Rigging Thoughts, News and Notes

What’s in your Rigging Library
I’m going to preface this post by saying that we are all just people, there is no supreme rigger whose word is etched in stone. Every situation is different and this business is all about having to think on the fly. With that said, you have to start with a knowledge base. We talk a lot on our crew about the depth of the guys. Nothing beats experience. The best way to develop depth is always by working in as many venues as you can, but, there are a number of publications that can help you on the job whether or not you are a lead rigger.

The gold standard of entertainment rigging has been, and probably still remains, Harry Donovan’s Entertainment Rigging. This is a well thought out book written by a legend in the industry and is a must have for all lead riggers. Anyone who has a real interest in being a true rigger, not just a shackle installer, should have a well worn copy of Harry’s book. There are some very interesting stories as well as rigging math, reference charts and work practices.

Jay O Glerum’s Stage Rigging Handbook is another standard in the industry. Jay is considered one of the best and put together a great book. While it is more oriented toward theatre rigging, it is a great reference manual to have in your collection.

A new publication that I feel was very much needed is Delbert Hall’s Rigging Math Made Simple. I haven’t had a chance to go over it fully yet but it seems really well put together. This put’s all the charts and formulas in one place that is easy to reference. While Harry Donovan’s book is extensive, I sometimes have a hard time finding the exact formula I need, when I need it.

A book that I feel doesn’t get nearly enough attention is Fred Breitfelder’s Bridle Dynamics. Fred “Fritz” Breitfelder is a well respected touring rigger who has trained a lot of great guys that I have a ton of respect for. If you are calling bridles in the real world, you need to own this book. Fred really lays out the relationship between bay size and leg length and gives you some great rules of thumb that will make your instincts sharper.

Next up is The Wire Rope Users Manual, you’ll be surprised what you don’t know about that piece of 3/8″ cable. This is a great reference guide for any installation you need to do, especially some of the oddball things we encounter in the industry.

Whether you are studying for the ETCP test or you just want to be more useful as a rigger, these books will give you a great start. I’m always looking to continue my own education so I’d love to hear about new releases or anything I may have left off the list.

Sweating The Small Stuff

“The most important part of any work is the beginning”


One of my favorite quotes which very much pertains to our work. I wanted to start a thread to talk about some of the small points that can make our job easier. As someone who works on the ground a lot, I find that consistency is very important, I would love to see more consistency between venues as to how points are marked and lain out, but however your venue has decided to do it, it should be consistent. A load in will be much smoother if ground riggers can develop a routine that becomes instinctual, each point is lain out on the floor in the same way.

I will first say that points should be built in the opposite order of how they will be pulled, in other words, motor/chain/stinger/bridle legs/basket, this will leave the basket on top of the point so that when the ground rigger approaches the point he can pick up the basket to tie in. My preferred method for hoists that are one ton capacity or less is:

1.Dump the motor body on the floor next to the point first, then grab the chain where it exits the motor body and pile the chain next to the motor(not covering the point) with the hook on top. Please do not grab the chain from the hook and then proceed to pile the chain on top of the hook so that the up rigger has to pull the chain out from under it’s own weight. (Generally two ton motors are left in the box and just the hook is placed on the floor, next to the point)

2.Place the motor hook on, or next to, the point you are building and clip the stinger/down leg into the hook, coil the stinger neatly next to the chain pile(always uncoil the stinger first, having to stop a point to take half hitches out of down legs is totally unacceptable).

(dead hung points will skip to step 4)

3.Connect your bridle legs next. If the legs are 20′ or less I will just continue to coil both legs together, on top of my stinger, the other option is to coil each leg separately on the corresponding side of the bridle. Make sure to include the proper deck chain link count and if you are coiling legs separately put the long/short legs on the correct side. The link with the tag installed should generally be “toward the top” or in one of your unused links, this is to prevent the tag from being fouled and possibly break the ring and fall. The only time I install the tag down is when you are using 9 or 10 links and it could get in the up riggers way when doing a link change. Make sure your excess links are not trapped, they should be free to slide up and down the last used link when the leg is tensioned.

4.Connect your basket. You should take care when making up baskets, if there is a tag in one of the thimble eyes, this should go in the basket apex so as to be out of the up riggers way when installing the make up shackle. The make up shackle should be installed away from the pin of the apex shackle. Remember the acronym PRESS(pin,rope,eye,second shackle) when you are making up and tying in points. Remember to include burlap with your point when building, I like to stick it through the thimble of the basket(not through the shackle as it could roll the pin), I prefer this step is done when building the point, this small step will save time in tying in every point.

Your built points should be coiled neatly next to their mark on the floor, as the ground rigger approaches the point his only concern should be which rope needs to be tied into the long leg. Once tied in, if the point is assembled correctly, the point will go out smoothly. You should put a hand on each shackle pin to make sure it is seated, the make shackle should be fully seated but easy for the up rigger to open(not seized). Keep your hands off the chain, this only adds tension to an already heavy object, keep the area clear and let the chain do its thing.

As an up rigger rope management is everything. I will start with the most common mistake I see, taking a rope that is a mess, out on the beam, and trying to sort it out after your first drop creates a rats nest. If you don’t know the state of the coil your using, recoil your rope on the catwalk, make sure you are starting from a clean slate. Practice using your foot to push your rope out of the way. If you tie your tail to the lifeline above you, push it several feet away from you to keep the loop of your rope clear. As an up rigger you need to be paying attention to your ground man, as your ground rigger ties you in and signals you to take tension you should be looking down and not chatting with your partner. Often an observant up rigger can spot mistakes on the floor and prevent them before they happen. Tension should be taken on each leg in turn and then the bridle should be pulled in a nice even V shape. Bridles should be pulled evenly, watch your partner and pull together in stride, this will keep the chain from flailing around on the ground and make it easier to pull, each man taking half of the weight together rather than two guys pulling against each other. On the load out they should come back in the same way, together. I cannot stress enough how easy and manageable two bridle legs being dropped together are as opposed to one leg passing the other or even worse one leg suddenly stopping as the other rockets in. Stay in communication with your partner. If you need to stop to prevent a snag, let your partner know, if you need to slack one leg to pass an object in the air, even your bridle legs up again after you are past it. Be aware of the markings on the floor, you should be able to read it like a map. Drop the tail of your rope in to use as a scope to spot points, depending on man power you may not have a good ground rigger to lead you, you may have to lead them, drop your rope in, a ground rigger will tie you on. On load outs you should be eyeing up the point as you approach, which side of the beam do you need to drop your rope, what obstacles might be in the way? Try to be aware of what will be coming in next, I like to see guys perched like vultures over the points as I’m putting the motor in the box.

I could, and probably will, write an entire piece on the importance of communication. I will just say here that you have to be in constant communication with each other, if every one is paying attention to what everyone else is doing, there will be much less chance for errors.

I’m sure there are lots of small things that I’ve forgotten to mention, a lot of what we do is just instinctual. Rest assured though that if you sweat the small stuff it will make the job as a whole easier. What are some of the little things you like to do to make the job easier.

3 thoughts on “Rigging Thoughts, News and Notes

  1. Pingback: Rigging Math, Who Needs it? | Rig World

  2. I like a lot of the things you have mentioned except on big one in section 1. I work both in a music pavillion and a number of theatres in our area and there are two problems with dumping the motor and chain on the floor. First, many of the tours that come through have chains that are quite oily and if I dump the chain on the floor then I have oil on the floor. Often we are hanging points on half of the stage after the stage deck has gone in and they definitely DO NOT want oil on their painted deck. They also don’t want any oil getting on their backdrops that are getting hung. Second, in a theatrical venue (road house bringing in touring broadway shows) the stage is very crowded and there is truss being built, drops being hung, and cables being run all at the same time as we are trying to get the rigging points hung. It is simply too crowded to pull out all of the motors and dump the chain on the floor while all of the other people are working. For these reasons we keep the motors and the chain in the boxes until the up riggers pull the point.

    • Thanks for the input Alan, good points. I agree it’s not always doable, just preferable. With some of the larger hoist boxes, so long as they weren’t flipped on the truck, it’s not necessary at all. I will often lay out burlap to protect surfaces that could be damaged.

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