Aerial Rigging: Carabiners/Quick Links/Shackles? 

Early in my aerial training one of my instructors asked me to “check a carabiner.” Sure, no problem. Look at it. Check! Make sure it’s locked. Check! Easy peasy! Now I try to make a habit of checking biners whenever I go up on equipment. Yes, I have found a few carabiners that were not locked, carabiners that were cross loaded, carabiners that are overloaded and carabiners that are stuck closed/open or damaged. As an aerial student it’s important to ask questions and learn about the equipment you are using.

As I was writing this blog, I found these videos from Vertical Art Dance. Please take a few minutes to watch them. I learned I was currently making rigging mistakes. I’m heading back to make some new purchases and update my hardware. I need to stop relying so much on carabiners and think about using Quick Links and shackles more often.

Aerial Rigging The Carabiner Talk Part 1

Aerial Rigging The Carabiner Talk Part 2, Overloaded Carabiners
*I have been overloading my spansets for my lyra into carabiners.

Aerial Rigging: The Carabiner Talk Part 3, 3 Way Loading
*I have been 3-way loading my lyra spansets onto one carabiner. I knew it wasn’t ideal but I didn’t know it was a bad mistake.

Why is this important? Remember the Ringling Hair Chandelier accident? It was due to an improperly loaded connector. Review the article and some of the comments. Then look around at what is being used at your studio or your own set up and ask questions. Is it safe? Is there a better way to rig it? Why did they/you decide to rig that way?

Here are some tips about connectors for aerial rigging:

CARABINERS

  • Before use, carabiners (and all connectors) should be inspected. Damaged or worn carabiners/connectors should NOT be used. Visually check for any stress. Look for bending, corrosion, excessive wear, or cracking. The locking mechanisms should have smooth operation. If it doesn’t take it out of service and don’t use it.
  • Carabiners need to be oiled (& cleaned) regularly. Sometimes locking biners stop working just because they haven’t been oiled.
  • Screw down, so you don’t screw up! It may not be a huge deal in aerial, especially if you are using auto lock biners, but it can help keep screw gate carabiners locked if there is anything that might rub on the screw gate and unlock it. Examples: a hand grabbing the biner, a knee locking around it, a rope/spanset rubbing against it, or even vibrations loosening the the screw. This video explains in a bit better. Not much of an issue with auto lock biners but its not a bad habit to get into for all biners just in case. *If you don’t know the difference between a screw gate and an auto lock carabiner please watch the above videos again and read the Simply Circus link below.

Carabiners are designed to take a load only along the major axis:

  • Do not cross-load a carabiner. Loads should only be placed lengthwise along the major axis. If a carabiner is loaded widthwise it could fail especially with a drop or abrupt change in motion. They are a lot less strong widthwise (up to 70% less).
  • Do not overload a carabiner. Review Video Part 2 again. Spansets can easily overload a carabiner. Rigging a silk directly to a carabiner will also overload it.https://rescueresponse.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/RoundSlingBinerBreak.jpg
  • Do not 3-way load a carabiner. Review Video Part 3 again. I’ve seen this a lot in rigging. So much that I thought it was normal. But its not. It is a mistake in rigging. See above pictures of rigging a double-point Lyra. Have you rigged this way? Which way is the best?
    Riggers have been lucky only because they use a large safety ratings (2000-5000 lbs). It is a better idea to use hardware that is designed for 3-way loads (an anchor shackel or a Quick Link).
    This is an interesting video that shows testing tri-loading carabiners. Its focus is on slacklining, not aerial, but its still good info.
  • The D-shaped carabiners are usually stronger than the oval carabiners…but only if the load is verticle down the long end of the carabiner. *I’m re-thinking how to rig the pulley on my outdoor rig I was going to use a 50kN steel D-shaped biner at the top but now I might look for a Quick Link or shackle so its not overloaded.

Please read this reference on carabiners from Simply Circus: Carabiners.

There are tons of places to buy carabiners. I’ve purchase mine from Aerial Essentials and Fusion Climbing. I like the sleek black coatings that they offer. They are more expensive than the regular stainless steel biners.

*I’ve been buying steel (vs aluminum) carabiners because I believe they will last longer than aluminum. I am planning to write a blog about that debate.

SHACKLES

I have heard/read that many professional riggers are recommending using shackles instead of carabiners. Especially if it is a permanent connection. Carabiners are designed for quick/temporary connection.

  • Shackles are a lot stronger than carabiners
  • 2 main types of shackles: Anchor/Bow shackle can connect 2 or more rigging pieces together while a Chain/”D” shackle is designed to connect components in a straight line. See the Simply Circus link below for more info and pictures.
  • Shackles will decrease the amount of height lost when using a carabiner (average shackle is 3″ vs 5″ carabiner).
  • For aerial you can use a screw pin shackle that can be moused/locked in place with a zip tie after they are screwed tight. (You could also use metal wire to mouse it.)
  • UPDATE: Load only in one direction on the pin of a shackle. Use the bell to collect the legs of a bridal. (In other words: when 3-way loading, put 2 loads on the bell and 1 load on the pin.)
  • My fiance calls them “bull nose” As in: “Amy, why are you using carabiners when you should just get a bull nose? They are safer for you.” (I had no idea what he was talking about. Until now)

Please read this reference on shackles from Simply Circus: Shackles. This link has a ton of information with pictures of different shackles, how to inspect & clean and even how to mouse a shackle.

You can buy shackles MANY places. This is an example of all the different types at Rigging Warehouse.

QUICK LINKS

I’m just learning about Quick Links (or screw links). I didn’t even know what they were up until about a month ago.

  • Quick Links come in several different shapes. Depending on your need, you may want to use a triangle/tri-link/delta/square Quick Link to attach spansets to a swivel for a double point lyra (instead of 2 carabiners into a swivel-see Part 3 video above)
  • To avoid overloading a carabiner with a spanset, consider using a Quick Link (again I refer back to the videos above). Review the Quick Link shapes to see which may be the best fit.
    Update: Delta and tri-link Quick Links are for vertical use only. They are wider to be used with webbing.
  • Link to Petzl Maillion Rapide technical info
  • Ratings are significantly lower when cross-loaded. (Ex. a Quick Link that is rated 25kN on major axis can be rated 10kN on minor axis)
  • When tightened with a wrench Quick Links can be considered a permanent connector.

I am attaching several links that have more Quick Link information:

Aspiring Safety Products:  This has Quick Link ratings and a description of why and what they use particular shapes.

You can buy Quick Links at MANY places. This is an example of all the different types at Rigging Warehouse. I’ve read that many people recommend Maillion Rapide Quick Links because they have very good reliability.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on connector use and aerial rigging?

*Interesting solutions to “fix” tri-loading carabiners and spansets (or Quick Links) from a slackline point of view. Remember to consider the ratings on the spansets when putting them into different shapes: basket, chocker, etc.  Triloading 101

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Aerial Equipment part 1: Buying a Lyra

***I am NOT an aerial instructor or rigger. I am NOT a professional. My ideas for safety may not be the same as yours or what a professional aerialist/rigger/instructor recommends. Please refer to professionals if you have questions. Facebook Safety in Aerial Arts Group and Simply Circus site are a great resources.***

Originally buying my own equipment wasn’t in my plans. I really didn’t need my own equipment. …but I fell in love with a special lyra.

Last year I took a class at Circus-Arts in Polk City, FL. I practiced on a hoop and we bonded. Csaba had made it himself…a one of a kind. It was the perfect size, shape, and movement for me. I loved it. It stayed in the back of my mind for a long time. Throughout year I attended classes there about once a month, one day I asked him if he would make another for me… or if I could buy that hoop. A few weeks later, I was a new owner of my very own aerial hoop.

It cost $250. Very reasonable price for a hoop. Plus I didn’t have to pay shipping.
*I am finding shipping is a HUGE expense when it comes to buying aerial equipment.
Csaba tried to give me a couple of spansets but I wanted shiny new hardware. (In hindsight, I should have taken those spansets …because although spansets are each fairly inexpensive, when you start buying a few in several different lengths, the price adds up.)

Next, I needed to figure out what hardware I wanted to complete my set up. I would need at least 2 spansets, 2-3 carabiners and a swivel. I knew from being a part of the Safety in Aerials Facebook group that I needed hardware that would hold up a car (2000-5000 lbs).
*A Cadillac Escalade weighs 5,949 lbs.

Where do I find that type of hardware? First, I asked my instructors. Then I went to the most likely websites…ones that sell aerial & circus stuff. These are some of the sites I found but there are many others:

I also went to climbing and rigging websites:

  • Sapsis Rigging -the website is a bit difficult to search but keep at it or call them to help
  • REI (I have not had good luck with specifics from them)
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods
  • Gear Express
  • Rigging Warehouse – its a bit of a process to get registered & order
  • Bill Jackson’s (The only climbing gear store I know about in Tampa Bay)

I’m analytical and enjoy list making and comparisons. I priced everything and looked up ratings. Then I took the info and made charts. All of this was somewhat confusing for me. I’m a newbie to rigging and I wasn’t quite sure what all the terms meant. I couldn’t always find ratings or know if it was OK for aerial. I think this is normal for a lot of aerialists but it meant I needed to keep doing research.

SWIVEL & BINERS

I ended up ordering hardware from Aerial Essentials because I felt that they had a good website, I knew of other aerialists who have their hardware, and they listed all the ratings in a way that was easy for me to understand. However, now that I’ve done more research, I’ve looked back at their website and have questions about some of the biner ratings and what I received. *2/1/16 Aerial Essentials updated their website & is consistent with what I received.

I bought 3 carabiners thinking I may need one for each spanset connected to the swivel then one to connect to the rigging a point. I also thought about buying a spreader plate & a 4th biner because that would keep the carabiners and swivel from being double loaded. That is probably the best and safest set up but I thought it would take up a lot of room since I was trying to conserve my ceiling height.
*Now that I’m writing this I think I may buy a spreader plate and set it up this way for my aerial rig since height won’t be an issue.* 

Currently, I use 2 carabiners & a swivel. I put both spansets in one carabiner. Attach it to the swivel and then a biner to the rigging point. It’s nice to have an extra carabiner just in case. I also wanted to feel/see the difference between the auto lock & screw gate so I bought both. The auto lock is D shaped. 

UPDATE: 2/1/2016 After doing more research on carabiners (see my carabiner post), I’ve learned that this rigging of a double point Lyra is a mistake. Use of spansets in carabiners will overload the carabiner make it dangerous. Carabiners were not designed for that type of use. Also, tri-loading a carabiner with 2 spansets and a swivel is bad. I’m purchasing some Quick Links or shackles and a rigging plate and post more updates. 

  • X1 Swivel black, aluminum (with stainless steel bearings): 8,000lbs/36kN (Brand Fusion) -Aerial Essentials $45
  • X1 Carabiner black, steel auto lock  (4.5×2.5″): 50kN (Brand Fusion Tacoma, etched 50kN) – Aerial Essentials $17
  • X2 Carabiner black, steel screw gate  (4.5×2.5″): 25kN (Brand Fusion Ovatti, etched 25kN) – Aerial Essentials $15

Total: $98.10 with shipping.

SPANSETS

My Lyra is a tabless, trapeze/straight top, 36″ tall and about 39″ wide.

I needed 2 spansets for it to use as ropes. Searching the Facebook Safety in Aerial Arts forum, I found that Liftall Tuflex is a common brand sling used in aerials.

NOTES:

  • There are many brands and types of spansets out there. Being a newbie to aerial rigging I stuck with what I have seen/used and what was recommended. Common names if you’re searching online: spanset/Span Set/sling/roundsling/stage sling.
    *My Fiance, who is a metal worker/contractor, had no idea what I was talking about when I said “spanset” but I showed him a picture and he called it a sling.*
  • Spansets are usually color coded depending on weight ratings. Violet/purple and green are what I have seen used with Aerial rigging and were recommended by my aerial instructor. I decided green spansets would be good for my use. Mostly because I’m trying to be super safety conscious & I liked the higher ratings.
  • It’s a good idea to keep the labels intact on the spanset otherwise all warranties are void.
  • Also, regular inspections are necessary. Each spanset should come with instruction/warnings about how to inspect them. (I keep a notebook with dates of inspections along with all the specs and purchase dates.)

I priced a dozen different websites before purchasing. I wanted green-rated spansets with black covers and found a recommendation for Sapsis Rigging on the Facebook Safety Group.

Sapsis has several “in stock” spansets and also they will also custom-make sizes if you call and request them. They also were the best price I found for green-rated/black-covered. Unfortunately, the size I actually needed for the studio was not a size they had in stock. And I didn’t know it until I actually rigged it at the studio. I was impatient … I ordered green 4ft ones off of Amazon (Goodness, I’m addicted to Prime!). If you know what size you need you can get away with buying a few spansets. But I like having my options…I bought 8 in four different sizes.
*I called for 4.5′ black-covered spansets and they quoted around $19 each.

Liftall EN60X4 Tuflex sling: Verticle 5300/ chocker 4200/ basket 10600lbs:

  • X2 1 ft green: Sapsis (black) $7.83 each
  • X2 3 ft green: Sapsis (black) $10.17 each
  • X2 4 ft green: Amazon (green) $15.13 each
  • X2 6 ft green: Sapsis (black) $17.20 each

Sapsis (+shipping $14.48) $84.88 + Amazon $30.26 = $115.14

OTHER STUFF

I also bought some athletic tape for the lyra so I can recover it when needed (the gray isn’t my favorite color). I couldn’t decide on a color so I bought black and pink and also gray just in case I wanted touch up the current tape. Maybe I will make a blog when I re-wrap it for the first time.

  • Mueller M-Tape Canister (3 Rolls/Pack) Black (1.5′ x 10 yds) Amazon $11.62
  • Mueller M-Tape Canister (3 Rolls/Pack) Gray (1.5′ x 10 yds) Amazon $11.62
  • Mueller M-Tape Canister (3 Rolls/Pack) Pink (1.5′ x 10 yds) Amazon $11.62
    Total: $34.86

When I finally rigged everything and put the Lyra up in the studio the black coating on the carabiners and swivel rubbed together and makes a creaking noise. I sent an email to Aerial Essentials asking if it was normal and if there was a fix. They recommended using graphite to lubricate it.

  • L-300 Powdered Graphite Lubricant 21.oz: Amazon $6.21

My first jump into owning my own aerial equipment cost me: $504.31

***This is the what I choose to buy & some of my reasons why I chose what I did. It may not be the safest or right choice for you.***

NOTES:

I could have searched and found the hardware cheaper (the black coating costs extra, buying directly from manufacturers costs less) or not bought one carabiner and only bought one set of spansets  …I could have done it for about $360 total (maybe less).

But I’ve already brought my Lyra to a workshop where I needed different size spansets. I also lent some hardware to friends for a NYE performance. Now, I’m going to need the 6-foot spansets for my new outdoor rig (Yep…that will be another blog subject). I am using all the equipment I’ve bought. And have plans to buy more.

This is just the beginning when it comes to aerial equipment. I also need mats. Mats are necessary for aerial safety. Mats are freaking expensive!! (Future blog subject!) Aerial is not cheap. Expect to spend money if you start buying equipment. Plus you still will need to find a safe place to rig it (Future blog subject!). Luckily, I have a few awesome aerial studios that will let me rig from one of their aerial points. Plus, I’m getting a portable aerial rig of my own soon.

lyra

This was my Christmas card on my new hoop and hardware.