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Tent Stakes

Three Tent Stakes and a Maul.

Figure 1: Three Tent Stakes and a Maul.


If you have a tent, or a sun shade, then you'll need tent stakes. You don't need anything fancy. Just a fairly straight piece of wood with a pointy end. [295] [035] If you drive it at an angle to the ground, in the direction away from the pull on your rope, then the rope generally won't pull off.

At market fairs, the sutlers and blacksmiths will gladly sell you iron stakes. These are very strong. And pretty heavy.

There are patterns for turned wood stakes, but you need a lathe to make those. Other stakes have carved notches to keep the rope from slipping. But unless you are very careful with the wood grain, you're just adding a weakness to the stake. A wrong blow with the mallet, or a sharp twist of the rope, will split the spur right off.


The stakes in Figure 1, above, all have a naturally occurring side branch to keep the rope from sliding off. Since the tree's grain grows around and through the side spur, it isn't going to split off. Of course, if you drive the stakes in properly, the spurs aren't strictly necessary. But the branches can help when it comes time to pull up stakes.

Finding a straight branch, 16 inches long, of the right diameter, with a good sized side branch, is harder than it first sounds. Trees don't often cooperate. But if you spend enough time in the woods, with your eyes open, eventually you will find enough branches to make all the stakes you need for your camp.


The sharp end of the stake can be trimmed with a hatchet, cut with a draw knife and shaving horse, or shaped with a saw and files. You can even carefully sharpen the point by burning and scaping.

But the other end of the stake also needs attention. [295] [815] The head should be rounded so it doesn't mushroom and split when you drive it into the ground.


A maul, or club, is handy for driving stakes, and splitting firewood. Roy Underhill recommends Dogwood or Ash root [815], but I haven't had any trees that needed to be dug up. The ones I use are made from a Dogwood branch and a young Osage Orange trunk. The Osage Orange, pictured at the top of the page, was used with a froe for a year or two, and hasn't worn down too much. I've driven tent stakes with the Dogwood branch for many years, with little visible wear.


Army, Department of the (October 1968)
TM 5-725 Rigging.
Accessed 21 July 2021 from

Graves, Richard (1978)
Accessed 27 July 2021 from

Rogers, Harry (2017)
How To Make Traditional Wooden Tent Pegs.
Accessed 27 July 2021 from

Underhill, Roy (1981)
The Woodwright's Shop
University of North Carolina Press
ISBN 0-8078-1484-9


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