Tag Archives: West Country Shear Lashing

Four Different Lashings to Extend the Length of a Spar

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.

VIEW VIDEO: Round Lashing

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.

VIEW VIDEO: West Country Round Lashing

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
Half Hitch Round Lashing

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!

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!”

Easy Tall Flagpole

At most Scouting events, there isn’t a permanently-installed, tall, metal pole for raising and lowering the colors. During opening ceremonies at these Scout gatherings, a tall flagpole made by joining long spars together can impress and inspire.

Opening Ceremony at a District Camporee
Opening Ceremony at a District Camporee

What is meant by tall? Naturally, the height of the flagpole depends on the size of the flag and the size of the area where it will be raised. For the most part, the flags used in Scouting are 3 x 5 feet, and the average size outdoor flagpole for a 3 x 5-foot flag is 20 feet. Of course, the main criteria for flagpole height is how far away you want the flag to be seen. But also, flying a flag high is synonymous with pride, and the taller the pole the greater the impact. However, this post is about a simple flagpole and not a pioneering display of goliath proportions. The specific flagpole featured on this page topped out at 32 feet, which was impressive, but not uncanny.

Building and putting up a taller flagpole requires more attention than one for an easy campsite setup, but all in all it’s still a relatively simple operation. Basically, four things are needed:

  1. Long spars
  2. An effective way to join the spars together so the flagpole will be rigid
  3. A series of planned steps to take before standing the flagpole up *
  4. A crew to lift the flagpole to its vertical position

Long spars. Depending on your point of reference, the definition of long spars is relative, and will hinge on what’s available in your geographic area and how practical it is to procure and transport them. Naturally, the longer the spars the fewer you’ll need to make the pole tall, which of course has obvious advantages. Again, depending on your point of reference, a long spar can be seen as having a length anywhere from 10 to 20 feet.

Tall View
Simple, Tall, Pioneering Flagpole

In the flagpole featured on this page, there are three long spars: 16-foot bottom, 14-foot middle, and 10-foot top. The lower the spar, the larger the diameter. The butt end of the next spar up should be as near to the same diameter as possible to the top of the one it’s joining.

West Country Round Lashing Joining Two Bamboo Spars

An effective way to join the spars together so the flagpole will be rigid. Obviously, the rigidity of the flagpole is a primary concern. You don’t want it to bend and  you don’t want it to come apart. It has to ever-withstand the stress of its own weight in a vertical position, as well as the weakening forces of wind, rain, and varying temperatures. When it comes to joining spars together to extend their length, there are basically four lashings that can be employed. For the tightest and most secure lashing, the West Country Round Lashing works really very well.

When the utmost rigidity is required, a quarter of the spars’ lengths should overlap each other. Using long lengths of 1/4-inch manila rope, start each of the two lashings approximately 1-1/2 to 2 inches from the ends of the overlapping spars and tie at least ten tight half knots (overhand knots) towards the middle of the overlap. Depending on the length of the lashing rope and the size of the spars, for added security, additional lashings can be tied e.g. in the photo to the left, where the bottom spar and the middle spar overlap, four West Country Round Lashings were applied.

* A series of planned steps to take before standing the flagpole up. Before transforming the finished flagpole from horizontal to vertical, these steps need to be taken:

  1. Determine the spot on the ground where the flagpole will stand and dig a hole about 4 inches deep with a diameter just a little larger than that of the flagpole’s butt end.
  2. Position the flagpole so the bottom is right over the hole.
  3. To attach the rope halyard, tie a small rope grommet and pulley to the top of the flagpole with a prusik.
  4. Reave the prepared rope halyard through the tackle.
  5. Attach four guylines of the  proper length (see: Guylines.) Tie the guylines to the flagpole about 3/4 up the pole with four rolling hitches. Tie them on so they will each line out to their respective anchors.
  6. Measure out the proper distance from the bottom of the flagpole in four perpendicular directions and mark the spots where the front pioneering stake will be driven into the ground for each 1-1 anchor. The rule of thumb is drive in the stakes at a distance equal to twice the height from where the knots were tied, measured out from the base of the flagpole.

  7. Build four 1-1 anchors in readiness for attaching the four guylines.

A crew to lift the flagpole to its vertical position. When ready, four crew members each take hold of a guyline and position themselves in line with their respective anchors. Additional crew members line up along the length of the flagpole ready to walk the pole up to its vertical position. One member is stationed at the bottom to guide the pole into the hole as the others lift. When everyone is in position, a signal caller gives the go ahead to lift. Those with the guylines pass the ends of their lines behind the front stake of their anchor. Once the flagpole is standing upright, each guyline is secured to its anchor with a rope tackle. Final adjustments can then be made to each guyline until the pole is standing straight.


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.