14′ Gateway Tower (4 Flag Tower)

Coker Four Flags
Gateway to the Boy Scout Camp Pioneering Area

Using the 14′ Double Ladder Signal Tower as a point of reference, here are the plans for a very tall campsite gateway that stands out (and up) and serves as an impressive feat of Scout engineering. One of the perks included in this project is it provides an opportunity for new Scouts to experience hoisting a “boy-sized” structure replete with their own special colors e.g. their patrol flags.

Since this 14-foot structure isn’t climbed on, the spars can be considerably thinner in diameter. Bamboo is ideal. Lashing on those flags attached to each corner creates a spectacular effect and hence the name “4 Flag Tower!”

14′ Tower Gateway Schematic / Gateway to a Scout Expo Photo

Note: This design is not self-standing. Therefore, using it as a gateway at a camporee or Scout Expo with the necessary guy lines requires an area wide and deep enough to accommodate a 16 x 16-foot space.

Scouts lash together a 4' Side.
Scouts lash together a 4′ Side.

Materials Needed:

  • four 2-1/2 to 3-inch x 14-foot leg spars
  • six 2-inch x 8-foot X-brace spars
  • four 2-inch x 6-foot X-brace spars
  • four 2-inch x 6-foot support spars
  • six 2-inch x 4-foot leg spreader
  • forty-five 15-foot x 1/4-inch lashing ropes
  • four 25-foot guy lines
  • eight 24-inch pioneering stakes

Assemble the 4-foot sides. Begin by laying out two pairs of 14-foot 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.

NOTE: All lashings need to be very tight.

Diagram 1
Diagram 1

Lash the legs together starting with a 4-foot bottom leg spreader about 6 inches up from the butt ends. Lash on a 4-foot middle leg spreader in the middle of the 14-foot legs (7 feet up), and a 4-foot top spreader about 3 inches from the top of the 14-foot legs.

When the legs are joined with the three 4-foot spreaders, lash on two 6-foot X-brace spars using square lashings to lash the ends to the legs, and a diagonal lashing where they cross, forming a trestle in the bottom half of the legs (see diagram 1). 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. Repeat the whole process with the other two 14-foot legs.

Diagram 2
Diagram 2

Join the 4-foot 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-foot support spars directly above the 4-foot middle spreader (see diagram 2).

Lash another one of the 6-foot support spars directly under the 4-foot side spreader at the very top.

Lashing the X Braces with a Diagonal Lashing.
Lashing the X Braces with a Diagonal Lashing.

Now, lash on two of the 8-foot X brace spars diagonally between the two 6-foot supports using square lashings to lash the ends to the legs, and a diagonal lashing where they cross forming a trestle in the top part of the wide (6-foot) side (see diagram 2). 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 sprung together with the timber hitch.

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

Repeat the same procedure as before.

Scouts carefully lift the structure and rotatie it 180° to lash the other side.
Scouts carefully lift the structure and rotatie it 180° to lash the other side.

Lash on the middle X-brace.  This X-brace is what will keep the four sides from racking. Lash the two remaining 8-foot X brace spars diagonally across the legs just under the 4-foot middle leg spreader (see Tower Gateway Schematic on the top of this page). Use square lashings to lash them to the legs and a diagonal lashing where they cross. 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 brace spars.

Lash on the flags. If you want a flag or flags to fly from the top of the tower, lash the flagpole(s) to the top of each tower legs using a couple of tight round lashings.

Tower Gateway Layout
Tower Gateway Layout

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.

Using the pioneering stakes, build four 1-1 anchors. Each should extend 16 feet, 45° out from the leg.

Attach the four guy lines to the legs about 12″ above the middle 4′ spreaders with a roundturn with two half hitches.

NOTE: Make sure the flags are unfurled before hoisting the tower.

Hoisting the tower. You’ll need a whole crew to do the hoisting. Get ready to hoist the tower by delegating the following:

  1. One signal caller who tells the crew members when and how fast to pull on the ropes.
  2. One safety officer who observes for all safety considerations and signs of trouble during the hoisting.
  3. Four Scouts to serve as “Lifters” to lift the top 6′ support spar that’s on the ground. Their job is to first left and then push the tower up.
  4. Two Scouts, one on each of the 2 guy lines attached to the legs, to make sure the tower isn’t over pulled and topples over
  5. Four “Pullers” who will use the two guy lines as hoisting ropes to pull the tower until it is standing
We did it!
We did it!

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 inches 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 feet 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.

Hoisting a Larger Version: 17' high x 8' wide x 6' deep
Hoisting a Larger Version: 17′ high x 8′ wide x 6′ deep

6 thoughts on “14′ Gateway Tower (4 Flag Tower)”

    1. Meant to make that a reply 🙂

      We only had 3 flags (that’s troop and crew in the background), but are in search of a state flag for next time! We actually tied a flashlight to it and left the flag up all night, spotlit, which was awesome but did not photograph well.

  1. Larry,

    We built a tower inspired by this design for Camporall this weekend (just got back) and won a presidential ribbon for it!

    Thanks, again, for the inspiration and the great site!

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