Notes from Windward: #62

Construction Phase One - The Tunnel of Death

     Everyone knows that a castle has a gate, and that to get into the castle, you either have to scale the walls or bust open the gate. That sounds straight forward enough, but as one might guess, the whole purpose of building a castle is to create surprises for uninvited guests. And the more unpleasant the surprise, the better.

     Lets say that you decide that you, and a dozen of your heaviest associates, aren't going to try and scale the wall. Instead, you're going to pick up a ram and bust the door down.

Wham!          Wham!          Wham!

     And then, with a great splintering crash, the door gives way. As the massive gate swings back on its heavy iron hinges, you and your comrades burst into the castle.

     [Construction note: In the case of our castle, the massive timber door is actually barred with just a 1x4 piece of pine that is intended to break under the application of a modest amount of force since we're not going to let the attackers actually use a real tree for a battering ram. It wouldn't do to have the attackers actually bust up the gate :-)]

The Tunnel of Death
view from the front

     Anyway, you and your comrades have burst into the castle, only to find yourselves not in the castle's inner courtyard, but trapped instead in the "Tunnel of Death." Since that castle feature is aptly named, you'll most likely spend the rest of the battle lying dead on the floor.

     This defensive feature was intended to trap attackers in a confined space where they could be shot with arrows or taken out with spears well before they got close enough to the defenders to be able to use their swords. It was only after enough attackers had gotten through the gate, through the tunnel and actually into the courtyard that the castle defenses would have been breached.

The Tunnel of Death
view from the rear

     The area over the entrance to a real castle was usually the armory and guard room. In our case, we have a 12x16' deck, and it's the support beams for that deck which secure the walls of the "Tunnel of Death. " And in turn, those walls impart a greater stability to the elevated deck.

     You'll note that the walls of the tunnel are solid from the ground up to about waist high, with eight inch gaps from there on up. In a real tunnel of death, the passage would feature trip wires that would make incoming attackers stumble and fall, at which point they'd be easy pickings for the defender's spears.

     Since we don't want anyone to actually get hurt, we've gone with a solid wall. That way, we won't have to worry that someone will decide to stick their spear across the tunnel as a trip for the attackers.

     If they want to do it waist high, then that's reasonably safe and the attackers will just have to deal with it. This is just one of many examples where we've had to make trade-offs between authenticity and safety, and while the concept of a "safe castle" is something of an oxymoron, we're trying to make sure that no one takes home anything more lasting than a bruise or three.

Rounded over edges are safer

     Here's another example of attention to detail in the interests of safety. There's always that chance that someone will fall, or even be forceably shoved, into the wall - that's part of the "fun" of attaching a defended castle. While we've designed the wall so that it's pretty much an immovable object, but we've also taken a heavy-duty router with a 1/2 inch round over bit and "relieved" the sharp edges thereby helping to insure that the impact is spread over a broader area and thereby less likely to cause any actual injury.

Construction Phase One - The View from the High Deck --- Notes from Windward, Vol. 62