I posted a picture of this lashed-together camp chair not too long ago, and it got a lot of interest among my small group of Facebook followers, so I thought I’d write up a quick how-to!
As camp chairs go, this one is simple. That’s one of the reasons I use this design – if wood is available, it can go together in 15 minutes. But to do it, you need to know a simple lashing: the tripod lash. This is one of the easiest (dare I say “beginner”?) lashes to learn and to execute, and it makes the simplest free-standing structure, a three-legged tripod. Knowing this lashing allows you to make all manner of things: a structure to suspend your pot over the fire, a drying rack, a sink, a trash can, a support for a free-standing entrance or gateway, the stabilizing foundation of a flagpole, the support for a swingset, etc, etc. Or in this case, a chair. So let’s get to it.
The basic tripod requires three poles. Their sturdiness and length depends on the task, and they don’t even have to be the same length (a shorter leg allows your chair to recline), but its certainly easier to do this well if all the poles are approximately the same diameter. While lashing, I also like to prop them on another stick (as shown below) and put a couple spacers between them. This forms a work fixture that will allow you to get rope where you need it without having to continually lift and move the poles around. If you’re building a chair, 4 feet is a good length, and you should be able to put your weight on each of them individually (like a strong walking stick) without them bending or breaking.
The other raw material you’ll need is rope. Good natural fiber rope (hemp or manila) works well for lashing as it’s very coarse and grips itself, and wood, very well. Knots will hold, and any moisture the rope absorbs in rain or humidity will only tighten the structure. Synthetic rope can be dicey with this sort of application – it certainly works, but particularly with fine weave, like marine rope, the rope can be “slippery” and doesn’t always hold knots well. How much you need depends on the size of your application – but for 3-4″diameter poles, a length of 18-feet works well. I keep a bucket full of 18′ lengths of manila fiber ropes as a good all-purpose set of lashing lines.
To get started, tie a clove hitch around one of the outer poles. The clove hitch is preferred because it’s a “flat” knot that lies close to the wood, it won’t twist around the wood, and it tightens upon itself with any tension on the line. There are two basic ways to tie a clove hitch, and both work equally well for this structure.
Clove Hitch: The “X” Method –
Start by laying your rope around one of the outer poles, leaving an end of about 18″ to
work with. Using this end piece, wrap around the pole. On the return trip, cross your line over the first pass to make an “X”. Keep going for another wrap, and tuck the end under the second wrap, so that it lays alongside and parallel with the main standing length of rope you started with. The result is two parallel wraps snug against the pole – one is the end, the other the main body of the rope – both crossed by a diagonal.
Clove Hitch: The Piling Method –
So called because it’s popular with sailors, you can actually pre-tie a clove hitch and throw the whole thing over a piling, or the end of a log, and then tighten. It only works if you have access to the end of a pole, but that’s the case to start off this lashing. Make two loops in your line, as shown, then fold or stack those loops so that the end and the standing line are both next to each other in the middle of the sandwich. Slip the entire ring of line over the end of the pole and tighten. Voila!
If you’ve successfully tied a clove hitch, the rest is easy. Wrap your line around all three poles, at least three times. More wraps, and tighter wraps, will make a harder-to-adjust tripod. “Snug” is the objective here, and if you use a fixture like the one I show above, you can wrap tight enough to keep the poles against the spacers, without having to lift them off the ground.
“Frapping” is the magic part of any lash, it’s the counter-wrap that tightens everything up, and arguably the most important part. The rule of thumb here is “wrap thrice, frap twice”. So for each gap between poles (there are two in a tripod lash), you want two fraps that are pulled as tight as you can possibly make them. Don’t alternate – make two very tight fraps through one gap (start with the one next to your starting clove hitch), then the other. These fraps pull all of the rope snugly against the wood and keep the whole structure tight.
Finish with another clove hitch, preferably on the pole opposite the one you started with.
Now, stand the tripod up! This lashing allows the poles to be twisted and moved with respect to one another, and you can adjust their position to form a nice stable structure. Imagine the possibilities!
For the chair – you just need a sturdy pole that will overlap one pair of tripod poles at a height comfortable for sitting. Using another rope, suspend this pole horizontally from the top of the tripod. Do NOT tie it directly to the tripod supports, just let it rest against them. This way, it can slide along the poles and move under your weight, and the resulting stretchiness of the the rope adds additional comfort. You can do a rudimentary weave, or multiple up-and-down runs between the rope and top of the tripod, to serve as a backrest. This part isn’t super-critical – you really need just enough to keep the “seat” pole horizontal, and enough line behind it to give you something to lean into.
That’s all there is to it! Make sure you sit on the seat POLE – don’t try to sit in the ropes as if it were a hammock. If you did it right the pole will support your weight and you can recline into the rope weave.
Hope you find this ONE example of a tripod lash useful. Once you learn this lash, you can do a lot of things with it. Until next time, sit back and relax!
Get Out There