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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 canopy, 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.

Rope Tied to a Stake.

Figure 2: Rope Around a Properly Angled Stake.


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. The extra interlocking grain between the main branch and the side branch is what keeps rope swings and tree houses from falling down. It's why apple trees don't lose their branches when heavy with fruit, and why you need to pay attention when splitting forked firewood.

Wood grain in branched fork.

Figure 3: Wood Grain at a Branching Fork.


Finding a straight branch, 16 inches long, between one and two inches in diameter, with a good sized side branch, is harder than it first sounds. Remember, if it didn't grow straight, it won't drive straight.

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. And you will have spent time in the woods, paying attention to the trees. That's not a bad way to spend your time.


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 over a camp fire by burning and scraping.

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 the root of a Dogwood (Cornus florida) or Ash (Fraxinus spp.)[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 (Maclura pomifera) 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.

Note: My Osage Orange maul split in January 2022, while riving some well-seasoned red oak.

Split Maul.

Figure 4: Split Osage Orange Maul.


Even with a split running from the head, all the way down through the handle, I was able to finish the work I was doing, and the maul held together.

This maul worked well for over five years. Rather than consign it to the fire place, I'm going to make lucets from the head.



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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