How to make sure pioneering projects are safe?
By - timothychangas
As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding - you won't know something is 100% safe until you actually try it. And just like with eating a pudding, sometimes you can tell something is wrong before you start eating - if there's a really funky smell or the entire outside is burnt to a crisp, just throw it away and start over from scratch.
The knowledge that someone's life may be on the line should help focus your mind. Lashings too loose? Undo them and start over - get a frapping mallet to tighten them up or use a lever if you don't have access to one. Start off slowly - you don't eat an entire pudding in one bite, you start off with a spoonful. Test your ladder while only barely off the ground. Give your bridge a really solid shake before sending someone across it (and Im talking a **really solid** shake, like trying to tip it over). Guy lines are your friend for any raised structure - make sure you know how to anchor them properly. And make sure you're using the right materials - you don't make custard with 3 month old eggs (unless you want to be sick), so why use rope that's already frayed and with parts that have snapped? If your poles look too thin to support the weight you're putting on them, use bigger poles. If you don't have bigger poles, ask yourself - would you rather have no pioneering project, or a pioneering project that snaps and drops someone 3 meters and they break their arm?
Experience is useful, so don't be afraid to ask someone for help, and practice, practice, practice. Start off small before jumping into merry-go-rounds built for adults. You don't make a pudding by grabbing half a dozen random ingredients from your fridge and cupboard and throwing them together, you follow a recipe and you plan things out - the same principles apply with pioneering.
Finally: remember to have fun - I have fond memories of building trebuchets in my early twenties with some friends, packing it into one of our cars and heading off to fire it across some dunes.
All depending on the size of the structure:
Practice and redo your lashing
Use thicker rope. For small projects like a table we often just use some 2-3mm natural cording. With good lashing the friction between the wood helps as well. If the weight and size of your project are bigger or your lashing poorer, thicker rope will help, since it won't break as soon and still hold if the wood doesn't provide friction
Redundancy. If you are afraid, that your vertical posts on a tower are too loosely tied, lash a second one to the platform. Either one of them is made good enough, or two weak ones serve as one good one.
Structural integrity. Triangles are king. A platform on four straight legs can be wobbly, but with diagonal brands between the legs, it becomes more stable. The more the triangles get, the more stable it is. One diagonal between the legs is good, two are better and if you lash them where they meet, it's best.
Limit how many people can use it. By that you remove the weight on the structure. A sturdy bridge could support a whole patrol crossing at the same time, in a smaller weaker bridge, the should only walk one by one.
'Cheat'. By that I mean use metal reinforcement. When I was 15 we built a tower with a platform on 7 meters above ground, all tied and it held up good. But with that height and size we put in screws afterwards. Bolts is probably the more appropriate term, since the were 10mm thick steel rods, washer and nut on both ends and we tightened them until the washers slightly cupped. I talked to a guy at a bigger camp some years later and he said that for stuff on a camp like that, he almost exclusively puts in screws of that size instead of lashing. It is just safer since you removed human error to a certain degree and at a camp with a lot of people bridges are more frequently in use, probably more people climb that tower... You have to live with the fact, that it's just not puristic pioneering anymore. If you build a table, this will be overkill, but for a bridge, I think it's justified. (process for bolts: put on lashing or clamp beams together otherwise, drill both at the same time with ~12mm drill, put in 10mm bolt with nuts and washers (better 2 washers per side), screw tight, you can use smaller bolts as well, but the drill should at lest be slightly BIGGER since it is mainly hold down by clamping which washers)
There is a Swiss scout unit, that builds highly 'technical' pioneering stuff. Check them out on Instagram if you like via @outdoorsolutions.ch
Woodwork. If you use round wood, you can increase stability if you carve it a little bit, so both beams have a parallel surface and therfore sit closer and have more friction. If you are really skilled, you could make more precise connections, so that the wood won't move anymore and the lashing is just there to hold it in place.
7 meters is 7.66 yards
Just add more lashings, it'll be fine