Yurt Without Steel

I built this 10 foot diameter yurt without metal fasteners from free materials. It has the same proportions as the "standard" Mongolian ger scaled down. The varnished wood and white liner give it a marvelous feeling inside. Lots of people told me this was the best shelter they'd seen at Burningman.

("Yurt" is the Russian word. "Ger" is the Mongolian)

Most of the wooden parts are sawed from the slats of a futon couch.
The wall lattice pivots are knotted cord.
The door frame is made from hockey sticks.
The smoke ring is an aluminum bicycle rim.

At Burning Man I set the yurt up on top of my truck's lumber rack on a platform of redwood boards. That enabled us to drive around and move camp easily.
In the first photo it's just been set up. In the later ones it's been through some 70 mph dust storms. We've sealed it up and tied it down much more securely.

In the next photo Pete and Leslie take shelter in the Yurt during a dust storm.
During a break in the dust storms there's some rain. Star stands on the tailgate "balcony" to soak up the happiness from a huge double rainbow.
Billy likes the dust. He's out in an easy chair reveling in it.

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SundanceG23 days ago

Am reading your excellent plan, and am already scavenging in my mind as I go :) I'm intrigued as to your lattes structure. Would I be right in saying that when in the extended open position, the 'squares' of the lattes are truly square? If they are, and to simplify if we say the door frame is rectangular then we can say that taking an imaginary line from the top of the door frame to a space equidistant between lattes beams three and four by your design, then from there to the base of the door frame then running up the vertical of the door frame back to were we started, this would form a right angle triangle. You could then use Pythagoras and 'sochatoa' to figure out the length of your shorter cut lattes beams. This would also aid in scaling up and trying new ideas on paper. Or it is a yurt/ ger and I should try to plan less? :)

Not quite correct. A "ger" is the structure itself. "Yurt" refers to the structure and the area immediately around it. What we might think of as the yard or "homestead." Most people mean "ger" when they say "yurt."

ed1752 years ago
hi, I live in AK too and I am also interested in building a yurt
i live in anchorage ak
would you be interested in talking ?
milesnorth2 years ago
I am going to try my second attempt at a yurt this summer. I live in Ak and like the idea of the insulation from the masonry tarp. Any idea where you might buy them? Where did you scavenge yours? Like the way you recycled so many aspects of it. Nice Job. Nice and thorough instruct able also. Thanks.
gage69174 years ago
My brother and I used this instructable, and the outer dimensions off of this one, to build our yurt this last spring. We took it to our big family reunion, it was a huge hit. We used a polyurethane coated nylon instead of canvas for the fabric and we made the door roll right up with the wall lattice, like a camping table.
klarson-14 years ago
Tottaly going to make one of these for the 2011 Burn.
toonmusic4 years ago
Using this instructable as a guide, I started making a 12' yurt for Burning Man two years ago... I fell way short of finishing it in time, and the frame parts sat in a friend's shop until this spring, when we finally got around to working on it again... Although it's far from finished, we finally reached a point where we can use it!

We just tried it out in Death Valley a few weeks ago, and we couldn't have been more pleased. While there we were subjected to 30-40 mph winds on a regular basis, with gusts getting much higher... and the yurt performed fantastically once properly lashed down. We haven't had the time/money yet to get the materials to make the final outer cover and insulation, so we just used a heavy duty tarp for the top, and sheets we bought from a thrift store for the side. Here's a photo of it in all it's glory....

I deviated from you design slightly... I opted to use 36 rafter poles to make the drilling of the bicycle rim easier (36 spokes), and extended number of lattice pieces accordingly. This is what brought the diameter to 12'. I also chose to make a full door out of redwood and cedar. Other than that, I stuck with your design in many ways.

I have to say this has been one of the more rewarding projects I've worked on in some time. I'll be working on this for another two years I'm sure -- but I'll be using it for many, many more. Thank you so much for this instructable, for it was the catalyst that got me started on it.
rapidprototyping4 years ago
Damn I have mold fith wheel trailer be perfect for RV fifthwheel yurt. next a modular comode like bucky fuller had designed and two compartment sink and of course a flushing thrown or possibly a smoking john
Lokisgodhi5 years ago
If you use standard 8' lumber, you can get a hanna height of about 5'-6" at 45 degrees. If you can find 10' long lumber, you can get a wall height of about 7' at 45 degrees.
Using a 4' diameter tono and 10' long rafters at a pitch of 2:1 run to rise, will allow you a 20' diameter structure with a 6" rafter overhang.
barneytomb5 years ago
This is a good site to find billboard vinyl signs to use as tarps or yurt or dome waterproof coverings:  http://www.pointonepremiums.com
They're a lot cheaper than brand new tarps, waterproof, and by recycling you keep them out of landfills.
kyle.marsh5 years ago
Beautiful yurt, Tim!  My buddies brought three carports from CostCo to Burning Man '09 and put tents inside.  It afforded us a fairly spacious place in the shade to hang out in during the day but still kept our sleeping area separate.  Nonetheless, I really like the yurt and dome designs I've seen there, and you've done a masterful job on this one.  Thanks for showing us how!
where in Colorado are you from?
Jep7115 years ago
You may have answered this already, however, I Used pivots at all points on mine. Why skip the odd Numbers?
TimAnderson (author)  Jep7115 years ago
That's how they do it in Mongolia. It saves some work, and it seems to be plenty strong. They use bent sticks so their wall is less concave, it may let the sticks shift into that shape.
openperspective5 years ago
just wondering, why didn't you use pivot cords for those certain crossovers?
I'm thinking... build it into a trailer. Make a trailer with rounded sides that fold down flush with the deck, to form the yurt base. All the yurt components (and camping-related junk) should fit easily into the trailer, with the sides in the up position. Could even make a rigid transport cover to keep everything in the trailer while driving. If the cover interior was lined with aluminized Mylar, tinfoil, old chip bags, etc. it could serve a secondary purpose as a solar concentrator for heating water, roasting wienies, etc. While you couldn't achieve a sharp focus, with the reflector not being parabolic, the size of the reflector should suffice to heat stuff up.
5 years ago
on the idea of building the portable yurt bottom into a trailer: that does seem like an awesome idea. i would do it myself, but i'm pretty sure the one i built is too big for that (~16' diameter). that said, if you live in (or camp in) a wet climate, the best fabric i've heard of using is sunforger canvas. its waterproof, and more importantly, flame retardent, which is important when its cold and rainy and you wanna jack up the fire inside. next best is the felt that MelanieTraver was talking about. also for wet climates, you can build a gutter for your yurt using a long strip of VERY waterproof fabric. simply fold it in half longways, like a really long U, and attach it to your eaves, making sure that your roof runoff will actually land in the trough you've made. then just run the ends so they go all the way around and open up on the downhill end, letting all the water run off and away, rather than under you and your sleeping friends.
I just finished mine in time to bring it to my home burn (alchemy, what what!). i love it, and i loved making it so much i wanna make them for a living, for people who don't have the drive that us folks do.
thedarkapok6 years ago
I built a yurt following these instructions; it worked out fine and I even completed it in time for my trip to BRC in '08.
5 years ago
What kind of insulation is that?
TimAnderson (author)  thedarkapok6 years ago
excellent! you made my day! post more pictures!
kurtsyurt6 years ago
Hay tim nice yurt!!!! My question is The top an bottom of the lattice do not need to be the same distance Mine is 2" top and bottom yours is 3"bottom 2.5 top so the X's are the same in between ?. well i am having an awha moment. question 2 you pulled out the spokes of the hub? wouldn't that colaps on itself? thanks kurtsyurt
TimAnderson (author)  kurtsyurt6 years ago
The "thumbs" at the top and bottom of the lattice are slightly different, but it's not too important. The top ones are short so they don't poke through the skin. The bike rim has no spokes, it doesn't collapse because the force from the rafters is all the same. A bike wheel with plastic tied over it would make a nice skylight, set on top of the hoop.
openperspective6 years ago
when you talk about making multiple wall sections and "stacking" them, do you mean you could add another piece of wall to give it more internal area? i was thinking of something like this, but the logistics of changing roof size befuddles me
TimAnderson (author)  openperspective6 years ago
Yes. If you had four of these wall sections, you could stack them vertically and horizontally. The resulting yurt would have twice the height at the eaves and twice the circumference. It would need either much longer rafter poles or a very large smoke ring.
openperspective6 years ago
well, if you have them, i would be interested in those dimensions. this is a great instructable, and i especially love the non-use of metal. very classy, and also a little easier to do myself
TimAnderson (author)  openperspective6 years ago
Thanks! post pix of the one you build!

I added the standard Mongolian stick info, from "The Complete Yurt Handbook" by Paul King. It's a good book.
The stick is 82.5" long. The knotted pivot cords are spaced 7" apart. There would be a dozen holes for pivot cords, but they skip pivots #3, #5, #7 counting up from the bottom.The tip of the stick extends 2.5" above the top pivot and the bottom extends 3" below the bottom pivot. (11x7")+2.5"+3"=82.5"
burntbob6 years ago
Nice design and great salvage ideas. How much headroom did you have inside. on a side not you have a bike trailer with an army stretcher on it... were you one of the EMT's on site? I'm always looking for bike ambulance ideas...
emac6 years ago
what kind of fabric would u recomend for a wet climate
graphak7 years ago
screw the OC, i live in CO. (i just noticed your flag pic, if you are near denver and going to BM 2009, maybe our camps could combine. I plan on bringing a few hexayurts, but yours looks awesome as well)

http://hexayurt.com/
Very cool instructable! I think they'd make great temporary accomodation for disaster victims. Can I just ask, what do you put the yurt on? Does it go straight onto the dirt (with or without a grounsheet?) or onto a platform?
7 years ago
I just realised I missed out the D in 'grounsheet' - oops! (I really should use the spellcheck!)
what did u use as a door
MelanieTraver7 years ago
i lived in mongolia in a ger while in the peace corps. the only suggestions i would have is if you construct the lattice pieces in three or four sections (its hard to tell if you did that or not), you can take the whole thing down instead of putting it on top of your truck. Other than the fact that the sheet you used around it doesn't seem very insulating (Mongolians use big, thick wool felt pieces cuz it's colder than a fill-in-the-blank there), it looks very good. cool idea for the states, though!
TimAnderson (author)  MelanieTraver7 years ago
do you have some photos from your time there? it would be great to see them!
garden burger7 years ago
in my sleep away camp we stay in yurts........ and work on a farm........
oxania7 years ago
Just gorgeous - my Kyrgyz mates would laugh their socks off.
DirtyWater997 years ago
That's the life right there.
digjam7 years ago
JEALOUSY!!! This is awesome..I'm inspired to find myself an old yota and do the same...THANKS!
jake1017 years ago
this is excellent, I'll be building one for the summer for sure =]
I also have an observation about the folding chair seen in the intro photo of the truck front view (experiencing severe truck-envy, btw. What year is it? (the truck, not the chair)) I hope nobody paid money for the chair. I get chairs like that all the time at my dump, they seem to break with astounding regularity. (Could also be that the people that bring them are sporting a few extra pounds, are over-fond of drink and abuse their chairs by leaning over too far, trying to reach the cooler...) Anyhow, I like to recall the days before planned obsolescence hit the portable lawn furniture sector, by using folding aluminum lawn chairs. Much lighter, usually sturdier, and easily repairable when the webbing degrades. I've seen ones done with flat cord, similar to shoelace, rather than wide webbing, with funky patterns woven in. The only problem with these chairs is the lack of the integral cup holder, which is probably the main selling point of the other type of chair. Resourcefulness can easily remedy such a situation.
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