I helped to build a few wigwams back in tenth grade, as part of a project in which my history teacher had his classes build an imitation of the Nipmuc villages that dotted the area centuries ago. We did this with the help of a few Nipmucs who live in town. If the mats or other coverings are prepared ahead of time, a wigwam can be put together in a day by a small group of people.

I found these directions, which are basically what we did in high school (except we used layers of burlap):


And for the mats:


I can attest that these get quite hot with just a small fire going in them, even if you only have a thin layer of burlap for covering. With cattail mats, bark, and/or hides you’d barely need any fire at all to keep warm. I’m hoping to make one to live in this summer, and maybe I’ll even be able to make the mats in late summer.


i had intended to work on some mats over the winter, but life had other plans… :frowning:

Yea, I was in the same boat this winter. Maybe I can enlist some aid to make some if some of us get that New England skillshare going.

so… burlap, huh? that worked pretty well?

hmm, kind of gets me to thinking of other materials that could be used in place of mats… hmm, food for thought, that.

so... burlap, huh? that worked pretty well?

I wouldn’t say it worked well. It worked adequately, considering it was early autumn and we weren’t dwelling in them long term. The next year, a second layer was put on and that worked rather well at keeping it warm. So if one were to do it, I recommend at least two layers of burlap. That forms a really good insulating layer.

I finally started building a wigwam, in hopes of living in it at least part time this winter. I’ll have some photos soon, hopefully at various stages of progress. I might even be able to cover it in big sheets of bark, since one of my neighbors cut down a few big trees and might be willing to part with the bark.

i am looking forward to seeing/hearing more about your wigwam

Hey ~ I’ve been working on one too. I built the frame of my wigwam last month using maple saplings. I got some elm bark from a local guy but I’ve been having trouble finding other bark sources. I decided to use canvas to partially cover it. I found a huge old canvas painters tarp and I think it’s going to work really well.
I’m planning to spend the autumn season sleeping in it. I’m really excited.

Awesome, Raindance!

Are you planning to build a raised sleeping platform in yours? After seeing them at the model village at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, I’m planning to make one that covers around half of the circumference of the inside.

Also, what kind of maple was it that you used? I started off with a couple maples in the ground, but found them too difficult to bend properly. I think I’ll cut them into shorter pieces for the sleeping platform, instead.

Hi Incendiary_dan ~

I would really like to build a raised platform. I’ve got so many other projects to work on… and I’m feeling a little lazy about figuring out how to build the platform. I’ll be really happy just to have completed the wigwam frame and covering.

I can’t wait to see pictures of yours. What kind of tree did you use to build your frame?

I used red maple trees. They were a little difficult to bend. I wonder if your wigwam is smaller than mine, maybe that’s why the maples didn’t bend well for you. How big is your wigwam? What kind of maple trees did you use?

I’ve just found a few newly downed birch trees in the little patch of forest where I walk my dog. I’m going to try to harvest the bark for part of my wigwam. The pieces will probably be small, so I’ll have to sew them together somehow… hmmm… maybe I can weave them. This little patch of forest is in the middle of my town, surrounded by industrial buildings… and I’ve found all my wigwam needs there. I also found 2 huge pumpkins growing there yesterday! Awesome.

… oh, I used some sugar maples as well as the red.

The maples I used were red, I think. I’ve ended up using all black birch so far for the verticle poles, but I’ll need to go find more saplings soon for the horizontal and will likely use other birches as well as willow.

As for the size, it’s around 14 feet in diameter and 7 or 8 feet at the top of the dome.

What are you lashing the frame together with? How are you attaching the covering?

At the time being, I’m using cheap twine. Given more time, I’d use the traditional strips of bark, if only for the aesthetic appeal.

As for the bark covering, I’m planning to use the same twine to tie it on at a couple spots per sheet. In some cases, I might just weigh it down with stones.

I’m looking forward to a picture. :slight_smile:

I finished with the vertical poles today. Actually, I finished yesterday but I had to fix some stuff to make it slightly less crooked. The whole thing is slightly uneven, and not a perfect dome like I’d hoped. Oh well. Here are some pictures. The first one was taken when I’d started to arch some of the poles, the next two were taken today after I’d bound together all of the arches in something resembling a dome shape, and the fourth is a view of the top from inside. I can’t wait to put the horizontal poles on (I’m thinking white pine, because I have a ton) and then the covering.

I found a couple hours to work on it again today, and put up two rows of the horizontal poles. As I had been hoping, it helped to even out the shape a bit, and made the whole thing a lot more stable. This week I should be able to finish off the frame, and get to work covering and furnishing it.

I’m basically finished with the wigwam itself, and now all that’s left is to furnish it and fix any leaks I find next time it rains. I ended up covering it with industrial tarps for now, because the bark I planned to use wasn’t suitable, and I’m spending a lot of time trying to get a business going. The door is a polar fleece blanket I had around, and the smoke hole and parts of the sides have old plywood leaning against them. Not 100% primitive like I’d hoped, but functional. These pictures include the outside, tools of mine hanging on the wall near my partially completed sleeping platform, and pictures of the smoke hole both opened and closed.

More pictures, this time of the door flap and hearth. ;D

I can’t see the photos. :frowning: For some reason rewild.info gives me problems in the image file department.