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September 12, 2014

Building your first treehouse

A simple treehouse, 6 feet off the ground in a willow with multiple stems.
Tree houses are a fun and challenging pioneering project (if the safety rules of your Scout Association allow them) that provide a memorable adventure. But starting with a 9 metre high platform isn't easy. This post will discuss the basics of building a treehouse and how to get started.

Choosing a tree
For any tree house, and especially your first one, selecting a tree that has a few branches radiating out at the same level will make things much simpler. For a first treehouse, a tree like a willow that splits low down is ideal.
Building a treehouse
The starting point, and the part that will probably take the longest, is getting your first pulley established to raise everything else up. A heaving line, with a weighted bag, beanbag or other weight with a lightweight messenger line will help you get the first ropes up. You can then use the first rope you establish to Prussik up and place a pulley for raising items up. Everyone working at height should be using harnesses and fall protection measures.

Rigging and raising the first pole is your next task. Once it's in place, and lashed onto the tree using hessian or padding, you can raise the rest of the base poles up and set them in place.

Having established the base, the next task is to get safety railing and any roof or other superstructure up. In my experience, you can expect to spend about a third if your time getting the pulley in place, a third of the time on the first two base poles, and the final third on the rest of the structure.

August 29, 2014

Hourglass Tower at Oppikoppi festival

Following on from the Belgian music festival last week, Oppikoppi is the largest music festival in South Africa, held annually on Northam Farm.

1st Northam built this tower for the 2014 festival, and the five minute time lapse by Donald van der Westhuizen shows how it was built. The tower was put up by building it completely on the ground (method 1 according to this post) by this team:

August 22, 2014

Pioneering at Pukkelpop festival

image courtesy Universiteit Hasselt

This pioneered structure at Pukkelpop 2014 in Belgium was seen by thousands of people during the annual music festival. Designed by Jakob Ghisjebrechts, it was built with the help of Gouw Limberg, a regional Scouting organization in Belgium

design model. Image courtesy Universiteit Hasselt
The pavilion was designed as part of the first year architecture programme at Universiteit Hasselt, and was the winning entry by student Jakob Ghijsebrechts. The pavilion was home to Salon Fou, a hair salon for people at Pukkelpop to get a festival haircut. You can listen to an interview with Jakob (in Flemish) on Youtube here.

image courtesy Universiteit Hasselt
(I've already told you that speaking Dutch or Flemish is good for your pioneering skills)

August 15, 2014

Bamboo Scaffolding- government guidelines for pioneered structures in Hong Kong

Bamboo has been used for centuries to build scaffolding in East Asia, and is still in use today- everyday pioneering visible in every city. Where there are industries, there are standards, and the Hong Kong government publishes the document Guidelines on the Design and Construction of Bamboo Scaffolds, which regulates every details of how bamboo should be used in scaffolding there.

Figure 1 from Guidelines on the Design and Construction of Bamboo Scaffolds
Amongst other things, this regulation controls:
The type of bamboo-
The commonly used bamboo types are Kao Jue and Mao Jue. They should be 3 to 5 years old and air-dried in vertical positions under indoor condition for at least 3 months before use. The nominal length of both Kao Jue and Mao Jue is 6 m. 

Shear lashings for joining poles-
the distance between two knottings on the overlapping portion of the bamboo members should not be greater than 300 mm, and the tail of one bamboo member should be connected to the head of the other. Diagram 9 illustrates the proper connection of bamboo members for bracings/rakers, ledgers, posts/standards used in a bamboo scaffold.

And even inspection for quality control- 
Bamboo is a natural material and it expands and contracts as the moisture content changes. Proper workmanship, close supervision and frequent inspection are required to ensure the structural integrity of the bamboo scaffolds.
 While these regulations might not apply in your country (and might even allow for structures that are illegal/not suitable for Scouts in your country) they are an interesting read if you are looking at building large pioneered structures. 

August 1, 2014

WASP - West Australia Scout Pioneering

West Australia Scout Pioneering is part of Scouts Australia's West Australia Adventurous Activities team. The team runs a pioneering course aimed at Venturers, Rovers and Scouters, and also offers their services putting structures up at community events. I have featured the pioneering course before, with some photographs of an hourglass tower built by them, but the video below of the Perth Royal Show shows the bridge they have built here for the last few years (around 2:50)

WASP are active in Western Australia, Ploeg Technieken teach pioneering in Belgium- are there any specialist pioneering training teams active in your part of the world? Tell us about them in the comments

July 25, 2014

9m (30 foot) abseiling tower on the Tropic of Capricorn

Photos courtesy 1st Polokwane Scout Group

1st Polokwane are a Scout troop in Polokwane, a South African city right on the Tropic of Capricorn. This 9m abseiling tower is a Springbok Scout construction project led by Courtney, one of their senior Scouts. These photographs show the construction process during the recent South African school holidays.

Photos courtesy 1st Polokwane Scout Group

Safety standards in your Scout association may not allow this type of construction ( for example, the American BSA Guide to Safe Scouting limits pioneering project platform height to 6 feet). Note that in all the photographs above, Scouts working at height use harnesses and a fall protection plan)

1st Polokwane have been competing in Gauteng KonTiki for the last few years, and also have a few Scouters who are also radio amateurs, so they take part in JOTA/JOTI every year. Listen out for their callsign ZR6PS

July 18, 2014

Pioneering as community service: permanent bridge by 1st Blairgowrie

Today is Nelson Mandela's birthday. Over the last few years, South Africans have been encouraged to spend 67 minutes of the day serving the community- signifying the 67 years Mandela gave in service to the country. This post looks at a permanent pioneering project that serves the community.

I was running through Delta Park, a large municipal park near my office, a few weeks ago when I noticed a Scouts South Africa notice pinned to the foundations of a bridge.

1st Blairgowrie Scout Group are responsible for this project, which is being led by James, a Springbok Scout candidate. The bridge is being built to offer an additional crossing point for the stream that flows in this part of the park, making it safer for the cyclists and pedestrians using the extensive trail network: the park is very well used, especially on a Saturday morning. Work has progressed in the last few weeks, and as you can see, only the decking and access ramps remain to be completed.

A few things are noteworthy:
  • the materials for the project are being funded by donations from the local community, who are active in assisting with improvements to this park.
  • the poles being used are stripped and treated gum poles, from local eucalyptus plantations. These are the cheapest and most widely available pioneering poles in South Africa.
  • bolts have been used instead of rope to make this structure more permanent. Is it still pioneering? I think so.
  • A final piece of trivia that links this bridge to Baden-Powell's friend, Rudyard Kipling, who wrote the Jungle Book: the stream it crosses is a tributary of the 'great grey-green greasy Limpopo' from the Just So stories.

UPDATE: Further down the same river, 1st Bryanston Scouts have just opened a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists- photos courtesy Johannesburg Parks.