Tag Archives: Pioneering Kit

Pioneering Stumbling Blocks (For Those Who Haven’t Gotten Started Yet)

Because it's FUN!
Because it’s FUN!

As John Thurman so succinctly states:

“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.

An Introduction to Round Lashing for New Scouts During a Troop Meeting
An Introduction to Round Lashing for New Scouts During a Troop Meeting

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.

Scouts use they're round lashings to play
Scouts use they’re round lashings to play “Catch the Snapper.”

(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.

Pioneering Team Building Challenge at a Camporee
Pioneering Team Building Challenge at a Camporee

(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.

Pioneering Legend: Adolph Peschke
Pioneering Legend: Adolph Peschke

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 collection of pine spars ready for transport to the unit's storage facility.
A collection of pine spars ready for transport to the unit’s storage facility.

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:

A collection of bamboo, the quantity and size to build the chosen project.
A collection of bamboo, in the quantity and size to build the chosen project.
  • 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.”

(Questions? Call or email.)


The following text and some of the drawings are by Adolph E. Peschke as presented in the 1998 printing of the 1993 edition of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet:

We could imagine the first lashing made by man was wrapping a few strips of bark around a stone to hold it to a tree branch to make an ax to hunt and build with. Even today with all our modern ways to hold things together, it is still fascinating to lash sticks or spars together to make a camp gadget or useful structure.

There are still areas in the world where lashing spars (or bamboo poles) is the basic means of building structures. In Scouting, we use the same methods but have replaced strips of bark and vines with natural and synthetic fiber ropes.

The best choice of rope to use for lashing the type of pioneering projects (shown in this pamphlet) is pure manila rope. Therefore, all references to rope used for lashing in this section refer to manila rope.

Yet, sometimes we are faced with a problem—we have to use what is available and economical to get the job done. When making camp gadgets for temporary use, you could use lesser quality, less expensive rope or even binder twine for small projects.


The basic type of lashing for most projects is some form of a square lashing. This lashing is used to join two spars together, usually at a right angle, but not always. For example, square lashings are used when building a trestle to join the ledger and header to the legs at right angles. But it is also used to hold the ends of the X bracing to the legs at an angle. (Refer to “Making a Trestle.”)

In this section, three different square lashings are shown: (1) the Traditional Square Lashing, (2) the Modified Square Lashing, and (3) the Japanese Mark II. All three types of square lashings accomplish the same thing by making three wraps and two frapping turns around the spars being held together.

The only difference between these three different square lashings is the type of knot that is used to start and complete the lashing. You may learn that one of these knots is easier to tie, if so, you can stick with the one you are most comfortable with.

In addition to square lashings, you will most likely need to know how to make a diagonal and shear lashings. Some methods of making these types are also shown later in this section.


No matter what kind of lashing you’re making, there are two basic terms you should be familiar with: wraps and fraps. The basic difference between the two terms is that a wrap is made around the spars, while a frap is made around the rope itself.

Wrap. A wrap is a turn made around the two spars to hold the spars tightly together. Usually, three wraps are made to form a Square Lashing. Some other lashings require more wraps.

Frap. A frap is a turn made between the spars. It goes around the wraps to pull the wraps tighter. Usually two frapping turns are made on a lashing.

Good lashings are not made in a hurry. Each wrap must be made with a strain on the rope. Frapping turns should be pulled up as tightly as possible before the final knot is tied.


When you set out to make a lashing, the size and length of the rope you need are among the first questions you have to answer. To determine the length of rope needed for a lashing, add the diameters (in inches) of the two spars at the point the lashing is being made. If one spar is 2-1/2 inches in diameter and the other is 3-1/2 inches in diameter, the total equals 6 inches. Multiply by 3 feet to get the length of the rope needed for lashing.

If you use a rope that is too short to make three wraps and two fraps for a lashing, you should add (Splice or join with a Square Knot) a length of rope to complete the lashing with three full wraps and two fraps. For safety, don’t leave the lashing short.

If you find you have extra rope, make more wraps or fraps to use up the rope to avoid cutting the rope or leaving long loose ends hanging out.


In most cases, 1/4-inch diameter manila rope should take care of lashing two spars together as long as the combined diameter of both spars is 6″ or less. When the combined diameter is over 6 inches, use 3/8-inch diameter rope.


If your troop or camp puts together a pioneering kit, it should contain lashing ropes that are cut to standard lengths: 10, 15, 20, 30 and 50 feet.

Both ends of these lashing ropes should be properly whipped. It also helps to color-code the ends of all ropes with a bit of paint to denote each length. When storing ropes, make sure they are dry and properly coiled. Never “hank” ropes for storage. That is, don’t wrap them around your hand and elbow to form a coil. Tie each coil with a short piece of cord and store the coiled rope on pegs or in a ventilated storage box.*


Drawing Design from Rope Works by Gerald L. Findley http://www.ropeworks.biz/reader/squarlas.pdf
Drawing Design from Rope Works by Gerald L. Findley http://www.ropeworks.biz/reader/squarlas.pdf

In Scout Pioneering in the United States we most often see the square lashing started with a clove hitch. The clove hitch is tied on the vertical spar, just below where you want to join the crossing horizontal spar (see 1).

Using a clove hitch to start this lashing allows for two things. First, you can rest the crossing spar on the clove hitch to help support it as you begin the lashing while building your structure. Second, the clove hitch helps keep the structure from racking (twisting out of shape), causing the lashing to loosen as it is moved or hoisted into position.

After the clove hitch is tied, wrap the excess short end of the rope around the standing part of the rope (see 2). Hold the crossing spar up to the vertical spar and make three wraps around the spars using the long end (see 3, 4, and 5). Pull each wrap tight to hold the spars together. Make two frapping turns around the wraps (between the spars) to pull the wraps tight (see 6 and 7) and finish with another clove hitch on the horizontal spar (see 8 and 9).

One other point to make about the square lashing is that you shouldn’t be fooled by or limited by its name. Although two spars can be lashed together at 90° using a square lashing, it can also be used to lash two spars together at any angle. For example, a square lashing is used to lash the ends of two light spars to the uprights of a trestle to form the X bracing. A diagonal lashing is used at the center of the X to hold the crossed spars together.


The Modified Square Lashing was developed because of the difficulty usually experienced when tying a clove hitch to complete the traditional square lashing. The clove hitch that starts the lashing is easy enough to make, but tying a clove hitch at the end of the lashing is a different matter.

As shown in figure 104, the modified square lashing starts with a clove hitch. When tying the clove hitch, let the running end of the clove hitch extend about 12″. Also do not twist the short end around the standing part of the rope as in the traditional square lashing.

After tying the starting clove hitch, proceed as usual using the long end of the rope to make three wraps (see figure 105). Then make two frapping turns (see figure 106).

To complete the lashing, bring up the short end of the rope that extends from the clove hitch and tie a square knot (see figure 107). Bring the short end up in the opposite direction of the frapping turns.

As in the Traditional Square Lashing, there is some disadvantage in having to make the complete lashing using the one end of the rope.

Modified Square Lashing
Modified Square Lashing


This lashing is a straightforward approach to the task of lashing two spars together. (CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION AND PROCEDURE.)

Square Lashing
Japanese Mark II Square Lashing Photographed Procedure


When putting crossed braces on a structure to keep it from racking (as used when making a trestle), the most important lashing is the diagonal lashing where the spars cross. (Refer to the “Making a Trestle” section.)

When the cross spars are properly assembled on the trestle, they will be standing apart where they cross. That is, there will be a few inches of space between the spars where they cross at the center of the X. To pull them tightly together, a timber hitch is used to start the lashing (figure 1). As the timber hitch is pulled tight, the spars are sprung together. Next, three wraps are made in each direction across the X (figures 2 thru 5). After the wraps, make two frapping turns between the spars, pulling the wrapping turns tightly together and taking up any slack (figures 6 and 7). Finally, tie a clove hitch on one spar to complete the lashing (figures 8 thru 10). When this lashing is added to the cross braces, it helps keep the trestle from racking. Filipino Diagonal Lashing.

Diagonal Lashing Diagram
Diagonal Lashing Diagram


The pattern you make with the rope for this lashing is the same as the one to make the whipping. The only difference is that this lashing is tied around two spars to hold them together.

To make this lashing, tie a series of half-knots (overhand knots) around the two spars (see figure 115). Tie one half-knot in front and the next half-knot in back (see figure 116). Make sure each half-knot is pulled up as tight as possible. After tying six to ten half-knots, finish off the lashing with a square knot (see figure 117). By using six to ten half-knots in this lashing, it makes it very strong and effective, but can be a little difficult to untie.

The West Country Round Lashing is used to tie two spars together to extend the overall length of the spars. When this is done, you should make two sets of lashings, not just one lashing. Make one lashing at each end of the overlapping spars.

West Country Shear Lashing Diagram
West Country Shear Lashing Diagram


The main application for the Two-Spar Shear Lashing is when spar legs are to be spread apart to form an A-frame.

The Two-Spar Shear Lashing starts with a clove hitch on one spar (see figure 118). After making the clove hitch, wrap the excess part of the short running end around the standing part of the rope (see figure 119).

Two-Spar Shear Lashing Diagram
Two-Spar Shear Lashing Diagram (this drawing has been modified for the purpose of clarity)
Completed Shear Lashing Before the Spars have been Spread
Completed Shear Lashing Before the Spars have been Spread
Shear Lashing After Spreading the Shear Legs
Shear Lashing After Spreading the Shear Legs

Unlike square lashings, the shear lashing requires eight or ten wraps around the spars before making the frapping turns between the spars to pull the wraps tight (see figure 120). This lashing then ends with a clove hitch on the other spar (see figure 121).

If you’re making an A-frame, start the spars side by side and tie a clove hitch on one spar, about 1 foot from the top end of the spars depending on the project. Then you can take ten wrapping turns around the spars, making the wraps somewhat loose. The legs can then be spread to the required distance. This should put strain on the wraps.

With the legs apart, you can make the frapping turns around the wraps to pull them tight. Finally, complete the lashing by tying a clove hitch on the opposite spar.

The Somewhat Ambiguous Shear Lashing


In some pioneering situations all that’s needed is a few wraps with a rope, a light cord, or binder twine to hold two small spars or sticks together. Wrap the rope or cord around the spars a few times and finish with a Square Knot. This is called a strop lashing.

A strop lashing can be drawn down tight, or it can be made as a loose wrap so that it allows movement or acts as a hinge.

The strop lashing can have several simple applications at camp. For example, if you don’t want to dig a hole for the staff of your patrol flag, drive a tall stake in the ground. Then use a light cord or binder twine to make two strop lashings about 1 foot apart to hold the staff to the stake (see figure 122).

If your patrol just completed a signal tower and you want to show who did it, lash your patrol flag to the top of one of the legs with a strop lashing.

When you’re adding walkways to a bridge, they need to be joined to the trestle to form a single unit. The way to do that is to lash the two walkways to the transom at the center of the bridge with two or three strop lashings (see figure 123).

The ends of the walkways also need to be held to stakes. Use a strop lashing to hold the ends of the walkway to the stakes (see figure 124).

Strop Lashing
Strop Lashing

The Boy-Sized projects provided and designed by Adolph Peschke and featured in the older Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet (Single Lock BridgeSingle Trestle Bridge, A-Frame Bridge, Double A-Frame Monkey Bridge14′ Double Ladder Signal Towerdo not require the frequently employed tripod lashing, and hence it’s not included herein.

* An approach that is seen as a practical way to preserve and organize your lashing ropes is to coil ropes of the same length into manageable groupings, i.e. a large coil containing more than a single rope, and then tying up the grouping at one end with a 3-foot light cord.

** Round lashings are more frequently used to very effectively extend Scout staves or smaller diameter spars.

*** In a square lashing, the wraps and fraps form a square. In a diagonal lashing the wrapping turns cross the poles diagonally. Both lashings can be used to join two poles together that cross each other from 45º to 90º.  It’s the square lashing that is used most because there is more contact between the rope and the poles, and hence it is stronger. A diagonal lashing is used when there is a need to close a gap between two spars or when they spring apart, in other words, when we want to bind poles together where they cross each other but do not touch. This most commonly occurs when the ends of the spars are already lashed in place in a structure, as in forming the X-brace of an H-Trestle.


Introduction to Pioneering

Link to: Older Pamphlet Info.The following text is by Adolph E. Peschke as presented in the 1998 printing of the 1993 edition of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet:

Pioneering is the knowledge and skill of using simple materials to build structures that are used in a wide range of Scouting activities. These skills are sometimes referred to as “backwoods engineering.”

Down through the ages, people have used ropes, spars, and simple hardware to build bridges, towers, and even their own shelters. In the early development of our country, pioneering methods were used in mining and transportation, to clear the wilderness, and to build roads and bridges. So it is understandable that the term “backwoods engineering” was applied.

The same skills can be used by Scouts to build pioneering projects ranging in complexity from a simple camp gadget to a signal tower.

Whatever the project, the same applied principles of physics, geometry, and math are used to build pioneering projects and structures. But, keep in mind that all the information (in this pamphlet*) is eventually used for a practical, hands-on application—that is, to build something.

Pioneering is a good foundation for many Scouting activities. You must learn, and then use, such disciplines as planning ahead and teamwork. You can also put to use the basic skills learned in rank advancement, such as knot tying.

But most of all, pioneering provides a practical way to experience the joy of accomplishment when you’ve built something that is needed for yourself or others; it can be something that makes living in camp easier and more comfortable. Pioneering can be both fun and challenging when you use your skill and knowledge to choose the right materials (ropes and spars) and build a usable structure.

The basics of pioneering, such as tying knots, making lashings, using rope tackle, constructing anchors, and basic rope knowledge can be done at home. The projects and structures (shown in this pamphlet**) can usually be constructed with materials available at summer camp or at council camping events.































Pioneering Kit

A Council Spar Barn
Spar Barn

From certain perspectives, the following pioneering kit presented in the informative older Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet is undoubtedly very extensive for a single unit, and better suited for a kit stored in a large shed or storage facility earmarked for multi-unit use in a District or Council.

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.

Here’s a link to how to build a starter kit using laminated spars: “Pioneering with Laminated Spars” which will be sufficient to build a Singe Lock Bridge.

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

The easiest way to make sure that you have all the necessary ropes, spars, and equipment ready to build a pioneering project is to put together a pioneering kit. It saves a lot of time if the pioneering kit is organized and ready to go so you don’t have to spend time gathering all your equipment every time you want to build a pioneering project.

The pioneering kit described here consists of enough spars and ropes to build the projects shown in this pamphlet. It is designed to be used by a troop at summer camp to build “boy-size” structures: that is, projects that can be built by boys of Boy Scout age. This kit is also ideal to provide the equipment necessary for teaching pioneering skills to new Scouts.

The sizes and quantities of ropes and spars described here should be a good starting point for your pioneering kit. You can always add more equipment as the number of Scouts participating increases, or if some Scouts become more skilled in building a wider range of projects.


Knowing that this pamphlet might be used by Scouts all over the world presents some problems concerning availability of suitable species of trees to use for spars. Generally, pine makes the best spars because pine trees are straight. Also, when pine is stripped of its bark and dried out, it makes spars that are not too heavy, therefore suitable for “Boy-size” projects.

If pine is not available, cut spars from the straightest trees you can find. It might be to your advantage to make spars from hardwood species of trees. Given the strength of hardwoods, you might be able to use slightly smaller diameters as a weight-saving measure. Don’t overlook softwood spars for light, smaller projects.

Some lumberyards and farm supply stores carry round, treated fence posts that can be used for short lengths. Barn poles might also be available for a few of the longer lengths. Remember that barn poles are quoted at the top diameter, not the butt end. The supply yard might let you select and match what you need.

On all spars, you should remove the bark and cut the ends square. It is recommended that you cut all the spars to exact, even lengths, regardless of their butt diameter, as shown in the chart below.

Large Pioneering Kit: SPARS for Multi-Unit Use
Color-Code for Spars
Color-Code for Spars

There are several combinations of lengths and diameters of spars suggested for this pioneering kit. This is because various projects might require the same length spar, but in different diameters depending on where it is to be used in the structure.

Both ends of the spars in your pioneering kit should be color-coded with a band of paint to denote length. Here are the colors that can be used to easily show the lengths of the spars without having to measure them each time.


The best all-around rope to use for pioneering projects is pure manila, three-strand, twisted. (Refer to the “Rope” section.)

All ropes in your pioneering kit should be whipped on both ends. In the case of plastic rope, whether it’s twisted or braided, it must be first melted back and then whipped.

Large Pioneering Kit: ROPES for Multi-Unit Use
Rope Color-Code
Rope Color-Code

Ropes cut to the standard lengths shown above should have the ends color-coded with a dab of paint to denote the length. Here is a recommended color-coding system for all rope, regardless of diameter of the rope:

You might also have a need for ropes of specific diameters and lengths that are used for projects that are built often. These should be identified with a tag and coiled separately. These ropes, along with slings, grommets, strops, and anchor ropes should be stored in a separate box.


In addition to spars and ropes, your pioneering kit should contain some basic equipment needed for building projects. This equipment includes

  • 2    round-point long-handle shovels
  • 4    wooden mallets
  • 50   pioneering stakes
  • 4    binder twine boxes
  • 1    bow saw
  • 1    hand ax
  • 10   wooden cleats and nails
  • 8    welded steel rings, 3/8″ x 3″
  • 8    screw pin shackles, 3/8″
  • 10   quick links, 5/16″

You might also find that putting this equipment on a trailer that can be pulled by a truck will help get your pioneering kit to your project site. The trailer will also help you move your pioneering kit to a dry shelter when not in use.

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:


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.