Discover what goes on behind the scenes at a Yurt Makers Workshop as Tina provides an insight into daily life at the Roundhouse Yurts workshop on the Welsh border.
A Yurt Makers Workshop
For the last five years or so, we’ve been happily settled in our present workshop less than a mile from our home in the village of Michaelchurch Escley in Herefordshire. The setting is idyllic with the Black Mountains as a backdrop and our nearest town of Hay on Wye only seven miles away. The Herefordshire border winds its way through the narrow lanes and takes you on a journey between the two…one minute Herefordshire, England, …the next Powys in Wales. This border county on the edge of The Brecon Beacons is staggeringly wild, remote and always beautiful and everywhere you look, the view stretches before you for miles into the distance. It certainly makes going to work in the mornings a joy.
…and so, on to the workshop and yurts
The Work of a Yurt Maker
We’re lucky to be surrounded by acres of deciduous woods and wherever possible, we source our ash and oak locally. For the crown wheel and ribs (these are the rafters that go from the top of the wall trellis to the crown wheel) and the trellis itself, we look for ‘green’ ash which means recently felled trees that haven’t yet started to dry out. Green wood is easier to steam bend into the shape we want and the steaming process also helps the wood to dry out.
Wood Steaming Process
Once all the ash has been cut and machined down all the resulting strips are then ready to go into the steam boxes and the long wait begins for the wood to reach the all important temperature of 100 degrees before it can be taken out and bent around the wooden former. Wood steaming days are always very early starts with the burners needing lighting hours before the work begins. This allows the boxes to get up to a good steaming temperature before the wood can be bent. We always find a tossed coin is the fairest way of deciding who gets up at 5 in the morning!
The Yurt Begins To Take Shape
Once steamed, the wood remains on the jigs to finish drying out and after a week or two, it’s ready to come into the workshop and be processed into all its component parts. From this point on the yurt begins to take shape and although there’s still a long way to go, it’s an exciting time as the pieces of wood come together and begin to form the shape of the new yurt. Although each of the different sizes are made from the same templates and are identical in size to each other, the subtle differences in wood grain begins to show very early on and every yurt has it’s own very unique identity with no two being identical.
The most common size we make is our 16ft yurt, it’s perfect for children's parties, glamping (luxury camping), small dinner parties and of course they’re always busy at festivals from Glastonbury to Edinburgh and anywhere in between. Our 18ft yurt is a real showpiece and the most beautiful interior of all belongs to our Wedding Night Yurt. A truly exceptional mix of antique furniture and interior design makes this yurt an absolute stand out offering and the best we have seen anywhere…we’re biased of course, but check it out on our website and let us know what you think.
The Finished Yurt
The larger yurts are even more time consuming to make with many hundreds of hours going in to the finished yurt but they really do repay all that effort. The effect of walking inside a 28ft yurt with all that extra ceiling height and floor space is jaw dropping, especially as when you look from the outside you don’t think it’s going to be anything like as big as it is, yurts can be very deceptive. The larger yurts are always busy doing all sorts of corporate and event hires but they also make great party spaces in larger gardens and there’s always plenty of room for guests to sleepover afterwards.
Very occasionally we like to challenge ourselves with a really large project and in 2017 we undertook our largest yurt to date..a massive 75ft long wedding yurt permanently sited on a country estate in the midlands. I’ll feature this build in much more detail in a future blog post, it’s not to be missed!... and for our next big challenge…watch this space!
Never a Dull Day
The workshop is always brimming with interesting and sometimes quite random projects.
We make and hire yurts around the UK for weddings, events, parties and glamping and can spend months on the road during the Summer, so in the winter when we’re at home busy making yurts, we quite often have visitors bringing odd things to our workshop …quite a few are the usual yurt-related problems to help solve for people but now and again a lovely old piece of furniture turns up needing some serious tlc..or a request to make a steam bent garden bench. It all adds to the variety of interesting things that can make up the day in a yurt makers workshop… and then there’s my own personal favourite… a request from an Artisan Cheesemaker for a lovely steam bent beechwood cheese mould to make the perfect stilton! This one definitely made my wish list and I can see lots of cheesemaking going on in the future.
The Winter Months
These projects are fantastic little diversions and fun to do, it’s a completely different challenge and quite often they require ‘woody’ skills that don’t get a chance to be practiced often in the making of yurts but they don’t stop the day to day serious business of making the very best yurts we can. With all the individual handcrafted processes that go into making a finished yurt, it takes over one hundred workshop hours to complete our smallest 16ft yurt and it’s never something you can rush. Most of our yurt building goes on during the winter months and as the summer weddings, parties and festivals come to an end and the nights begin to draw in, the next seasons new yurts are being planned…wood is being looked at for felling, the jigs are being uncovered and the workshop comes alive with the sound of new yurts being made.