The Construction and Care of Rops

To master the common aspects of rope work and knotting, it is essential to learn about the materials, tools and terminology used by rope workers. By taking your time to read this text, you will get a better understanding about knots and rope work. Beginning here with some nots on the materials used for making both natural and synthetic ropes will give you the basic knowledge. I will also cover the care and maintenance of ropes. And introduce some of the tools used by rope workers...

RopesIntoduction to ropes: Rope may be constructed of any long, stringy, fibrous material, but generally is constructed of certain natural or synthetic fibres. Synthetic fibre ropes are significantly stronger than their natural fibre counterparts, but also possess certain disadvantages, including slipperiness. Common natural fibres for rope are manila hemp, hemp, linen, cotton, coir, jute, straw, and sisal. Synthetic fibres in use for rope-making include polypropylene, nylon, polyesters (e.g. PET, LCP, Vectran), polyethylene (e.g. Dyneema and Spectra), Aramids (e.g. Twaron, Technora and Kevlar) and acrylics (e.g. Dralon). Some ropes are constructed of mixtures of several fibres or use co-polymer fibres. Wire rope is made of steel or other metal alloys. Ropes have been constructed of other fibrous materials such as silk, wool, and hair, but such ropes are not generally available. Rayon is a regenerated fibre used to make decorative rope. The twist of the strands in a twisted or braided rope serves not only to keep a rope together, but enables the rope to more evenly distribute tension among the individual strands. Without any twist in the rope, the shortest strand(s) would always be supporting a much higher proportion of the total load.

HempHemp: From bast fibers of Cannabis sativa. Pale in color, with very good handling qualities. Hemp fiber is one of the longest and strongest of the natural fibers. The rope lasts well, is easy to handle, does not swell when wet and loses little strength when tarred. Hemp fiber has been used widely throughout history, with production climaxing soon after being introduced to the New World. Items ranging from rope, to fabrics, to industrial materials were made from hemp fiber.
References on Hemp from Wikipedia.

HempJute: From bast fibers of Corchorus capsularis or Corchorus olitorius. Pale in color. This is used principally for cheap strings, small woven ropes or garden twine and clothes lines, etc. It has a distinctive smell. Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibers and is second only to cotton in amount produced and variety of uses of vegetable fibers. Jute fibers are composed primarily of the plant materials cellulose and lignin. It falls into the bast fibre category.
References on Jute from Wikipedia

ManilaManila: This rope is a type of rope made from manila hemp. This makes a strong, smooth, hard fibre rope much favored by yachtsmen, which is never tarred as is does not rot when wet, although water makes it swell. Manila hemp is a type of fiber obtained from the leaves of the abacá (wild banana). It is not actually hemp, but named so because hemp was long a major source of fiber, and other fibers were sometimes named after it. Take care when handling this rope as you are likely to get splinters from it.
References on Manila from Wikipedia

SisalSisal: Sisal, with the botanical name Agave sisalana, is a species of Agave native to southern Mexico but widely cultivated and naturalized in many other countries. The sisal fibre is traditionally used for rope and twine, and has many other uses, including paper, cloth, footwear, hats, bags, carpets, and dartboards. Sisal is another hard fibre rope almost as strong as manila and very serviceable. It stands up well to sea water but swells when wet and is liable to be slippery.
References on Sisal from Wikipedia

SisalCotton: Cotton rope is white, smooth, soft, smart and pliable, witch make it very suitable for fancy work and for running over blocks. However, it is not as strong as hemp or minila, and once wet it rapidly becomes hard, dirty and weak. it is a poor substitute when strength is required.
References on Cotton from Wikipedia

FlaxFlax: Flax (also known as common flax or linseed), with the binomial name Linum usitatissimum. It is mainly used for textiles. Sometimes this is used mixed with hemp, for high quality, smaller cords such as smooth strong twines, hemp like rope or small strings.
References on Flax from Wikipedia

CoirCoir: or coconut fiber, (sometimes called Grass line) is a natural fibre extracted from the husk of coconut and used in products such as floor mats, doormats, brushes, mattresses, etc. Coir is the fibrous material found between the hard, internal shell and the outer coat of a coconut. It is cheap, very rough and very elastic. It floats on water. It has only a quarter the strength of manila and far less durability. Furthermore, if not dried before stowed away, it will rot.
References on Coir from Wikipedia

Polyamide (PA) - Nylon or PerlonPolyamide (PA) - Nylon or Perlon: A very strong, properly the strongest, of all, animal, mineral or vegetable ropes. It is smooth have the ability to stretch. It has an ability to withstand sudden shock loading that makes it ideal for climbers. This quality, however, is a disadvantage where a rope must 'NOT GIVE' at all. Nylon is very easy to handle whether wet or dry, resistant to most chemicals. Nylon ropes need UV protection, and lose some strength when wet.
References on Nylon from Wikipedia

Polyester (PES, PET, LCAP) - Dacron, Terylene or VectranPolyester (PES, PET, LCAP) - Dacron, Terylene or Vectran: Although not quite as strong as nylon, polyester rope has most of nylons attractive qualities. Polyester fibers have some of the best mechanical qualities combined with low elasticity. They are a very good choice to be used in sailing. They are highly resistant to wear and atmospheric agents and can be pre-stretched to reduce deformation under strain. Polyester ropes don't float on water. Primarily used to static lines, control lines and general purpose.
References on Polyester from Wikipedia

Polypropylene (PP) - Hardy Hemp or MarstronPolypropylene (PP) - Hardy Hemp or Marstron: Polypropylene ropes are widely used in commercial sailing, as they combine low cost with excellent mechanical qualities and abrasion resistance. They also have a very high resistance to weather and sunlight. Ropes made of polypropylene floats very well, so is is very suitable for water sports, tow ropes and rescue lines.
References on Polypropylene from Wikipedia

Polyethylene (PE, HMPE) - Dyneema or SpectraPolyethylene (PE, HMPE) - Dyneema or Spectra: Made from white or colored coarse fibers. WARNING: Fibers made of polyethylene should be avoided! They are used to make inexpensive ropes. They are very cheap, not very strong and they stretch and slip very easy. The ropes also don't hold a knot well. Added to this is the fact that they are difficult to handle. However, they are very resistant to weather and float on water.
References on Polyethylene from Wikipedia

Polybenzoxazole (PBO) - ZylonPolybenzoxazole (PBO) - Zylon: Polybenzoxazole is extremely low stretch and high strength. It can be used for standing rigging. It is also ungodly expensive and lacks the durability that most cruisers desire. As such, PBO is usually only found on high-end raceboats. WARNING: Like Polypropylene (HMPE), knots reduce the strength considerably.
References on Zylon from Wikipedia

Steel WireSteel Wire or Wire rope: Steel wires is long, drawn-out steel treads that can be made from many different metals. Steel wires for wire ropes are normally made of non-alloy carbon steel with a carbon content of 0.4 to 0.95%. The very high strength of the rope wires enables wire ropes to support large tensile forces and to run over sheaves with relatively small diameters.
References on Wire rope from Wikipedia

RopesThe Making of Rope: Rope is sometimes generally referred to as cordage and can be divided into four categories based on its diameter. Cordage under 0.5 cm in diameter includes twine, clothesline, sash cord, and a tar-covered hemp line called marline. These are not considered to be true rope. Cordage with a diameter of 0.5-1.3 cm is a light-duty rope and is some-times referred to as small stuff. Cordage with a diameter of 1.3-3.8 cm is considered to be true rope. Cordage over about 3.8 cm in diameter is generally called a hawser. Some ropes are constructed of mixtures of several fibres or use co-polymer fibres. Wire rope is made of steel or other metal alloys. Ropes have been constructed of other fibrous materials over time such as silk, wool, and hair, but such ropes are not generally available.

Almost all rope is right handed, hawser laid and usually three stranded, but can be left handed and four stranded (shroud laid) or plaited. Rope may be constructed of any long, stringy, fibrous material, but generally is constructed of certain natural or synthetic fibres. Synthetic fibre ropes are significantly stronger than their natural fibre counterparts, but also possess certain disadvantages, including slipperiness.

Common twisted rope generally consists of three strands and is normally right-laid, or given a final right-handed twist. The ISO 2 standard uses the uppercase letters S and Z to indicate the two possible directions of twist, as suggested by the direction of slant of the central portions of these two letters. The handedness of the twist is the direction of the twists as they progress away from an observer. Thus Z-twist rope is said to be right-handed, and S-twist to be left-handed.

Traditionally, a three strand laid rope is called a plain- or hawser-laid, a four strand rope is called shroud-laid, and a larger rope formed by counter-twisting three or more multi-strand ropes together is called cable-laid. Twisted ropes are built up in three steps. First, fibres are gathered and spun into yarns. A number of these yarns are then formed into strands by twisting. The strands are then twisted together to lay the rope. The twist of the yarn is opposite to that of the strand, and that in turn is opposite to that of the rope. It is this counter-twist, introduced with each successive operation, which holds the final rope together as a stable, unified object.

Ropes MaintenanceMaintenance and Care of Cordage: Like every other item you use daily ropes have to be maintained in order to keep their strength and function properly. Taking the proper precautions while raising and performing regular maintenance on your ropes will keep them working and safe to use for a long time. It is a good idea to check the entire rope for wear and tear after every use. Check the rope for any cut strands, fraying parts, abrasion, or heat damage if the rope is synthetic. After long term use, lines and ropes will get a little fuzzy from abrasion. This is normal and does not compromise safety, but if an entire strand is cut the line or rope needs to be replaced or fixed.

If the rope is very dirty you can try to clean it. Hemp rope rarely needs cleaning, but it may need re-taring once a year. If you want to clean modern synthetic lines or rope, then It's best to wash your rope by hand in cool water with a mild chemical-free soap. Salt water doesn't damage nylon. Salt inside your rope, after the water dries, is millions of tiny knives going to work on the fibers with every movement. If you are near the ocean and it gets wet, keep it wet. When you get home, rinse repeatedly in fresh water including an overnight soak. If the rinse water still tastes salty, do it again. Rinse it well, and spread it out to air-dry, but avoid direct sunlight! Sunlight will damage the rope over time.

It is important not to wash your rope in a washing machine with an agitator, as it can easily be stretched and damaged. Remember always to protect the rope from chemicals. Acids and their fumes, alkalis, oils and paints are injurious to vegetables fibers and will quickly damage the rope. Always protect from these agents wherever possible and remember that clean, dry rope is the best guarantee of long rope life and a safe rope. Also don't dry your ropes, natural or synthetic, in a dryer, in direct sunlight, or above any heat source. This will compromise your safety!

Rope StoringRope Storage: One of the many questions about ropes is how to store it properly. If your rope is synthetic a bag at the back of your closet will be fine, a clean, dry, dark place. Care must be taken in storing and proper coiling of three-strand ropes to prevent the natural built-in twist of the line from developing kinks and hockles. When these hockles happen, they cannot be removed and the rope is damaged for good. The quick release of a heavy strain in three-strand rope may also cause hockles or hard kinks. Extreme turns can cause kinking in any rope but hockles can only occur in the basic twisted three-strand, four-strand or cable-laid ropes. Braided ropes have no built-in twist and are far more resistant to kinking. Even if kinks do develop, they cannot change further into hockles.

Three-strand and braided ropes should be coiled in a clockwise direction and uncoiled in a counterclockwise direction to avoid kinks. An alternative, and possibly better, technique is to make out the line in a figure-eight. This prevents you putting twist in the line in either direction and reduces the risk of kinking.

Bagging is perhaps the most common, and best method of storing braided or twisted lines and ropes. The line or rope is allowed to fall into its natural position without deliberate direction. Another technique is hand coiling line or rope. Start by following the direction of the lay (S or Z lay) of the rope and then form the turns of the coil using your wrist laying the rope in a clock (S lay) or counterclockwise (Z lay) direction and taking care to keep the all loops at the same length.

When the coil is made make a good long bright with the working end. Wind this bright once clockwise around the top and through the coil, pass it under its own standing part and pull taut. Continuing this in a clockwise direction and repeat once more. The two turns are now tightly drawn up and the coil can be hung up on the bight you started with.

Another technique. coil the rope and leave a long working end, 1 - 1,5m and make four or five turns around the coil near the top of the coil. Make a bight and insert the bight into and trough the loop at the top of the coil. Open up the bight and bend it back over the top of the coil and then tighten it by pulling the working end

Safety RopeRope Safety: New rope should be carefully inspected throughout its entire length before it is used to determine that no part of it is damaged. Rope should be checked at least once every month under normal circumstances; more often if it is used regularly at work. If it is exposed to acids or caustics, it should be inspected daily. Checkup should include inspection of the entire length of rope for wear, abrasion, broken or cut fibers, displacement of yarns or strands, discoloration or rotting. To check the inner fibers, the rope should be untwisted to make sure the inside yarns are bright, clear and unspotted.

The specification tables included new rope shows the breaking strengths and safe working loads for the specific rope. Rope loaded to over 75% of its breaking strength will be damaged. Damage from this cause may be discovered by inspecting the inside threads which will be damaged to a degree governed by the sum of the overload. Such damage may also be determined by the reduced diameter of the damaged part of the rope. Care must also be taken to avoid kinking. Kinks can cause rope failure! So try to prevent kinks at all time, they will cause permanent damage and weakening of your rope.

A splice is stronger and more secure than a knot. The best way to join two ropes is to splice it properly. Even the most efficient knots will reduce rope strength to as much as 50%, while a splice may have up to 95% of the strength of the rope. A short splice gives the strongest join though, it doubles the rope size in the splice area and this is not suitable where the rope runs through pulleys or a block. For such purposes, a long splice must be used, with has up to 90% strength of the rope.

It is also important to avoid sudden strains or jerking this may cause failure of a rope usually strong enough to handle the work load safely. A stable, straight pull will ensure full strength from the rope.

Rope ToolsTools for Rope Working: Like any other trade, rigging, sail making and rope working have a wide selection of tools that have been developed over time, to make working various rope types more efficient. Although the knife and spike are the foundation tools of rope making, there are many others which the rope maker with an interest in rope and knot work. In general, there is tools for the Sailmaker, for splicing and tools for general purpose.

Tools are sometimes employed in the finishing or untying of a knot, such as a fid, a tapered piece of wood that is often used in splicing. With the advent of wire rope, many other tools are used in the tying of "knots." However, for cordage and other non-metallic appliances, the tools used are generally limited to sharp edges or blades such as a sheepsfoot blade, occasionally a fine needle for proper whipping of laid rope, a hot cutter for nylon and other synthetic fibers, and (for larger ropes) a shoe for smoothing out large knots by rolling them on the ground.

The Tools: There are several different tools available, old as new and modern tolls. Some of commonly used ones are: A Marlinspike is a tool, usually made of steel and often part of a sailor's pocketknife, which is used to separate strands of rope from one another. They can range in size anywhere from 3 inches to 5 feet long, with a round or flattened point. Serving Tools. Serving is still used to protect wire rope, or the thing round which the wire is looped. Hudson Phids is for 3-Strand Rope and Mega Braid. Phid makes a smaller opening in the rope than ordinary phids for a smoother, fairer splice. Splicing Wands is for braided and parallel-core rope. The Splicing Wand is a long tube with a hidden snare that makes tucking quick and easy. Sailmaker's Palm or Sewing Palm. The Sailmaker's Palm is designed for those working with touch materials like canvas or heavy nylon. The sewing needle is set in one of the divots in the metal plate, and the sailmaker then uses the palm to push the needle through the material.

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