I'm building a ger. You may know it as a yurt, or you may not know it at all. It's a type of Mongolian tent, the design of which has not changed for centuries. It's round, with no center pole, and withstands the winds of the steppe like no other style of tent. I've written a precis of my plans and procedures below.

Note: the author assumes the the reader has a basic knowledge of shop safety and safe use of power tools, and accepts no responsibility for any accidents that may occur to individuals using these plans.

khanatoonorafterscanvas cover

making the khana

start with: 35 furring strips

  • Cut each furring strip to 71". (Use the chop saw or a circular saw for this.)
  • Clamp together five furring strips, ensuring that the ends are even. Measure down 4" from one end and mark across the edge of all five boards, using a square to make sure that the line is straight. Measure down 11" from this point and mark again. Continue the length of the boards until you reach the end. Your last mark should be 1" from the end of the boards.
    • You should have marks at 4", 15", 26", 37", 48", 59", and 70".
  • Mark all the boards. Save one board from the first set to use as a guide for marking the others. The remaining four boards can go to the drill press for drilling, if you have someone to work with.
  • Set up the drill press so that the drill bit will go through the width of the board (the drill enters the short side of the board). The hole must be centered on the edge of the board; a backstop is essential in making sure this happens.

  • Set up the table saw to rip the boards into 3/4" widths. This will give you three 3/4"x3/4" sticks per board (in case you didn't notice, 1"x3" isn't -- it's 3/4"x2-1/2". Just the lumber mill's little joke). The kerf of the saw blade takes care of the other 1/4" of wood.
  • Once all the boards are ripped, you can start staining! You have over 90 to do, so get cracking! I use Glidden Decking stain in Redwood, applied with a brush.


My sweetie, picking up a batch of stained sticks to put them away to dry

Your boards are chopped, marked, drilled, ripped, and stained. What comes next?

  • Place one stick on a workbench or table. Tie a knot in one end of the lace and pull through the first hole in one end of a stick, then through the corresponding hole in another stick. Be sure that the 4" ends are always together; this is where your rafter will rest and if you mess it up your khana will stand funny. Knot the end tight against the sticks and cut the lace, leaving a half-inch tail. Take another stick, and pull a knotted lace through the second hole. Pull the free end through the second hole of the top stick, and so forth. Your goal is to tie all the sticks together to create an expandable lattice. Be sure that all the sticks angling in one direction are on top and all the sticks angling in another direction are on the bottom. This is also important, because if this gets screwed up, your lattice will not expand and contract properly.

This step takes a while. It's probably the most labor intensive part of the whole process, because it has to be done by hand.

The rule of thumb is, one knot at the base of the khana for every foot of circumference. I counted 47 knots before we took our khana outside and set it up to measure it. I think that this is the most time consuming part of setting up a ger, but it's also the most important. The khana walls must be at an even height and it must be more or less round -- mostly more. What I found useful in accomplishing this is a rope the length of the radius of the circle tied to a 8" spike nail and used like a compass.

I wanted a door that was 36" wide so I put end pieces on one side and removed sticks on the other side till I got a door that was the desired width.

End pieces, you ask? What end pieces? Well, you may have noticed that you have sticky-outtie pieces at the ends of your khana. This is very untidy and makes it hard to attach the door frame, so you must make and attach end pieces, which are shorter sticks that are attached to the ends of the khana to create a nice, easy-to-attach-to-a-door-frame ig-zag end. These end pieces can easily be attached while the khana is standing (well, that's how I did it!)

To finish both ends of the khana, you will need the following:

  • Two pieces with two holes, one 4" from the end and the other one inch from the end.
  • Two pieces with four holes, each with one 4" end and one 1" end.
  • Two pieces with six holes, each with one 4" end and one 1" end.
  • Two pieces with two holes, with holes 1" from the end.
  • Two pieces with four holes, with the end holes 1" from the end.
  • Two pieces with six holes, with the end holes 1" from the end.

You can make these pieces out of leftover sticks or those you have saved out. Some of my furring strips were less than perfect at one end or another, and I saved sticks from these pieces to make my ends.

It's difficult to tell you how to put the end pieces on. It just sort of seemed self-evident to me. The picture at left may help in illustrating how to accomplish this.

door frame

  • Cut two of the 2x4s to 60" each; these will be your door jambs. (Don't worry that there is a lot of waste; you'll use it.) Cut the other two to 40"; these will be your lintel and threshold.
  • On the 60" pieces, measure down 1.5 inches from the end and mark a line. At this line, measure in 1/2" on either side, and mark a line from here to the end of the board. This little piece will be cut away, leaving a peg, or tenon, at the end. Do this on all four ends of the door jambs.
  • Measure a 1.5"x1.5" square on the ends of the lintel and threshold boards, 1.5" from the ends and 1/2" in from the sides. This needs to be removed, leaving a hole, or mortise, into which the tenon will fit. You can use a Roto-Zip, or a power jigsaw, or you can use a hammer and chisel. Your choice. Note the hole on the bottom of the piece on the right in the picture. That was chiseled out, which took quite some time, and there is a chunk missing. Also note the hole on the bottom of the piece on the left. That one is nice and clean, and took mere minutes with the Roto-Zip.
  • The tenons did get slightly tapered with careful use of the chisel, just to get them to fit smoothly into the mortises. For the most part, all the mortises and tenons are interchangeable.
  • The door frame may seem to be slightly lower than the top of the khana when it is set up, but it should be level with the top knot, which is where the rafters will rest. Two rafters will sit on top of the lintel; if it is level with the rest of the rafters, you need not cut special rafters to go over the door. You may, however, need to duck.

khanatoonorafterscanvas cover