Down through the decades, Scout Pioneering has always consisted of building bridges, towers, and…RAFTS. Raft building provides some unique challenges, and is fun in many ways. Whenever you don’t have a boat or canoe, and there’s a desire to float on, or across, a body of water, making a raft is what commonly comes to mind.
Here the objective was to make one large enough to float everyone who built it—at the same time. Eleven Scouts were present to build the raft, so the final project was to make one that could carry all eleven. Of course that’s more Scouts than are in a regular patrol, hence the name, “Large” Patrol Raft.
The materials on hand were as follows:
four 14-foot bamboo poles, about 4 inches in diameter
eight 8-foot bamboo poles, 2 inches in diameter
six 55-gallon drums
one 8-foot x 3-foot, lightweight, plywood board,
The key to lashing together a raft where the frame would be high enough off the water so the Scouts would stay dry (it was a cold winter day), was to make sure the 14-foot poles were close enough together so the drums could be tied fast, below the framework, and remain there! These long, parallel, lateral poles had to be at a distance narrower than the drums, but wide enough so the drums could securely nestle between them.
None of John Thurman‘s books on Pioneering specify exactly how to tie on the drums. It’s just suggested not to use the same rope for a series of them, to assure if one comes loose, they all don’t. The Scouts decided to use, in this case, a 12-1/2-foot, 1/4-inch manila lashing rope, and secure one end to the outside pole with a simple two half hitches, leaving a long tail in which they tied a bowline to form a fixed loop. They then ran the other end under the drum, around the other pole, up over the top of the drum, and through the fixed loop. This way, they were able to put a good deal of strain on the line, without it sliding around the drum, and tie it off with a couple of half hitches, just like with a rope tackle.
The project was a success. They all fit on and the raft floated! For raft building as it pertains to Scout Pioneering, refer to the post: Raft Building.
Each of these four lashings can be used to join two spars together to make an extension. With each there are no frapping turns. The manner in which these lashings need to be applied results in the spars being in a position where they are already tightly touching. Taking frapping turns between the parallel spars would only weaken the connection.
The objective is to combine the spars together to make a longer length that is as rigid as possible. So, connecting two spars in this fashion definitely requires a good overlap between them. Obviously, it also requires two lashings, each tied tightly well near the ends of each spar where they overlap.
Round Lashing. The first and most commonly used lashing for extending the length of a spar can be referred to as the traditional round lashing. The usual way this lashing is tied is with a clove hitch around both spars followed by eight to ten tight wraps that are flush together, and then ending with another clove hitch around both spars.
In his book Pioneering Principles, John Thurman refers to this round lashing as a “Sheer Lashing Mark II” (sheer spelled with two e’s). Same lashing and it’s interesting that he’s fond of starting the lashing with a timber hitch around both spars for added rigidity, and then finishing with a clove hitch after taking at least eight tight turns. When the poles are smooth, the traditional round lashing can be made more secure by adding additional half hitches to the clove hitches.
West Country Round Lashing. As Adolph Peschke says, this method of joining two spars with a series of tight half knots and ending with a square knot is very strong and effective. When extending the length of two heavier spars or when constructing a very long pole, the West Country Shear Lashing is an excellent choice. Follow this link to Lashing INFORMATION and scroll down for further information and a West Country Shear Lashing diagram.
Note: This lashing should rightfully be called a West Country Round Lashing, in that (like all round lashings) it has no frapping turns and is used to form a rigid connection between two parallel poles. By contrast, shear lashings are used to form a flexible joint needed when constructing shear legs.
Strop Lashing. When a quick job is desired with light spars, a simple strop lashing will often suffice. Find the middle of the length of binder twine or lashing rope and tightly wrap both ends simultaneously in opposite directions around the poles finishing with a square knot. Follow this link to Lashing INFORMATION and scroll all the way to the bottom for further information.
Half Hitch Round Lashing. A fourth form of round lashing is made by tying a series of interlocking half hitches around both spars. Like the West Country “Round” Lashing, which tightens and secures each of the wraps with a half knot while working both ends of the rope simultaneously, this method accomplishes the same thing by applying a tight half hitch to each wrap. The final lashing features what resembles a two-strand French Braid twisted diagonally around both spars!
DEFINITION: ambiguous |amˈbigyoōəs|adjective(of language) open to more than one interpretation; having a double meaning; unclear or inexact
One Thing is NOT Ambiguous! The shear lashing’s USE is quite clear. References to the lashing in John Thurman’s Pioneering books, inJohn Sweet’s Scout Pioneering, and the Lashing section in the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlets by Pioneering Legend Adolph Peschke all describe its fundamental use exactly the same way. Putting it neat like John Sweet: Use a sheer lashing “when two spars are to be opened out like scissors to make a pair of sheerlegs,” or right to the point like John Thurman in Pioneering Projects, the sheer lashing is “used for lashing together two parallel spars which will be opened out of the parallel to form sheer legs.”
What are sheer legs? Simply put: sheer legs are two upright spars lashed together at the tips with the butt ends splayed apart to support some kind of weight. Most always, in Scout Pioneering we use sheer legs to form an A-Frame.
Ambiguous? Yes. Let’s start with ambiguous spelling! Most modern references to the lashing spell it s-h-e-a-r. Yet, the much respected and revered John Thurman was emphatic that the correct spelling was s-h-e-e-r!
Terminology. In John Sweet’s book, sheer lashing has two different forms each with the same name. When two spars are lashed together for strength, or lap-jointed to extend their length a sheer lashing is used BUT with the clove hitches tied around both spars and without any frapping turns. He still calls it a sheer lashing, but of course this is commonly known as a round lashing! John Thurman refers to a true round lashing as the Sheer Lashing Mark II and the lashing used to make sheer legs as the Sheer Lashing Mark I.
Let’s take this opportunity to further clarify two lashing designations that keep popping up. A SHEAR Lashing is used to make shear legs. A ROUND Lashing is used to attach one pole to another in the same direction as in extending the overall length of shorter poles. (It can also be used to bind more than one pole together to make a stronger pole.) SHEAR Lashings incorporate frapping turns. ROUND Lashings do not! Along these lines, the West Country Shear Lashing should be called the West Country Round Lashing, and rightfully so!
Nowhere is this stated more clearly than in Gerald Finley’s book, Rope Works: “West Country Round Lashing is also called West Country Shear Lashing, but this name contributes to the confusion caused by lumping shear and round lashings together. West Country Round Lashing is used to form a rigid joint between two parallel poles; it does not form the flexible joint of a shear lashing and it has no frapping turns.”
Two-Spar Shear Lashing. To add to the possible confusion, Adolph Peschke calls what John Thurman refers to as the Sheer Lashing Mark I (which is in actuality THE shear lashing) the Two-Spar Shear Lashing. This name can also be related to the tying of a Tripod Lashing With Plain Turns, wherein the procedure is exactly like the Two-Spar Shear Lashing but with three spars. It follows that it’s easy to dub this tried and true form of tripod lashing (just like the Two-Spar Shear Lashing) the THREE-Spar Shear Lashing. The Two-Spar Shear Lashing is used to make an A-Frame, and the Three- Spar Shear Lashing is used to make a simple tripod.
Ambiguity in Tying the Lashing. Though the formation is the same: clove hitch around one spar, six to eight wraps, two fraps, finish with clove hitch around one spar, there are varied approaches to actually tying the shear lashing. These discrepancies all hinge on… the hinge. (Pun intended.) The spars have to pivot in order to spread out the desired distance. How can this be accomplished so the lashing is tight but not so tight that when spreading the legs into position, the legs and lashing rope resist the strain to the point that something breaks? The tighter the wraps, and the more wrapping turns you take, the stiffer the lashing will be.
One view is to make the wraps and fraps on the loose side, concluding they’ll tighten when the legs are spread.
Another view is to place a small block of wood between the spars to yield adequate room for the frapping turns.
Another view is to make the wraps moderately tight and then before frapping, spread the legs a bit to allow room for the frapping turns, being careful not to close the spars on the lasher’s fingers!
Finally, another view is to complete the wraps, then spread the legs to the desired width, and then take tight frapping turns.
Whatever works well will also depend on the diameter of the spars, how straight they are, and indeed on the structure itself.
“Why Pioneering? To me the overriding reason for presenting Pioneering is that boys like it.”
We know with certainty that the majority of Scouts do like pioneering, and the better they get at it, the more they like it. So, if the Scouts have the desire, why aren’t more Scout units providing the remarkable fun that goes hand in hand with building and enjoying a wide range of pioneering structures?
The reason or reasons are obvious. Somewhere there’s an obstacle or obstacles, and a problem or problems. If there wasn’t, more and more Scouts would be happily involved in unit pioneering programs, building ever-more wonderful things at camp, on outings, and during camporees. The fun, adventure, involvement and challenges are built right in—and also the success. And, nothing succeeds like success! So lets start right there:
STUMBLING BLOCK 1: Nothing Succeeds Like Success!
Generally speaking, experiencing failure is not great for sparking enthusiasm and rarely results in an exclamation like, “Hey! That was fun!” In his book Pioneering Projects, Gilwell Camp Chief, John Thurman wrote, “if any Patrol, Troop, or Scouter tries to start pioneering before establishing a sound background of basic Scout training in regard to knotting and lashing, then pioneering will become unpopular and will go down in the history of the Patrol or Troop as a failure.” Why? Because without the prerequisite skills, the structure won’t work or stay standing. That’s no way to equate pioneering with something the boys can successfully accomplish, and that’s no fun.
But, just teaching Scouts the ropes is not enough! Unless the training sessions on knotting and lashing are “tied” to some fun or practical application, then repeated knot-tying and lashing sessions will be a source of exasperation and boredom—an inevitable turn off. Not good! After introducing some basics, give the Scouts a real opportunity to put them into action! Not with an elaborate project, but with a challenge or game where they actually get to use what they learned.
(Refer to Favorite Scout Meeting Challenges.) Make sure the activity matches their skill level. That way, success is assured, and each new success is a building block to a bigger one. When these initial forays into pioneering are successfully carried out, then it’s a sure bet that actually building the useful camp gadget and larger campsite improvement will result in its own success story with a tangible outcome in the form of a concrete accomplishment. “We built that!”
Now, if the youth and adults are really interested, what else will hold a troop back from implementing an effective Pioneering program?
STUMBLING BLOCK 2: Lack of Scouter Training.
(a) It’s possible the Scouters themselves don’t possess the necessary knowledge and skills required to introduce their Scouts to the knotting and lashing techniques required to construct even a simple camp gadget, not to mention a bridge.
No excuse. The basic knowledge and skills required are super easy to gain. Knot and lashing diagrams, online animations and demonstrations, and learning sessions from fellow Scouters are available to one and all. What it takes is devoting some time to mastering each technique so it can be passed along directly to the Scouts or to those who will be doing the instructing. VIEW: HOW-TO PIONEERING SKILL VIDEOS
(b) Perhaps the Scouters never actually built the pioneering projects themselves, resulting in a natural hesitation to embark on ventures into unfamiliar territory.
When there’s a desire to get into pioneering, but there is very little or no pioneering experience, the best training by far is from qualified individuals who have presented a well-rounded pioneering program to their units and have themselves helped provide the opportunities to successfully build the projects. In lieu of that, a great place to start is to get information that is both understandable and dependable. Successful pioneering programs have been developed from scratch by utilizing the 1993, 1998 edition of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet by Adolph Peschke. The pamphlet is like an A to Z primer on the modus operandi of basic pioneering.
STUMBLING BLOCK 3: Lack of equipment.
Lack of equipment is easily the most understandable of all deterrents. Naturally, when there are limited or even zero materials, implementing a unit pioneering program can be daunting proposition. For smaller camp gadgets you can use sticks, Scout staves and binder twine. But, for larger projects, you need the right kind of lashing ropes and the right kinds of spars.
A favorite John Thurman quote is, “Determination remains the enduring answer to most problems.” So, coupled with the determination that Scouts will be rewarded with rich pioneering experiences, here are some avenues to pursue:
Make an ongoing and concerted effort to get everyone on deck to help locate and gather the materials needed to build the targeted project(s). This is a whole lot easier and more practical than when one individual takes on the responsibility all by himself.
Check with the owners of land where there are stands of trees that are good for making spars, sharing with them what you want to do with the spars, and offering to do a little unnoticeable thinning out of some trees, which will be beneficial to the overall tree population. Forest Stewardship
Start with what you need. Expand as you go. Necessity is the mother of invention.
Team up with other Scouters in neighboring units, in the District, or in the Council, and put together a pioneering kit for communal use. (For a unit interested in putting together their own pioneering kit, a good place to start is to gather the materials necessary to undertake the specific project or projects the unit wishes to build. More supplies can be added to the unit’s kit to meet additional demands for materials, as required by the desire and wherewithal to tackle new and different projects.)
Gather the materials you need based on where you are in the cumulative pioneering process. Start with what’s necessary for training and interpatrol activities, and then add the components required for a chosen project, starting from the more simple, e.g. a Double A-frame Monkey Bridge. That way, you can start building your pioneering program around the specific project you’ve got in your sights.
If you’re in an area that just ain’t got no trees, check into building a pioneering kit made up of laminated spars.
Nothing really worth doing is ever really easy. The keys are a willingness to learn, a desire strong enough to motivate you to persevere, and the sound conviction that: this is going to be great!
As John Sweet says in Scout Pioneering, in regards to giving Scouts the opportunity to experience the joys of Pioneering, “…greater efforts are obviously needed to open up this adventurous, creative, challenging Scouting activity to the boys who would undoubtedly revel in it if given the chance to do so. Everything, finally, will depend on the attitude of the Troop Scout Leader, and he is the man who must be won over. Scouters who are themselves well-versed in the simple techniques of pioneering will need no encouragement and might even have to be restrained! To the others, a vast company, we would merely say that in all fairness they should at least allow their boys to have a go. One thing is pretty certain. If they do they will add another dimension to their training programme.”
The kind of rope ladder referred to here is constructed using two lengths of rope and short spars (3′ x 2″ are ideal) to serve as ladder rungs. To easily and effectively attach the rungs to the ropes, a Marlin Spike Hitch, also known as a lever hitch can be used. As John Thurman explains in Pioneering Principals, “The vital thing to remember is that the knotted part of the hitch must be under each ladder rung so that when a weight is put on the rung the knot will work in support. The ladder used the other way round can result in the rungs slipping as the weight goes on to them.”
The method applied here is very similar to tying the old fashioned Slip Knot where you make an overhand loop, reach through underneath, grab the standing part of the rope and pull it through.
In the process of making a rope ladder, after pulling the standing part through, stick the ladder rung inside the new loop you just formed. Tying the Marlin Spike Hitch in this manner assures you will have the part of the hitch with the knot under the ladder rung.
Depending on the diameter of the short spars, to space the ladder rungs about a foot apart, make the next overhand loop about 15 inches away from the previous rung.
It’s easy to adjust the position of the rungs by loosening the Marlin Spike Hitches and moving them with the short spars up and down on each side until the desired distance between the rungs is achieved and they are nicely horizontal and perpendicular to the ropes. Then, give the rope on either side of the rungs a good pull to tighten the hitch back up.
When tying on the rungs, start at the top of the ladder. For a shorter ladder, you can attach the ropes to their anchor point and tie on the rungs vertically. For a long ladder that needs to be prepared before attaching it to the top anchor points, construct the ladder on the ground.
When the ladder is completed and attached at the top, don’t forget to tie it off at the bottom, which will measurably increase stability and the ease of climbing. This can be done by driving in a pioneering stake in line with each rope at a 45° angle. Pull the ropes taut and tie them to their respective stakes with a roundturn with two half hitches or a rolling hitch.
Here are some scanned photos and text from the 1976 printing of the Boy Scout Fieldbook where, again, there is a major emphasis on building bridges:
“With your knots and lashings down pat, you’re ready for one of the most exciting outdoor crafts going: pioneering—building structures of timbers for practical purposes. It tests many skills, including teamwork. Probably your first try ought to be a simple project—but you may get your gang really steamed up by the notion of a bridge to avoid a long walk around a gully, stream, or pond on your campsite. So bridge it!
“LOCK BRIDGES are used for spanning streams with steeply sloping sides. If the stream is narrow, use a single-lock bridge (top right), consisting of two trestles and two roadways. For a wider stream, build a double lock bridge (center) in which the two trestles that are placed in the water are locked into a horizontal trestle that carries the center section of the roadway.
“TRESTLE BRIDGES are used to span fairly wide streams with shallow beds and gently sloping sides. The trestles are of different heights, depending on the depth of the water at various points. The bridge is constructed by placing the first trestle in the water, then lashing two “road bearers” (lateral spars) to the top of it, and anchoring the other end of the bearers to the bank. Other trestles are then placed in the water and connected with more road bearers.”
THE BRIDGE OF FIFTEEN NATIONS
In the preface of his book, Progressive Pioneering,John Thurman tells a story illustrating a modern-day scenario of pioneering in action and how it “saved the day.” Additionally, the account provides a shining example of people from fifteen different countries working very well together to satisfy a common objective:
“SOMETIMES cynical people say, “Why pioneering, anyway?”, “What is the practical application in the modern world?” Well if ever pioneering was justified, the true story that follows surely proves the point. From the very start of Scouting, one overall idea was ‘being prepared’ and I still find that this makes sense, in any country, in any situation, in any age.”
John Thurman goes on to describe exceedingly rainy conditions that prevailed for nine days throughout the training session. With the training at an end, the last day, a September Sunday, was set aside for a special celebration:
“We, that is myself and the members of the Training Teams of fifteen countries of the Americas—North, South, Central, and the Caribbean—had the previous night, at midnight exactly, come to the end of a strenuous, exacting, but very satisfying “Training the Team” Course. The course had been held in the National Training Centre of Mexico, a place called Meztitla. The site was literally hacked out of the jungle, on the lower slope of a considerable mountain range. I had done what I went to Mexico to do and on this Sunday I was relieved of all responsibility and content to be a part of whatever final celebrations the Mexican Scout people planned. The morning was glorious with brilliant sunshine and a fresh and pleasant breeze. The camp looked lovely, although it was a little wet under foot. The flags of fifteen nations flew proudly and unitedly in the centre of the camp. Visitors, many of considerable importance, began to gather; the Mexican Minister of Education, the First Secretary of the British Embassy, the Governor of the State, the Mayor and his supporters, and wives and families, relatives and grandparents of many of those who had taken part in the course.”
In his book, what follows are descriptions of the festivities. It was quite a party with lots of speeches, special presentations, Mexican music, and lots of Mexican food. Then, like it had during the previous nine days, the rain began to fall…and fall, and then really fall. It was one serious downpour, a veritable deluge. John describes that rivers appeared where the paths had been. The only way into camp was a ford across a mountain stream, and this, it was discovered, was already impassable. He writes:
“It steadily worsened; the mountain stream was now a raging torrent, bringing down boulders, tree trunks, and great lumps of what had been the bank. The ford had vanished completely and in front of us was a chasm or ravine about twelve feet deep with a raging torrent tumbling along its new course.
“There was no other way out of camp. We could have stayed and we could have managed, but it would have been hard on the woman and children who were our guests. We could have thrown a foot bridge across the ravine but then they would have been faced with abandoning vehicles and a very long and tiring walk to the nearest habitation.
“Unanimously it was decided that we should build a bridge; not a foot bridge, not a monkey bridge, not an aerial runway, but a road bridge which would carry the vehicles, the equipment, and the people.
“And so began the Saga of the Bridge of Fifteen Nations, for the men of fifteen nations contributed to its building. Mercifully equipment was available and there was a large supply of timber. The hands were willing, experienced, and capable. The men knew their knots and lashings and their basic pioneering.
“Three hours later, as darkness began to cover the area, the first car—a little Renault—gingerly felt its way across the bridge. As it accelerated up the bank on the far side of the ravine, the cheers from the men of fifteen nations were united, vociferous, and heartwarming. We were wet and tired; some of us were bruised and battered, and some had minor cuts, but spirits were never higher. Within the next half hour, every vehicle and every person made their way across the bridge and so onward to Mexico City; perhaps a little later than expected, but Mexico is one of the countries of ‘manana’, so why be concerned about slight errors in punctuality?
“It was truly a memorable day. It was Scouting in action and Scouting in practice. It was good to know that we could build a bridge when a bridge was the only answer. It was even better to know that the men of fifteen nations could work unitedly and effectively to build the bridge.”
John Thurman lists the rolling hitch (also known as a Magnus Hitch) as one of the essential pioneering knots. It’s similar to a clove hitch, but it’s a lot less likely to slip under a sideways pull. When securing a guyline to a horizontal spar, the rolling hitch can be used in lieu of a roundturn with two half hitches. It is also useful to attach a rope to another rope that has strain on it. Make sure that the direction of the pull exerted on the rolling hitch is against the double strand.
Here’s how Adolph Peschke describes the rolling hitch in the ’93 edition of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet:
As you become more involved in pioneering activities, you will find that there are many uses for the rolling hitch. After the roundturn is made, it supplies enough grip for you to complete the knot with ease, even when the line is under strain. Further adjustment can be made without completely untying the knot, by loosening the knot slightly, pulling the rope tight, and tightening the knot again.
When the rolling hitch is tied to a spar, pull can be exerted either perpendicular to or along the length of the spar. After exerting heavy pressure, it will untie easily. When you need extra gripping power, just add extra turns. It works well with slippery or wet rope.
When you want to tie a rope to a stake or a spar, the Rolling Hitch can be loosened easily to take up slack, and then retightened.
To attach a light tackle, double the rope over to form a bight, and tie a Rolling Hitch with a loop for the tackle (see figure 11).
To form a hand or shoulder loop to pull a spar, tie two rolling hitches, one at each end of a short rope (see figure 12).
Some special quotes by JOHN THURMAN, Camp Chief, Gilwell Park from 1943-1969 pertaining to pioneering in the Boy Scouts:
“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.”
“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.'”
“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.”
GOOD, OL' FASHIONED, OUTDOOR, SCOUTING FUN FOR THE 21ST CENTURY!