Why Pioneering!

John Thurman
John Thurman

Some special quotes by JOHN THURMAN, Camp Chief, Gilwell Park from 1943-1969 pertaining to pioneering in the Boy Scouts:

Because It’s FUN!

There are few activities which, properly presented, have a greater appeal to the Scout and Senior Scout than Pioneering and ever since the introduction of Wood Badge training, Pioneering has been given a full share in the programme of Scouters’ training. In the summer months when Scouters at Gilwell are building bridges, towers, and rafts, and boys are in camp it has been all too common to hear from the boys such remarks as, ‘I wish we did that in our Troop’ or ‘We never do anything like that’.”


Why Pioneering? To me the over-riding reason for presenting Pioneering is that boys like it. Some years ago we started providing simple equipment which Troops in camp at Gilwell can use. The demand is insatiable. Year by year we add more, but we never provide enough; because as one Troop sees another using the equipment and building a bridge they want to try it also and the desire to do Pioneering spreads like a contagious disease throughout the camp.

“But there are reasons for Pioneering other than the fact that boys like doing it. B.-P. wrote: “I am inclined to suggest to Scouters that in addition to the technical details of knotting, lashing, and anchorages, there is an educative value in Pioneering since it gives elementary training in stresses, mensuration, etc., and it also develops initiative and resourcefulness to use local material. Additionally, it gives practice in team work and discipline.’ In other words, Pioneering is practical and character building: the two essential ingredients of any programme material for Scouts.”

These projects are all built by troops in the Northern District in Gauteng, South Africa. This district holds regular inter-troop Pioneering competitions, as well as a Scouter's competition. The above photo shows the winning Scouters from 2008, 1st Athol, in front of their 35ft-span suspension bridge, built in 4.5 hours.
The winning Scouts from 2008, 1st Athol, South Africa, in front of their 35ft-span suspension bridge, built in 4.5 hours.

“The modern cynic may think it is all very old-fashioned but the short answer to this is, ‘Yes, of course it is, but so is breathing and sleeping and other things that mankind has been doing for a long time.’ It does not follow that because an activity has been used for a long time it is out-dated and, in fact, I am prepared to say that there is more interest in Pioneering today than ever before, perhaps because facilities have improved and perhaps because some of us have made an effort to present Pioneering to the Movement in a more imaginative and varied way.

“Quite apart from that, though, Pioneering is not old-fashioned in its purely technical sense. I was showing a Managing Director of a large civil engineering firm round Gilwell when a Wood Badge Course was pioneering near the Bomb Hole. He displayed very great interest in the Pioneering and looked closely at all that was happening. From our point of view there was nothing unusual going on; this was a usual routine exercise with two or three bridges being built, a couple of towers, and a raft. As we walked away my civil engineering friend said, ‘I am delighted that the Scout Movement is still doing this: it is tremendously important. Despite the fact that modern machinery and equipment is magnificent there often comes a time when a man has to use ingenuity and improvise in order to move the job forward and the engineer who has the spirit that your kind of training produces is the man we want in our business.'”


And, relevant to this endeavor:

“I hope that Districts will more and more accept responsibility for making pioneering equipment available to be borrowed or hired by any troop. The more expensive things become the more necessary to work on a communal basis, and the Scout community is the Scout District. I know the problems—somewhere to store the gear and someone to look after it, but these are problems which a live District can overcome if real determination is there to give Scouts pioneering practice, and I am satisfied that it comes high in the list of things Scouts want to do. Determination remains the enduring answer to most problems.”

Chippewa Kitchen

Jump down to Materials and Assembly Suggestions

The Chippewa Kitchen can be seen as the indisputable KING of all “camp gadgets.” It’s the ultimate camp kitchen pioneering project, providing a huge element of convenience to a wide range of camp cooking operations. The Chippewa Kitchen can provide a raised surface for food preparation, a nifty place to hang tools and utensils, a framework from which a pot can be safely suspended over a cooking fire, and primarily, a convenient, raised cooking surface for cooking over hot coals.

There are all kinds of Chippewa Kitchens. They come in all sizes and shapes.

3 Chippewa Kitchen Styles
Chippewa Kitchens can be built in many ways. They all lead to more convenience for the cook.

When our troop first started making Chippewa Kitchens, we built them with one 10-foot tripod, with one 6-foot crossbar, and two 8-foot crossbars each of those extending out so that a shelf could be constructed where we’d pour the coals and do the cooking. We’d tie a rope from the top of the tripod and hang an 8 qt. pot over a fire built on the ground in the middle between the three legs of  the tripod. This always worked well, but with all the weight from the mineral soil, coals, food, and dutch ovens, it was a lot less stable. That design tended to make it difficult to keep the tripod from leaning and the crossbar extensions from shifting lower.

DOUBLE TRIPOD CHIPPEWA KITCHEN. Our more recent constructions consist of two 8-foot tripods connected with two parallel 8-foot or 10-foot platform supports over which we lash the cooking platform. With this design, you can build a cooking fire under one or both tripods and suspend a pot over each. Of course the platform is superb for Dutch Oven use and ideal for foil cooking.

Cooking demonstration on a Double Tripod Chippewa during an outdoor festival.
Looking good and feeling good at Playcard Environmental Education Center during Swampfest.

Materials needed for a Double Tripod Chippewa Kitchen

  • two 10-foot x 3-inch platform support spars (For a smaller Chippewa Kitchen, 8-foot spars work great.)
  • six 8-foot x 3-inch tripod leg spars
  • four 6-foot x 2-1/2-inch tripod braces
  • two 6-foot x 2-1/2 to 3-inch front tripod braces (to support the platform support spars)
  • twenty to forty  3 to 4-foot x 2-inch floor spars (depending on the size of the cooking surface required)
  • sixteen  15-foot x 1/4-inch manila lashing ropes for square lashings
  • two 20-foot x 1/4-inch manila lashing ropes for tripod lashings
  • binder twine for floor lashing
  • piece(s) of burlap, terry cloth, or canvas to cover cooking platform

Link to Smaller Version

Here’s a procedure to make a Double Tripod Chippewa Kitchen:

Build the tripods. Lay three 8-foot tripod legs side by side and lash them together with a tight tripod lashing. Make sure the butt ends are at the bottom and even.

Stand the tripod up by crossing the outside legs underneath the middle leg.

Repeat this process for the second tripod.

Click on the image for a larger view.
Labelled Chippewa Kitchen Spars (Click on the photo for a larger view.)

Lash on the tripod braces. Connect the two outside legs with one of the 6-foot front tripod braces. With tight square lashings, lash the brace so it is perpendicular to the ground and three feet high. Lash another 6-foot tripod brace to each outside leg and connect them to the middle leg with square lashings, about two feet and two and a half feet high respectfully.

Repeat this process for the second tripod, making sure the front tripod brace connecting the outside legs is again, three feet high.

Position the tripods. Place the tripods so the 6-foot tripod braces lashed to the outside legs (the stout ones that are three feet off the ground) are facing each other. These braces are the ones that will hold up the long platform support spars, which in turn will support the cooking platform. The distance between the two tripods should be close enough so the long platform support spars can extend over each brace by at least six inches.

Lash on the platform support spars. Place the long platform support spars parallel to each other on top of the three foot high tripod brace on each tripod. Space them apart so the shortest floor spar will extend over their edges by six inches on either side. Lash them in place with tight square lashings.

Lash on the floor spars. The cooking surface is made up of 3 to 4-foot x 2-inch floor spars, depending on how wide a cooking area will be required. These are lashed onto the parallel platform supports with a floor lashing using binder twine.

Prepare the cooking surface. Prior to adding 2 to 3 inches of mineral soil, and to keep he mineral soil from falling though spaces between the floor spars, spread pieces of burlap, terry cloth,  or canvas over the platform.

Finally, cover the platform with a layer of mineral soil thick enough to protect the floor spars from the intense heat that will be generated from the coals during cooking.

Double Tripod Chippewa Design
Construction is logical and easy. Burlap is a practical layer between the platform floor spars and the mineral soil.
A Covered Double Tripod Chippewa Kitchen during an American Legion Open House
A Covered Double Tripod Chippewa Kitchen during an American Legion Open House

Double A-Frame Monkey Bridge

—> View Video of Bridge Construction

Assembly
Adjusting knots and lashings after the first test crossing.

The well-known, time-tested, traditional Monkey Bridge is perhaps the most familiar of all Scout pioneering projects. It’s frequently featured at Scout Expos, Camporees, Scout Camps, and is often a central attraction at public gatherings where Scouting is represented.

The following instructions and guidelines are provided by Adolph Peschke, taken from the 1993 edition of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet:

Link to: Older Pamphlet InfoUsing a double A-frame to build a monkey bridge is a departure from the usual X-frame that supports the foot rope and hand ropes. This new method has two distinct advantages over the X- frame version. First, the double A-frame provides a wider base making it less likely to tip over. The second advantage is that the positions of the A-frames can be adjusted so the span between the hand ropes can be narrowed for better balance as you make the crossing.

Building the A-frames. The first step in building the monkey bridge is to build four A-frames using the 8-foot spars for the two legs, and 6-foot spars for the ledger. Lay out the first set of three spars (two legs and one ledger) on the ground in position for lashing. Before lashing, drive three stakes, as follows, to help you make all four A-frames the same size: Drive a stake at the top to mark where the leg spars cross. Then drive stakes to mark the positions of where the bottom ledger crosses the legs. This will also indicate how far the legs are spread apart. Now you can lash the four A-frames together, laying them out one at a time using the stakes. Remember that all three lashings on the A-frames are square lashings, even though the spars cross at less than 90˚ angle.

Schematic of A-frame alignment

Double A-frame. When you have four A-frames, you can lash two of them together to form a double A-frame. (see figure 140). Lay one A-frame on the ground and then put another on top of it so that the bottom ledgers overlap one-half their length (approximately 3 feet). The first step in lashing the A-frames together is to go up where the two legs cross (the X formed by one leg from each A-frame). Then with a good tight square lashing, lash the two legs together.

Note: The point where these two legs are lashed together is where the foot rope will rest. You can adjust the overlap of the two A-frames to adjust how high the foot rope will be off the ground. Also note where the tops of the A-frames are, because this is where the hand ropes will be. To complete the double A-frame, stand it up so the butt ends of all four legs rest solidly on level ground. Lash the two bottom ledgers together where they overlap with three strop lashings. Now repeat the entire process to build the second double A-frame.

Laying out the distance between A-frames and anchors

Site preparation. Before you can erect the double A-frames, you need to prepare the site. Begin by stretching a length of binder twine along the center line of where the monkey bridge is to be built.  Working from the center, measure 10 feet toward each end to mark where the A-frames are to be placed. They should be 20 feet apart. Then mark out another 10′ from each A-frame to where the anchors are to be built.

Note: These dimensions are for building a bridge with a 20-foot span. This is the maximum span for a bridge using a 50-foot rope. The extra 30 feet of rope is needed to have 15 feet of rope at each end for the proper distance from the A-frames to the anchors (10 feet) and for the knots at the anchors (5 feet).

Build the anchors. The foot rope will be attached to anchors at both ends. Before erecting the double A-frames, build a 3-2-1 anchor, or a log and stake anchor, 10 feet from where the A-frames will be erected (see figure 141).

Rope grommet. After the anchors are built, attach a rope grommet with a ring or shackle in it. (You can make the rope grommet with a 10-foot length of 1/2-inch diameter polypropylene rope. Tie the ends together using a carrick bend, and permanently secure the ends with some strong twine).

Position the A-frames. Prepare to erect the monkey bridge by moving the A-frames into position no more than 20 feet apart. Lay them down on the binder twine that marks the center line of the bridge.

Hand and foot ropes. Now you can prepare the foot and hand ropes for the monkey bridge. Lay the foot rope in a straight line off to the side of where the A-frames are laying. Then lay the two hand ropes on the ground next to each other so they’re parallel to the foot rope and 42 inches away.

Stringer ropes. Now you can add the stringer ropes that will go from the foot rope to the hand ropes. Start by tying the center of an 8-foot long stringer rope (use 1/4-inch manila rope) at the center of the foot rope, using a clove hitch. The stringer rope is tied around the foot rope so that both ends are 4 feet long. Add two more stringer ropes on both sides of the center stringer rope (so there are five stringer ropes in all), tying them about 4 feet apart. Tie one end of each stringer rope to one of the hand ropes, again using a clove hitch. Then do the same with the other ends of the stringer ropes, attaching them to the other hand rope.

Assemble the bridge. You’re just about ready to assemble the bridge. First place a piece of heavy canvas (called a “saddle”) in the V formed by both double A-frames. This will protect the foot rope and allow it to slide a little in the V without interfering with the lashing rope.

Fig142
Schematic of foot, hand ropes and anchors

Now get the crew together to erect the bridge. You will need a safety officer to watch for any problems that might occur, and a signal caller to tell the crew members what to do. You will need two Scouts to lift and hold each double A-frame in place, two more Scouts to lift the foot rope into the V of the double A-frames, and two more Scouts to lift the two hand ropes into place at the tops of the A-frames. Lift everything into place. Then, holding the A-frames steady, temporarily tie the hand and foot ropes into the rings of the grommets using a roundturn and two half hitches (see figure 142).

Tighten the foot rope. Now you can put a strain on the foot rope. It’s not necessary to use block and tackle since this will put too much strain on the lashings, anchors, and the foot rope itself when there is a load on the bridge.* Whatever strain three or four Scouts can put on the foot rope by pulling it by hand will be enough. As soon as the bridge is used a few times, there will be a sag in the rope. This is fine because it means that you are working with reduced strain on the foot rope as a safety measure.

Tighten the hand ropes. Next, tie the hand ropes to the top ends of the A-frames. First, loosen one end at a time from the anchors. Then, use a clove hitch to tie the hand rope to the top end of the leg of the double A-frame. As you’re tying these clove hitches, adjust the strain on the sections of the hand ropes between the double A-frames to match the sag of the foot rope. Also, adjust the length of the stringer ropes so there is even strain between the foot rope and both hand ropes. After the hand ropes are tied to the tops of the A-frames, move down and retie the ends of the hand ropes to the rings in the grommets using a roundturn and two half hitches.

Final testing. With caution, one crew member can get on the bridge as all lashings, anchors, and knots are observed by the safety officer and all other crew members. Make adjustments as required. Then secure the running ends of the hand ropes and foot rope with a piece of cord. Safe operation calls for only one Scout to be on the foot rope of the monkey bridge at a time.

LIST OF MATERIALS FOR DOUBLE A-FRAME MONKEY BRIDGE

  • eight 4-inch x 8-foot A-frame legs
  • four 3-inch x 6-foot ledgers
  • fourteen 1/4-inch x 15-foot lashing ropes for Square Lashings
  • one 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch x 50-foot rope
  • two 1/2-inch x 50-foot hand ropes
  • five 1/4-inch x 8-foot stringer ropes
  • six 1/4-inch x 10-foot lashing ropes for Strop Lashings
  • six pioneering stakes for each 3-2-1 anchor
  • eight pioneering stakes for each log-and-stake anchor
  • one 5-inch x 4-foot spar for log-and-stake anchor
  • two 1/2-inch x 10-foot polypropylene ropes for rope grommets
  • two pieces of scrap canvas for foot rope saddle
  • binder twine for anchor tieback straps

* It has been found that a rope tackle in the foot rope at each end (not a block and tackle) tightened by one Scout is an excellent procedure to maintain the optimum foot rope tension, and an easy-to-use remedy for too much sagging due to repeated, heavy use and over stretching. There are other configurations used to initially tighten and keep the hand and foot ropes at the optimum tension during use, depending on the weight the bridge must withstand and the amount of traffic it will bear.

More Photos

2013 Jamboree Monkey Bridge Modified A-Frame Construction Photo Illustration

Single Pull Rope Tackle Monkey Bridge Configuration

PDF FILE  for: Double A-Frame Monkey Bridge

Scouting Magazine Article

Simple Flagpoles

During the gathering period, a flagpole is lashed together using four Scout staves. A carabiner is tied to the top, a halyard is strung through, and the pole is lifted and secured with three guy lines. The flag is raised as part of the troop's opening ceremony.
Flagpole using 5 Scout Staves  erected for the Troop Meeting’s Opening Ceremony

Flags engender pride! Flying ’em high is great for Scout spirit, and making a flagpole is really easy. All you need are straight sticks (Scout Staves work great), rope for round lashings, rope for guylines, and three stakes.

View Video: Raising a Simple Flagpole Demonstration

Scout Stave Flagpole with a Halyard in the Pioneering Village at the 2017 National Jamboree

The key to making a simple flagpole out of shorter poles is round lashings and knowing where to tie them. The space where the two poles are joined, gets two tight round lashings—one on either side of the overlap and right near the ends of each pole. The length and thickness of the poles being lashed together will determine how much they need to overlap, and how many tight wraps need to be taken. Using 5-foot Scout Staves, you can simply overlap them about 10 inches with a couple of 6-foot lashing ropes. With practice, a Scout patrol can make a   15-foot flagpole out of four Scout staves in a few short minutes.

15-Foot Scout Stave Flagpole without a Halyard

The key to lifting and securing a simple flagpole is tying on three guylines about 3/4 of the way up, and extending them out equidistant from one another. The stakes should form an equilateral triangle, and should ideally be hammered in a distance away from the flagpole of at least twice the height of where they’re tied. So, if the flagpole is 15 feet, and the guylines are attached 11 feet up, the stakes should be 22 feet from the pole for optimum stability. NOTE: Under many circumstances, this distance can be much shorter and still provide the support to hold the flag up, even during lengthy periods of use.

Quick Lash and Attach
Quick Lash and Attach

While the flagpole is being lashed together, a Scout or Scouts can be putting the stakes in the ground, pacing out the proper distance and hammering them in to form that equilateral triangle.

Before raising the pole, the three guylines should be tied at about 3/4 the way up using roundturns with two half hitches or rolling hitches. Then when the flagpole is being held erect, three Scouts can each take a guyline and attach it to a stake with a tight taut-line hitch, or for taller, heavier flagpoles, a rope tackle.

If the flag is not to be ceremoniously raised and lowered, or with shorter flagpoles, a halyard is not necessary.

Simple Halyard

Easy Tall Flagpole

Flagpole Race

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Double Fire Bucket Holder

Functional AND good-looking.
Functional AND good-looking.

One of the essential mandates in the BSA’s Outdoor Code is: BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE.

  • I will prevent wildfire.
  • I will build my fires only where they are appropriate.
  • When I have finished using a fire, I will make sure it is cold out.
  • I will leave a clean fire ring, or remove all evidence of my fire.

In addition to being the height of simplicity, the Double Fire Bucket Holder makes an invaluable contribution towards safety around the fire circle. In our campsites, since it’s always a safe bet to have a supply of water right near our cooking and campfires, why not add some convenience and accessibility, especially because when fire buckets are on the ground, they’re frequently knocked over, inadvertently kicked, and even stepped in!

Useful Camp Gadget
Very Useful Camp Gadget

The materials needed for this ultra simple campsite improvement are two pioneering stakes, a solid stick about 30 inches long with a notch on either end to hang the buckets, and two short 1/4-inch manila lashing ropes, 6 to 10 feet long. In a sensible place near the fire circle, simply pound in the pioneering stakes, approximately 1 and 3/4 feet apart. Then, making sure the notches on the 30-inch crossbar are facing up, lash it to the two stakes with tight square lashings. Fill the fire buckets and hang them on either side. That’s all there is to it. As illustrated in the drawing below, this same design can be used in a variety of ways.  

Whatever the doctor orders.
Whatever the doctor orders.

 

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