28. Rigging, Rolling & Raising: The Art of Moving Immovable Objects

When I was teaching a variety of self-generated classes and workshops at Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont from 2006 to 2014 – including The Sun-Tempered Super-Insulated Home, Efficiency by Design, Tricks of the Trade, Plumbing Demystified, Math for Builders, Engineering for the Homebuilder, Hygro-Thermal Engineering: The Alchemy of Building Design, and Thinking Like a Mountain: Sustainability from the Ground Up – I decided to share my extensive rigging skills in a new weekend course called Rigging, Rolling & Raising, which proved to be very popular and became my favorite class to teach.

I Wish I Had a Rope

Course Description: Before the days of motors, hydraulic lifts, and heavy machinery, builders improvised simple mechanical advantage systems to make hard work easy. Beginning with an introduction to ropes and knots, we will learn a variety of pulley systems, principles of leverage and friction-reduction, anchoring systems, and personal safety. We will then put this knowledge to work moving and lifting (relatively) immovable objects.


Rope types and qualities
Knot terminology
Knots, hitches and bends

  • basket hitch, girth hitch, half hitch, clove hitch, trucker’s hitch, tensionless hitch
  • overhand, double overhand, figure-8, figure-8 on a bight, figure-8 follow-through
  • bowline, 2-loop bowline, butterfly, uni-directional 8
  • prusik, taughtline, muleknot
  • figure-8 bend, sheetbend, double sheetbend, carrick bend


  • carabiners, screwlinks (maillon rapide)
  • pulleys, tackle
  • pickets
  • log tongs

Mechanical Advantage

  • levers (class 1, 2, 3)
  • rollers & windlass
  • simple 2:1, 3:1, 4:1
  • complex 5:1
  • directionals and CDs
  • 8:1 pig rig (lineman’s rig)
  • compound 6:1, compound 9:1, bat-wing 9:1

Anchor Systems

  • natural (tree, rock)
  • opportunistic (building, vehicle)
  • artificial
    • picket holdfasts
    • log & picket
    • transom (log and trees)
    • log deadman


  • come-along (cable & rope)
  • chain fall
  • gin pole
  • lashing & guys
  • shears (A-frame)
  • tripod
  • derrick


Rigging Background

I first fell in love with rigging techniques during a one-year Greenfield (MA) Community College certificate program in Outdoor Leadership in 1989-1990, where I was trained in managing high ropes courses (including rescue) and then rock and ice climbing. I found that I enjoyed the technical challenge of safe and effective rope rigging as much as I did what I came to consider “dancing on rock” – the art of vertical rock climbing.

Climbing at Shovel Point over Lake Superior

The most technical rope rigging skills were utilized in live rescue techniques, and – over the next several years – I expanded my repertoire by seeking professional training in mountain rescue, fast-water rescue, ice rescue, and fire rescue. Later, I studied arborist rigging and rescue techniques, and got training in and began teaching cave rescue.

I shared my rescue expertise with the various volunteer fire and EMS (ambulance) departments and wilderness search & rescue teams I had joined over the years, and serendipitously found myself asked to train an industrial rescue team at the nation’s first-built and first-decommissioned nuclear power plant in Rowe Massachusetts, just below the border of my town of Readsboro VT where I took over as town Emergency Management Coordinator for the impending Y2K infrastructure breakdown.

High Angle Rescue Training at Yankee Rowe Atomic Plant

Emergency Wind Turbine Evacuation Training

That first professional training commission resulted in my training, or assisting in training, 20 emergency departments, teams and squads in four New England states through 2013.

Vertical Cliff Litter Lower with Attendant

But, as I approached retirement and was less actively involved in strenuous emergency work, I shifted my focus to the application of technical rigging for more mundane tasks, as I had done for myself over the years on building projects (not infrequently solo) and arborist work.

Solo Framed Wall Raising with Gin Pole Directional & 3:1 Pulley System

Tree Climbing

When I shifted to Maine in 2015, I shared some of that expertise at the Maine Primitive Gathering in Wells, at the MOFGA Common Ground Fair, its Farm & Homestead Day and its Maine Axe & Saw Meetup, and then at the Puckerbrush Primitive Gathering in Columbia Falls and a U-Maine extension service workshop session.

My Common Ground Fair daily workshops were Rigging for Directional Felling in the Low-Impact Forestry Division in 2016, and Rigging for the Woods in 2017, which covered a much broader scope of rigging challenges.

A-Frame Log Lift to Cable Run – Rigging for the Woods

As of summer 2019, I will have given 16 presentations or workshops in Rigging, Rolling & Raising. Though my classes and workshops varied from a couple of hours to three days, in every case I found that I could offer little more than an introduction to the art, science and mathematics of rigging. But, once I purchased my retirement home in Maine and settled in, I began negotiating with a wooden boat building school to offer a week-long version of the class, so that I could go into depth on the technical art and pass on a breadth of knowledge and skill that – like so many traditional arts – is a nearly forgotten part of human culture.

5:1 Pulley System on 6-Picket Log Deadman Anchor for Moving Building on Pipe Rollers

3:1 Z-Rig to A-Frame Directional to Raise Timber Frame Bent

Ramps & 2:1 Log Roll to Build Timber Pile

Lashing & Frapping Poles for Tripod

Hobbled Tripod for Lifting Granite Block

Placing Footbridge Using Tensioned Highline

Braced Monkey Lifting Stone Block in Barrel Hitch

Adjustable Angle A-Frame for Lifting & Lateral Shift of Granite Block with Rock Dogs 

Stone Boat on Rollers on Treads with Mechanical Advantage Hauling System

For my rope rescue history, articles and pictures, go to:

aVERT: a Vertical Emergency Response Training

To Avert Disaster in the Vertical Environment

For custom workshops on rigging techniques, contact me at Robert(at)Ponds-Edge.net

************************************************************************************ by Robert Riversong: photos may be reproduced only with author attribution for non-commercial purposes and a link to this page