May, 1999

The whole idea of building a gypsy wagon, also known as a vardo or caravan, came about because I really don't like camping, but I really DO like going to Pennsic. It's a big medieval re-enactment that we attend every year. (Our personas are Roma, so it makes a degree of sense, even though vardos are not actually period for SCA use.) I'm hoping that by building a wooden structure that's off the ground, we can finally spend Pennsic without rain pouring into our domicile. Or worse yet, the domicile exploding in one of those hurricane force gales that Pennsylvania quaintly calls a "thunderstorm". (It's happened, ask Craig about it sometime.)

We loosely based the design on a type of vardo called a Ledge wagon. These were straight sided wagons with a rigid roof. There were numerous types of vardos, in many different shapes, but I wanted something that gave us the opportunity to put in windows and ceiling ventilation. The wagon also had to be towed behind a vehicle, not a horse, and I thought a bowed canvas top might be too fragile. These are some of the original concept designs for the trailer. They give a basic idea of what it will look like inside and out. The drawings are by my husband Craig.

I'd like to emphasize here that we made several changes to the original designs based on our needs for our particular hobby. It's meant to evoke a mood, and be recognizeable as a vardo, but historical accuracy could not be upheld entirely. For more specific and correct information I recommend, The English Gypsy Caravan, It's Origins, Builders, Technology, and Conservation, by C.H. Ward-Jackson and Denis E. Harvey. It's a great book with all the information one could wish--diagrams, layouts, history and anecdotes.

Here it becomes more apparent why we chose a straight sided design. In order for the wagon to be safer and easier to drive we decided to make it collapsible, much to the dismay of the folks we had helping us engineer it. This way we can also store it indoors for the nasty New England winters.


This is by far the largest project I've ever gotten into my head. It certainly bordered on obsession, and it wouldn't have been possible without the help of a number of wonderful friends. We appreciate them all putting up with this for the better part of a year. Nobody wanted more than a thank-you for their work, and even the ones that really knocked themselves out STILL refused any kind of payment, other than a couple of token gifts. They went above and beyond the call of friendship, and we are eternally grateful to them all. At the very least, we can give them credit here.

So here's our official "Whotta guy" list.

Many thanks to:

Norman F, for his masterful work in design, the tireless hours he spent showing me how to work with wood, and the fact that he gave up half his summer to work his butt off with me in the hot sun just because he's a really nice guy.

Jason M, who did all of the welding necessary to make the framework inside the wagon. He's a friend of my brother's, barely knows me, and he did it for us anyway. He's good folks!

Mark B, for letting us use and abuse his tools, and housing the wagon during construction, even when he had to keep his boat and car outside because we took up the entire garage.

Sandy S, for using her wonderful painting talents to make me several life size horses to dress up the outside of the wagon.

John D, for being the first to tell us it COULD be done.

And for various assistance on different aspects of the project, thanks to:

Darren B, Dave H, Sandy C, Rob M, JoAnne M, Liz D, Ron G, Karen W, and everyone in our Pennsic encampment for their help and suggestions.

That said, let's SEE it!
Click on little wagon to continue
















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