New Castle design

After several years of putting up and taking down the castle facade for the ren faire, the general consensus is that it needs to be lighter and easier to transport. To that end, I’ve begun to mull over ideas for v2. My thoughts are thin wall tube frame and then something wrapped around it. Square towers are easier, but we have that now, and I think the change would be appreciated. Other polygons have been suggested, but I don’t recall seeing castles with hexagonal towers.

Foam for the outer skin has been sort of okay, but it is somewhat fragile, requiring repair each year. Still may be the best bang for the buck. I had also thought vacuum formed HDPE or ABS which could be painted. Fiberglass could also be an option, I think. Vacuum forming would require a form into or onto which the plastic could be pulled. Fiberglass would require a mold, but once that is made for each piece, the rest would be fairly simple, if not a little labor intensive.

Easy assembly is desirable. Alignment dowels and latches backed up by one fastener per joint would be my goal. Made correctly, the parts of the castle would be easily paired up to their mating pieces and would only go together one way.

As it would be lighter, fewer people would be required to stand it up or take it down. It is possible to make it so it could be erected by a single person, but that is probably not necessary.

The current structure requires significant anchoring. Ropes pulling the structure back onto the tent have kept it upright, but some are still concerned that a strong gust could push it back harder and possibly damage the tent or even collapse onto it. Ropes anchored the other direction are not desirable since they would extend out into the walking area and could become a trip hazard. I believe the new castle can have a solid brace extending rearward along the sides of the tent that can be anchored which would keep the facade from toppling either forward or rearward.

A quick sketch gives a bit of an idea of what I have in mind.

Thoughts? Comments?


It could definitely be fun to put platforms in the towers for some high altitude heckling. :slight_smile:

The biggest pain with the old one is having to lift up the entire assembly once built. If the towers are in two parts, we might be able to build the entire upper half as an assembly, and then lift one side at a time onto a leg, and hopefully reduce the number of people we need to lift everything while also skipping the need for a ladder.

The other sticking point i’ve had is needing a 14+ ft long trailer to transport it. I have been extremely thankful for your help as well as Wes’s for transporting the castle for the last two years, but moving that sucker is a bit nerve racking and can be a bit combersome moving around the fair during setup and tear down. By being able to break down the pieces to fit into a pickup bed, it opens up a few more options for us.


Here is one in Wales, Raglan Castle - Wikipedia

and here is one in spain. Castillo de Alcalá de Guadaíra - Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre

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That is an interesting look. I don’t dislike it. I’m not sure it looks like what I envision with the ren faire. Is that what everybody wants?

Btw, I did some looking at the cost of fiberglass. I don’t think it’s ever been cheap, but it’s definitely expensive now. Not that the foam is inexpensive either.

Here’s a quick rendering of hexagonal towers.

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I think between the two i like round better. Not that i dislike hexagon but i think the round ones show off some flare.

Hello, if you can avoid the circular design, something like a square or hexagon could have the advantage of being made to store flat.


Or a round face with a square frame.

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That’s the only reason I see for not using a round design. I’m not a fan of any of the polygonal designs.

I see your sketches but have not assembled or disaassembled such. So my suggestions remain naive and not pushed firmly. . I may be missing some aspect of structure or process. But im willing to help.
Ok, i’m probly not going to be a lot of help.
But I have built “sandwich panels” utilizing foam - bonded between the white showerboard. Its a stronger assembly than you might guess. But limited in attach points. And punchable.
In order to bond a strong boltable or hinged edge, i built a 2x2 picture frame surrounding the foam insert. The 2x2s act as edge close-outs. [Aerospace parlance for sandwich panels (structural) edges… ]
I have more than one bonding adhesive option. I prefer "Pond and Stone urethane foam, which I spread with a disposable roller to [mostly] collapse the foam.
This panel can take a fair amount of abuse. But not sharp impacts. But joining panels into a supported structure is a big part of structural integrity. This option might not work. But gets us down towards 4x8 ft or 4x4 ft segments.

I can put one together for you as a demo
Cheap and easy. And useful for something somewhere.
The black foam offgasses an unhealthy component, so i always use it outdoors. Or in an open garage with fans or breezez.

The alternative masonite panels are heavier. The white showerpanels are dense and strong. But we would have to do a solvent or slurry wipe to remove silicone to paint the panels to look like rock. Im just foisting an example. Not a full fledged plan.

Corrugated vinyl and or Masonite and other “pressboard” options are out there. Styrofoam or urethane foam work for this. Likewise, laminating foam and cardstock posterboard ten layers thick would be amazers TOUGH and still light. I can ask Royal Plastics about this in 4x8 sheets, and or the corrugated plastic options. Im also knowing that Posterboard Lam is easier to paint and finish. All are tough enough to fall on or walk on and not be broken unless you are … ponderous of mass. And can resist cloudbursts. But not 3 days of rain. Or storage room puddles.

I could mix a portland slurry to do two finishing tasks at once… dissolve off the silicone coating… and leave an “earthy primer” behind that can take “castle paint” topcoat. A demonstration test is required to see if the silicone IS completely lifted.

I suggest choosing a panel design first. Maybe build a few 4x8 panel options, and then let the designer say what does and doesnt work. And mod or downselect candidates. Or maybe even mix them.

Should we build a trial thingy like an entryway castle front for use in the hallway? You know, about the same size as Lucy [of Peanuts comic] who has a “The Docter is in” sign on her “booth”. Only do a mini castle front.

My experience with showerboard is it is mostly water resistant. But lets put a sandwich panel out in the weather soon… to get a better feel. The pond and stone adhesive has an achilles heel. It only withstood one hot summer right in the sun. But when used underwater and out of the sun… it seems to last ten years plus.

Could the permanent storage of same become the board meeting backdrop and live, maybe even as an inside out castle in a main meeting room?. Making our place an even more interesting venue to rent for … graduations, weddings, hamfisted radio classes, SCA hockey games, i mean fights.

I discarded the marshmallow sandwich panels idea unless selling off bites of the castle every year is a useful idea. And then there is the problem of rain and soggy grahams. But maybe a parapet s’more sale could be tried. Whilst yelling about “yer mother was a hamster” fake insults to help boost sales. I think it works for the drumstick vendors. And they dont have a parapet. Or a moo launcher. Wait, dont WE have a wee trebuchet? And ive been thru food handlers, but dont have an immediate feel for allowability of delivering moo burgers with insults over a smore parapet via trebuchet.

Here is a rough sketch for the new ren fest gate.
The two white poles toping the turrets are 16 feet tall made from to 8 ft sections. Note could be less than 8 ft
These provide pulleys to lift the turrets and anchor the structure to the ground.
The surface is painted canvas.
The span is spilt into two 6 ft sections joined in the center, and drrawn into position using their pulleys.
This should all be stored in a closet with the longest peice being 8 ft.
While I sketched a hexagonal turrent they don’t have to be hex square to round work too.

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Since “flat and stackable” is a front-of-mind goal… a strong aspiration,… im going to presume the hex shaped towers are two 6 ft sections? I doubt if our customers are judgy about square vs round vs hex castle gate details. So Im focused on “ease of manufacturability” as well as flat stackable.
If i take a two by four, and split it with my home table saw blade tilted at 60 degrees, and use this as the side edges of my picture framing… for my sandwich panels, this is a demo panel i can start planning to put together. Aaron squarenuts wants a sandwich panel demo for hex core. I would just do both demos on the same night or weekend. Showing up with the needed materials.

I see the most labor in the canvas covering. Painting it brickish… before or after applying it?

I have another time saving idea…

I watched a utube maker making "outdoor hot tub curtains …where [he] takes a [forest print, brick print…] printed bedsheet material, and using a naptha and clear silicone paint mix, … dips them and makes them waterproof. The same mixture would bond right onto the waterproof surface of the showerpanel, with just a bit of prep on the siliconed oily showerboard surface. Would it last ten years? Not outdoors in the sun. What about a few weekends a year. Yup. Should be good for ten years plus. But lets take my demo panel and really test it in the elements. [See test suggestion below].

I see 3 ft x 6 ft panels as EASY picture framed sandwich panels. I have a clear and goopy gorilla coating for painting edges to preserve them. But its not sunproof. So… just for edges of wood frames.

Would we like stryofoam vs more expensive urethane foam sheets? I kinda lean towards urethane sheet coz thats what Im bonding face sheets with. And thats also better for an indoor storage fire code.

This plan lacks some detail like metal connector joinery, [nested or foldaway] handles, bolt-ups, etc. But since we are so many hella Creative fabricators, I am anxious to build you a demo panel and then ask how to incorporate handles n boltups buried in the edges.

Then… a structure demo test, eventuals. Im open to suggestions. Mini tower?

While it does its weathering test out back. Maybe it can become a scarecrow? [If edges sculpted].
I may also silicone-applique a beedsheet [ in the manner described above] from Goodwill to also weather demo the covering suggestion. Which i have not tried nor weathered yet. But i have confidence in it. For ten years storage. And imo, panels should be planned to be as identical and interchangeable as possible for swapping to hide damage. And maybe wing panels made to act as eventual spares?

Another build option proposal:

Recently I built a skinny door I dubbed “the groovy door”. Because it was a picture frame with [1/4" ?] plywood panels tapped into grooves cut into the center edge of a 2x3 wood frame.
It was light and strong. And is still doing its basement utility closet door job with no warpage a year later. Very quick and easy. All done on a cheapie table saw in one morning. [Ok, I had lifting help on installation] I would expect this to be even easier on our exacting big saw. And maybe 2x2s would work… IF you can find strainght ones to start with.
Easier said than done.
SO when I found STRAIGHT 2x3s, i just bought ten knowing i’d find a use. I did. I love my groovy door. [Narrower than those offered for sale, faster and cheaper than a custom order door].
I did not miter corners btw. Square butt corner frame. Faster and easier. Strong corner joins with long spotfaced and piloted lag screws too.

If we then put a face sheet on it, it would be heavier and stronger than the foam-lams i previously described. Durable. But the frames wont be hidden if we dont lam on the decorative panel face . Adding a touch more weight. For this, I would lighten the foam by heating up my foam in a can [Hot running water heat] and then Foam in the < 13/16 " spacing gap for an even more durable panel option. With some central hard point wood spacers … for lifting handles on the backside ?
Again, for this application, I prefer the slightly heavier black urethane foam [called “Pond and Stone”] over the cheaper yellow orange architectural version. [Black is double the cost per can but the black version also lasts much longer… unless its in direct sunlight.]

For either lam panel proposal… if we [rabbeted] a step on the inner frame edges - so the lam is inset into the 2x3s, it will resist edge damage much better. And thats a real concern for a lam panel that will be put up and down many times. This operation would require more measuring skill than i posess … unless a bearing guided router is an option to cut the inset step to depth and width. I AM just an amateur carpenter.

I think you’re describing a rail and stile door. I’m not sure what the point of building that would be if you were then going to add another layer, a fascia, on the front. Three current construction is not much different other than the size of the material. 2x4 and 7/16" OSB was used for the current one. So thinner material, let’s say half the thickness, yields a structure of roughly half the weight. Still an improvement, of course.

Yes … but …

I love learning the right terms. Thank you.
I found this diagram and descriptor;

…and yeah. It … is… a rail and stile door. Only i added no mullions. No central stiles. And all 4 of my rails were 2x3s. Coz i found straight ones.

Im now curious… if i can reduce the weight by half with this Rail and Stile design… is that enuf to be interesting? I was not given a target weight loss goal but we hope to be kind to all future castle assemblers. I might be one of them.
… 50% thats some impressive weight loss i dont care what product we are talking about. Aerospace gets all excited about 15% reductions as magical.

[Canvas weight and paint finish not withstanding]

And yes, the rigid foam bonded lam is expected to be even lighter. [Brushes dust offa shoulder in anticipation of showing off the finished lam demos. ]

Im not ready to ask if cost will be a choice factor. I intend to build and bond examples… just coz it sounds like a fun challenge.
And it sorta overlaps with the honeycomb lam panel demo. Process-wise.
And i’ve recently done it, the rail and stile “groovy” door. (Sorry, I just love the name i gave it.)

Also … The single piece quarter inch plywood in the rail and stile can be replaced by a thinner albeit more flexible floor lam as the stile. I forgot the name of that board, but i had little use for such a bendy board. But if i used it in a rail and stile as the central stile, then foamed in on a convex side with a face lam… even lighter than 1/4 " plywood. But that will give up some stile stiffness.
But when laminated to a face sheet that is completly foamed in the central cavity between stile and face sheet… (the black foam does get kinda stiff after a few days…) i wonder if the extra lighter lam is still interesting. Cause once constructed into a hex tower…it will be mostly stiffened by the neighboring rails.

I also wonder if we would want at least one central rail to attach handles on the back side. [Dirt cheap handles are abundant at the Re-Store]

Im getting m’self all excited to make some test panels. Thinking about fasteners and corners and insets… dimensioning them in my head.

Sorry my schedule is as jammed as it is. I may not wait for help to get coordinated. Ok, I do wish for a team build as others around here are often smarter about power tool choices. Or better about how to use the ones i’m familiar with. And finishing in under a day is a reasonable goal. For one or two panels. Oh yeah, dividing a 4x8 face sheet in two probly is a two person job. Since final dimensions matter. Werent the castle panels 24" wide? They could be 36". Just more waste since the whole sheet cant be utilized.

And if doing an inset on the face sheet, now the panels can be [an inch] wider or so. Is 24" sacred? 25? 26? I like ~ 24" face sheet size, minus kerf when dividing it in two. Oh and is that shiny “shower panel” a hazardous material? I dont think so but its not my call. Melamine content? Will I need to cut it at home?

I plan to buy and build. . . Maybe after my weeklong vacation Jun 9th to 15th. Im putting it in my calender as a few days. 18-21? But we will see if i still can when i get back. I may be laid up a few days after rolling around in the woods. Or have new Dr appts.

But i still need advice on where to urethane bond [outdoors? Patio?] ..  and how many fast clamps carpentry shop has. I didnt see any when i looked but.. And can i take those clamps outside to my small folding table? Or should i buy myself a dozen at harbor freight. 

I have a buncha red bricks for clamp weights too if i just bond on the ground. But my knee HATES kneeling right now.

I will keep material reciepts for info purposes. As well as elapsed labor for planning purposes. I dont need reimbursed. Its still a research [fun] project. The final panels can be ordered …IF any of my demo panels are stiff AND light enuf to move to serial production, … then to canvas and paint.

… And, I know it might not turn out good enuf and we move to plan C. Thats Ok. My efforts are not tender. Coz im learning to build better.

Design looks really good.
We need to get “MakeICT” in big print high and between the turrets. Vinyl banner would work fine but you’d need to include 4 attachment eyes or similar to hang banner securely. Whatever is used needs to be tough enough to withstand Kansas winds trying to destroy the banner or attachments……

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I think it should be part of the “stonework”


It needs to be big and bold. The purpose of being at Ren Faire is to present MakeICT as interesting and have public buy from product inside and to consider joining us. Subtle or small does not do that.

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So shall we set a date for an official planning meeting to finalize design ideas and choose materials to get this project underway? Does anyone have a prefered day?