MAKING A MASKING TAPE
CHARTRES LABYRINTH

These instructions show you how to lay out a Chartres labyrinth with masking tape. However, you can just as easily use stones or other materials. If you want to draw a Chartres labyrinth on canvas, you will need to know additional techniques which are available in our manual, Constructing the Chartres Labyrinth (see products). Also in the products section are stand-up taping machines, to purchase or to make one of your own.

Masking tape labyrinths will be irregular and rustic in appearance, which is part of their charm. I think you will find when you are finished, you will be impressed by the work of art you have created. With a few volunteers, a flat surface and a generous supply of masking tape, it is possible to construct a labyrinth in under two hours. The best floor surface is concrete. Vinyl or ceramic tile, terrazzo, or short-nap commercial-grade carpeting are also generally acceptable. Wooden floors are not usually suitable, as the tape can damage the finish. However, there are special kinds of tape that don't harm wooden floors, although they are more expensive.

Size is a consideration only with regards to the available space and the amount of tape. I use 60-yard rolls of three-inch-wide masking tape. For small labyrinths, two-inch-wide tape may be sufficient. A large labyrinth could use 15 to 20 rolls of tape, at a cost of five dollars each (total: $75-$100). Gaffer's tape is probably more suitable, since it doesn't leave any residue, but it is very expensive, three times the cost of masking tape. Vinyl tapes have the advantage of being able to stretch, which is helpful when making circles. But when all is saidand done, I have always used masking tape.

The photograph shows a 104-foot-wide masking tape labyrinth made for First Night St. Louis, on New Year's Eve, 1998. We used 25 rolls of tape. I suggest buying plenty of tape, open them as you need them, and return what you don't use. It is frustrating to run out of tape in the middle of making the labyrinth, leaving volunteers standing around idle.

Photo of 104-foot masking tape labyrinth.

Besides masking tape, you will need a measuring rope (or tape measure) that is three or four feet longer than the radius of your labyrinth, and a ruler or yardstick. The surface of the floor needs to be dry and clean or the tape won't stick. You may wish to supply kneepads to your volunteers, as they will spend a lot of time crawling around on the floor.

DETERMINING THE MEASUREMENTS

Before beginning, you must determine the size of your labyrinth and make a guide rope that will be essential in laying out the pattern. There are 12 concentric circles in the labyrinth, enclosing 11 paths, or circuits. If you were to measure the labyrinth from edge to edge, directly through the center, you would first encounter 11 circuits (paths), then the center, and then 11 circuits again on the other side. For calculating the diameter, then, you have the center plus 22 circuits.

The center is one-fourth the diameter of the entire labyrinth (not counting the lunations, which are the little circular shapes around the perimeter). The paths, therefore, occupy three-fourths of the diameter. Suppose, for example, that you are considering having the circuits three feet wide. First you multiply: 22 x 3 = 66. That represents the diameter of the paths, which comprises three-fourths of the diameter. To find the value of the center, the remaining one-fourth, you simply divide the three-fourths measurement by three, which gives you one-fourth. In this instance, three-fourths equals 66 feet, so dividing by three will yield the answer of 22 feet for the center. Thus, the diameter of a labyrinth with three-foot-wide paths equals 66 feet (the paths) plus 22 feet (the center) for a total of 88 feet. With the lunations, the total will be over 90 feet.

You can also calculate backwards. Suppose your space is 40 feet across, and you want to leave a little room around the edge of the labyrinth so people's shoulders don't hit the wall. Start with 10 percent less than the total diameter (in this case, 36 feet) as your intended diameter. Divide by four, finding that one-fourth equals nine feet. That will be the size of the center. The remaining 27 feet (36 feet minus 9 feet) will be the total width of the 22 circuits. By dividing, you find that one circuit equals approximately 14 and 3/4 inches. Adding the lunations, the total diameter comes out to approximately 38 feet.

While I am calling this measurement the path width, it is actually incorporates both the path and the line. We are really determining the spacing for the center of the masking tape lines.

Once you know the spacing and the diameter of the center, you are ready to make your measuring rope. Or, you could use a standard metal tape measure if you prefer. The tape measure isn't likely to stretch, as the rope might. Whichever you use, we'll just call it the guide. The guide will extend from the center of the labyrinth to the perimeter, plus a few feet. On the guide you mark off the location of the 12 lines that form the labyrinth. In the case of the 36-foot labyrinth, remember that although the center is nine feet in diameter (all the way across) you are measuring the radius (starting at the center of the circle), which is half the diameter. Therefore, the measurement from the center to the first circle would be four and one-half feet. That's 54 inches.

The first mark will be equal to the radius of the circle. For our example, we are making a 36-foot circle with a nine foot center, the radius of which is 54. On rope, you can make a mark with a felt-tipped pen or magic marker. On a metal measuring tape (or on a rope) you can make the mark by wrapping a piece of tape at the designated point. (I like to number each one.) Then each additional path will be spaced according to the appropriate calculation that you made at the beginning. For our example, that is 14 and 3/4 inches apart. In such case, the second mark will be 54 inches plus 14 and 3/4 inches, or 68 and 3/4 inches. The third mark will be 68 and 3/4 inches plus 14 and 3/4 inches, and so forth, until all of the marks are completed.

The guide needs to be securely fastened to the center of the labyrinth. You could have someone hold a broomstick in the center, but they would get very bored and would likely move. I suggest a board with a nail in it, which you can tape to the floor so that it doesn't move. The guide must have 360-degree movement. Since I make labyrinths frequently, I have constructed a round board with a one-inch hole in the middle. Over that hole I have placed a floor flange for a one-inch pipe (found in the plumbing department of any hardware store). Screw the flange to the piece of wood, over the hole. I mark the center of the labyrinth with an "X." Looking through the hole in the board (through the flange) I line up the board on the center "X." Then I screw a four-inch piece of pipe into the flang and place a 20-kilo (44-pound) barbell weight over the pipe, to keep the board from moving. The pipe is long enough so that it sticks up above the weight. I attach the guide to the pipe by making a loop in the rope or tying a loop to the end of the tape measure.

START WITH THE ENTRY PATHS

You will need to consult a drawing of the labyrinth so that you can remind yourself as to the location of the various components. We sell accurate drawings on the products page (products). Or you can click here to download a drawing, which will take about half a minute to open (Chartres drawing). Notice there are two straight parallel entry paths, one to get into the labyrinth and the other leading into the center. The latter path is on the right, and is centered on the center axis of the labyrinth.

By first laying down the three straight lines that form the two parallel entry paths, you will avoid making circles where they don't need to be. Of course, if you make a mistake, with masking tape it's easy to correct.

Stretch out the guide to mark the vertical axis of the labyrinth. The entry path that leads into the center (the one on the right, as you look inward from the perimeter of the labyrinth) straddles this axis. Measure outward from the guide a distance equal to one-half the path width. In our example, the path is 14 and 3/4 inches, so you measure outward 7 and 3/8 inches on either side of the guide. Mark these measurements in several places with small bits of tape. Lay out these two straight lines by unrolling a long piece of masking tape (this requires two people) and then putting it in place, lined up with the bits of tape. When the tape is all lined up, have a third person push it down onto the floor. (I hope you get it straighter than my drawing.)

Illustration of the paths paralleling the vertical axis.

 

After the first two lines are done, measure over one path width to the left and install the third straight line, thereby completing the layout of the entry paths. These lines will undergo a little modification later. For now, just extend the tape the entire distance from the first circle out to the twelfth circle.

Now comes the step that is the most fun, laying out the circles. Have volunteers line up on either side of the guide, prepared to put a small bit of tape at one of the marks on the guide as it moves around the circle. Begin at the entrance lines, and move around the labyrinth. Tug on the guide rope so that it is in a straight line, and then let go of it, so that it lies on the floor with no tension on it. Have each of the volunteers put a bit of tape on the floor next to their assigned mark on the guide. Move the guide a couple of feet and have everyone put another bit of tape by their marks.

Illustration showing how to lay out the circles.

 

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Continue this all the way around the circle. Each time you lay down the guide on the floor, volunteers put a little piece of tape onto the floor next to each line measurement on the rope. It takes a moment to tear off the next piece of tape. If you have plenty of volunteers, you can have a second person behind the one by the guide, tearing tape and handing it to them. This goes surprisingly fast, taking around 15 minutes or so.

Illustration showing the circles completed.

 

CONNECTING THE DOTS

Make the concentric circles by laying down the masking tape directly over all of the little tape markers. If you have long continuous pieces of tape, it will be easier to pull up when it comes time to remove the labyrinth. Since you are making a curved line, the tape doesn't lie flat. Through practice you will develop some ways of tucking it or turning it. If you are using a tape machine, it makes curves quite easily. In fact, you can make a straight line between two bits of tape (if you have spaced them fairly regularly), make a slight tuck, then make a straight line to the next bit, make a tuck, etc.

MAKING THE TURNS

To convert a group of concentric circles into a labyrinth youmust install the turns. Traditionally, these back-to-back turns are shaped like bow ties, also called labryses. (A labrys is a double-headed ax in Minoan mythology.) You can just use a straight line, or you can get fancier and make them rounded. If you want to really make it fancy, use a razor or knife to trim the tape into a smooth circular shape (see photo).

Photo showing details of masking tape work.

 

To make a turn from one circuit to another you must remove a piece of tape from the line that separates the two paths involved. Use the drawing and count circles to locate the turns in their proper places. The same is true for the line arrangement around the entrance.

At this point you have a labyrinth. It isn't necessary to make petals or lunations, although they add a lot, visually, if you have the time to do it.

MAKING THE PETALS

The center of the labyrinth has six flower petals. Where the petals meet, the merged lines are decorated with a little cross-like pattern. The tip of these petal crosses are exactly half way between the outer edge of the first circle and the center point of the labyrinth. In other words, on the mid-point of the radius. For example, in the 36-foot labyrinth, the center is nine feet, which means the radius, from the center to the first circle, is four and one-half feet, or 54 inches. The tip of the petal cross is midway on the radius, or 27 inches from both the center and the inner circle (see right).

Diagram for laying out the central petals.

 

The straight lines on either side of the entrance path have one-armed crosses so that nothing sticks out into the path. These can be located easily. Opposite the entrance, at the "top" of the labyrinth, the petal cross is on the center axis of the labyrinth. This also can be easily located and put into place.

There remain two petal crosses on each side of the center. By eye or by measurement, locate the tips of these crosses on the midpoint of their respective radii, spaced evenly between the top cross and the entrance crosses. Once you have these laid out, then you have an easy job of making the petal circles. Since you have marked the ends of the circles, just connect adjacent ones with a circle. In fact, the circle touches three points: the circle that forms the center and the tips of two adjacent petal crosses. Line these up, draw the petal circles, and the result will be satisfactory.

ADDING THE LUNATIONS

The circles forming the halo around the outside of the labyrinth are sometimes called lunations because they are believed to comprise a lunar calendar. With such a calendar, one can determine the date for Easter (the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox).

When making a labyrinth, the lunations take as much time as the rest of the labyrinth combined. Such small circles are almost impossible to make with tape. However, if you are energetic, you can make little lines that look like rays coming out of the labyrinth. The distance between the rays may be calculated by dividing the diameter of the labyrinth by 36. So, in our 36-foot example, the diameter is 36 feet which, divided by 36, yields one foot. Hence, the rays are spaced one foot apart, from center of ray to center of ray. Alternatively, you can calculate the circumference of the labyrinth and divide by 114. The circumference equals the diameter times pi (3.1416). So here's the calculation for our example: 36 x 3.1416 = slightly more than 113. Divided by 114 it equals 11 and 29/32 inches). Pretty close to a foot. You don't actually have 114 rays. One was removed for the entrance, leaving 113. The top-most ray lies right on the central axis. The rays on the left side of the labyrinth are fractionally closer together than the rays on the right side.

The length of the rays is the same as the distance apart, which in this case is 12 inches. However, that includes the thickness of the line. So, if you are using three-inch tape, the rays actually extend nine inches (12 minus 3) beyond the outer circle.

Similarly, in spacing the rays, they are one foot apart, less the thickness of the tape. So, if you are using two-inch-wide tape, the open space between the pieces of tape will be 10 inches wide. Make a little marker out of cardboard to help you easily set this spacing.

The distance from the labyrinth entrance to the first ray on either side of the entrance is equal to one-half the distance between the rays. If the rays are one foot apart, the first rays would be six inches on either side of the entrance.

Voila, you have made a Chartres-pattern masking tape labyrinth

TAPE REMOVAL

Before you remove the tape, take a photo of your labyrinth. While you're at it, send me a copy. Be sure to provide for volunteers to help you remove the tape, which will take almost as long to pull up as it took to put down. A putty knife is helpful for getting under the edges.

WHAT ABOUT PILLARS?

The beauty of using masking tape is that the labyrinth can be altered to go around obstructions, such as pillars. If there are pillars in the space where you are installing the labyrinth, you can do several things. One is to put a pillar in the center of the labyrinth and size your labyrinth to fit within the next row of pillars. A second possibility is to incorporate the pillars within the labyrinth.

If there is a pillar in the center, there will be no place to attach the measuring guide. Here's a solution. Measure the dimensions of the pillar and draw them on a piece of posterboard. Then use a compass to draw a circle that goes around the shape of the pillar, just touching the corners. Cut out the segments bordered by the circle and the pillar (shaded area in illustration to the right) and tape them on the floor next to the pillar, forming a circle. Proceed as before, this time having someone hold the guide to the edge of the circle, moving it slightly each time you reposition the rope (rather than having a center post). The person at the other end of the guide can be sure that it lines up with the center of the pillar. This will be accurate enough to get a usable result.

For pillars towards the outer edge of the labyrinth, just route the circuits around them as necessary. With tape, anything is possible. See drawing to the right.

Diagram showing how to encircle a pillar.

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Drawing of a labyrinth with pillars in it and paths diverted.

 

 

If these instructions are not clear, please feel free to email us with your questions, comments and suggestions. Many thanks.

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