• How To....Carve a Lap Joint Campfire Crane

    While I was writing my post on the Single Fork Aures crane I got a message from a Bushcraft USA member called Alukban about another type of campfire crane, which was made out of a single piece of wood and looked quite straightforward to carve.

    The connection between the arm and the upright is a type of Lap Joint. It is easy to adjust and can take the weight of a decent-sized pot. This post will be followed up with another crane using a Dovetail connection. Both work equally as well however each have their own pros and cons.

    The Lap Joint Crane


    I had some sycamore lying around, about a metre and a half long. I trimmed the fork off the end as it was not needed and then cut the pole into two further pieces.

    In the picture below all the wood to the left of the folding saw became the arm and the rest became the upright for the crane.

    Single Pole

    The upright

    I squared off three of the sides of the upright along two thirds of its length and formed a point on the bottom third.

    I took my time doing this so that it was as even and as smooth as possible along its length where it was squared.

    Square the top Round the bottom

    Once I was happy with the upright I moved onto the arm. The whole crane works on the principle that the weight of a pot hanging on it will create enough friction to hold the arm against the upright.

    Line up to Mark up

    The arm

    I used the upright as a guide to measuring where I need to cut out the lap joint on the arm (I measured it so that the lap joint would be very tight initially). I did not make this a 90 degree angle but about 100 degrees, so that the tip of the arm would be pointing slightly upwards.

    Once I had marked the width on the arm I cut some stop cuts to half the depth of the arm and then added some more to make it easier to carve out.

    I also used my saw to carve out some of the excess wood from the joint area.

    Stop cuts and Sawing out

    Once I had taken out most of the excess wood with the saw I used my knife to remove the rest and make it all smooth.

    Trim with a knife

    I locked the two pieces together and started to move the arm up and down the upright. This allowed me to spot rough areas still on the upright and then I was able to easily trim that wood off with my knife.

    Continually check the fit

    Once I was happy that the arm could move easily up and down the upright I trimmed of loads of excess wood from the arm to make it easier to attach a pot.

    I put a stop cut about a quarter of the depth of the arm all the way around it to protect the wood around the lap joint.

    Trim the limb

    You can see the general shape of the arm appearing now. I likened it to the shape of an old-style naval cutlass.

    The arm

    In use

    I added a few ridges along the length of the arm to hold pots securely and then started trying it out.

    Carve the notches

    I used this crane for two weeks at the Bushcraft UK Bushmoot in South Wales over the summer and was quite impressed with it. It holds pots well under tension but it needs to be treated with respect when moving the pot up and down.

    I found that the crane works best with the pot hanging from near the end of the arm. If you move the pot closer to the upright along the arm it has a tendency to slip.

    It is all in the friction

    I will be making a variation of this style over the next few days with more of a dovetail joint so that the arm cannot come off so easily.

    A great crane

    I like this crane due to its simplicity so give it a go.


    Bushcraft Days
    Comments 5 Comments
    1. crosslandkelly's Avatar
      crosslandkelly -
      Good tutorial, thanks George.
    1. awarner's Avatar
      awarner -
      Thanks will give this a go with my scouts
    1. Seoras's Avatar
      Seoras -
      Cheers guys, glad you liked it.

      I will post up the dovetail one soon which I feel is safer to use with kids.


    1. Zilog's Avatar
      Zilog -
      Hey George,

      good to see that fire tray is still holding up!

      hope all is well.

    1. Seoras's Avatar
      Seoras -
      Hi Phil
      Good to hear from you. I use the tray all the time and a few people want one :-)
      Cheers, George