Tag Archives: BSA Fieldbook

The Diamond Hitch

The Diamond Hitch was many times more prevalent a couple of decades past, and was featured throughout a range of Scout publications. It’s not actually associated with Scout Pioneering, but it’s still an example of nifty rope work. Though there’s not nearly as many packboards in use today, the Diamond Hitch still can serve as the most practical approach to securing a bundle to an object, even in today’s modern world of bungee cords and the like. The following diagram and description was scanned from the ’76 printing of the 1967 Fieldbook.

Dovetail Notch for Camp Gadgets: Pioneering Without Rope

Patch from Schiff
Patch from Schiff

Back in the spring of 1976, while walking through the Mortimer L. Schiff Scout Reservation, then the BSA National Training Center, there was a memorable encounter with a tall man. Seeing the young Scouter, the tall man figuratively embraced him with a smile, warmly acknowledging the younger man like they were lifelong brothers in a worldwide family. A light-hearted conversation ensued. The tall man was Ken Cole, Jr., editor of the 1967 edition of the Boy Scouts of America Fieldbook which had just recently been reprinted.

One Legged Fire Crane
One Legged Fire Crane

Here’s an amusing side note: With a twinkle in his eye, he related a little “story” about how on his flight over to Schiff, a passenger sitting next to him in the smoking section asked him for a light. He described how he casually retrieved some belly button lint from a plastic bag, and nonchalantly lit the man’s cigarette with flint and steel. Boy, was that guy ever surprised. The account was related with such sincerity, the thought whether or not this actually happened never occurred to the young man. Ken was so engaging and easy to be around, it really didn’t matter.

Ken happened to be carrying a bow saw, and extolled its virtues as a most useful woods tool. He then bragged about how wonderful was the dovetail notch, and proceeded to effortlessly create one in a stick he picked up from the side of the path. It was a happy demonstration. Ken was a very happy guy.

1981 Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet
1981 Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet

There’s a whole section on “dovetailing” in the 1981 printing of the BSA Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet: “With the handy bow saw and a pocket knife, you can make excellent joints for log structures without lashings. This is done by making a triangular notch in the “receiving” log and a tapered end in the other log or pole. This is called “dovetailing” and if done correctly, it provides a tight, rigid joint that is neat and strong.”

BSA Fieldbook, 1976
BSA Fieldbook, 1976

The following is extracted from the 1976 Boy Scout Fieldbook:

When you must hold two pieces of wood together, and you don’t have rope for lashing and there are no nails or wire, you can do it with a dovetail notch. The dovetail joint, as you know, is a familiar cabinet makers trick. However, you don’t have to be a skilled carpenter to make this dovetail notch. Four cuts by a saw and a few strokes with your knife to pry out the wood in the notch is all there is to it. The notch will hold slender unshaped round sticks for quick work and thicker tight-fitting dovetails for heavy loads.

With your saw, make a cut that slants to your right, not quite halfway through your pole. Avoid knots (a branch is a knot). Begin the notch in from the pole to prevent splitting when the dovetail is driven in tight.   Now make an equal cut to the left. Notice that the cuts are almost at a right angle to each other. On thicker pieces, the notch angle can be sharper.   Cut straight down to the depth of the side cuts and make another vertical cut to one side of the first.  The side cuts outline the dovetail and the center cuts break up the fibers so your knife can pry them out.  Pry out the wood in the notch, first on one side and then on the other. If you haven’t cut into a knot, the wood should chip out easily.  The cleaned out notch is ready for a fitting—round stick or dovetail.  With the pieces to be fitted held over the notch, shape the base and sides. Make the end a little smaller than the notch.  Drive the dovetail into the notch until it jams. If you wish a very rigid joint—one that will support a heavy load—shape the dovetail some more so that it fits through the notch.
Dovetail Notch

Simple Tripod Lashing

VIEW VIDEO: How to Tie a Tripod Lashing with Plain Turns

This is a simple and quick way to tie a tripod lashing. The wraps are not woven in and out between the spars. The running end is simply wrapped around all three, snugly but not too tight. In Rope Works Plus, Gerald Findley refers to this lashing as a Tripod Lashing with Plain Turns. Here’s a page right out of the 1967 printing of the BSA Fieldbook:

Tripod Lashing: Place three timbers next to each other, butt ends at the bottom, and attach a lashing rope to an outside leg with a clove hitch at the proper position. Bind the spars together with seven or eight loose wrapping turns and two frapping turns between the poles to form the hinge pivots. Finish off the lashing with a clove hitch on the other outside leg. Spread the legs to their proper positions for use.
Tripod Lashing

Notice how the outside legs cross under the middle leg. In that way, the strength of the tripod is not entirely dependent on the strength of the lashing rope, but also on the support given by the wood of the outside legs.

racking turns
Racking Turns

Note: This lashing works very well for most Scout Pioneering applications, but for a heavy tripod, or a large one that will be supporting a lot of weight for a longer period of time, using racking turns (Figure of Eight Tripod Lashing) provides more contact between the rope and the spars.

Pioneering Program Curriculum VI: Tripod Lashing With Plain Turns