Wire Kens




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By Dan Beard

How to Make Wire Ken Kens with Thatched Lipkins and a  Bow-Arrow Door

tbp133.gif (11590 bytes)
Fig. 133.
Double-Walled Ken Filled in with Mud

It may be well to explain at the start that a ken is a house, hut, or kennel; that the lipkin is a roof; but to the gypsies and people of the road, in olden times, any sort of a house was a " ken," and a house with an open door was a "ken with a gyger dup." Because this is a brand-new sort of house for the boys to build, we have given it a very, very old name to distinguish it from all the other camps, buts, and tree-top houses which I have published from time to time.

The material for our kens consists of some chicken-coop wire and some two-by-four lumber, if we can get it; but if we can't get that we can use any old lumber that may be handy or even the sticks and saplings cut in the woods.

Fig. 133 shows a ken large enough for a boy's clubhouse. It is made by simply stretching chicken-coop wire over a wooden framework, but this particular ken has two walls of chicken-coop wire, an inside wall and an outside wall, and it may be seen by referring to Fig. 134, which shows the framework. In this cut the windows are framed, but this is not necessary, for if you have some packing-cases about the size you wish for the window opening, you may then knock the tops and the bottoms off and use them for the window-cases.

tbp134.gif (15495 bytes)
Figs 134-137.
How to Frame a Double-Walled Chicken-Coop Wire Ken

Fig. 135 shows the proper way to make the rafters of the roof. You will notice that the ends of the rafters in this diagram have a notch cut out of them so as to fit upon the side-plate or top piece of timber of the side walls. This notch is called a bird's-mouth. But it is not absolutely necessary to use so much care in framing the roof un you intend to make a very fine house. Any one of the methods shown by Fig. 136 will answer for the end of your roof. Of course there must be other rafters between the two ends, as indicated in Fig. 134, to support the roof, but these may be made like those shown in Fig. 135, or consist simply of poles nailed from the ridge-board to the eaves.

For the frame of the house it is only necessary to have enough uprights to secure the wire netting. Fig. 137 shows how the wire netting is nailed to the inside and outside frames with staple tacks, leaving a space between the walls. It is unnecessary to cut an opening for the windows in the netting, because the wires will not interfere with admission of light. The space in the walls between the wire netting can be filled with dirt, but to do this we must moisten the dirt until it becomes of the consistency of stiff mud. 

tbp138.gif (4703 bytes)
Fig. 138.
Making Mud Bricks

Good clay makes the best of material for this purpose, but ordinary dirt will do. To make the mud, shovel up a pile of loose dirt and then with a hoe hollow out the center of the pile, as you see the builders do when making plaster. Into this hollow pour some water, and with the hoe mix the dirt until it becomes mud. When the mud is stiff enough make it into good-sized mud balls, molding it with your hands as you would in making snowballs (Fig. 138).

When you put these balls in place and pat them down with your hands they will make mud bricks for your inside wall. If you want to produce a unique effect, you can set sod up edgewise with the grass outside against the wires and fill in behind it with the mud bricks. This will make a wall of green grass, which may be kept green all summer if it is sprinkled with the hose and not allowed to become dry.

tbp139.gif (11150 bytes)
Figs. 139-140.
Showing How to Thatch the Roof

The roof may be thatched with straw, hay, or reeds, as shown in Figs. 139, 140, 141, and 142, and if the wire covering of the roof be curled up at the eaves, as shown in Fig.133, the thatching may then be covered with dirt and sown with grass seed, or, for that matter, any other sort of seed. This will make a very beautiful little house for the front lawn, but it may be a little too damp for a boys' club-house, except in hot weather, although not too much so for a summer-house.

If a ken is built like Fig. 133 and the walls filled in with mud bricks, the outside may be plastered with cement, which will readily adhere to the wire-screen netting, and you will practically have a cement house with the expense of only the cost of a thin coating of cement. But if you want to build a very cheap ken and the supply of chicken-coop wire or money in your purse is low, you can make one like those shown in Fig. 142.

tbp142-33.gif (16544 bytes)
Fig. 142.
A Thatched Wire Ken and a Thatched Lipkin

To do this, drive some stakes in a circle; let them be as high as you wish the walls of the ken to be. To make the lipkin, wire some sticks together after the manner of the sticks of a wigwam. Now take your chicken-coop wire and fasten it around the circle-stakes, then wire the ends of the wigwam sticks to the top of this, as in Fig. 142. The wigwam should also be covered with the chicken-coop wire.

After this some salt hay, straw, common hay, or dried reeds may be used for thatching. With your pocket-knife whittle out a double-pointed needle from a piece of any sort of wood and let it be about six inches long. Cut a little groove in the middle and tie one end of a piece of string to it, as in Fig. 139. Then gather your thatching material up in small bunches, as in Fig. 140, and, commencing at the bottom of your house, sew these bunches of thatch onto the wire netting by running your needle in and out, so as to make a succession of loops which, when drawn tight and knotted every third loop, will hold the thatch in place. After you have made a circle of thatch all around the base of your house, commence another circle above it at such a height that it will allow the ends of the upper thatch to overlap the lower ones seven or eight inches. Continue thus to the top of the wall and thatch the roof in the same manner.

In Fig. 141 I have shown the roof of Fig. 133, and it is thatched practically in the same way in which you shingle a house.

In Fig. 142, when you reach the top bind the ends of the straw together so that it leaves a tuft sticking up in the air. This tuft should really be wound until it has the form of a thick rope and then be fastened tightly in this position. But in Figs. 133 and 141 the ends of the top row of thatch on the first side should be bent over and fastened on the opposite side of the ridge-pole, so that when the opposite side is thatched and treated in the same manner there will be no opening at the ridge in the roof to allow the water to run through.

Now, boys, I have given you some suggestions here for houses and details of the work, but I have purposely made this article more suggestive than I usually do. This was to give you an opportunity to exercise your own ingenuity in devising the exact sort of house or ken with a thatched lipkin which may suit your fancy.

An appropriate door for Fig. 142 is the bow-arrow door, made by an old friend of the author's, chief of a Northern tribe of Indians. He was an Indian who talked French and whose English name was Patrick Cleary. Patrick Cleary Bow-Arrow is now in the Happy Hunting-Grounds, where the doors are always open for the poor red men and where there are no heavy packs to carry over the portage.

A Door, Hinges, and Latch for a Cabin

tbp143.gif (14429 bytes)
Figs. 143-144. 
The Bow-Arrow Cabin Door and Latch

The writer travelled over a thousand miles to learn how to build this door for you, boys, although he already knew how to build a dozen different kinds of cabin doors.

Fig. 143 shows the inside of the door with the wooden latch in place. You may use planks from the saw-mill for the door in place of splitting them from spruce logs.

The battens (A B C) are made of birch, but you may use any material at hand for them. The hinges (Fig. 143, D) are made of birch sticks whittled off at the top so as to leave a peg (Fig. 143, E) to work in a hole in the flattened end of the horizontal battens (A and C, Fig. 143).

The battens A and C (Fig. 143, F) are flattened one way to fit on the door and hold the planks together, and flattened another way (at right angles to the first) at the hinge end (Fig. 143, E) to fit over the pegs.

The batten B is in two pieces. The top piece serves as a brace for the spring (Fig. 143, G), and the bottom piece as a support for the bolt (Fig. 143, H), which can be made of a piece of board. The bolt (Fig. 143, H) works free upon a nail in the left-hand end and rests in the catch (Fig. 143, K) on the door jamb.

The guard (Fig. 143, J) fits over the bolt and keeps it in place. The notch in the guard must be long enough to give the bolt free play up and down.

The spring (Fig. 143, G) is fastened with a nail to the door in such a manner that its thin end rests upon the top of the bolt with sufficient force to bend the spring and hold the bolt down in the catch (Fig. 143, K).

The thumb-latch (Fig. 143, L) is whittled out in the form shown, and fastened in a slot cut in the door by a nail driven through the edge of the door (Fig. 144, M) and through a hole in the thumb-latch (Fig. 144, L). On this nail the latch works up and down.

Fig. 144 shows the outside of the door, and you can see that by pressing down the thumb-latch on the outside it will lift it up on the inside, and with it the bolt lifts up free of the catch, and thus unfastens the door.

The handle (Figs. 143 and 144, N) is used in place of a door knob. It is made of yellow birch bent in hot water.

Any boy who successfully builds a cabin and hangs successfully a door with a latch similar to the one I have de, scribed will win the Great Buffalo Bill Top Notch for successful pioneer work.

The Boy Pioneers






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Last modified: October 15, 2016.