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written by Rene K. Mueller, Copyright (c) 2006, last updated Tue, December 9, 2008


Sun, February 12, 2006: Added half-sphere formulas an its symbols .

Sat, February 11, 2006: Added half-sphere roof canvas calculator, provides shape and canvas lane measurements .

Fri, January 20, 2006: First version, with wigwam calculator to calculate bows with a given nbows and diameter. .

Wigwam Skeleton
The Wigwam is one of the traditional native american shelters, its alternate term is Wickiup. Since I featured the Bow Dome already, the wigwam can be architectual considered also a bow dome, but the bows are not hold together in the top and center, but the bows stretch over the entire roof, and several different diameters are covered by the bows.


Wigwam Example (Top View)
Usually branches of trees, particular pine trees, whose branches are already naturally are bent, those are tied together to have an arch bow, stretching from one side to another. This way different diameters are tied together, each crossing of an arch bow provides good overall stability.

Modern Wigwams / Domes (courtesy

Wigwam Calculator

Edit the nbows which is the amount of bows vertical or horizontal, and diameter of the wigwam d:

Wigwam Sketch, Human is 170cm height

nbows = , d = m, 4/8 sphere

Bow Details:

l is the length and h is the height or radius of the individual bows.


Fur or felt, or branches with green leaves (summer) are used to cover the construction.

In modern times either cotton fabric or synthetic can be used, but then the surface of the spherical shape requires exact pieces (and seams where it can leak) to provide tight cover overall. Following calculator provides some assistance to sew a spherical roof canvas.

Cover Calculator

This approach provides leaf-like composition to have a half-sphere roof canvas.

Symbols & Formulas:

α = 0 .. 90 cα = rα * 2 * π h = r * 2 * π / 4
rα = cos( α ) * r cαs = cα / nleaves y = h * ( α / 90 )

Edit the amount of segments nleaves, and the canvas lanes wide wcanvas which is used to patch together a leaf, and then press "calculate".

nleaves = , wcanvas = m, show segment(s),

The given canvas lane widths allows you to sew them together. In order to get a more exact shape, enter a smaller wcanvas and select "show one segment".

Half Sphere Surface

Which requires apprx. canvas.

Leaf composition: interior & rain canvas

Sewing the Cover

In order to sew these leaf-like sphere surface together as rain cover, the water leak is particular to be avoided and so special care of how to sew the seams together:

Options of Seam Sewing

In case of the wigwam a combination of two of the options might be used:

  • overlay horizontal canvas stripes or lanes to compose a part of a roof leaf or segment
  • use either one-fold or two-fold to patch the leaves / segments together

Consider to seal the stitching holes from sewing with silicon or good clear tape for canvas (with threads) and preferable use water-resistant sewing thread as well.

For sake of ventilation you may leave a 10-20cm large hole at the top of the leaf composed roof canvas, so the hot air at summer can leave the inner of the wigwam. Use a 30cm x 30cm top canvas lay over that hole, either attached with cords to the outer skeleton of the wigwam, or if the poles are inside of the cover, use klett like fixation for the top canvas cover.

Wigwam Model

I did a quick test with rather stiff bamboo sticks (40cm long, 4mm diameter), that's why the model looks not as filigree as with more flexible bows, n = 5, d = 50cm:

Wigwam Model with (stiff) bamboo sticks
2006/04/17 16:06
Wigwam Model, side view
2006/04/17 16:06
Wigwam Model, with Tipi in background
2006/04/17 16:06
2006/04/17 16:08
Wigwam Model, Closeup (1)
2006/04/17 16:08
Wigwam Model, Closeup (2)
2006/04/17 16:09
Wigwam Model, Closeup (3)
2006/04/17 16:09

Consider to check the bow dome section as well, where a larger model of a willow bow dome with wigwam-like (interwoven sticks) finish is documented.



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