Pioneering Projects

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

PIONEERING PROJECTS

The craft of building with ropes and spars continues in remote areas throughout the world today. Scouts can apply the skills of knot tying and lashing to build pioneering structures that are needed to make living in camp a little more comfortable. Whether you build a simple gadget, or a bridge to provide a shortcut to the swimming pool, pioneering can be rewarding and fun.

The pioneering projects shown here, along with the suggested sizes and lengths of spars, are intended for building “boy-size” structures; that is, projects that can be built by boys of Boy Scout age.

You don’t have to build a huge tower to learn the skills and enjoy the fun of pioneering. These projects are designed so that you can build them in a few hours with a minimum of equipment and supplies. Yet, you will still learn how the basic pioneering skills of knot tying and lashing must work together with the design of a structure to produce a sound, safe pioneering project.

Building these projects will be much easier if you put together a pioneering kit first. The success of any project is directly related to the planning and preparation you put into the project from the beginning.

Here are some things to take into consideration before you build a pioneering project:

  • Decide on the type of project you want to build. Take into consideration the equipment, the number of people needed, and the time required to build it.
  • Check the site where the project is going to be built. Collect all the information that you will need when building the project. For example, are there any natural anchors for guylines? How wide and deep is the creek where a bridge is to be built?
  • Make a rough sketch of the project or work from an approved plan drawing. Along with the sketch, have a list of equipment that includes all the equipment you’ll need. You don’t want to start a project and later learn you need something you don’t have.
  • Select the necessary spars you’ll need for the project, making sure that you have enough spars with the proper butt diameter and length to build a safe project.
  • Determine the size and lengths of all the ropes needed for lashings, guylines, etc.
  • Before you start building, determine if the project can be divided into subassemblies for ease of lashing and erecting. Assign crew members and a crew leader to each of the sub assemblies, based on skill level and experience.
  • Go over the plans with all the crew members. Assign only one person to give signals when raising all or part of the structure.
  • As you’re building the project, frequently check the progress to make sure it is being done with safety in mind.

A word about the appearance of the project: Part of the skill in building with ropes and spars is to select the spars that are best suited to the structure. In some situations, the supply of spars might be limited.

It is not necessary for your project to be picture perfect, but rather that it is structurally sound. If one or two spars are a bit longer than required, that’s fine as long as the lashings are in the proper location for strength and the diameter of the spars will carry the load applied.

Try to avoid cutting off the ends of spars and ropes just to fit a certain project, especially if you’re working with spars from a pioneering kit. The next crew might want to build a different project and could use the spars and ropes at the original lengths.

The spars used for a pioneering project should have the bark removed for two reasons. Bark beetles and other boring insects can seriously decrease a spar’s strength, and inspection is easier with the bark removed. Also, if the project racks, the bark under the lashing can be loosened, which in turn makes the lashing loose and adds to the possibility of making the whole project wobbly and unsafe. (And, bark under a lashing can be rubbed off in the process of setting up a project.)

Note: Any pioneering structure that is to be a permanent camp improvement should not be left with only lashings. It needs to be bolted together for safety and maintenance.

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