A Word on Safety, Bridals. and Tipping

Splay and uneven loading can be incredibly dangerous when considering structures with legs. Regardless of design, bridles, or some lashing should be applied to the legs to keep the design structural. This is why most manufacturers require their use. Please also be careful with the high center of gravity that can be encountered when doing dynamic movements. A lot of people see these “swingsets”, and can’t help themselves, but try to remember that actual swingsets are usually anchored to the floor. Most hardpoint “failure” and injury comes from tipping.

Tripods also have a unique weakness you should pay attention to. The rotational force of a center-weighted load can cause shearing, similar to twisting the top off of a bottle of soda. You should regularly inspect the lashing/welding of any center-weighted tripod for this reason, and this isa big reason why many of the steel-topper providers have moved to a more distributed mounting pattern.

Popular Portable Off-the Shelf Solutions

Bonds-of-steel makes a selection of popular solutions but does custom work as well. Combination of aluminum tubing with steel toppers, for a transportable weight of 50-80lb.

Dungeon Delights (15% off with coupon code Fet15) Creates custom all-steel solutions that offer a transportable weight of 90-150lbs

X-Pole is a popular all-aluminum A-frame that is adjustable in height and can weigh between 40-75lb.

Trees

Trees have their own special considerations. Dry or dead trees for example, can easily collapse without any warning. Please familiarize yourself with the species and telltale signs of what is and is not within your risk profile. A good rule of thumb for most healthy trees is to not rig on any branch that is not at least as wide as the torso of the person being tied.

Please consider when rigging on a tree, that damage can be done to the health of the tree when shock loading or overloading single points. Good trees are hard to come by, please don’t negligently damage future-generations’ opportunities to have the same fun you’re having.

If you find yourself rigging on trees, please consider the following. Myself, and the tree, will thank you for caring and packing a few extra ounces of gear:

  • Using dynamic materials to lessen/spread the shock load on the tree, Such as Nylon runners or spansets instead of dyneema or other static materials.
  • Using a tree protector, to spread the force of the load over a larger area. A rug or bit of spare carpet works in a pinch.
  • Using Friction-hitches which are easy to remove, instead of constriction lashings that can strangle the limbs of the tree.

DIY Freestanding Hardpoints

For most wooden DIY kink rigs, a bill of materials is usually under $150 total so long as you have a friend with working knowledge of power tools that can be bribed with free food.

No matter what you use, and no matter how long you’ve been doing this, please inspect your equipment, play within spec, and within you and your possible partner’s risk profile!

#1 Flatfoot (Guillotine) – Wood

Flat feet, “guillotine-style” frames are preferable because they will not marr flooring like an A-frame will. By distributing the load they form a very solid foundation.

The Oakland Rope Collective has published a step-by-step document for construction of their design.

Important notes for designing your own:

  1. Do not make it taller than it is wide.
  2. Do not make the flatfeet shorter than 65% of the height. 70% is more what I’d suggest.
  • bolts that go through wood vs screws, helps with inspection and replacement
  • don’t have any bolt ends pointing into frame (foot cut hazard)
  • wider flatfeet on bottom helps limit tip risk

Other notes from a fetlife thread lays out design considerations

#2 Flatfoot (Guillotine) – Steel

A version of #1 made of easily sourced steel components. Total cost last time I did the math on it was ~$500, but it is easily assembled and disassembled for transport if you have a truck. It is quite heavy, I personally prefer option #3 if you are going to go for steel.

Assembled
Close-up
Plans

#3 4-Post Weightlifting Racks

There are dozens of us that have turned our gym racks multipurpose. Pete Riggs has an article on his approach – but the idea to utilize structural tubing for kinky fun, isn’t new.

I suggest people purchase a full-sized rack of a 85+” height, with a depth of over 30″. Smaller racks just aren’t vertical enough for most fun, and squat racks (half racks) are usually not large enough to have the resistance to tipping. If you pick up a rack for the idea of rope suspension, something composed of 13g or thicker steel, anchored to the floor really helps for dynamic movements. Generally these can be found for around $400 direct from most manufacturers. Plenty of companies make great “”beater”” racks, and you would be surprised what people sell on craigslist once the new year’s resolutions start to be forgotten.

#4 A-Frame (Swingset) – Wood

This is the easiest to assemble, and most common option I regularly see. The downside is it has a high likelihood of damaging your flooring. It also takes up a lot of space for the height it provides. It is a favorite for outdoor hardpoints because the four legs are much more forgiving of uneven terrain. I recommend buying the equipment direct through the manufacturer.

A video for assembly is here If you have the ability, making miter cuts in the portion of the legs that will contact your floor can provide more stability and lessen the damage that can be done on flooring. If doing so is within your skillset, I encourage it! I would also note, that if you are going to be doing some dynamic tying, please consider finding ways to mitigate your tip risk. Weighted sandbags at the feet tend to help.

#5 Wood Pagoda

Jim Duvall has provided Plans/pic/document

The benefit of the pagoda design is that it is easily built, transported, and assembled/knocked together provided you have a helping hand. It has additional attachment points compared to other options, and the design can be modified so long as proper design elements are respected. There is a thorough discussion of modifying the design here

Like an A-frame, pagodas face issues with tip-risk, but they also have issues with torsion. For dynamic play on a pagoda, it is recommended to have a solid connection to the center of the unit, this can be done by cutting a small notch in the center of the top planks of wood, and to use a swivel to limit cross-loading the frame.

#6 Bamboo or Pipe – Tripods

Materials list and plans

Traditional. A fetlife discussion on bamboo tripods can be found here, of note, an article on how to lash a tripod properly and a video on how to lash bamboo and a comparison of different bamboo species. Specifically, there is a concern on which pole should be used to mount the hardpoint (and the weight we attach to it).

If bamboo is not readily available to you, 1.9″ OD Schedule 40 “Black Pipe” is a common alternative, usually available at local industrial supply houses for $20 a pole. These supply houses are often not your local hardware store.

Again, especially for DIY tripods, remember to bridal your legs!

Further Resources

For further readings on hardpoint safety, and accidents, I recommend the Above The Ring and Rope Incident Reports communities on Fetlife.

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