14′ Double Ladder Signal Tower

This signal tower went up on a camping trip in March of 2000 in a large grassy field. The operation took a little over two hours. PHASE 1: Before we started, a well-muscled sledge hammer crew, made up of Jason Hardee, Theodore Fontana, Cory Keibler, Kurt Lester, and Will Hall, took turns pounding in 24 three-foot pioneering stakes to make up the four “1-1-1” anchors needed to tie the tower down. PHASE 2: A crew assembled the 2 fourteen foot ladders. (All Scout campers tied at least one of the fifty square lashings required to put together the completed project.) PHASE 3: Another crew held the ladders in position while they were lashed together. Thanks to Jason for his diagonal lashings, and Theodore and Hiram for their help in lashing down the floor spars making up the platform. PHASE 4: The tower is hoisted with Scouts manning each corner guyline and the rope used to make sure the tower isn’t pulled too far before it’s secured. Thanks to Michael O’Neil who was in charge of tightening the guylines using the rope tackles at each of the anchors
This signal tower went up on a camping trip in March of 2000 in a large grassy field. The operation took a little over two hours. PHASE 1: Before we started, a well-muscled sledge hammer crew, made up of Jason Hardee, Theodore Fontana, Cory Keibler, Kurt Lester, and Will Hall, took turns pounding in 24 three-foot pioneering stakes to make up the four “3-2-1” anchors we thought we needed to tie the tower down. (For years, we overlooked the fact all we really needed were 1-1 anchors.) PHASE 2: A crew assembled the 2 fourteen foot ladders. (All Scout campers tied at least one of the fifty Square Lashings required to put together the completed project.) PHASE 3: Another crew held the ladders in position while they were lashed together. Thanks to Jason for his Diagonal Lashings, and Theodore and Hiram for their help in lashing down the floor spars making up the platform. PHASE 4: The tower is hoisted with Scouts manning each corner guyline and the rope used to make sure the tower isn’t pulled too far before it’s secured. Thanks to Michael O’Neil who was in charge of tightening the guylines using the rope tackles at each of the anchors

The current Guide to Safe Scouting states, “Pioneering projects, such as monkey bridges, have a maximum height of 6 feet. Close supervision should be followed when Scouts are building or using pioneering projects.” However, under certain circumstances and in accordance with some recently revised standards, Scouts CAN again build and CLIMB ON this and other tower structures. Refer to: NCAP Circular No. 2, pages 3 and 4.

—> RECENT TOWER CONSTRUCTION <—

14′ Boy Scout Tower Gateway (Four Flag Tower)

Jamboree Pioneering Area: Towers

The following text is by Adolph E. Peschke as presented in the 1998 printing of the 1993 edition of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet:

This project solves the old problem of wanting to build a signal tower when there aren’t enough big spars to do the job. The double ladder tower requires four 14-foot spars and several smaller spars, but not nearly the amount needed for a four-leg signal tower. It also cuts down the number of lashings required.

This tower is not free standing. It requires the use of guylines to hold it steady. Review the sections on anchors and rope tackle if this is your first encounter with guylines.

Assemble the ladders. This project begins with building two ladders: a climbing ladder and a supporting ladder. Lay out two pairs of spars on the ground for the legs of the ladders. Be sure the butt ends are even at the bottom so that the tower will stand up straight. Before you begin any lashing, mark the positions where the spars that will hold the top platform are to be lashed onto the legs. This is about 4 feet from the top ends of the legs.

To make the climbing ladder, lash ten rungs on one pair of legs at about 1-foot intervals. The top rung should be lashed on where you marked the position of the platform, 4 feet from the top. Also the top handrail is lashed on to complete the climbing ladder.

To make the supporting ladder, lash three spars on the other set of legs to serve as the bottom, center, and top spreaders. The top spreader should be lashed at the point you marked for the platform, 4 feet from the top. Then lash on the top handrail, as on the climbing ladder.

Lash the ladders together. Now you have to join the two ladders to form the tower. Turn the two ladders up on their sides so they’re parallel to each other and approximately 6 feet apart. Check to see that the bottoms are even. Now lash on the base spreader to join the bottoms of the two ladders.

Lash on the platform supporting spar just above the top rung and top spreader on the ladders. Before proceeding, check the measurements from the bottoms of the legs to the platform supporting spar to make sure they’re equal on both legs so that the platform will be level.

Continue by lashing on the top long handrail. The lash on the two side X-braces diagonally between the legs using square lashings to lash the ends to the legs, and a diagonal lashing where they cross.

Figure 137
Figure 137

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 braces and the other sides of the ladders are up where they will be easier to get to.

Then proceed as before. Lash on the base spreader spar and the platform supporting spar. Again, measure to make sure there’s equal distance from both ends of the platform support spar to the bottoms of both legs. Continue to lash on the top long handrail and finish with the X-braces.

Lash on two more platform X-braces under the platform. These braces go diagonally across the legs just under the platform to help the tower resist racking (see figure 137). Use square lashings to lash them to the legs and a diagonal lashing where they cross.

14' Double Ladder Signal Tower Schematic
14′ Double Ladder Signal Tower Schematic

Before standing the tower upright, lash on the spars to form the platform floor.

Anchors and Guylines. 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 guylines will be placed to steady the legs of the tower. (Refer to the Anchors section to determine the position of the anchors.)

If the tower is positioned to make use of a natural anchor (such as a tree), prepare anchor strops to attach the guylines. For any guylines 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.

Attach the four guylines to the legs just above the platform. The guylines should be 3/8-inch diameter manila or polypropylene rope. They’re attached to the legs of the tower using a roundturn with two half hitches and securing the running end of the rope.

Note: For safety reasons, never use a taut-line hitch on guylines, or for that matter, in any pioneering work. This hitch is used when adjustments in the tension are called for. It can slip.

During the Carwash Fundraiser in May of 1997, we raised our third 14 foot Double Ladder Signal Tower. After the tower is lashed together, requiring 50 square lashings, before it can be hoisted, it has to be carried and positioned in the exact location. Once in position, the crew divides into :lifters
Hoisting the 14′ Double Ladder Signal Tower

Hoisting the tower. Hoisting the tower up into a vertical position is done with separate ropes. Do not use the guylines. Tie two lines on the side of the tower being lifted and one line on the opposite side to prevent over pulling and toppling 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 hoisting ropes and when to stop pulling. Two or more Scouts should be on each of the two ropes. And one or two Scouts should be on the rope on the other side to prevent over pulling the tower.

When everyone is in position, the signal caller should direct the Scouts on the hoisting ropes to hoist the tower into position. As soon as it’s up, temporarily tie the guylines to the anchors using a roundturn with two half hitches.

Heeling in the legs. When the tower is upright, heel in the butt ends of the tower legs in holes about 4 to 6 inches deep. This is done to steady the tower and can also help in leveling the tower to make sure that the platform is level and the tower itself is vertical.

Four 1-1 Anchors
Four 1-1 Anchors

Tighten the guylines. To hold the tower steady, gradually apply strain to each of the four guylines at the same time. One of the easiest ways to adjust the strain is to tie a rope tackle on the anchor ends of the guylines.

As soon as the tower is in position and the legs are heeled in, go to each of the anchors and untie the roundturns with two half hitches and replace it with a rope tackle.

Do this by tying a butterfly knot in each guyline about 6 to 8 feet from the anchor. Then wrap the running end of the guyline 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 guylines to hold the tower firm and in a vertical position. Then tie off the rope tackles and secure the running ends with half hitches.

Test the structure. Before the tower can be put into general use, make a test climb while the safety officer and the whole crew observe all the lashings and anchors to ensure they are all secure.

Note: Some people are not comfortable climbing up to a high place. They should not be encouraged to climb if they are not sure of themselves. Do not pressure anyone to climb the tower if they don’t want to.

1997 EXPO TOWER
1997 SCOUT EXPO TOWER

MATERIALS:

  • four 4-inch x 14-foot tower legs
  • ten 2-inch x 3-foot climbing ladder rungs
  • three 2-inch x 3-foot support ladder spreaders
  • two 2-1/2-inch x 6-foot base spreaders
  • two 2-1/2-inch x 6-foot platform supporting spars
  • two 2-inch x 3-foot platform handrails
  • two 2-inch x 6-foot platform long handrails
  • four 2-1/2-inch x 10-foot X braces
  • two 2-1/2-inch x 8-foot X braces
  • eighteen 2-inch x 3-1/2-foot platform support slats
  • eight pioneering stakes
  • binder twine
  • four 3/8-inch x 50-foot manila guylines
  • thirty-one 1/4-inch x 15-foot manila lashing ropes (for 28 square Lashings and 3 diagonal lashings)
  • twenty-two  1/4-inch x 20-foot manila lashing ropes (for 22 square lashings)

In accordance with current regulations, a fine adaptation consists of replacing the ladder rungs with support side spreaders, and dispensing with the platform floor slats. Lashing one or more long flag poles to the top of the legs and flying banners or flags never fails to elicit a rousing array of cheers, as the Scouts hoist their tower into an upright position!  Click here for project description and materials.

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