How To…. Mk2 – Make a Free-Standing Hammock Stand

I finally got around to updating my Freestanding Hammock Stand (based on the post from Turtle Lady post on the Hammock forum) last weekend. I replaced two of the limbs on each tripod with stronger ones and devised a new attachment point at the top of each tripod for securely attaching a tarp.

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Freestanding Hammock Stand Mk2

I have used the original hammock stand a number of times now and found it quite easy to transport in my van. I recently traded my van in for a car but I have obtained a large enough top box to fit the stand in. I wrote a blog post on this stand last March and it goes into detail on making the Mk1 version. If you have not read it and want the measurements you can find it here – How To…. Make a Free-Standing Hammock Stand.

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Freestanding Hammock Stand Mk1

To fit a tarp to the  Mk1 stand I made little caps to go over the top of each tripod (so that the tarp would not be ripped by the wood) but I found that the tarp would slip off if the wind got strong.

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Loose Tarp attachment in the Mk1

I also noticed two weeks ago that one of the limbs that had a knot in it was looking a bit weak. I applied a lot of pressure to it to see if it would last and the wood failed (left hand picture). I am glad that this did not happen while it was in use. The lesson I’ve taken from this is to make sure I select knot-free wood wherever possible when making one of these stands. To build the new tripods I unbolted the old side limbs from the two hinges and decided to replace all of them with new stronger knot-free limbs.

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Broken Limb in Mk1

I made a short video of the new set up to give you an overview of it first.

I bought some square tree stakes (2.4m lengths) and used the old limbs to mark out the bolt holes then drilled them out to re-build the first of my two tripods. The new limbs were 35mm by 35mm in diameter comparison to the old ones which were 47mm by 22mm.

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Old limbs used to mark out the new limbs

I decided that just one of the new limbs (more on the other limb in a minute) on each tripod would be the same height as the old limbs so trimmed the excess wood off then used my rasp to roughly smooth all the surfaces and edges down.

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Trimmed the short limb and rasped smooth

After a quick sanding (I just used a rough piece of sandpaper) the first limb was ready. I rasped the other limb (which was not trimmed to size as yet) and then sanded that one as well. You can see the two finished limbs for the first tripod in the right hand picture. it is important you do not trim the second limb to the same size as the first limb as this one will have the tarp attachment fitted to it.

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A rough sanding

Using the original bolts I then attached the new limbs to the original limb that was fitted with the hinge.

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I set the tripod up as best I could with the new limbs spread out at about 1.4m width at the base (the limb with the hinge cannot be opened fully until the excess wood is removed). I then drew around the area on the larger of the limbs the piece of wood that needed to be removed.

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Marked out the groove on the long limb

I unbolted the limb and put it into a vice to cut the excess wood out. I just used a small saw but a carpenter’s coping saw would have been far better suited to the job.

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Removed the excess wood

After I removed the excess as best I could I used my rasp to smooth it all out before giving it a final sanding.

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Rasped smooth

After re-bolting I checked to make sure there was enough clearance to open all the legs up fully. I actually used my knife at this stage to trim off a little bit more of the wood as the fit was very tight.

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Snug fit

I had thought of lots of different ideas to add a hook to hang my tarp from but in the end remembered I had some of these cheap hooks you can buy to hang things from the rafters of your workshop or garage. They have a tip that allows you to screw it into wood and they can be bent into different shapes using a vice and hammer or pliers. I marked out where I wanted to put the hook, drilled a pilot hole and screwed the hook in.

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Attached the hook

I trimmed the limb so that it finished just below the hook point to give the tarp some clearance. The final length of this larger limb was 1.8m.

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Trimmed off the excess wood from the long limb

You can see the set up clearly now. I then repeated the whole process to make up the second tripod.

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Ready for set up

To ensure the legs will always open to the correct distance from each other I attached string to them, secured with small nails. I have found that if the legs are not set far enough apart then there is the potential for the stand to tip over.

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Splay lines attached

Eventually I had two stands ready for setting up. The overall height of each tripod is 1.6m and the front limbs on each tripod are spaced 1.4m apart from each other.

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Repeated the process for the other tripod

I spent a few minutes getting the tripods well set up (I spread the legs then hung off each one to make sure they were secure) and getting them the correct distance apart (for this set up, about 2.8m apart from the base of the front limbs). The crossbars need to be raised up so that they just touch each other and the Amsteel string that they are tied onto the tripods with is hanging vertically.

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Raise the topbars

Once they are touching it is simply a case of sliding the connecting sheath over until it is centered.

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Slide the sheath to secure

At this stage I tend to make slight adjustments to one of the tripods so that the string is hanging vertically from each tripod as that is very difficult to achieve first time. If you do not have the strings hanging vertically you could end up tipping the tripod over.

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Hanging line should be plumb

The hammock I use for this set up is my DD Frontline one and I attach it to the Marlinspike Hitch using a quick release Karibiner. The first How To…. covers how I set all this up in more detail.

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Karibiner clip around the Marlin Hitch

Once it’s finished I test the set up by sitting in it before lying down. All the compression forces I create by lying in the hammock are kept in the crossbar. The tripods take my weight but do not get pulled together using this method. As I move about in the hammock the crossbar moves slightly but the tripods stay still as the bar is suspended from each tripod.

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Test by sitting then lying down

I then attached my Hennessy Hex tarp to the hooks and just used small wooden pegs on the ends and corners to peg it all out.

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Attaching the tarp

This set up gives me good head room for sitting and doing my admin.

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Good head room

The tarp is a snug fit as the ridgepole was cut to a length to ensure the tarp fitted perfectly. It seems quite strong and I am looking forward to trying it out in the near future at a campsite where I know good hammocking trees are not available. I weigh about 14 stone and I have sat in the hammock with my son who weighs about 4 stone so I am quite confident in this set up.

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Happy campers



Bramley Bimbles – June 14

I made a number of bimbles around Bramley in June observing the changes occurring so I have decided to merge the three trips into one report. I took my kids out on two of them: it’s great seeing them starting to observe nature with more of an eye for detail.

My wife Alison gave me a macro camera lens for my iPad mini for Fathers Day and I took this lovely picture of this orange hawkweed with it.

Orange Hawkweed
Orange Hawkweed

The cherry tree I have been monitoring produced its fruit in June. On the first trip they were yellow, on the second they were red and on the third trip they had all been stripped away by the birds.

I did also manage to find a few wild strawberries over the month but they were soon getting nibbled away at as well.

Cherry and Wild Strawberry
Cherry and Wild Strawberry

On the second trip I spotted that some damselflies were flitting about a watercress-covered pond. I kept trying to get a decent picture of them but the pictures always ended up fuzzy. On the last trip after a patient wait I managed to snap this picture with the iPad mini using the macro lens.

Damsen Fly

At another pond where I am watching the reedmace growing I came across the yellow flower below. I had never seen this before so had to look it up: the closest I can get to it is a flower called the monkey flower. Happy to be educated by anyone if they can ID it as something else. If it is monkey flower then the leaves and stem were traditionally used by Native Americans as a salt substitute just as colts foot was used here. I was first taught how to dry out the leaves of colts foot by my friend Kevin Warrington – Laplanders Natural Lore Blog.

Even though the bluebell has lost its flower I still think it is a beautiful plant in this late stage of its life cycle. These pods will eventually darken before they open to disperse their seeds.

Monkey flower and Bluebell seed pods
Monkey flower and Bluebell seed pods

This was one of the first self heal flowers I came across this year right at the beginning of the month. It is a wonderful medicinal plant that I have used a number of times along with woundwort, plantain and yarrow to treat small cuts and grazes. It was also known as carpenter’s herb  because of this ability to treat small cuts.
As the month has worn on this plant has appeared all around the village in great numbers. It is a pity that most people do not give it a second thought.

Self Heal
Self Heal

Two very tiny details in abundance at the moment are the cuckoo spit and the tiny green alder cones. The cuckoo spit contains the Froghopper nymph which uses the spit much like a home when it emerges as a place of safety.

Some of the alder cones have a red tongue-like protrusion caused by the fungus Taphrina alni. The fungus develops in some of the cones and forces the cone to grow these protrusions so as to produce and release its spores – a kind of forced symbiosis I suppose. My source on this was the Donegal Wildlife Blogspot

Frog Hopper spawn and Alder Cones
Cuckoo spit and Alder Cones

My first mullein flower of the year. This was the only mullein I saw in flower but there are plenty growing around the village. A great medicinal plant used for treating chest infections, TB, digestive problems, sore throats and many more ailments. Nature News has a good page on the plant.

I personally like it as it makes a good handrill, a good torch when covered with oil or fats but also as its leaves are soft and have anti-bacterial properties, which means they make great toilet paper.

Mullein flower
Mullein flower

As I have been taking Paul Kirtley’s online Masterclass in Plant ID I have been monitoring a lot of different sites and trees around the village since February and plan to do so for a whole year. It has been great to see all the changes occurring with the flowers and the trees leaves coming through but I was particularly happy to spot my first hazelnut and acorn of the year this month.

Hazel nut and baby Acorns
Hazel nut and baby acorns

It was not until the end of my last bimble, as I turned my last corner to go home, that I spotted my first poppy of the year. The edible part of the plant is the seed which is used in cakes and also crushed to make an oil.


Two other new spots this month were the enchanters and the woody nightshades. The enchanters nightshade I found dotted all around the woodland floor but the woody nightshade I found in a hedge by our local park. They are not related but are both beautiful flowers. The enchanters was known to the Saxons as aelfthone to treat what they saw as elf sickness – any sudden sickness brought on for no known reason.

Woody nightshade is another plant used medicinally in the past and is also known as bittersweet because of the bitter then sweet taste you got when chewing the root of the plant. Large doses of this plant though are deadly so one left to well-trained herbalists.

Enchanter Nightshade and Woody Nightshade
Enchanter Nightshade and Woody Nightshade

I have found only one patch of ground where I have seen the common bistort growing. This was taken near the end of its flowering stage and was covered in these moths. I have never tried this plant but I am told that the young leaves and the root are edible. In the Lake District the plant is used in the making of a pudding called the Bistort Easter-Ledge Pudding.

Bistort and Moth
Bistort and Moth

My friend Alan Smylie is an excellent forager and photographer and I was chatting to him about the common mallow and the lime flowers that you can see below. Apart from looking beautiful he is making a wild cherry jelly infused with mallow leaves and he makes a tea from the lime flowers. I hope to do a forage or two with Al at this years BCUK Bushmoot in August and pick his brains a bit more about some of these plants.

Mallow and Lime seeds
Mallow and Lime flowers

In the stream near our house I have found carpets of watercress growing. The flowers attract a lot of insects and the whole plant can seem to fill a stream. It was not until I got into the stream did I notice that the plant seems to float on the water with the roots of to the side of the stream. The plant is edible but only if you know the water is clean.


On the left is the pin cushion head of a devils bit scabious flower. This beautiful flower is a source of food for many insects in the summer. In particular the declining Marsh Fritillary Butterfly relies heavily on this flower. When I see this flower appear each year I know that summer has finally arrived.

At the bottom right is the lovely meadowsweet. This was one of the plants sacred to Druids and was a plant that Bayer used as one of the key ingredients when developing aspirin in the 19th century. It gives off a lovely aroma and was traditionally used in the home to cover up bad smells.

Devils Bit Scabious and Meadowsweet
Devils Bit Scabious and Meadowsweet

I spotted this little fella taking a rest on the seed head of a Ribwort Plantain plant. He was not at all fazed as my phone camera came in close.

Ribwort Plantain seed head
Ribwort Plantain seed head

On our second trip out we came across this ash tree that had been used as a scratching post for deer. It looks like they had used the tree to help rub the felt of their antlers. I could see teeth marks on the edges of the ripped off bark and lots of scratches on the wood itself where it appears they were rubbing their antlers.

Apart from the sign on the tree there were plenty of tracks. We had lots of deer slots, badger prints, pheasant, squirrel and what maybe a vole print.

I do not know if the top right print is a vole but it is certainly small enough to be one and the bottom one are the tracks of a grey squirrel.

Deer tree damage, unknown top right and Squirrel bottom left
Deer tree damage, unknown top right and Squirrel bottom left

There have been lots of early purple and early marsh orchids in the woods around the village but I have only spotted two of these pyramidal orchids this year. They seem to like drier, more open ground and I found one near the railway line and the other on the edge of a field so they are probably less common due to the fertilizer run-off from fields and toxins from the railways but also because they do not produce nectar themselves but rely on other nearby orchids to attract insects.

Pyramidal Orchid
Pyramidal Orchid

That was my June when it came to observing nature around Bramley. My kids had a great time and so did I, taking them out, photographing and researching some of the plants.



Bramley Bushcrafting

About a month ago I was asked to help out at my local village fete by running some bushcraft activities. Space on the field was quite limited so I could not set up ranges for the bows or the Atlatls – my first choice – so instead I opted for fire, hammocks, camp set-ups and the whimmy diddle.

Bramley Bushcrafting

I arrived at 8.20am to be greeted by these dramatic mammatus clouds (known as upside down clouds). They are sometimes spotted preceding a thunderstorm. In a matter of minutes the rain was lashing down and the picture on the right is a still of a lightning bolt I caught on video.

The rain carried on in bursts for the rest of the morning as I set up. I was a bit concerned that all my tinders and fire sets would be a bit damp. I set up my tipi, a fire area, some campfire cooking set ups and a hammock for folk to try out. Thankfully by the time the fete opened at midday the rain had stopped and the skies were clearing and my kit was all still dry.

Stormy Set Up

As soon as the fete opened I was kept busy. There were lots of different activities, some you paid for and some you did not pay for. I had agreed to run my activities for free partly because it was a nice opportunity give something to the community and partly because I love seeing people try out bushcraft and discover these ancient skills for themselves.

A quick and easy-to-learn activity is the use of modern firesteels. In no time at all the kids were lighting up Vaseline-smeared cotton-wool balls and using smouldering char cloth to get tinder bundles going. I try to make each of these activities into little classes that include a little discussion at the beginning around permissions and the safety of making a fire.

Busy times straight away

One of my favorite bushcraft toys is the whimmy diddle. This was taught to me a few years ago by the guru of bushcrafting Mors Kochanski. I love the way I can make the little propeller go one way and then the other as if by magic but best of all I love watching other people trying to figure out for themselves how to do it.

Introducing the Whimmy Diddle

During the day a number of dads came up to me (no mums this time, for some reason) and asked me to help them make fire using the bowdrill with their sons. I think this set of pictures kind of says it all in terms of how special a moment this can be.

Quality Father and Son time

It was not all work work work; I was able to keep the gas wood burning stove my friend Fraser from Coastal Survival gave me and so I always had a brew on the go.

While I was busy teaching, others just chilled out in the hammock (this was very popular and quite a queue formed) or studied the various campfire cooking set-ups I had put up.

Plenty of brews and chill time

I hadn’t really planned to use the handrill but someone asked about it so I gave a demonstration (thankfully I got an ember), and then before I knew it I had loads of kids asking to have a go. I explained that this would usually be done in family groups (and in some societies still is) so to make it easier for everyone. Before long we were twirling away taking it in turns. I think we only had one failure, but we kept the dust we had produced from that one to help build up a successful ember using the bowdrill instead.

At the end of the day I lost count of the number of handrill sessions I did: I do remember having really sore hands (even sorer the next day) but it was all worth it.

Never too young to learn the handrill

Occasionally I gave some one-to-one tuition on the bowdrill to give my hands a little rest from the handrill.

Adult to Adult teaching

As I did not have a great deal of time with each person I tried to help out where I could. In the picture below all I am doing is showing the student how to keep the bearing block still and my right hand is stopping the bow from see sawing (I am not holding it at all).


It was not all handrill with the kids – sometimes we got the bowdrill out with spectacular results.

Big kid teaching little kid

Plenty of smiles after each time.

Smilers – Picture courtesy of Ian Evett

All in all I had a fabulous day lighting fires, teaching the whimmy diddle, discussing campfire cooking set-ups and ensuring as many kids as possible got to try the hammock out.


I am told that the rest of the fete was a success with loads of activities but I never got to see any of it. I managed to get away from the stand once to go to the toilet and my wife Alison brought me what must have been the largest pork roll ever from the hog roast stand (and for taking all these pictures).

My kids had a great time and managed to pop back to see me every now and then.

What I missed

The only problem with being part of an event like this is that you miss seeing all the other activities, such as this inflatable tag challenge which my kids obviously loved.