Build your own reciprocal frame shelter


The following practical tips are to be read together with the detailed assembly instuctions for ReciproBoo.

Tips for constructing a shelter using bamboo are also included. Bamboo has similar strength and flexibility properties to steel making it very suitable for this type of shelter.

Using steel poles

  •  20 interlocking straight steel tent poles

    •   Poles to be approximately the same length
      •  2 tarpaulins approximately 6 x 4 metres
      •  25 metres of 6mm polypropylene rope
      •  40 metres of sisal twine
      •  6 steel pegs


Steel poles are preferred to alloy to give the required strength
Pre- drilled holes in the poles makes rope attachment easier but they weaken the frame so hook attachments are preferred.
The standard 5mm diameter steel pegs are ideal for making the rope attachments.

Any strong rope can be used. Heavier rope is only limited by its ability to attach to poles.

Any strong twine can be used. We have only worked with Sisal twine but polypropylene twine can work.

Using bamboo

  •  Use one 4 metre length for ridge pole
  •  Use four 3 metre poles for frame
  •  Use two 2.5 metre poles for supports

Ridge pole

Frame poles

Support poles

Assemble the frame poles as shown.

4 sections to make the ridge pole, 3 sections for each of the reciprocal frame poles and 2 sections for each of the support poles.



Poles can overlap in a clockwise arrangement ,as shown, or anticlockwise; it does not matter.
Make the overlap point just less than the length of a pole (about 2 to 3 cms inside the end insert joint). This gives maximum strength to the central frame by ensuring the weight of the roof is supported at very strong points.
Allow about 5cms overlap for each pole. This allows for sufficient cross lashing and avoids too much protrusion of end of pole. It also helps for tarpaulin attachment later.
If using bamboo poles try and make the overlap points close to a node for strength

Central frame assembly

Lay the 4 central poles perpendicular to each other as shown. Overlap each pole with its neighbour in turn so that each pole is supported as shown .


Use 4 metre lengths of twine .
Cross lash the joint in both directions and securely tie off.
After cross lashing I find a second horizontal lashing (see photo) provides compression and prevents any slippage.
As these joints are easily accessible from inside the shelter additional lashing can be added later.

Cross lash the 4 frame poles together as shown using sisal twine.


Allow the frame to overlap the ridge frame by at least 10cms . This allows for slippage during construction and sufficient for attachment of the tarpaulin later

Lay the frame on top of the ridge pole and securely lash together


The top end of each side rope is simply tied to the ends of the ridge bar
Two steel tent pegs are shaped into
simple hooks which insert into the
ends of each pole as shown.
The two ropes attach to the eye of this
single hook. This works well as the net
forces exerted by the ropes pull the
hook into the pole end.

The photo shows how sisal twine can be used to secure the body of the hook to the pole if required.

If using bamboo there is no need for a base rope as it is easier to secure the bottom of each frame pole to the ground using a bamboo stake (see bamboo workshop and video under bamboo tab at top of page). With bamboo the side ropes are also secured to a bamboo stake rather than the frame itself.

Attach the three side ropes as shown.


Hook inserted with ropes attached



By placing the supporting pole inside the frame it enables the guy ropes to pull this pole outwards against the lashed joint.

The same shaped hook used for rope attachment can now be inverted and used for supporting the ridge pole prior to cross lashing. Details of this hook are given in specification.

An alternative support method whereby the ridge bar is simply tied to the hook is also shown here .
If using bamboo a node should be sufficient to lash the frame to. It is also easier with bamboo to lash the frame to the ridge pole before lifting up to the support poles ( see bamboo workshop and video under bamboo tab at top of page).

Elevate the frame onto two poles by using two hooks for support.
Cross lash the two joints with twine. Anchor the frame to the ground at its lower points using two steel pegs.



Position the support poles perpendicular to the frame for optimum support
 After covering with the tarpaulin wrap the rope around all 3 top corner poles to make a secure attachment.
Consider adding extra support to the side walls by attaching a rope from the inside of the top joint outwards in the direction of the guy rope. If bamboo is being used a small pole could also be added here.

Complete the frame by adding two further
support poles .

Cut one of the tarpaulins in half and use these to create the end walls by securing to the central frame. Pull the other tarpaulin over the frame as shown and secure to frame with rope. Complete the shelter by attaching guy ropes to the top poles and anchoring to ground with pegs.



Build the single shelter first and assemble a second shelter without a ridge pole. Incline this second shelter against the ridge pole of the first shelter. Loosely lash the two frames together. Rotate the support pole outwards and add one of the spare ridge pole sections (this sideways pole now has 3 sections). Lash together all 4 poles where they meet at the top like a TeePee.

Building a larger shelter

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