14′ Pioneering Tower

Three 14' Double Ladder Signal Towers (Back in the Day)
Three 14′ Double Ladder Signal Towers (Back in the Day)

The following description is adapted from Adolph Peschke’s narrative on the “boy-sized” 14′ Double Ladder Signal Tower, from the 1993 edition of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet. This is not a climbing tower, but a design modified into something of a tower sculpture. For the original double ladder version, click here.


Pioneering Tower Design Diagram
  • 4   3 1/2″ x 14′ tower legs
  • 6    2″ x 4′ side spreaders
  • 2   3″ x 4′ bottom spreaders
  • 4   2″ x 6′ support spars
  • 2   3″ x 6′ base support spars
  • 4   2″ x 10′ X braces
  • 2   2″ x 8′ X braces
  • 8    pioneering stakes
  • binder twine
  • 4   3/8″ x 50′ manila guy lines
  • 43  1/4″ x 15′ manila lashing ropes (for 40 Square Lashings and 3 Diagonal Lashings)

Assemble the 4′ sides. Begin by laying out two pairs of 14′ spars for the tower legs, side by side, 3 and 1/2 feet apart. Be sure the butt ends are even at the bottom so the tower will stand up straight.

Lash the legs together starting with a 4′ bottom spreader about 6″ from the end of the legs. Lash one 4′ side spreader about 4 and 1/2 feet from the bottom spreader, one 4′ from the top of the legs, and one about 2″ from the top. Repeat the whole process with the other two legs.

Join the 4′ sides. Turn both sides up horizontally, parallel to one another about 5 and 1/2 feet apart. Make sure the bottoms are even.

Lash on one of the 6′ base support spars directly above the 4′ bottom spreader.

Lash on one of the 6′ support spars directly under the 4′ side spreader at the very top, and lash on one of the 6′ support spars directly above the 4′ side spreader, second from the top. (Refer to the diagram on the right.)

Lash on two of the 10′ X braces diagonally between the legs using Square Lashings to lash the ends to the legs, and a Diagonal Lashing where they cross. Three of the ends are lashed to the outside of the legs, and one on the inside, so that a slight gap is created where they cross. As the Diagonal Lashing begins, this gap will be cinched together with the Timber Hitch.

Pioneering Tower Design Diagram

Lash the other side. To make the lashings on the other side, you have to get the whole crew together to roll the tower over 180° so that it’s laying on the X brace and the other sides of the 4′ sides are easier to get to.

Proceed just as before, lashing on the 6′ base support spar and remaining two 6′ support spars as before.

Lash on the remaining 10′ X braces as before.

Lash the two 8′ X braces diagonally across the legs just above the four top ends of the 10′ X braces. To accomplish this, some crew members will have to hold up the top of the tower so that  there is better access to all four ends of the 8′ X braces.

Lash on the flags. You can lash a flagpole to each of the tower legs. If you want a flag or flags to fly from the top of the tower, lash the flagpole(s) to the tops of the tower legs using a couple of tight Round Lashings. NOTE: Make sure the flags are unfurled before hoisting the tower.

Four 1-1 Anchors

Anchors and guy lines. When all the lashings are done, move the tower to where it will be hoisted. Before actually hoisting the tower, lay out the position of the four legs on the ground.  Then determine where the four anchors for the guy lines will be placed to steady the legs of the tower.

If the tower is positioned to make use of a natural anchor (such as a tree), prepare anchor strops to attach the guy lines. For any guy lines that won’t be using natural anchors, build anchors using pioneering stakes. At a minimum, you’ll need to build well constructed 1-1 anchors at all four corners. Each anchor should be placed 20 feet from the leg at a 45°.

Using the 50′ 3/8″ manila ropes, attach the four guy lines to the legs about four feet from the top, directly above the 6′ support spars, with a Roundturn with Two Half Hitches.

Hoisting the tower. You’ll need a whole crew to do the hoisting. First there should be a safety officer who observes for all safety considerations and signs of trouble during the hoisting. There should also be a signal caller who tells the crew members when and how fast to pull on the ropes. For this adaptation of Mr. Peschke’s 14′ Double Ladder Signal Tower, the rest of the crew is divided into lifters who lift and then push the tower up, and pullers who use two of the guy lines as hoisting ropes to pull the tower until it is standing.

When everyone is in position, the signal caller should direct the Scouts on the hoisting ropes (the pullers) to hoist the tower into position, while the lifters start lifting. Care should be exercised not to over pull the tower.

As soon as the tower is standing, four Scouts should temporarily tie the guy lines to the anchors using a Roundturn with Two Half Hitches.

Heeling the tower. If the tower is uneven, you can heel the the butt ends of the legs 4″ to 6″ deep as needed to make it more level.

Tighten the guy lines. As soon as the tower is in position, go to each of the anchors and untie the Roundturn with Two Half Hitches and replace it with a rope tackle. Use the rope tackles to hold the tower steady, by gradually applying strain to each of the four guy lines at the same time. Do this by tying a Butterfly Knot in each guy line about 6′ to 8′ from the anchor. Then wrap the running end of the guy line around the forward stake of the anchor and back through the loop in the Butterfly Knot. When rope tackles are tied to all four anchors, gradually tighten the lines. Apply enough strain to each of the guy lines to hold the tower firm and in a vertical position. Then tie off the rope tackles and secure the running ends with Half Hitches.

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