, Fig. 37, then the other two similar uprights at the rear and lay the side-plates G in the forks of the uprights; next erect the upright H and one in the rear to correspond, and across this lay the ridge-pole. Next take a couple of logs and put them at the foot of the E poles, or, if you want more room, further back toward where the roof poles F will come. Place one of these logs on top of the other as shown in Figs. 36 and 39. Keep them in place by driving sticks on each side of them. Put two more logs upon the other side of the Pontiac and then lay your roof poles or rafters up against the side-plates and over the logs as shown in diagrams 36, 37, and 39. Fig. 36 shows the roof partially shingled and the sides partially covered, so that you may better understand how it is done.

Shingling with Bark

Commence at the bottom and lay the first row with the edges overlapping for walls; for the roof you may lay one row of shingles from the bottom up to the ridge and hold them in place by resting a pole on them; then lay the next row of shingles alongside by slipping the edges under the first. When you have the two sides covered, put bark over the ridge as shown in Fig. 36. This will make a beautiful and comfortable little camp.

Fig. 36. Fig. 37. Fig. 38. Fig. 39.

To Keep Out Cold

Built as here described, the cold wind might come through in the winter-time, but if you can gather a lot of Sphagnum moss from the nearest swamp and cover your roof with it and then shingle that over with another layer of birch bark, the cold wind will not come through your roof. If you treat your side walls in the same manner and heap dirt up around the edges of them, you will have a comfortable winter camp.

In the winter-time you will find it very difficult to peel the birch bark or any other kind of bark, but when the sap is flowing it is not so difficult to secure bark slabs from many varieties of trees.



WHEN the French Communists were raising Cain in Europe they doubtless thought their idea was practically new, but thousands of years before they bore the red banner through the streets of Paris the American Indians were living quiet and peaceful communal lives on this continent; when I use the words quiet and peaceful, I, of course, mean as regards their own particular commune and not taking into account their attitude toward their neighbors. The Pueblo Indians built themselves adobe communal houses, the Nez Perces built themselves houses of sticks and dry grass one hundred and fifty feet long sometimes, containing forty-eight families, while the Nechecolles had houses two hundred and twenty-six feet in length! But this is not a book of history; all we want to know is how to build shacks for our own use; so we will borrow one from the communal home of the Iroquois. It is not necessary for us to make this one hundred feet long, as the Iroquois Indians did. We can make a diminutive one as a playhouse for our children, a moderate-sized one as a camp for our Boy Scouts, or a good-sized one for a party of full-grown campers.

But first we must gather a number of long, flexible saplings and plant them in two rows with their butt ends in the ground, as shown in Fig. 40, after which we may bend their upper ends so that they will overlap each other and form equal-sized arches, when they are lashed together, with twine if we have it, or with wire if it is handy; but if we are real woodsmen, we will bind them with rope made of fibres of bark or the flexible roots which we find in the forests. Then we bind horizontal poles or rods to the arches, placing the poles about a foot or two apart according to the material with which we are to shingle it. We make a simple doorway with upright posts at one end and bind the horizontal posts on as we did at the sides. Next we shingle it with bark or with strips of tar paper and hold the shingles in place by binding poles upon the outside, as shown in Fig. 41. A hole or holes are left in the roof over the fireplaces for openings for the smoke to escape. In lieu of a chimney a wind-shield of bark is fastened at its lower edge by pieces of twine to the roof so as to shield the opening; this wind-shield should be movable so that it may be shifted according to the wind. The Iroquois is an easily constructed shelter, useful to man, and one which will delight the heart of the Boy Scouts or any other set of boys.

The Pawnee Hogan

The Pawnee hogan is usually covered with sod or dirt, but it may be covered with bark, with canvas, or thatched with straw or with browse, as the camper may choose. Fig. 42 shows the framework in the skeleton form. The rafter poles are placed wigwam fashion and should be very close together in the finished structure; so also should be the short sticks forming the side walls and the walls to the hallway or entrance. To build this hogan, first erect a circle of short forked sticks, setting their ends firmly in the ground. Inside of this erect four longer forked sticks, then place across these four horizontal side-plates, or maybe they might be more properly called "purlins," in which case the sticks laid on the forks of the circle of small uprights will properly correspond to the side-plates of a white man's dwelling. After the circle and square (Fig. 42) have been erected, make your doorway with two short-forked sticks and your hallway by sticks running from the door to side-plates. In thatching your roof or in covering it with any sort of material, leave an opening at the top (Fig. 43) to act as a chimney for your centre camp-fire. If the roof is to be covered with sod or adobe, cover it first with browse, hay, straw, or rushes, making a thick mattress over the entire structure. On top of this plaster your mud or sod (Fig. 43). If you intend to use this hogan as a more or less permanent camp you can put windows in the sides to admit light and air and use a hollow log or a barrel for a chimney as shown in Fig. 44.

Fig. 40. Fig. 41. Fig. 42. Fig. 43. Fig. 44. Fig. 45.

The Kolshian

The camps thus far described are supposed to be "tomahawk camps," that is, camps which may be built without the use of a lumberman's axe. The kolshian (Fig. 45) of Alaska, when built by the natives, is a large communal council-house, but I have placed it here among the "tomahawk camps" on the supposition that some one might want to build one in miniature as a novelty on their place or as a council-room for their young scouts. The Alaskans hew all the timber out by hand, but, of course, the reader may use sawed or milled lumber. The proper entrance to a kolshian or rancheree, as Elliot calls it, is through a doorway made in the huge totem-pole at the front of the building. The roof is covered with splits or shakes held in place by poles laid across them, the sides are made of hewn planks set upright, and the front has two heavy planks at the eaves which run down through holes in two upright planks at the corners (Fig. 45). These with the sill plank bind the upright wall planks in place.

The kolshian is undoubtedly a very ancient form of building and may be related to the houses built by the ancient cavemen of Europe. The first human house-builders are said to belong to the Cro-Magnon race who lived in caves in the winter-time, and on the walls of one of the caverns (Dordogne cavern) some Cro-Magnon budding architect made a rough sketch of one of their houses (middle sketch, Fig. 45). When you compare the house with the kolshian the resemblance is very striking, and more so when we remember that the kolshian floor is underground, indicating that it is related to or suggested by a natural cavern.



TO further illustrate the use of bark and tar paper, I have made the sketches shown by Figs. 46, 47, and 48. Fig. 47 is a log shack with an arched roof drawn from a photograph in my collection. To keep the interior warm not only the roof but the sides of the house as well have been shingled with bark, leaving only the ends of the logs protruding to tell of what material the house is really constructed. Fig. 47 shows a fisherman's hut made with a few sticks and bark. Fig. 48 shows a tar paper camp, that is, a camp where everything is covered with tar paper in place of bark. The house is made with a skeleton of poles on which the tar paper is tacked, the kitchen is an open shed with tar paper roof, and even the table is made by covering the cross sticks shown in the diagram with sheets of tar paper in place of the birch bark usually used for that purpose.

Personally I do not like tar paper; it seems to rob the camp of a true flavor of the woods; it knocks the sentiment out of it, and, except to sailors, the odor of the tar is not nearly as delightful as that of the fragrant balsam boughs. Nevertheless, tar paper is now used in all the lumber camps and is spreading farther and farther into the woods as the birch bark becomes scarce and the "tote-roads" are improved.

When one can enter the woods with an automobile, you must expect to find tar paper camps, because the paper is easily transported, easily handled, and easily applied for the purpose of the camper.

Fig. 46. Fig. 47. Fig. 48.

Practically any form of tent may be reproduced by tacking tar paper to sticks arranged in the proper manner, but if you make a wigwam of tar paper, do paint it red, green, or yellow, or whitewash it; do anything which will take off the civilized, funereal look of the affair.



BEFORE we proceed any further it may be best to give the plan of a workshop, a camp, an outhouse, or a shed to be made of sawed lumber, the framework of which is made of what is known as two-by-fours, that is, pieces of lumber two inches thick by four inches wide. The plans used here are from my book "The Jack of All Trades," but the dimensions may be altered to suit your convenience. The sills, which are four inches by four inches, are also supposed to be made by nailing two two-by-fours together. First stake out your foundation and see that the corners are square, that is, at right angles, and test this with a tape or ruler by measuring six feet one way and eight feet the other from a corner along the proposed sides of the house marking these points. If a ten-foot rod will reach exactly across from point to point, the corner is square and you may dig your post-holes.

The Foundation

You may use a foundation of stones or a series of stone piles, but if you use stones and expect your house to remain plumb where the winters are severe you must dig holes for them at least three feet deep in order to go below the frost-line. Fill these holes with broken stone, on top of which you can make your pile of stones to act as support for the sills; but the simplest method is to use posts of locust, cedar, or chestnut; or, if this is too much trouble, pack the dirt tightly, drain it well by making it slope away from the house in every direction, and lay your foundation sills on the level earth. In that case you had better use chestnut wood for the sills; spruce will rot very quickly in contact with the damp earth and pine will not last long under the same circumstances.

All through certain sections of this country there are hundreds of humble dwellings built upon "mudsills," in other words, with no foundation or floor but the bare ground.

We will suppose that you have secured some posts about two feet six inches long with good, flat ends. The better material you can obtain the trimmer and better will be the appearance of your house, but a house which will protect you and your tools may be made of the roughest lumber.

The plans here drawn will answer for the rough or fine material, but we suppose that medium material is to be used. It will be taken for granted that the reader is able to procure enough two-by-four-inch timber to supply studs, ribs, purlins, rafters, beams, and posts for the frame shown in Fig. 49. Two pieces of four-by-four-inch timber each fifteen feet long should be made for sills by nailing two-by-fours together. Add to this some tongue-and-grooved boarding or even rough boards for sides and roof, some enthusiasm, and good American pluck and the shop is almost as good as built.

First lay the foundation, eight by fifteen feet, and then you may proceed to dig your post-holes. The outside of the posts should be flush or even with the outside edges of the sills and end beams of the house as shown in the diagram. If there are four posts on each of the long sides they should be equal distances apart.

Dig the holes three feet deep, allowing six inches of the posts to protrude above ground. If you drive two stakes a short distance beyond the foundation in line with your foundation lines and run a string from the top of one stake to the top of the other you can, without much trouble, get it upon a perfect level by testing it and adjusting until the string represents the level for your sill. When this is done, set your posts to correspond to the level of the string, then place your sill on top of the posts and test that with your level. If found to be correct, fill in the dirt around the posts and pack it firmly, then spike your sill to the posts and go through the same operation with opposite sets of posts and sill.

Fig. 49.

The first difficult work is now done and, with the exception of the roof, the rest only needs ordinary care.

It is supposed that you have already sawed off and prepared about nine two-by-four-inch beams each of which is exactly eight feet long. Set these on edge from sill to sill, equal distances apart, the edges of the end beams being exactly even with the ends of the sills as in Fig. 49. See that the beams all cross the sills at right angles and toe-nail them in place. You may now neatly floor the foundation with one-inch boards; these boards must be laid lengthwise with the building and crosswise with the beams. When this is finished you will have a beautiful platform on which to work, where you will be in no danger of losing your tools, and you may use the floor as a table on which to measure and plan the sides and roof.

Ridge Plank and Rafters

It is a good idea to make your ridge plank and rafters while the floor is clear of rubbish. Lay out and mark on the floor, with a carpenter's soft pencil, a straight line four feet long (A, B, Fig. 49). At right angles to this draw another line three feet six inches long (A, D, Fig. 49). Connect these points (B, D, Fig. 49) with a straight line, then complete the figure A, B, C, D (Fig. 49). Allow two inches at the top for the ridge plank at B and two by four for the end of the side-plate at D. You then have a pattern for each rafter with a "plumb edge" at B and a "bird's mouth" at D. The plumb edge must be parallel with B, C and the two jaws of the "bird's mouth" parallel with D, C and A, D, respectively. Make six rafters of two-by-fours and one ridge plank.

The purlins and collar can be made and fitted after the roof is raised. Set your roof timber carefully to one side and clear the floor for the studs, ribs, and plates. First prepare the end posts and make them of two-by-fours. Each post is of two pieces. There will be four outside pieces each five feet eight inches in length, which rest on the end beams, and four inside pieces each six feet in length; this allows two inches at the top for the ends of the end plates to rest upon.

Examine the corner posts and you will see that the outside two-by-four rests upon the top side of the end beam and the side-plate rests directly upon said two-by-four. You will also observe that the inside two-by-four rests directly upon the sill, which would make the former four inches longer than the outside piece if it is extended to the side-plate; but you will also notice that there is a notch in the end plate for the outside corner piece to fit in and that the end of the end plate fits on top the inside piece of the corner posts, taking off two inches, which makes the inside piece just six feet long. This is a very simple arrangement, as may be seen by examining the diagram. Besides the corner posts, each of which we have seen is made of two pieces of two-by-fours, there are four studs for the front side, each six feet two inches long. The short studs shown in the diagram on the rear side are unnecessary and are only shown so that they may be put in as convenient attachments for shelves and tool racks.

The first stud on the front is placed two feet from the corner post and the second one about six feet six inches from the first, to allow a space for a six-foot window; the next two studs form the door-jambs and must be far enough from the corner to allow the door to open and swing out of the way. If you make your door two and one half feet wide—a good size—you may set your last stud two feet from the corner post and leave a space of two feet six inches for the doorway. Now mark off on the floor the places where the studs will come, and cut out the flooring at these points to allow the ends of the studs to enter and rest on the sill. Next make four ribs—one long one to go beneath the window, one short one to fit between the corner post and the door stud not shown in diagram, another to fit between the door stud and window stud, and another to fit between the window stud and the first corner post (the nearest corner in the diagram). Next make your side-plate exactly fifteen feet long. Fit the frame together on the floor and nail the pieces together, toe-nailing the ribs in place. Get some help and raise the whole side frame and slip the ends of the studs into their respective slots. Make the end posts plumb and hold them in place temporarily by a board, one end of which is nailed to the top end of the post and the other to the end beam. Such a diagonal board at each end will hold the side in place until the opposite side is raised and similarly supported.

It is now a simple thing to slip the end plates in place under the side-plates until their outside edges are even with the outside of the corner posts. A long wire nail driven through the top-plates and end plates down into the posts at each corner will hold them securely. Toe-nail a rib between the two nearest end posts and make two window studs and three ribs for the opposite end. The framing now only needs the roof timbers to complete the skeleton of your shop. Across from side-plate to side-plate lay some loose boards for a platform, and standing on these boards let your assistant lift one end of the ridge plank while with one nail to each rafter you fasten the two end rafters onto the ridge plank, fit the jaws of the "bird's mouth" over the ends of the side-plates, and hold them temporarily in place with a "stay lath"—that is, a piece of board temporarily nailed to rafter and end plate. The other end of the ridge is now resting on the platform at the other end of the house and this may be lifted up, for the single nails will allow movement.

The rafters are nailed in place with one nail each and a stay lath fastened on to hold them in place. Test the ends with your plumb-level and when they are found to be correct nail all the rafters securely in place and stiffen the centre pair with a piece called a "collar." Add four purlins set at right angles to the rafters and take off your hat and give three cheers and do not forget to nail a green bough to your roof tree in accordance with the ancient and time-honored custom.

The sides of the house may be covered with tent-cloth, oilcloth, tin, tar paper, or the cheapest sort of lumber, and the house may be roofed with the same material; but if you can secure good lumber, use thirteen by seven eighths by nine and one quarter inch, tongue-and-grooved, one side planed so that it may be painted; you can make two sideboards out of each piece six feet six inches in length. Nail the sides on, running the boards vertically, leaving openings for windows and doors at the proper places.

If you have made a triangular edge to your ridge board, it will add to the finish and the roof may be neatly and tightly laid with the upper edge of one side protruding a couple of inches over the opposite side and thus protecting the joint from rain. Additional security is gained by nailing what are called picket strips (seven eighths by one and three quarter inches) over each place where the planks join, or the roof may be covered with sheathing boards and shingles. It is not necessary here to give the many details such as the manufacture of the door and the arrangements of the windows, as these small problems can be easily solved by examining doors and windows of similar structures.



THE difference between this sod house and the ones used in the arid regions consists in the fact that the sod will be growing on the sod house, which is intended for and is an ornamental building for the lawn. Possibly one might say that the sod house is an effete product of civilization where utility is sacrificed to display; but it is pretty, and beauty is always worth while; besides which the same plans may be used in building

A Real Adobe

and practically are used in some of the desert ranches along the Colorado River. The principal difference in construction between the one shown in Figs. 50, 53, and 57 and the one in Fig. 55 is that in the sod house the sod is held in place by chicken-coop wire, while in the ranch-house (Fig. 55) the dirt or adobe is held in place by a number of sticks.

Fig. 50. Fig. 51. Fig. 52. Fig. 53. Fig. 54. Fig. 55. Fig. 56.

Fig. 50 shows how the double walls are made with a space of at least a foot between them; these walls are covered with wire netting or chicken-coop wire, as shown in Fig. 53, and the space between the walls filled in with mud or dirt of any kind. The framework may be made of milled lumber, as in Fig. 50, or it may be made of saplings cut on the river bank and squared at their ends, as shown by detailed drawings between Figs. 50 and 52. The roof may be made flat, like Figs. 54 and 56, and covered with poles, as in Fig. 54, in which case the sod will have to be held in place by pegging other poles along the eaves as shown in the left-hand corner of Fig. 54. This will keep the sod from sliding off the roof. Or you may build a roof after the manner illustrated by Fig. 49 and Fig. 51, that is, if you want to make a neat, workmanlike house; but any of the ways shown by Fig. 52 will answer for the framework of the roof. The steep roof, however, must necessarily be either shingled or thatched or the sod held in place by a covering of wire netting. If you are building this for your lawn, set green, growing sod up edgewise against the wire netting, after the latter has been tacked to your frame, so arranging the sod that the green grass will face the outside. If you wish to plaster the inside of your house with cement or concrete, fill in behind with mud, plaster the mud against the sod and put gravel and stones against the mud so that it will be next to the wire netting on the inside of the house over which you plaster the concrete. If you make the roof shown in Fig. 54, cover it first with hay and then dirt and sod and hold the sod down with wire netting neatly tacked over it, or cover it with gravel held in place by wire netting and spread concrete over the top as one does on a cellar floor. If the walls are kept sprinkled by the help of the garden hose, the grass will keep as green as that on your lawn, and if you have a dirt roof you may allow purple asters and goldenrod to grow upon it (Fig. 62) or plant it with garden flowers.


If you are going to make a thatched roof, soak your thatch in water and straighten the bent straws; build the roof steep like the one shown in Fig. 57 and make a wooden needle a foot long and pointed at both ends as shown in Fig. 59; tie your thatching twine to the middle of the needle, then take your rye or wheat straw, hay, or bulrushes, gather it into bundles four inches thick and one foot wide, like those shown in Fig. 60, and lay them along next to the eaves of your house as in Fig. 58. Sew them in place by running the needle up through the wire netting to the man on the outside who in turn pushes it back to the man on the inside. Make a knot at each wisp of the thatch until one layer is finished, let the lower ends overhang the eaves, then proceed as illustrated by Fig. 66 and described under the heading of the bog ken.

If in place of a simple ornament you want to make a real house of it and a pretty one at that, fill up the space between the walls with mud and plaster it on the outside with cement or concrete and you will have a cheap concrete house. The wire netting will hold the plaster or the concrete and consequently it is not necessary to make the covering of cement as thick as in ordinary buildings, for after the mud is dried upon the inside it will, with its crust of cement or plaster, be practically as good as a solid concrete wall.

Fig. 57. Fig. 58. Fig. 59. Fig. 60. Fig. 61. Fig. 62.



FOR many reasons it is sometimes necessary or advisable to have one's camp on stilts, so to speak. Especially is this true in the more tropical countries where noxious serpents and insects abound. A simple form of stilted shack is shown by Fig. 63. To build this shack we must first erect an elevated platform (Fig. 64). This is made by setting four forked sticks of equal height in the ground and any height from the ground to suit the ideas of the camp builder. If, for some reason, the uprights are "wabbly" the frame may be stiffened by lashing diagonal cross sticks to the frame. After you have erected the four uprights, lay two poles through the crotches, as in Fig. 64, and make a platform by placing other poles across these, after which a shelter may be made in the form of an open Adirondack camp or any of the forms previously described. Fig. 65 shows the framework for the open camp of Adirondack style with the uprights lashed to the side bars; if you have nails, of course, you can nail these together, but these plans are made on the assumption that you have no nails for that purpose, which will probably be true if you have been long in the woods.

Fig. 63. Fig. 64. Fig. 65.



KEN is a name now almost obsolete but the bog ken is a house built on stilts where the ground is marshy, damp, and unfit to sleep upon. As you will see by the diagram (Fig. 66), the house is built upon a platform similar to the one last described; in this instance, however, the shelter itself is formed by a series of arches similar to the Iroquois (Fig. 41). The uprights on the two sides have their ends bent over and lashed together, forming arches for the roof. Over the arches are lashed horizontal poles the same as those described in the construction of the Iroquois lodge. Fig. 67 shows one way to prevent "varmints" of any kind from scaling the supporting poles and creeping into your camp.

The protection consists of a tin pan with a hole in the bottom slid over the supporting poles. Fig. 66 shows how to lash the thatching on to the poles and Fig. 68 shows how to spring the sticks in place for a railing around your front porch or balcony.

The floor to this bog ken is a little more elaborate than that of the last described camp because the poles have all been halved before laying them for the floor. These are supposed to be afterwards covered with browse, hay, or rushes and the roof shingled with bark or thatched.


Soak your straw or hay well in water and smooth it out flat and regular. The steeper the roofs the longer the thatch will last. In this bog ken our roof happens to be a rounded one, an arched roof; but it is sheltering a temporary house and the thatch will last as long as the shack. While the real pioneer uses whatever material he finds at hand, it does no harm for him to know that to make a really good thatch one should use only straw which is fully ripe and has been thrashed clean with an old-fashioned flail. The straw must be clear of all seed or grain and kept straight, not mussed up, crumpled, and broken. If any grain is left in the straw it will attract field-mice, birds, domestic mice and rats, domestic turkeys and chickens, and these creatures in burrowing and scratching for food will play havoc with the roof.

Fig. 66. Fig. 67. Fig. 68. Fig. 69.

It is not necessary to have straight and even rafters, because the humps, bumps, and hollows caused by crooked sticks are concealed by the mattress of straw. Take a bundle of thatch in your hands, squeeze it together, and place it so that the butt ends project about three inches beyond the floor (A, Fig. 66); tie the thatch closely to the lower rafter and the one next above it, using for the purpose twine, marlin, raffia, or well-twisted white hickory bark. This first row should be thus tied near both ends to prevent the wind from getting under it and lifting it up. Next put on another row of wisps of thatch over the first and the butt ends come even with the first, but tie this one to the third row of rafters not shown in diagram. The butts of the third row of thatch (B, Fig. 66) should be about nine inches up on the front rows; put this on as before and proceed the same way with C, D, E, and F, Fig. 66, until the roof is completed. The thatch should be ten or twelve inches thick for a permanent hut but need not be so for a temporary shed.

As there is no comb to this roof the top must be protected where the thatches from each side join, and to do this fasten a thatch over the top and bind it on both sides but not in the middle, so that it covers the meeting of the thatches on both sides of the shack; this top piece should be stitched or bound on with wire if you have it, or fastened with willow withe or even wisps of straw if you are an expert. A house, twenty by thirty feet, made of material found on the place and thatched with straw costs the builder only fifty cents for nails and four days' work for two persons. A good thatched roof will last as long as a modern shingle roof, for in olden days when shingles were good and split out of blocks, not sawed, and were well seasoned before using, they were not expected to last much over fifteen years; a well-made thatched roof will last fifteen or twenty years.

Fig. 70.

But a real bog ken is one that is built over boggy or marshy places too soft to support an ordinary structure. To overcome this difficulty required considerable study and experiment, but at length the author hit upon a simple plan which has proved effective. If you wish to build a duck hunter's camp on the soft meadows, or for any other reason you desire a camp on treacherous, boggy ground, you may build one by first making a thick mattress of twigs and sticks as shown by Fig. 70. This mattress acts on the principle of a snow-shoe and prevents your house from sinking by distributing the weight equally over a wide surface. The mattress should be carefully made of sticks having their branches trimmed off sufficiently to allow them to lie in regular courses as in the diagram. The first course should be laid one way and the next course at right angles to the first, and so on, until the mattress is sufficiently thick for the purpose.

Standing on the mattress, it will be an easy matter with your hands to force the sharpened ends of your upright posts A, B, C, and D down into the yielding mud, but be careful not to push them too far because in some of these marshes the mud is practically bottomless. It is only necessary for the supports to sink in the mud far enough to make them stand upright.

Fig. 71.

The next step is to lay, at right angles to the top layer of brush, a series of rods or poles between your uprights as shown in Fig. 70; then take two more poles, place them at right angles to the last ones, and press them down until they fit snugly on top of the other poles, and there nail them fast to the uprights as shown in Fig. 70, after which to further bind them you may nail a diagonal from A to D and B to C, but this may not be necessary.

When you have proceeded thus far you may erect a framework like that shown in Fig. 71, and build a platform by flooring the crosspieces or horizontal bars with halves of small logs, Fig. 71.

It is now a simple matter to erect a shack which may be roofed with bark as in Fig. 72 or thatched as in Fig. 74. Fig. 72 shows the unfinished shack in order that its construction may be easily seen; this one is being roofed with birch bark. A fireplace may be made by enclosing a bed of mud (Fig. 73) between or inside of the square formed by four logs. On this clay or mud you can build your camp-fire or cooking fire or mosquito smudge with little or no danger of setting fire to your house.

The mosquito smudge will not be found necessary if there is any breeze blowing at all, because these insects cling to the salt hay or bog-grass and do not rise above it except in close, muggy weather where no breeze disturbs them. I have slept a few feet over bog meadows without being disturbed by mosquitoes when every blade of grass on the meadows was black with these insects, but there was a breeze blowing which kept the mosquitoes at home.

Fig. 72. Fig. 73. Fig. 74.



NOW that we know how to camp on solid ground and on the quaking bog we cannot finish up the subject of stilt camps without including one over-water camp. If the water has a muddy bottom it is a simple matter to force your supporting posts into the mud; this may be done by driving them in with a wooden mallet made of a section of log or it may be done by fastening poles on each side of the post and having a crowd of men jump up and down on the poles until the posts are forced into the bottom.

If you are building a pretentious structure the piles may be driven with the ordinary pile-driver. But if your camp on the water is over a hard bottom of rock or sand through which you cannot force your supports you may take a lot of old barrels (Fig. 75), knock the tops and bottoms out of them, nail some cross planks on the ends of your spiles, slide the barrels over the spiles, then set them in place in the water and hold them there by filling the barrels with rocks, stones, or coarse gravel. Fig. 77 shows a foundation made in this manner; this method is also useful in building piers (Fig. 78). But if you are in the woods, out of reach of barrels or other civilized lumber, you can make yourself cribs by driving a square or a circle of sticks in the ground a short distance and then twining roots or pliable branches inside and outside the stakes, basket fashion, as shown in Fig. 76. When the crib is complete it may be carefully removed from the ground and used as the barrels were used by filling them with stones to support the uprights. Fig. 79 shows an ordinary portable house such as are advertised in all the sportsmen's papers, which has been erected upon a platform over the water.

Fig. 75. Fig. 76. Fig. 77. Fig. 78. Fig. 79.

My experience with this sort of work leads me to advise the use of piles upon which to build in place of piers of stones. Where I have used such piers upon small inland lakes the tremendous push of the freezing ice has upset them, whereas the ice seems to slide around the piles without pushing them over. The real danger with piles lies in the fact that if the water rises after the ice has frozen around the uprights the water will lift the ice up and the ice will sometimes pull the piles out of the bottom like a dentist pulls teeth. Nevertheless, piles are much better for a foundation for a camp or pier than any crib of rocks, and that is the reason I have shown the cribs in Figs. 75 and 77, made so as to rest upon the bottom supposedly below the level of the winter ice.



IF my present reader happens to be a Boy Scout or a scout-master who wants the scouts to build a tower for exhibition purposes, he can do so by following the directions here given, but if there is real necessity for haste in the erection of this tower, of course we cannot build one as tall as we might where we have more time. With a small tower all the joints may be quickly lashed together with strong, heavy twine, rope, or even wire; and in the wilderness it will probably be necessary to bind the joints with pliable roots, or cordage made of bark or withes; but as this is not a book on woodcraft we will suppose that the reader has secured the proper material for fastening the joints of the frame of this signal-tower and he must now shoulder his axe and go to the woods in order to secure the necessary timber. First let him cut eight straight poles—that is, as straight as he can find them. These poles should be about four and one half inches in diameter at their base and sixteen and one half feet long. After all the branches are trimmed off the poles, cut four more sticks each nine feet long and two and a half or three inches in diameter at the base; when these are trimmed into shape one will need twenty six or seven more stout sticks each four and one half feet long for braces and for flooring for the platform.

Kite Frame

It being supposed that your timber is now all in readiness at the spot where you are to erect the tower, begin by laying out on the ground what we call the "kite frame." First take three of the four-and-one-half-foot sticks, A, B, C (Fig. 82), and two of the nine-foot sticks D and E (Fig. 82), and, placing them on a level stretch of ground, arrange them in the form of a parallelogram. Put A for the top rail at the top of the parallelogram and C for the bottom of the parallelogram and let them rest upon the sides D and E, but put B under the sides D and E. In order to bind these together securely, the ends of all the sticks must be allowed to project a few inches. B should be far enough below A to give the proper height for a railing around the platform. The platform itself rests upon B. A forms the top railing to the fence around it.

Now take two of your sixteen-and-one-half-foot poles and place them diagonally from corner to corner of the parallelogram with the small ends of the poles lying over the ends of A and the butt ends of the poles extending beyond C, as in Fig. 82. Lash these poles securely in place.

Where the poles cross each other in the X, or centre, it is best to flatten them some by scoring and hewing with a hatchet, but care must be taken not to weaken them by scoring too deep. Next take your lash rope, double it, run the loop down under the cross sticks, bring it up on the other side, as in Fig. 83, then pull the two loose ends through the loop. When they are drawn taut (Fig. 84), bend them round in opposite directions—that is, bend the right-hand end of the rope to the right, down and under the cross sticks, pull it out to the left, as in Fig. 84, then bend the left-hand piece of rope to the left, down and under, pulling it out to the right, as in Fig. 84. Next bring those two pieces up over and tie them together in a square knot, as shown in Figs. 85 and 86.

Fig. 80. Fig. 81. Fig. 82. Fig. 83. Fig. 84. Fig. 85. Fig. 86. Fig. 87.

Make a duplicate "kite" frame for the other side exactly as you made the first one, and then arrange these two pieces on the ground with the cross sticks F and F on the under-side and with their butt ends opposite the butts of the similar poles on the other frame and about five feet apart. Fasten a long line to the point where the two F pieces cross each other and detail a couple of scouts to hold each of the butt ends from slipping by placing one of their feet against the butt, as in Fig. 82, while two gangs of men or boys pull on the ropes and raise the kite frames to the positions shown in Figs. 81 and 88.

Be careful, when raising the frames, not to pull them too far so that they may fall on some unwary workman. When the frames are once erected it is an easy matter to hold them in place by guy-ropes fastened to stones, stakes, or trees or held by men or boys, while some of the shorter braces are fastened to hold the two kite frames together, as in Fig. 90, wherein you may see these short braces at the top and bottom. Next, the two other long sticks, legs, or braces (G, G, Figs. 89 and 90) should be held temporarily in position and the place marked where they cross each other in the centre of the parallelogram which should be the same as it is on the legs of the two kite frames. The G sticks should now be lashed together at the crossing point, as already described and shown by Figs. 83, 84, 85, and 86, when they may be put up against the sides, as in Fig. 89, in which diagram the G poles are made very dark and the kite frames indicated very lightly so as to better show their relative positions. Lash the G poles at the top and at the other points where they cross the other braces and secure the framework by adding short braces, as indicated in Fig. 90.

Fig. 88. Fig. 89. Fig. 90. Fig. 90A.

If all the parts are bound together with wire it will hold them more securely than nails, with no danger of the poles splitting. A permanent tower of this kind may be erected on which a camp may be built, as shown in Fig. 87. It may be well to note that in the last diagram the tower is only indicated by a few lines of the frame in order to simplify it and prevent confusion caused by the multiplicity of poles.

Boy-Scout Tower

If you desire to make a tower taller than the one described it would be best, perhaps, to take the regular Boy-Scout dimensions as given by Scout-master A. G. Clarke:

"Eight pieces 22 feet long, about 5 or 6 inches thick at the base; 4 pieces 6 feet long, about 3 or 4 inches thick at the base; 12 pieces 6 feet long, about 21/2 or 3 inches thick at base; 12 or 15 pieces for braces and platform about 6 feet long."

When putting together this frame it may be nailed or spiked, but care must be used not to split the timber where it is nailed. With most wood this may be avoided by driving the spikes or nails several inches back of the ends of the sticks. To erect a flagpole or a wireless pole, cut the bottom of the pole wedge-shaped, fit in the space between the cross poles, as in Fig. 90 A, then lash it fast to the B and A pole, and, to further secure it, two other sticks may be nailed to the F poles, one on each side, between which the bottom of the flagpole is thrust, as shown by Fig. 90 A.

The flooring of the platform must be securely nailed or lashed in place, otherwise there may be some serious accident caused by the boys or men falling through, a fall of about twenty and one half feet according to the last measurements given for the frame.

An observatory of this kind will add greatly to the interest of a mountain home or seaside home; it is a practical tower for military men to be used in flag signalling and for improvised wireless; it is also a practical tower for a lookout in the game fields and a delight to the Boy Scouts.



BY the natural process of evolution we have now arrived at the tree-top house. It is interesting to the writer to see the popularity of this style of an outdoor building, for, while he cannot lay claim to originating it, he was the first to publish the working drawings of a tree-house. These plans first appeared in Harper's Round Table; afterward he made others for the Ladies' Home Journal and later published them in "The Jack of All Trades."

Having occasion to travel across the continent shortly after the first plans were published, he was amused to see all along the route, here and there in back-yard fruit-trees, shade-trees, and in forest-trees, queer little shanties built by the boys, high up among the boughs.

In order to build a house one must make one's plans to fit the tree. If it is to be a one-tree house, spike on the trunk two quartered pieces of small log one on each side of the trunk (Figs. 91 and 92). Across these lay a couple of poles and nail them to the trunk of the tree (Fig. 91); then at right angles to these lay another pair of poles, as shown in the right-hand diagram (Fig. 91). Nail these securely in place and support the ends of the four poles by braces nailed to the trunk of the tree below. The four cross-sills will then (Fig. 95) serve as a foundation upon which to begin your work. Other joists can now be laid across these first and supported by braces running diagonally down to the trunk of the tree, as shown in Fig. 95. After the floor is laid over the joist any form of shack, from a rude, open shed to a picturesque thatch-roofed cottage, may be erected upon it. It is well to support the two middle rafters of your roof by quartered pieces of logs, as the middle rafters are supported in Fig. 95; by quartered logs shown in Fig. 92.

Fig. 91. Fig. 92. Fig. 93. Fig. 94. Fig. 95. Fig. 96. Fig. 97.

If the house is a two-tree house, run your cross-sill sticks from trunk to trunk, as in Fig. 94; then make two T-braces, like the one in Fig. 94 A, of two-inch planks with braces secured by iron straps, or use heavier timber, and bolt the parts together securely (Fig. 93), or use logs and poles (Fig. 94), after which hang these T's over the ends of your two cross sticks, as in Fig. 94, and spike the uprights of the T's securely to the tree trunks. On top of the T you can rest a two-by-four and support the end by diagonals nailed to the tree trunk (Fig. 94) after the manner of the diagonals in Fig. 95. You will note in Fig. 95 that cleats or blocks are spiked to the tree below the end of the diagonals in order to further secure them. It is sometimes necessary in a two-tree house to allow for the movement of the tree trunks. In Florida a gentleman did this by building his tree-house on the B sills (Fig. 94) and making them movable to allow for the play of the tree trunks. Fig. 96 shows a two-tree house and Fig. 97 shows a thatch-roofed cottage built among the top branches of a single tree.

It goes without saying that in a high wind one does not want to stay long in a tree-top house; in fact, during some winds that I have experienced I would have felt much safer had I been in a cyclone cellar; but if the braces of a tree-house are securely made and the trees selected have good, heavy trunks, your tree-top house will stand all the ordinary summer blows and winter storms. One must remember that even one's own home is not secure enough to stand some of those extraordinary gales, tornadoes, and hurricanes which occasionally visit parts of our country.

Since I published the first plans of a tree-top house many people have adopted the idea and built quite expensive structures in the boughs of the trees. Probably all these buildings are intact at the present writing.

The boys at Lynn, Mass., built a very substantial house in the trees, and the truant officer claimed that the lads hid away there so that they could play "hookey" from school; but if this is true, and there seems to be some doubt about it, it must be remembered that the fault was probably with the schools and not the boys, for boys who have ingenuity and grit enough to build a substantial house in a tree cannot be bad boys; industry, skill, and laborious work are not the attributes of the bad boy.

Some New York City boys built a house in the trees at One Hundred and Sixty-ninth Street, but here the police interfered, claiming that it was against a city ordinance to build houses in shade-trees, and maybe it is; but, fortunately for the boys, there are other trees which may be used for this purpose. There is now, or was recently, an interesting tree-house on Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn; a house so commodious that it was capable of accommodating as many as fifteen people; but it was not as pretty and attractive a tree-house as the one located at the foot of Mount Tamalpais, in Mill Valley, San Francisco, which is built after the plan shown by Fig. 95. This California house is attached to the trunk of a big redwood tree and is reached by a picturesque bridge spanning a rocky canyon.

Tree-houses are also used as health resorts, and recently there was a gentleman of Plainfield, Mass., living in a tree-house because he found the pure air among the leaves beneficial; while down in Ecuador another man, who feared malarial mosquitoes and objected to wild beasts and snakes, built himself a house on top of an ibo-tree, seventy feet from the ground. This is quite a pretentious structure and completely hides and covers the top of the tree. It is located on the banks of the Escondido River; and in this tropical country, while it may be a safe retreat from the pests enumerated, it might not be so safe from lightning in one of those violent tropical storms. But it is probably as safe as any house in that country, for one must take chances no matter what kind of a house one dwells in.

Primitive and savage men all over the world for thousands of years have built dwellings in tree tops. In the Philippines many natives live in tree-top houses. The Kinnikars, hill-tribesmen of Travancore, India, are said to live in houses built in the trees, but in New Guinea it seems that such houses are only provided for the girls, and every night the dusky lassies are sent to bed in shacks perched in the tree tops; then, to make safety doubly safe, the watchful parents take away the ladders and their daughters cannot reach the ground until the ladders are replaced in the morning.

The most important thing about all this is that a tree-house is always a source of delight to the boys and young people, and, furthermore, the boys have over and over again proved to the satisfaction of the author that they themselves are perfectly competent to build these shacks, and not only to build them but to avoid accidents and serious falls while engaged in the work.



THE difference between tomahawk shacks and axe houses reminds me of the difference between the ileum and the jejunum, of which my classmate once said: "There is no way of telling the beginning of one or the ending of t'other 'cept by the pale-pinkish hue of the latter."

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