Pioneering Program Curriculum VI: Tripod Lashing

Tripod Lashing With Plain Turns
Tripod Lashing With Plain Turns

This is the sixth post in a series that will eventually comprise an activity-based, unit pioneering program curriculum.

SUPPORTING VIDEO: How to Tie a Tripod Lashing

VI. The tripod is the most simple and most easy to erect self-standing pioneering structure. It frequently comes into play in the construction of simple campsite improvements as in providing a stand to hang a lantern or water bag, and in our favorite First Class Camp Gadget: the Wash Station. In larger projects, two tripods can support a crossbar as in a swing set, or support two parallel lateral spars for a platform as in the Double Tripod Chippewa Kitchen.

The Tripod Lashing with Plain Turns is a simple and quick way to lash together three spars into a tripod. For many projects, the wraps can be made with simple plain turns in lieu of racking turns, (as in what’s often referred to as the Figure of Eight Lashing). Here’s an illustration from the 1967 printing of the Boy Scout Field Book.

Two Half Hitches = a Clove Hitch!


A. Scouts will demonstrate they can tie a tripod lashing by:

  1. laying the poles parallel to one another with the butt ends even
  2. starting off the lashing with a clove hitch around one outside pole about 6 inches from the tips
  3. wrapping the lashing rope six to eight times around all three poles (How stiff the tripod legs will be when they’re separated depends on the number and tightness of these wrapping turns.)
  4. taking two frapping turns between the middle pole and the one with the clove hitch
  5. taking two additional frapping turns between the middle pole and the other outside pole *
  6. completing the lashing by applying two half hitches (clove hitch) around the opposite outside pole

B. Scouts will demonstrate they can erect their tripod by:

  1.  crossing the outside legs under the middle pole
  2. standing up their tripod by forming an equilateral triangle with the butt ends of the poles

C. Scouts will stabilize their tripod by:

  1. lashing a horizontal brace between between each of the tripod’s legs with two square lashings


  • three Scout Staves for each Scout
  • one 12-1/2-foot x 1/4-inch manila lashing rope for each Scout
  • six 6-foot x 1/4-inch manila lashing ropes for each Scout
  • three 3-foot  x 1-inch straight sticks for each Scout
  • one Pot or No.10 can with a bail for each Scout
  • one 3-foot cord for each Scout


1) The instructor demonstrates how to tie a tripod lashing narrating each step as he proceeds.

2) With the assistance of the instructor(s), using three Scout Staves and a 12-1/2-foot lashing rope, each Scout lashes the staves together as per the demonstration.


1) Once their lashing is adequately completed, each Scout crosses the two outside legs underneath the middle leg to stand up his tripod.

Horizontal Braces
Building a Chippewa Kitchen: horizontal braces are lashed between the tripod’s legs.

2) Once their tripod is erect, each Scout connects the tripod legs with three 3-foot sticks with square lashings, using six 6-foot lashing ropes.

3) When their legs of their tripod are stabilized with with the three cross braces, each Scout suspends a pot or No. 10 can filled half way up with water, by hanging it on the tripod with a 3-foot cord attached to the bail.

* A Note About Frapping: When finishing the wraps, if the running end is carried between the end and middle pole without completing a full wrap around all three poles, the rope will be carried over the middle pole to start the second set of fraps (as pictured above).

If a full wrap is completed around all three poles, after the frapping turns are made, the rope will be carried under the middle pole to start the second set of fraps. In either case, the first and second set of frapping turns proceed in opposite directions! (This note applies to Tripod Lashings with both plain turns and racking turns.)



The Somewhat Ambiguous Shear Lashing

VIEW VIDEO: How to Tie a Shear Lashing

Scouts Lash the Tops of Their Sheer Legs with a Two-Spar Shear Lashing to Begin Their Single A-Frame Bridges
Scouts Lash the Tops of Their Shear Legs with a SHEAR LASHING to Begin Their Single A-Frame Bridge

DEFINITION: ambiguous |amˈbigyoōəs|adjective(of language) open to more than one interpretation; having a double meaning; unclear or inexact

Put the two timbers together and tie a clove hitch near the top of one. Bind timbers together by seven or eight turns. Make turns loose, one beside the other. Make two complete frapping turns around lashing turns between the timbers. Fasten securely with clove hitch around one timber. Open out the timbers. Note: Two shear lashings without frappings and with the clove hitch around both timbers are used to lash two timbers into one long one.
From the 1981 Printing of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet

One Thing is NOT Ambiguous! The shear lashing’s USE is quite clear. References to the lashing in John Thurman’s Pioneering books, in John 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.

  1. One view is to make the wraps and fraps on the loose side, concluding they’ll tighten when the legs are spread.
  2. Another view is to place a small block of wood between the spars to yield adequate room for the frapping turns.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.

Open out the Timbers. NOTE: Two shear lashings without frappings and with a clove hitch around both timbers are used to lash two timbers into one long one.
The NOTE is a perfect description of what is termed the “Round Lashing!”

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