The Evolution of Scaffolding

The Evolution of Scaffolding

Have you ever stood on a deck 5 or 6 stories above the ground and wondered, "Who invented scaffolding?". No? So It's Just me? 

Scaffolding has been around for a very long time. Where and when did it start being used, and how did it reach the scaffolding we see today?

Ancient History

There is evidence of a primitive form of scaffolding in ancient caves in France. Holes in the walls at different intervals show where they used a primitive form of frame to reach higher parts of the cave to install cave paintings. Although the structures are long gone, we still have that evidence that they used them to add interest to their world.

Next, we find the ancient Egyptians, who were so busy building pyramids and cities. There are still mysteries about how some of these structures were made, but we know that scaffolding was used, as the ancient historian Herodotus explains in his writings.

"At first, it (the pyramid) was built with steps, like a staircase….The stones intended for use in constructing the pyramids were lifted by means of a short wooden scaffold. In this way they were raised from the earth to the first step of the staircase; there they were laid on another scaffold, by means of which they were raised to the second step…. The finishing-off was begun at the top, and continued downward to the lowest level."

There is also much evidence that the ancient Greeks, Romans, and others used primitive wooden frames tied together to climb and construct walls.

Medieval Times

Again we see the primitive forms of wooden scaffolding in medieval times. In this era, stonemasons were in much demand, and they were highly paid individuals who created some of the most beautiful structures known. The intricate detail that went into the stone on these buildings was no less than impressive. To get the stone up that high, they, of course, used scaffolding. The Masons and sometimes artists such as Michelangelo did not erect the structures themselves. Some men were specially trained to erect scaffolding, like scaffolding crews today. Believe it or not, these men were Monks. This should be no surprise since most of the stonework was on abbeys and Churches at the time. However, these men handed down the ability to each new generation of monks; thus, "scaffolding monks" were used well into the 20th century in some areas. The scaffolding used then was much like ancient scaffolding. Wood or Bamboo tied with hemp rope.

Modern scaffolding

In the early 20th century, they started using metal poles for scaffolding but still used rope to hold it together, and this caused mishaps as the metal was often slippery and wet ropes stretched. In comes a man named Daniel Palmer-Jones, the grandfather of scaffolding. He and his brother devised a way to fix scaffolding in place without using any rope, and it could be used on both metal and traditional wood scaffolding. They named their company Rapid Scaffold Tie Company, and the Rapid Scaffixers, as they were called, became so well known that Daniel and his brother David were awarded the contract to build Buckingham Palace.

From that time forward, scaffolding continued to improve. Today we have several scaffolding types to choose from. Here are a few:

Frame Scaffolding

Ladder Jack Scaffolding

Mast Climber Scaffolding

Catenary Scaffolding

Float Scaffolding

Two-Point (Swing Stage) Scaffolding

Multipoint Adjustable Scaffolding

Mast Climber Scaffolding

Mobile (Manual or Propelled) Scaffolding

There are even some places that still use traditional Bamboo or wood scaffolding. While well into the 20th century, scaffolding was not well-regulated. There were no regulations for how a structure should be built, Used, or maintained. There was no fall protection, ladders, or weight limits. If you ever see old films of skyscrapers being erected, you will understand just how dangerous it was.

Today we have regulations for fall protection and scaffolding use that help those who use it daily to stay safe.

If you have questions about which scaffolding will best suit your company feel free to ask us at Southwest Scaffolding! We would be happy to help!

Apr 19th 2023 Tiffany Tillema

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