Learning how to lash together camp gadgets like dishwashing racks, cooking stations and dining fly poles is a fun — and useful — Scouting skill.

But learning to tie these lashings at home, in a living room? That’s a recipe for broken lamps. (Sorry, Mom and Dad.)

And while you could go outside, not everyone has the kind of backyard internet access you’d need to watch instructional videos about knot-tying.

Thankfully, one Scouting volunteer invented a solution for teaching lashings using a device that fits on a kitchen table.

“I came up with it after watching them fumble about with poles we have,” says Matt Davis, a leader in Troop 84 of Somerville, N.J., part of the Patriots’ Path Council. “Learning knots and lashing is about muscle memory. It shouldn’t be about struggling to keep to 5-foot-long poles close together.”

That was Davis’ explanation for the idea when he pitched it to me in early March — before the coronavirus outbreak forced us all to stay at home.

But it turns out this teaching tool, which Davis calls “laptop-sized,” is perfect for learning to lash in front of actual laptop screens.

Speaking of Scouting at Home, find resources, tips and answers to your frequently asked questions on the BSA’s official Scouting at Home site.

Advancement and learning to lash

Learning to properly tie different kinds of lashings is a requirement for the First Class rank and Pioneering merit badge, both part of Scouts BSA.

For First Class, Scouts must “use lashings to make a useful camp gadget or structure.”

More about the lashings gadget and Matt Davis

Davis, an Eagle Scout, says he enjoyed participating in Cub Scouts with his son. But when his son moved into Scouts BSA, Davis says his Scouting passion shifted “into overdrive.” Father and son actually worked on the design for the lashings gadget together.

Davis even spends extra time training other adult leaders about outdoor skills — and takes the lashing teaching aid along.

Want to make this gadget yourself? Davis agreed to share the step-by-step PDF with Bryan on Scouting readers and says to pay particular attention to the pine spacer, which creates a gap between the dowels to make frapping easier when doing a shear lashing.

As always, I recommend reviewing the Guide to Safe Scouting, which has helpful advice about tool use.

The list of supplies is pretty simple and can be found at hardware stores, which most states have deemed “essential businesses” permitted to continue operating during the coronavirus pandemic.

Again, you can find all of the BSA’s coronavirus guidance on this page.

Learning the square, shear and diagonal lashings from the safety of home — without putting a hole in your wall? That’s being courteous and thrifty.

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