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List field

Submitted by Katherina Weyssin on April 25, 2013 - 1:39pm

After several years of discussion and a couple of abortive attempts, Ildhafn has a new list field.


William, Katherina and Ludwig's proposal (see below) met with popular acclaim, so we're going ahead with it.

Budget: $400

  • 30 rails - $147
  • 24 posts - c. $160
  • need feet (plywood sheet, nails)
  • extra rails
  • banner poles


We looked at some dozens of medieval and renaissance paintings that include list fields: they were all wood-coloured. We asked everyone we could think of, locally and overseas: they showed us more wood-coloured list fields. Don Emrys Twdr found us one late-medieval tapestry with a reddish barriers in it, and one 17th C field in red-and-white candy-cane stripes; but we're not sure we trust such limited evidence against many, many wood-coloured depictions in various media over several centuries.

We considered (prompted by Duke Cornelius) the cost of paint in our period; especially the cost of blue paint (the best sources for which are ground azurite or lapis lazuli - very expensive indeed!).

We conclude that medieval people considered list fields - even for the fanciest of tournaments - to be cheapish, temporary structures, and seem to have left them as bare, undecorated wood, simply made and simply finished.

We considered painting it anyway, but it wouldn't look right. Bare wood it is.

Treated wood?

We have compromised by using treated timber for the posts. We can't afford a new list field every few years, and we don't have space for dry storage. The wood looks a little green, but better than the other options we found.

We tried treating a test-piece of post: one side with linseed oil, one with fire (a blow-torch), one with dirt, and one with just sunlight. After a few weeks, the untreated, sunbleached side was by far the best. The linseed oil made the wood greener, the scorches were not aesthetically pleasing, the dirt looked convincing-but-dirty, and the bare, bleaching wood looked a lot less green than when we'd bought it.

William, Katherina and Ludwigs' proposal:


Medieval depictions, especially those in Talhoffer (15thC German fechtbuch, which survives in numerous manuscripts, each with slightly different illustrations) and Mair (16thC German fechtbuch).

An image search for "Talhoffer" or "Hector Paulus Mair" will give you many examples.

We particularly like the style shown in some Talhoffer MSS

  • square posts at the corners
  • two round rails joining them
  • various shapes (hexagonal, octagonal, rectangular, with and without openings)

Our requirements

  • looks medieval
  • looks good
  • compact to store and transport
  • reasonably easy to put up and pack down
  • reasonably easy and cheap to make
  • versatile: can make large or small list fields, in various shapes, with the same equipment
  • modular: lots of identical pieces, so if one breaks we replace it with another
  • safe to fight in: no pointy bits, field will break before fighters do
  • rails high enough for fighters to see easily, and low enough to discourage small children (so two rails are better than one)

Note that most medieval depictions of barriers around combat seem to show unpainted wood. It'd be nice to paint ours, both for spiffiness, and to protect the wood through long storage. Also for re-use as banner-poles. The hunt is on for medieval depictions that show painted posts or rails.


A modular list field, that can be assembled into a rectangle, hexagon, octagon, or combination of those shapes, in various sizes.

The aim is something that looks very like Talhoffer's two-rail list fields.

There will be a bunch of 10mm square posts, each with lots of holes drilled for constructing in different ways; and 2m dowels to join them together.

From William de Cameron:

If we buy 100mm fenceposts, which look like they're about $8/m and come in 2.4m lengths (I figure chop them in half to give 2 x 1.2m per post? [update: shorter posts are fine]), and we drill 5x 25mm holes in them, we can space them out so that you get 180deg, 135deg, 120deg and 2x 90deg options.

Which means you can do a square, hexagonal or octagonal field (and possibly a pentagon, because you also get a 105deg angle to play with, and a pentagon is 107), and a pass-through (180deg) with optional 90deg field divider.

With 100m posts, and some slight off-setting of the holes (i.e. they're not all going towards the centre of the post), I think there's enough thickness of wood to cope with the fact that we've turned it into swiss cheese.


William has done a mock-up of this with two posts (with 22mm dowels, as they were there), which turned out pretty well.

The prototypes

Other thoughts

We'll probably want some shorter dowels (1m) to allow for shorter portions around gates.

If we drill a hole in the top of each post as well, we can use spare dowels as banner poles, and insert them into the top of the posts. Ludwig has seen a medieval list-field shown with banners like this (he thinks) - he's looking for the image.

At least a few of the posts need to stand ok alone, or at ends: both for gaps/gates, and for combat at the barriers.

We might want to rig some portable holes/standalone posts that will take a banner pole in the same way.

Make a few extra of everything, so we have back-ups when something breaks.

Paint the posts dark blue (they'll look a bit like swiss cheese, so probably not the best place for fancy decoration). Paint the rails in a blue-and-white spiral (that is, paint them white, apply masking tape, then paint the blue on; nail in each end so we can rest them on a rack to dry). This assumes we can find medieval depictions of painted wooden barriers.

Use treated wood (even though it's more expensive) so they don't rot when they - inevitably - get wet. Paint them too, to be doubly sure. Unfortunately, treated wood looks green, so not an option if we go for bare wood.

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