Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Man the Walls - Building a Fort for the French Indian Wars

Last week I was prompted by my fellow gamers to think about building a stockade for our M&T games so Fort William-Martin (my middle names) would be built.

I wanted flexibility (both in terms of storage and layout) for the design so determined that the wall sections would be built in two lengths (12.5cm and 25cm).

Corner sections would be 6cm x 6cm. I will eventually construct 6 outer and 2 inner corners giving me a variety of layouts. Plus of course a gatehouse.

The great things about these stockades/palisades is that they can be used for a multitude of games – Ancients, Dark Ages , French Indian Wars etc

In total I plan to construct a total of 2.5 metres of stockade walls (inc Gatehouse).

The bases were cut and sanded. These are made from hardboard. I use the rough edge facing up as it gives a better surface for glueing.

The photos below illustrate a basic fort pattern and have a few log buildings inside for scale purposes.

Hardboard cut to size (still to be sanded)

An outline of a fort

With Buildings...authentic thatched buildings !!

The walls themselves will be made from bamboo skewers. These can be found in most Superstores/Poundshops etc usually in their bbq sections  -they typically retail around £1 for 100. Given that we are now entering the Winter season you might be hard pushed to find them instore now but there are good value sources on the internet.

Each skewer is 30m long from base to pointy end. By having the height of the wall at 7cm ( just over twice the height of a 28mm figure per base) I can cut 4 x ‘upright logs’ from each skewer. The 7cm height scales up to a wall that is about 12 feet in height which feels about right.

How many would I need in total. 10 skewers laid side by side have a width of 3.5cm, with 40 logs from 10 skewers the run would be 14cm. Simple mathematics suggested that I would therefore need

3m = 300cm divided by 14cm = 214 skewers. With cross spars, allowing for waste etc I reckoned I would need a total of 300 skewers.

With the bases cut I started cutting the ‘logs’. Each log is slightly different in length as I didn’t want the construction to be uniform in height .  The best tool for cutting the skewers  was a set of really sharp garden pruners.

I finally built a good batch  of similar length ‘logs’. The next step was to give them their distinct rounded/pointed top – using one of my kid’s pencil sharpeners I tackled this mind numbing task with a glass of wine and some good music. Note don’t sharpen them to far as you will blunt the sharpener and weaken the bamboo.  You could sand them down but it would take ages.

I needed a frame to glue the upright logs onto.

I simply drilled some pilot holes into the hardboard bases and pushed the bamboo skewers through the holes. These were fixed with PVA on both the under and top sides. NOTE. When drilling the pilot holes come in from the bottom side of the base that way the exit ‘wound’ of the drill will be in the top side. Failing to do this will mean that the bases will never be truly flat.

With the upright spars dry glue two cross spars (cut to same length of base). The first I ran along the base of the wall the second about two thirds of the way up. Use a template to ensure that these second higher cross spars are all the same height. I used superglue for the cross spars as these would be the fixing point for the upright logs.

Simply take the ‘cut logs’ dip in pva glue and lay on the frame. The skewers all come in variable widths so when I came to the end of a run it was just a case of picking the right width skewer to complete the wall. Leave these to dry for 24 hours. I reckon the walls you see in the following pictures took me about 7 hours in total to build. Spread over a week with each task completed before the next it really wasn’t that bad.

The frame with uprights glued on.

Starting to take shape - a fort

The next step was to think about the reverse side of the wall. I wanted to have a firing platform along the wall and at the same time I wanted to buttress the walls for strength. Fortunately I had two blocks of blue foam that were up to the job. These were first cut into a rough shape with a standard saw. Secondly I used my hot wire foam cutter to create the sloping reverse edge of the rampart.

The firing platform is c2.5cm in width and stands at a height of around 5cm. The inner walls and the inside of the blue foam were then painted black before glued into place. This will save no end of trouble when it comes to the final pant job.

Next up  - creating the soil banks, painting and deckboards on the ramparts. With a bit of luck these should be ready in a week’s time....they have to be because the next game is on the 1st October !

Fort with firing platforms

Come back soon and see how this pile of bamboo,foam and wood can be transformed (hopefully)


Update: This is now finished. Click on link below to see the final pictures.



  1. Great work, Shed! Appreciate the tutorial.

  2. Nice palisade and tutorial. Just a thought, shouldn't the cross spars be placed on the inside of the fort?


  3. Fun project, I look forward to following your progress.

  4. Bobs Babbitt bobbles19 September 2012 at 17:25

    Me again
    Awesome idea, look forward to seeing the completed version. Sure it will be great (hopefully)